trying to find a way back to normal

Bird Droppings January 18, 2013

Trying to find a way back to normal

 

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio. Gotta get down to it soldiers are cutting us down should have been done long ago. What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground how can you run when you know?” Neil Young

 

Perhaps it was just a wandering thought but while I was sitting thinking and pondering now a few days back one afternoon listening to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, the song Ohio played and stuck with me. I am involved in the Georgia Educators Association and in a meeting yesterday afternoon a print out of the bills presented this week in the first two days of state legislator were handed out. One is for a campus carry law, where students at college can carry concealed weapons. The second that caught my attention was one to allow administrators to carry concealed weapons. In a group of educators the consensus was one hundred percent against both. In 1970 when the Kent State massacre occurred that inspired Neil Young to write this song the shootings were essentially an accident. Young National Guardsmen in fear for their lives shot first asked questions later and several unarmed students died.  In a protest against a war students were shot dead deemed an accident but death is a terminal project.

It has been a traumatic start to the week for some with the president passing down laws dealing with guns. I find it interesting how flames are fanned and profits roll through the roof. Ever notice how every time something like this occurs gun sales and ammo sales go sky high? There is no morality or constitutional amendment to that it is greed fan the flames drive the sales up.  It saddens me watching the people I know fanning flames that only lead to more Kent States.

Today my wife can drive to work on her own the doctor gave her clearance to drive and I am getting back in a routine at school which is sort of odd after nearly eight weeks of driving her to work every day. I am literally trying to find my way back to normal and it will take a few days or so. As lunch time at school rolls around I keep thinking I might have to escape at lunch to run home and hold my grand baby as well. Adding to my new routine for the first time in six years I have planning last block which is so odd. I feel as if I am finished work at one o’clock now and crash. I need to get my butt in gear and use my planning time more wisely.

Anyhow back to my original thought I was listening to “Ohio” by Neil young and the song sort of stuck with me and as I pondered how do you ever get to normal after an event like that. Incidentally one of the shooting victims from Arizona was at Kent State and lost a friend. I went looking for a few notes on the song and borrowed from Wiki-pedia the following:
“’Ohio’ is a protest song written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’ ‘Find the Cost of Freedom,’ peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although a live version of the song was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation album Decade, released in 1977. It also appears on Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.” Wiki-pedia

 

As I thought back with the song in my head to that day so long ago and where I was at the time finishing up spring semester at Eastern Baptist College in St. David’s Pennsylvania and starting to volunteer at a program in Paoli, actually getting my feet wet in teaching, where my brother was a student. There are so many memories coming back all around a song. At Eastern Baptist we all started to wonder if the antiwar groups on campus that were relatively radical at the time were next for the National Guard. There was a tension that is hard to explain especially if you are a nineteen year who has seen and heard so many horror stories about the war in Viet Nam and at that time violence on campuses in the US.  We all wondered then if our country could ever get back to normal.         

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things: for the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order and only lukewarm defenders from all those who would profit by the new order.  This Luke warmness arises partly from the fear of their adversaries who have the law in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind who do not just believe in anything new, until they have actual experience of it.” Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)

 

My mother sent this Machiavelli quote to me and back in the day and today so many similarities in our public awareness on both sides of the fence. I skip back to this past holiday season and for us as teachers in our county with a another break coming up and with a shortened calendar year and longer days to save money and now two more furlough days. I find I am seriously a creature of habit and being out of routine for so long it is very hard to get back to normal. As I look at the national scene in politics and legislation I often wonder if we ever will actually do things for the people of the country and no longer for sponsors of politicians. On a passing thought maybe politicians should be required to wear stickers like in NASCAR of sponsors.

 

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

 

It has been some time since I came back to Thoreau. I recall reading about him and Walden back in high school but it was just an assignment at that time. I as a student was living this quote. I was a victim of Alfie Kohn’s, decontextualization. I was going through the motions of a being student but never quite really understood what it was I was doing there or why. Somewhere in Macon Georgia at Mercer it clicked and I became a student and found that being a student and learning were two completely different things. This is sort of like realizing how engrained our routines actually are in our daily lives. I am working on finally getting through a three day Bird Droppings which is almost unheard of. I come into school clean my room each morning and get ready for the day sit and write read a bit feed my various room critters and get ready for students. I had more to do since I was driving forty miles every morning in and out, so my personal writing time was affected in the morning and now not having all my third block planning to do school errands it is confined to a narrow window in the afternoon and then home to pick up my wife, cook dinner and play with my grand baby.

 

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. “ Henry David Thoreau

 

I took a picture on January fourth of this year at sunrise and posted on Facebook like so many images I post. I wanted to use a Thoreau quote on my “Wall of Fame”, at school and in looking through my images this sunrise was so intense it just seemed right and so it became a poster for my photo wall at school. As I read over several times this quote from Thoreau started to sink in. I need to think over and over those deep thoughts that I want to attain and accomplish and rather than procrastinate go about following my path way to completion. So I am slowly getting back to normal and just emailed a friend after a long change in routine it takes four or five days to get back in the groove. We have as a nation, state, county, school and family so many things ahead of us we need to begin working through and around and over so we can get back to normal. Then of course I really don’t think normal is where I probably ever will be according to many. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Learning is a journey strewn with boulders

Bird Droppings January 17, 2013

Learning is a journey strewn with boulders

 

“In a word, learning is decontextualized. We break ideas down into tiny pieces that bear no relation to the whole. We give students a brick of information, followed by another brick, followed by another brick, until they are graduated, at which point we assume they have a house. What they have is a pile of bricks, and they don’t have it for long.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’S, Praise and Other Bribes

 

For nearly a week now I have driven to school in the rain. It has been interesting early in the morning clear or semi-clear and then by driving time rain again. I am cursed to drive in the rain. It has been many years since I first brought up we need context to complement the content in education. I have been a fan of Alfie Kohn’s work for nearly twelve years since I first read a book in a book club meeting held by our then principal. As I read this earlier today and used as a status for my Facebook page the idea of decontextualizing interested me. Real learning involves context and if we constantly are decontextualizing essentially we are unlearning what we are trying to teach.

 

“Who, then, shall conduct education so that humanity may improve?” John Dewey

 

A very deep and broad question, I was thinking back to my own community and associations. We elect school board members who hire teachers and principals, they decide on schools to build and a place to build them and rules to govern schools. In Georgia recently several school systems have lost and or been put on probation due to school boards inappropriate behavior and the politics of those school boards that took away from education. The new kid on the bock charter schools is impacting public education and private schools still thrive here in the Bible belt. In any situation where elected officials are running the show and especially where there are few requirements for the job and it pays little if anything what should we expect? So I turn to my hero, what and how does Dewey the great educator answer his own question?

 

“We must depend upon the efforts of enlightened men in their private capacity. ’All culture begins with private men and spreads outward from them. Simply through the efforts of persons of enlarged inclinations, who are capable of grasping the ideal of a future better condition, is the gradual approximation of human nature to its end possible…. Rulers are simply interested in such training as will make their subjects better tools for their own intentions.’ Even the subsidy by rulers of privately conducted schools must be carefully safeguarded. For the rulers’ interest in the welfare of their own nation instead of in what is best for humanity, will make them, if they give money for the schools, wish to draw their plans.” John Dewey

 

We are manipulated and educated as pawns in a society for the societies own perpetuation and many top educators across the country believe this. There are times when I believe as well, watching new teachers come and teach in a manner that has been that way for a hundred years, as we develop curriculums that are what was and will always be and or design a program simply to sell books much like the integrated math program curriculum in Georgia that is after about three years being done away with because test scores were significantly dropping and over eighty thousand students failed end of course it is always about tests. Occasionally a bright note a light on the horizon, a student of education or two sees a different view a different point and follows a different path. Here I am thinking and routine keeps popping up.

Today as I do every day I let out Little girl out our Westie. It is funny back in the day we had Moose our yorkie and the two could not be in the same space together even though they were raised for several years together. We moved along the way and they could not decide who was boss after the move. Then I go to my computer and write trying to catch up on emails. Sometimes the Westie will come and sit by my feet and sleep. Today she wanted back out, an alteration to my morning routine and it bothers me. What is of concern as I think is this is a trivial item to be concerned about? We want things to be smooth to run efficiently and effectively and “OUR WAY”; the further up the chain of command the bigger the “OUR WAY” is.

 

“The new idea of the importance of education for human welfare and progress was captured by national interests and harnessed to do a work whose social aim was definitely narrow and exclusive. The social aim of education and its national aim were identified, and the result was a marked obscuring of the meaning of a social aim.” John Dewey

 

Teachers and administrators like routine, sameness I call it and easy to be canned  and or bottled. Borrowing from Sydney J, Harris “easier to stuff a sausage than cultivate a pearl” The student effectively gets lost in the mandated and regulated manipulations of society.

 

“Is it possible for an educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted, constrained, and corrupted?” John Dewey

 

I find irony in the concept of a democratic classroom which I do believe can be successful. I find paradox in our efforts to be so democratic in our own country and yet we tend to bow to where majority wants even at the expense of free thought. We say individualism on one hand yet want the majority to rule and to dictate. As I was watching the election process in Iraq previously these concepts seemed to be exemplified. One faction has won and another literally did not vote in protest.

As I look at education and our own country how often do we do this and then when that which we did not elect nor even cared about happens we whine. We complain and we are faced with a journey that has provisions we do not want nor need. We can be often on that journey in a wrong direction for several years till another change, or pathway appears. Far too often we dictate direction in a top down scenario.  On the path the one on the journey is being told go this way and go that and should be the one directing the effort. It is so easy to raise an issue; following through with ideas is the more difficult aspect. Where in should the direction be set for example in education? I approach students in a manner that may be contradictory to some and way wrong to others. I offer here is where we need to go and ok class how do we get there. At first that is a difficult proposition, many want a map, a guide, a compass at least. The teacher can be that, facilitating in a guiding manner. But for learning to happen students have to be engaged and interactive in the journey each day.

 

“To get where they’re going, navigators first need to know where in the world they are.” Dragonfly web site

 

If we substitute educators and or students for navigators an interesting situation occurs. Any journey needs a starting point and how we find where that is often is the hard part in education. A journey starts at the beginning, where it is going is wherever and whenever but it does start somewhere. As a teacher helps students find a starting point and then provides tools to navigate the journey. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

Within the mirror can the reflection go beyond the moment?

Bird Droppings January 16, 2013

Within the mirror can the reflection go beyond the moment?

 

I was glancing at a book this morning “Qualities of an effective teacher” by Dr. James H. Stronge, Professor in Educational Policy, Planning, and leadership at the College of William and Mary, WilliamsburgVirginia. Stronge looked at students and how various aspects of a teacher’s involvement effected the student’s achievement; verbal ability, intellectual ability, content knowledge, certification, and experience. One aspect that was most intriguing to me was, “the Role of reflective practice”.

 

“Reflective teachers portray themselves as students” “Effective teachers are not afraid of feedback; in fact they elicit information and criticism from others.” Thoughtful reflection translates into enhanced teacher efficacy. And a teacher’s sense of efficacy has an impact on how he or she approaches instructional content and students.” Educators confidence in their ability to facilitate the learning and understanding of material by students is observable by others.” James H. Stronge

 

It might be said that Stronge’s was borrowing his thoughts on reflection from many years ago. Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago, Henry David Thoreau walked away from teaching to be a student. Only in being a student himself could he teach.

 

“I find that the rising generation in this town do not know what an Oak or a pine is, having seen only inferior specimens. Shall we hire a man to lecture on botany, on oaks for instance, our noblest plants-while we permit others to cut down the few best specimens of these trees that are lefty It is like teaching children Latin and Greek while we burn the books printed in those languages.” Henry David Thoreau

 

Much of Thoreau’s thought process and writing was as he walked through his own homeland of New England, learning about the world and people within. It is introspection and reflection that lead me to my early morning writing and reading. I started looking at a well-used journaling of sorts’ website, Myspace.com, where students, teachers, friends and family use the medium to reflect and post thoughts ideas often more trivial and whimsical than introspective yet within the milieu of ideas there is thinking and reflection. Over the years that evolved into blogging and Facebook journaling of sorts each day. For in writing about yourself and views on things you are offering a view to the world of yourself.

 

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I watch lately how we are putting so much emphasis on testing specifically standardized tests. How many facts can a specific individual hold within a given cranial space? Is there a limit based on some cognitive level indicator as to how much any given person can acquire and retain? IQ has long been used as a determining factor in cognitive ability often just a simple test and we have an IQ score, but of course the bell shaped curve applies and at either end are the exceptions. So when we look further and find not everyone with a high IQ succeeds, and not everyone with a low IQ fails. Testing perhaps is not an accurate science after all in many situations. We use norms and percentiles and cumulative averages to provide the data for our theorizing. We look for patterns, and we look for trends. Can we really find an indicator of learning or of knowledge?

 

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to revisions and refinements.” The Foxfire Approach to teaching and learning

 

For several years on another archaic website I have watched and read many students and friends’ journals, Xanga has been a tool used by literally millions of people to vent daily, and or wonder daily. Many offer inner reflections of daily happenings in learning and in life. I use hand written journals myself in class to allow a freedom of speaking out of reviewing and pondering the day’s events more often hand written allow for those who have an aversion to computers. Some students chose to be very simple and direct, such as, “I went home ate dinner and fell asleep”. Often as I read each day others will offer inroads to their thinking and understanding.

Perhaps as I look back at Stronge’s ideas from his book. This line stood out, “Reflective teachers portray themselves as students”. It is a desire to learn that carries over to students. I have found over the years that simply telling someone to do something often is met with disaster, as in teaching, it is in interacting and in doing that learning occurs. Reflection offers a doing, a chance to look at what we do know and how we believe we can apply it. For several weeks I have been reading graduate student’s reflections, for some it is simply the professor wants this and this and here it is. However others open up and truly reflect on the topic, going into their inner most understanding, rather than simply regurgitating content and information.

One paper I read recently was a reflection on the entire ten core practices involved in the Foxfire Approach and how then how you as a teacher utilized or considered these in your teaching. As I read several teachers numbered one to ten and listed responses, some reflected on the overall impact of just now revealing and how crucial and important some of this information was, not even touching on one practice. Yet as I read what is a reflection continually popped in my mind as a question. My eldest son is working on his Master’s degree at Piedmont College and had been through the Foxfire teacher’s course two summers back and his reflections for his course work are different than many others in his classes his professors have commented.

When I look in the mirror I see a close but not exact view. It is depending on the angle and set of the mirror and in that much can be different. However it is still a view.  The question was about your involvement now and this person admittedly was not involved but saw the potential in it. So while not addressing one, addressed all indirectly. Reflecting, pondering, and offering a view and views that are open for perspective as well can lead to further discussion and reflection. I am wandering as I write today. A long week of co=teaching Biology and ninth grade literature and looking forward to being lazy then on Saturday and Sunday although my calendar is filling quickly for my honey dew list. But one key thought for the day; please as always keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Walking and listening among the cotton woods

Bird Droppings January 15, 2013

Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

 

I walked outside earlier as I do many mornings listening observing trying to understand this reality I am walking about in. The sky was bright this morning with a very faint moon still hanging around and a few wisps of clouds were visible.  Over the years I have spent many days in the mornings alone sitting observing in the wee hours sometimes even wrapped in a blanket for the cold. I would spend my time listening and watching as time went by. There were mornings when falling stars by the hundreds would pass by and I would feel as if I was the focus of their attention watching all in space aim towards me. I would sit and hours later write poetry and verses logging down emotions events and moments in my journal of sorts.

 

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

 

One day recently I was told I had a great vocabulary. I came home and asked my wife; “Do I have a great vocabulary?” I was really hoping for an answer to boost my ego and she said “it really depends on who you are talking too.” You know at first I was hurt but then she said not that many people have seen or heard what you have in your life and sharing that expands their vocabulary as well. I instantly felt better. Perhaps a reason why I enjoy teaching sharing experiences I have had over my sixty plus years.

 

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper 

 

In days gone by and even today I will pick up an encyclopedia and read the volume much like a book, ok tonight’s light reading is H. In our Google it world of today few children ever even see an encyclopedia let alone open one. Yesterday in class I was using my ancient Britannica’s to help a student with a Venn diagram on Achilles and Odysseus. Once he started with the book versus Wikipedia he was caught up and started looking through the pages. Even started taking the volume home saying Mr. Bird this is pretty cool.

 

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.”  Sadie Black

 

We have all grown up with the statement about how curiosity killed the cat but a lack thereof will also keep the world at a standstill and nothing will happen as well.

 

“Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” Peter F. Drucker

 

A great guru of business Peter Drucker has written many books helping people manage their businesses. If you look at our society and the pace of new information and technology we are living in a world where while you sleep things change. This statement is even truer today than when Drucker wrote it in the sixties.

 

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have come to enjoy Emerson and I use his sayings often. He was a rather grizzly looking old goat of a man. When I read this I realized several times recently this is how I described what a school should be like. It should be literally a teacher, as a door. With the teacher or door person simply opening the door at appropriate times allowing information to go in. As the student becomes more and more adept the doorman is needed less and less till soon only a receptionist is needed to assist in organizing thoughts.

 

“Knowledge, without common sense, says Lee, is folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, it is fanaticism; without religion, it is death. But with common sense, it is wisdom with method, it is power; with clarity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue, and life, and peace.” Austin Farrar

 

I sat and spoke at length over lunch a few days ago and walking back to class with a good friend who had served a year or more in Afghanistan, we were talking of cultural differences, to us sometimes these differences are ridiculous and yet to the people within that culture they are a part of life. I have been fascinated with a tiny group of people and have been reading several books lately dealing with the Sans or “Bushman” of the Kalahari in South Africa as well as several other indigenous peoples who have been stripped of their homes and culture for the sake of mankind at least that is what we are told.

It seems diamonds have been found in the Kalahari and the Sans who have lived there for tens of thousands of years, hunting and gathering now must leave and go learn to farm to be civilized. Perception was left out of many of the verses today for a hunter in the Kalahari may not know of Quantum physics but he or she does know where to find and how to find water and juicy grubs for dinner. What if the antelope has escaped during the hunt as a Bushmen you know the signs to track and finish the job. Knowledge is of when and where you are now is crucial to existence, going back to my wife’s comment to me this morning and my own vocabulary learned through so many experiences and books read.

 

“Gugama, the creator, made us. That was a long time ago – so long ago that I can’t know when it happened. That is the past, but our future comes from the lives of our children, our future is rooted in the hunt, and in the fruits which grow in this place. When we hunt, we are dancing. And when the rain comes it fills us with joy. This is our place, and here everything gives us life. “Mogetse Kaboikanyo

 

Mogetse Kabokikanyo was a Kgalagadi man who lived alongside the Gana and Gwi Bushmen in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In February 2002, he was forcibly relocated to a camp outside the reserve. He died just four months later. He was probably in his fifties; his friends said his heart stopped beating. After years of struggling to remain on his land, Mogetse was buried in the desolate relocation camp, far from his ancestors’ graves. We citizens of the United States talk of human rights and dignity but in a case closer to home, it is very similar.

In about 1909 or so Geronimo of the Apaches was told finally he would not be allowed to return to the mountains of New Mexico to die. He must remain at Fort   SillOklahoma on the Apache reservation literally a prisoner of war where he died shortly thereafter. I have been to the grave site of Geronimo many times in my travels to LawtonOklahoma. Driving out past military vehicles and such to a quiet spot along the river where no visible modern sights can be heard or seen. Immediately around you are only the rustling cottonwood trees, and the flow of water over the stones in the river alongside the grave yard provides a backdrop of peaceful sounds. A rolling landscape and meadow of grass go up from a small parking area into the plains of Oklahoma. Not many people come to this corner of FortSill.

Many times as  I sat alone staring across the meadow listening to the stream and feeling a breeze brush lightly it seems as if time rearranged and it was so easy to slip back to days when people buried here had names and were not simply numbered markers. Knowledge is an elusive, ethereal, entity flitting about as a monarch butterfly travels many thousands of miles between hills in Mexico and Georgia. Knowledge is elusive in how it conveys power to some and solace to others. Knowledge is walking along the stream by a grave from a time long gone and knowing we can change mankind we can make a difference. It is the Geronimo’s and Mogetse Kaboikanyo’s who are the real teachers of this world.

It may be one step one small tiny speck at a time but one day others will be able to stand among the cotton woods in Oklahoma or beneath a bush in the Kalahari and know tomorrow is a far better day. Hopefully mankind has learned more as we increase our abilities to convey understanding. One day, maybe not today, knowledge will truly be instilled in everyone. But till then please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and try to offer a hand to any slipping as they cross the stream on their own journey and to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

Teaching is more than just passing along knowledge

Bird Droppings January 14, 2013

Teaching is more than just passing along knowledge

 

It has been nearly ten years since my wife and I attended a turning and burning for the first time, near Gillsville Georgia. It was a gathering of potter’s, getting together to sell their wares and turn a few pots and of course fire up the kiln. All of the artisans we went to see are traditional folk potters using a wood fired kiln affectionately known as a ground hog kiln due to the fact it is often built into the ground. I mention this as a photo sitting behind the computer on my table of paraphernalia and books is of many years ago at a craft show in Perry Georgia, Mossy creek Arts and Crafts festival.

The picture is of an old man working at a potter’s wheel while my two youngest sons watch intently. The potter is the late, Mr. Cleater Meaders of Perry Georgia. Cleater was the nephew of famous folk potter legend Lanier Meaders, of ugly face jug fame. Both Lanier and Cleater have pieces in the SmithsonianMuseum of Art. Every year for the past thirty five my wife and I have been going to the Mossy Creek Arts and Crafts Festival twice a year and would watch Mr. Meaders turn pots. My kids grew up watching and fascinated as he would use his hands and take a lump of clay, knead and mold and then spinning on his wheel and turn that once formless lump of dirt into a work of art. With each piece the artist leaves their mark be it in the glaze, style, perhaps even clay that is used to make the piece much as a teacher leaves their mark on a student.

 

“The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

 

A potter uses ideas and dreams then molds and shapes that through the clay into art. Teachers much the same take children and mold and shape into students. Eleanor Roosevelt mentions the future belonging to those who believe in the power of their dreams. We have to as parents and as teachers instill hope and provide the fodder for dreams to grow.

 

“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.” Amos Bronson Alcott

 

As I read this statement many Zen teachings and thoughts past through my inner being. I was thinking of a recent writing I did on my philosophy of teaching. I used to refer to teaching as symbiotic event that in happening has both teacher and pupil gaining, learning and growing from the event. I now know it is osmotic where information moves back and forth between teacher and students freely in a fluid sort of way to a point where both are teacher and both are student.

 

“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” Thomas Carruthers

 

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana

 

What a powerful statement and one forgotten by many parents and teachers both. Both quotes are what teaching and parenting should be about. As a parent you will hope your children will become parents, adults and your job becomes less and less, though never over especially as grandbabies appear sort of magically. Some parents forget that. A teacher hopes that as their students learn soon they will teach others including themselves, and the circle is complete.

Every day I face the challenge of students who for one reason or another truly do not want to be in school. They would rather go through life not knowing anything than face learning. The joy and the thrill of learning has been dissipated somewhere along the line. It could be from a poor teacher, a poor parenting job, an illness or disease, some physiological reason and even psychological for that matter. Somewhere desire is gone along with drive, ambition, and hope.

 

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

 

Leave it to one of history’s greatest thinkers to sort it all out and show the issue. How do we make our teaching so potent, to overcome home life, friends, all the ills of society, the sixteen hour syndrome,  and any ills the individual might just have. It is a big but how do we?

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Leave it to Ralph, I have gotten on a first name basis with Mr. Emerson lately, it seems we are getting to be rather good friends.

 

“Those who know how to think need no teachers.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

These are two different views and thoughts yet saying much the same from Emerson and Gandhi. If a child truly learns to think, which is the hard part the job gets easier. If a child can think then they really do not need teaching as much as guidance or directing. Watching a student who can think learn is amazing, as one piece leads to another and soon questions are asked and answers lead to more questions. Thinking probably would put teachers out of work. The real problem is getting students to think, that is the hard part.

 

“We must view young people not as empty bottles to be filled, but as candles to be lit.” Robert H. Shaffer

 

One of my favorite authors of recent times is Sydney J. Harris who in an article on education compares teaching to stuffing sausage casings and how it should be more like culturing a pearl.

 

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William A. Ward

 

Several days ago a student said she was going to NorthGeorgiaCollege to become a teacher. As I listened it dawned on me the greatest success story for a teacher is for a student to want to become a teacher. While this particular student was never one of mine she has somewhere had some great teachers who have inspired her. I look back on my own educational journey of nearly 60 years now and it has been the great teachers along the way that inspired me. At times there have been some like Mr. Meaders who were not in a school but in the passing, talking with, and listening to the patience of a man turning a pot on a potter’s wheel while explaining carefully to the children watching. It was his passion that spilled over.

Sitting atop my debris on my writing table is a book by Robert L. Fried, The Passionate Teacher. Passion is what we should as teacher pass on to students. Passion is what in any aspect of life we should embrace to truly see all that is within it.

 

“Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.” Colleen Wilcox

 

I started with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt which actually was the starting quote for a past Learning Disability newsletter that came out.

 

“The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

 

It becomes our job as teachers and or parents, grandparents and or friends to help students believe in their dreams to overcome the obstacles holding them back and with that a final thought as I start up each day keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Caregiving and cared for we need both

Bird Droppings January 13, 2013

Caregiving and cared for we need both

 

“To care and be cared for are fundamental human needs. We all need to be cared for by other human beings. In infancy, illness, or old age, the need is urgent and pervasive; we need caregiving, and we need the special attitude of caring that accompanies the best caregiving if we are to survive and remain whole.” Nel Noddings

 

In a week or so we will honor a man with a day dedicated to his memory a man who cared deeply about mankind. As I sit here pondering the true aspects of caring and the impacts on the human condition, Dr. Nel Noddings discusses how we need to care and we also need to be cared for, both sides of the coin. It is not an either or situation. On the news this morning volunteers will be preparing a meal for twenty thousand homeless and working poor in Atlanta in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Hosea Williams foundation is sponsoring the event. Hosea Williams was a man who walked with Dr. King back in the day and a man who started a feed the hungry program in our major city. In that same news cycle two news commentators had been criticized for making violent comments in regards to other people. One made reference to shooting the founder of Wiki leaks in the head and the other in a panel discussion addressed reinvading Iraq for oil to keep the prices down.

 

“If every eight old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence within one t generation.” The Dalai Lama

 

Caring is not seeking war for oil especially so major oil companies can further profit. It is true the countries where the oil is located do reap fortunes from the pumping of oil but outside of Venezuela most oil is pumped, shipped, piped and processed by a select few large oil companies who have continually made significant profits while all other industries are losing money. Interesting as well is Iraq’s oil is now being pumped by mostly US companies who are making money. Another aspect left by the wayside when we pick on a country about oil prices is Wall Street where oil is a commodity traded and US investors are driving the price up or down depending on their profitability not our needs. Most oil is owned by investors not countries. Why do we not invade Wall Street and the stock exchange and stop auctioning commodities and dealing in the so often bogus paper of the stock market? This is not about caring other than for one’s self.

I am amused on this day as I recall my father, a former Navy man, a diehard republican and he always voted straight republican on his ballot, telling me this was one of the greatest speeches he had ever heard. My father made his living with his booming voice and had addressed audiences across the globe. He had sat and listened too many of the greatest speakers of the twentieth century in various capacities. My father had lectured and had his message translated in nine or ten languages in nearly forty different countries. I kind of felt for him to say this very liberal southern pastor and black man had just delivered the most powerful speech of modern day was very significant. But I also always knew my father was a caring man about his family, friends, his life’s work, and all those he dealt with around the world.

I was only in eighth grade or so when Dr. King delivered his now famous speech at the Lincoln memorial in 1963. Now we honor the man with a holiday. Many will protest and have arguments that this day should not be a national holiday. I am not one of those. As I read the words and listen to the message in this powerful speech, it is not about racism it is about humanity it is about caring. In the past presidential campaigning Dr. King had been both talked about and commented on. Barrack Obama on a Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, after being lectured by the Pastor that many other great men had spoken at this pulpit had these words to say.

 

“If Dr. King could love his jailor, if he could call the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely we can look past what divides us in our time,” Barrack Obama, January 20, 2008, Ebenezer Baptist Church

 

I watch daily high school kids who still hold racism deep in their hearts. I read passages on students and adults websites that talk of hatred and misunderstanding. I have been in meetings with parents where comments such as “they work too hard and I cannot get a job” in regards to Hispanic construction workers. Racism is still in our society and in our communities. How do we as human beings in looking forward a week on a day dedicated to a man who in his lifetime tried to end racism, approach and channel such bigotry and hatred.  I wonder as I sit here with school tomorrow how we have come far yet still have so far to go.

 

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Washington DC, August 23, 1963

 

Oh what a day it will be when we are judged by our character and not skin color. I have a dream as well borrowing from Dr. Noddings again, “we need the special attitude of caring that accompanies the best caregiving if we are to survive and remain whole” and as I sit and ponder the Dalai Lamas thought above what if we would teach meditation to eight year olds. So my friends please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Can we say true heroism and humility are spelled the same?

Bird Droppings January 12, 2013

Can we say true heroism and humility are spelled the same?

 

Even though I am one of the worst spellers in this local area I know heroism and humility are technically spelled differently. I will concede to using words to come up with a perhaps catchy title for my daily morning wanderings. I sat and listened to our President after the shooting of Congresswomen Gilford’s nearly two years ago as he spoke to a group in Arizona at a memorial service for those killed in the shooting Saturday in Tuscan. I will admit I was moved by his words as I think most people in this nation were.

 

“Though I appreciate the sentiment, I must humbly reject the title of hero because I am not one of them,” “We must reject the title of hero and reserve it for those who deserve it.” Daniel Hernandez, twenty year old intern of Congresswomen Gilford credited with saving her life by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and President Barrack Obama

 

Daniel as he was interviewed went on to say the real heroes were the First responders’ and doctors and nurses that cared for the injured and prevented any additional loss of life. As I ponder this morning a young man jumping into the fray as he heard gunshots as do many of our service men and women and saying he is not the hero is a humbling moment for me.

I recall my father and stories of World War II and the battle of Iwo Jima in the South Pacific. For you non-history buffs the US military brass had come up with a plan to island hop through the South Pacific to Japan to end the war. This was formulated knowing we would lose many men as the Japanese were well fortified and dug in. Iwo Jima was a blood bath to say the least. US Marines were dropping as they left the land craft or pontoon bridges from the LSM’s. My father was a medic on an LSM. This was a boat with a drop open front to allow landing craft and tanks to roll out into shallow water or onto pontoon bridges along with the Marines who were on board as well. As my father tells the story a young Marine nineteen at the time had fallen between two pontoons. These structures are large enough to support a tank and chained together to makes bridges from sea craft to shore.

My father heard the young man’s call for help and jump from his boat to the pontoons. As he looked over the scene it was not good the young man’s leg had been tangled in the chains connecting the pontoons. His right leg was in shambles and nearly sheared off from the chains movement with the waves. My father had to move quickly. The pontoons were being shoved together by tanks and waves as the moved. Dad jumped down between the pontoons explained he would need to amputate the young Marines leg in order to get him to safety. He offered a swig of whiskey that he carried in a flask for such ordeals in his back pocket. The young Marine said he did not drink. Using his Navy survival knife he poured some of the whiskey on the knife and proceeded to take off the Marines leg.

As the pontoons came together dad threw the young man up on to the nearest pontoon climbed up and cauterized and sutured his wound. Add to this machine gun fire and mortar rounds all around as well. Dad then lifted the young man and carried him down the beach front to the hospital outgoing landing craft. Across my father’s Navy shirt was embroidered his nickname on board the LSM, DOC. The Navy and Marine corpsmen saw him and heard him barking medical orders about the injury and assumed he was an officer. The young man was given priority and made it to the hospital ship and did survive. Sounds simple yet during the several hundred yard walk down the beach the dug in Marines were yelling at my father to get down and bullets were whistling all around him. As he would say as he told the story a guardian angel was watching over him is all he could recall. He said he was in a daze as he carried the young Marine it was what he had to do in order to save his life. Another few minutes wasted and he would have died on the beach.

It was days later when questioned about the incident by his commander he was offered a heroism medal from the Navy but being a young college man himself he asked if he could get a raise instead of a medal. It was not until many years later when he was going for health care to the VA hospital he actually put in for a purple heart so he could get a better handicapped parking space he was in his eighties at the time.

Heroism and humility spelled differently perhaps, but there is a fine line connecting the two. It has not been that long ago that the first Medal of Honor was given to a living soldier in many years. We seem to have far too few heroes in today’s world. I look to a shooting in Arizona and see several. There was a nine year old girl who believed in her country and in her congresswomen enough to be there to see her. There is a congresswoman who chose to meet with her constituent’s one on one in public. While he claims he is not the hero a young man who did not hesitate when the shots rang out and did what he could. I also saw our President whose gray hair is more noticeable now standing before the families of those lost and grieving talking about healing. We do have a nation of heroes it seems if we so chose to look about. As I think back to that day and another comment by Daniel Hernandez.

 

“On Saturday, we all became Arizonans, and above all, we all became Americans,” Daniel Hernandez

 

It is difficult to some days to try and sort and reflect. Yet it is in our reflections we can find solutions, be it in government, family, friends, or in education that I tend to tie in loosely each day I write. Today let us all reflect on our heroes and also keep all of those in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

Looking for reasons

Bird Droppings January 11, 2013

Looking for reasons

 

I had a rather exciting week as they go. I no longer have to drive down to Macon to pick up and drop off my youngest son at Mercer University as he attends Piedmont College and lives at home with his wife and daughter. However I do miss the drive even though I was always exhausted afterwards. Many times on my way down I will stop by a garden store that often has really nice plants and shrubs. On my last trip through I had asked about California White Sage and the owner was checking into getting some for me. On my last stop through the owner was splitting wood around back when I found him and as usual we got talking. Seems his nephew is autistic. As my life goes my son called around the time I was to pick him up and forced me back on schedule only an hour late or so. But what a discussion on learning and life I had with the owner. That will be another story along the way. It turned out to be so very cold and yet with so many things going on to keep it exciting between reptile shows and my oldest son talking about attending one this weekend the weather is sort of an afterthought and a good weekend ahead. It will be all about grandchildren this weekend.

 

“Come; let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children.” Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux

 

Nearly eleven years has passed since I did a research paper on the causes of issues with children. Many of the issues when I started back to teaching were not all that much different from the early seventies when I last taught. When I wrote the paper I was looking for commonalities among children who had issues in school and in life. I listed drugs use, alcohol use, jail time, probation, age, sex, drivers licenses, wealth, social status, child hood illnesses and whatever else I could find measurable numbers or information on. I did not question the students all the information was in school and the public records. As I looked deeper I came to the conclusion students specifically children with problems were made they did not just happen.

Indirectly we created each of the issues that manifested within the children I was reviewing. In my reading I found a website, Divorce Magazine.com, Help for Generation ex. and the following listed statistics. In 1970, 72% of the adult population was married and in 1999 only 59%. That was a shock in some ways although as I looked further more people are living together for a period of time rather than marrying. Another interesting statistic the number of divorces granted is down per 1000 people but up per number of new marriages. As I researched nearly eleven years ago in that group of students I found that two out of twenty eight lived with both biological parents.

 

“It seems that the divorce culture feeds on itself, creating a one-way downward spiral of unhappiness and failure.” David Brenner, New York, July 14, 1999, Associate director of the Institute for American Values

 

“There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” Leon R. Yankwich

 

I used to prior to being addicted to NCIS found myself hooked on several of the Law and Order series; the TV shows which now seem to run all day long in one form or another. I am captivated by the errors and flaws within our society, perhaps because I work with children who are often a result of those same issues in family and or society.

 

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Michael Levine

 

As I researched deeper in reasons children have issues often I found issues were learned. The examples were so often set at home, drugs, alcohol and literally any of issues presented had been directly related to home situations. Children learn what they live both positively and negatively as Dr. Laura Nolte writes extensively about and is featured in her Children Learn what they live poster of the early seventies. Yesterday the news was filled with stories of teenagers, young people who had gotten into trouble.

I often think back to an incident in Minnesota several years ago, where a young man killed nine people in a shooting spree on the Red Lake Reservation. Elsewhere drug arrests and gang issues are often the case. I also thought back to a situation nearly six years ago, I was walking outside my room when a student came up sheepishly and hugged me and apologized. “I am so sorry for what happened”. It was only a few weeks prior this student was in a fight with another student in the cafeteria and I was pulling them apart. It was a strange feeling being thanked for breaking up a fight, by one of the parties involved.

Back a few years ago I was at a basketball game and parents were yelling at each other over their kids. This was in front of the audience; to a point a Resource Officer was involved. It really is no different than thirty five years ago when I coached basketball in MaconGeorgia and the kids liked this old crude gym better than the new gym. Parents could not fit inside and kids could just play basketball with no parents yelling to be heard. I just found my trophies from 1973-74 over the weekend as my wife and I were going through boxes.

 

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop

 

I never met the man but my father always spoke highly of him as he was my brother’s physician in Philadelphia when John was at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. In later years, Dr. Koop was the Surgeon General of the United States. I am always looking for answers midst all the questions.

 

“Children are curious and are risk takers. They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous. A child initially trusts life and the processes of life.” John Bradshaw

 

Perhaps it is the breaking of trust that causes issues to arise. Years ago I did a chart on the development of trust. The stages in how trust develops with a child and then into adulthood. We are born with what I called a universal trust, as an infant you instinctually trust, you learn to not trust and eventually come full circle learning to trust again.

 

“Trust evolves. We start off as babies with perfect trust. Inevitably, trust is damaged by our parents or other family members. Depending on the severity, we may experience devastated trust, in which the trust is completely broken. In order to heal, we must learn when and how trust can be restored. As part of this final step, if we cannot fully trust someone, then we establish guarded, conditional, or selective trust.” Dr. Riki Robbins, PhD, The Four Stages of Trust

 

I recently started reading again a book for the second or third time by Dr. Temple Grantin, Animals in Translation. Dr. Grantin’s unique view is driven by the fact that she is autistic. She looks at animals in a different light than most people do; she operates on that instinctual level without the encumbrances of emotion. She stills functions in a world of trust and maintains trust however that can be defined. In a family setting what more so than parents leaving could displace trust in a child let alone destroy trust, and then we want them to lead normal lives.

 

“When a parent is consistent and dependable, the baby develops sense of basic trust. The baby builds this trust when they are cold, wet or hungry and they can count on others to relieve their pain. The alternative is a sense of mistrust, the feeling that the parent is undependable and may not be there when they are needed.” Eric Erikson, Eric Erikson’s Eight Stages of Life

 

Sitting, writing here with my three sons all either graduated or in college is so easy to say we had no problems. Then I click to Yahoo News and see such things as the RedLake shootings and in our own community headlines of a young man who brutally beat his parents to death for no known reason. Looking at both stories was it this or that as to why a child would kill nine people and himself or kill their parents.

 

“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux, Holy man

 

In 1972 or so I met a young man in MaconGeorgia. At that time he was a year older than me and still is from last I heard.  In his Creek tribal name he is called Red Clay; he was and is an artist. My family has many of his pieces of artwork, sculpture, drawings and paintings. In 1975 or so he went through a divorce after his wife lost a baby. Every day that I have known him he was drinking. He was once the most requested teacher in Bibb County now an itinerant carpenter and professional feather dancer. Although I have been told he recently retired and is now a lead drummer in Pow-Wow circles. But a comment that stuck with me and an image. He painted a small acrylic painting that my mother has hanging in her office area. It is of three burial platforms in the prairie. The picture as he explained is the one in front a chief or man of importance, the second his wife and the third a small infant burial platform, his unborn baby from so many years ago. He told me nearly twenty eight years ago he would not live past forty, he has barely but as I look back and think of how we respond and how we set that example for our children.

I started reading Kent Nerburn’s books now many years ago at the suggestion of a friend. Nerburn had taught at the Red Lake High School in Minnesota and when you get a chance please review his writing on his website about the incident there. So today as I wandered in my thoughts, a dear friend’s father passed away and I think back to that moment in my own life only a few years previous and keep them in my heart. I read a new posting from another friend who has beaten cancer and writes eloquently of the details in his own journey. As I think to children who live each day many in harm’s way not of their doing but simply of having been born into that situation I wonder at our society in all of its greatness have we left something behind. So today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Horses and Trains and Learning

Bird Droppings January 10, 2013

Horses and Trains and learning

 

It has been many years since I last rode on a train. I mean a serious train going more than the distance between concourses at an airport. Years ago when I lived in the Philadelphia area, we all used mass transit to commute, to go “downtown,” to get around and to even travel a long distance, say to Florida. Trains are not quite what they used to be. Many of the true passenger trains are now extinct and the only other trains seem to be freight and rapid transit within big cities.

It has been nearly fifty years since diesel engines replaced the giant steam locomotives that plied the tracks from Scranton, Pennsylvania and the rich anthracite coal regions to New Jersey and New York, hauling the fuel of the times on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. I have long been fascinated with the great trains of the past and perhaps because Mr. Frank E. Bird Sr., my namesake and grandfather was an engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western coal trains from 1900-1946.

I do not remember much of my late grandfather, even though we traveled from our home to see my grandparents as children many years ago but the images of his being an engineer have stayed with me.  Sitting by my desk at home is his engineer’s watch a rather large pocket watch known for its remarkable ability to keep nearly exact time. I am told my grandfather was proud of his silver watch and its weight in my hand as I ponder makes me wonder at how much our world has changed.

 

“One returns to the past, to capture it as it was and as it hovers over the present” William Pinar

 

But the past is part of who we are and within us in the present in our imaginations and memories.

 

“Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods” James Hillman

 

As children we are fascinated with trains and even now in this day and age of digital everything and computers we still have trains at Christmas time. There are still electric train sets for sale it amazes me. I always wonder at the fascination so many people have with trains. What is it that intrigues us so about trains? When the giant steam locomotives pulled massive freight trains cross-country the enormity of the engines and power were drawing cards. In literature trains always are featured. In one of the literature classes we are reading, listening too, and have just watched the new movie of John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and Men”.  In the movie the story starts and ends with George’s reflections as he rides a freight train to his next town.

My early interest and fascination grew as a child and in 1954 I woke up to a Christmas morning and a circular track of a model Lionel O gauge steam engine and train set around our Christmas tree.  It became a family tradition and that set was a family fixture for many years.  When I had children of my own it was pulled out again and set up nearly thirty years later although this time it ran its circle around the dining room table trying to give a piece of my childhood to my children.

 

“Memory is an aspect of who we are” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

 

“Memory is the raw material of history, whether mental, oral or written, it is the living source from which historians draw” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

 

I was trying to share my past with my children as my father had passed down to me.  When I was a child my father would often tell stories of my grandfather and the great steam locomotives he would pilot.  Occasionally he would pull out an old engineer’s cap or lantern of my grandfathers to add some visual excitement to the stories. Still sitting on my mother house on the shelf is my grandfather’s kerosene lantern from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.

There is a surreal aspect to these massive metal machines, intertwined with our music and imagination trains are a fascinating piece of our being.  Trains are an element of the industrial revolution yet linked metaphysically to us, it could be the size and power, the getting us from point A to point B.

I will wander a bit and take my morning thinking away from the subject of trains, and to another mode of transportation but still in line with my thoughts. It has been a few years since we sold our draft horses Rick and Blue, a team of dapple gray Perchron horses. Each horse stood over six feet at the shoulder and weighed in at well over a ton. Rick and Blue were big powerful animals. They could pull anything. I was asked to talk to a group of parents one night at a function and needed a visual aid to get my point across. An aspect of that discussion was narrow mindedness. I brought along the harnesses from Rick and Blue.

The massive leather harness’ weigh over 85 pounds each and include a set of blinders for the horses. The blinders kept the horses from being distracted and only allowed the horse to look forward. I used that example to show how so many people can be like the draft horse and get stuck only seeing one thing, one direction at a time and are unable to look to either side or to see anything new or different. Granted there are many ADHD students I wish I had blinders for.

So am I really wandering today or what does a set of horses and trains have to do with one another? They are both big and powerful and trains much like Rick and Blue go in a straight line down the track no side trips no going off the tracks. I was talking the other day with another teacher about taking a journey on a train and how that train goes from point A to point B. We then pick up what we need along the way. I ended up comparing the journey to education and to learning.

As I thought of the train tracks and how so many of us get stuck simply following the tracks I thought of all the knowledge waiting sitting along the way but off the tracks. This knowledge could be away from the tracks and or hidden from the straight and narrow. I wondered what it be like if tracks were flexible and we weren’t limited by that straight line. We could go where the best ideas were and the best methods and we could really load the train full instead of simply picking up what load we can along the tracks.

I put an Aerosmith CD in my car today as I left the house and track four or five is a song “Amazing” which contains a line that I hold dear. Several years ago my oldest son, the night after a very dear friend was killed in a car accident left a sticky note on my computer. It was a simple line actually a quote and yes I have used it for a quote of the day now many times. It is interesting how we also have this quote on the wall outside the cafeteria. The note was a line from an Aerosmith song, a Stephen Tyler original. “Life is about the journey not the destination”. We get so caught up in the destination, for example getting to the end of the tracks following the curriculum to a T or the “TEST” at the end of the semester that we lose sight of all around us, we lose sight of the journey. Our journey and our students is teaching them to think and if they think they will learn

So how do we get to point B and really still get there with as much as we can possible load on the train. We travel and we gather as we go but we are fortunate we can leave the tracks if we chose. We can go sideways. We can go back. We can go forward. One thing that is so crucial is we all need to remove our blinders and see all that is around us and live each moment of the journey.

 

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” Gerald Smith

 

Smith points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why.  The illusions Smith points out, “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”. We get so caught up in what we are being told we are and why we soon fall on the straight track or go through life with blinders on. In order to dig deeper into we have to understand who we are as an individual and how we translate and comprehend our realities and how people see us.

 

“Freud, Jung and now Lang (among others) were digging underneath the surface of their lives, trying to uncover the roots of what is experienced on the surface” Gerald Smith

 

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the nobler one of laying down the outward things that enslaves us.” Carl Jung

 

            I have wandered a bit today and maybe a bit too deep into ideas and thoughts that I find intriguing and puzzling. I once referred to the term of herding instinct that people tend to herd, want to be in groups. We so want to take the easiest route. I looked at apathy yesterday. We live in a time where we want things to be simple and easy. I want to simply get to point B not have extra sightseeing along the way. Sadly so many people live life that way. They live with blinders or follow a pre-laid out track and never get to know there is so much more. A student asked a question this morning dealing with biology. The question was about global warming and how some people say it is not occurring and yet so many are saying it is. There are folks who will never admit to and or even suggest some ideas have truth. They are caught up in there veil of ignorance. Watching the news and the impact our current war is having on veterans, the number of those in harm’s way is growing exponentially Please keep them all on your minds and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Caring is a very precious commodity in teaching

Bird Droppings January 9, 2013

Caring is a very precious commodity in teaching

 

As I am pondering my early hours today before heading to take my wife to work and eventually end up at work myself I read an article dealing with charter schools and how they exclude many students. The air temperature is chilly outside and we are under a blanket of clouds much like education is shrouded in this mist uncertainty. We have been forewarned of more budget cuts and furlough days and today I am heading to an executive board meeting of our local National Association of Educators meeting. I am a bit disconcerted by discussions and articles recently.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my holidays between grandbabies and family it has been wonderful. I have found as I read comments from teachers and administrators that have Facebook accounts there are differing degrees of involvement in this teaching profession. On one hand I find a useful tool in social media some use solely with a few friends, some especially younger teachers have a large number of college peers and work related friends, some teachers have former students, and some have student’s teacher’s administrators and professors and numerous others. Reading statuses and updates coming from my psychology background I see many teachers who are concerned and caring people. After being back in teaching twelve years I find caring is a very precious commodity in teaching and one that is difficult to teach.

 

“Teaching is to move people to choose differently.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, educator, author and caring person

 

Working in what was once a rural county now not much more than an extension of Atlanta there are many who still adhere to the old ways, politically, religiously, culturally, socially and even educationally. I can write my name that is enough. We experienced an assassination attempt on sitting congress women in Arizona a mass shooting in a school in New England and rhetoric is focusing on the heated debates and arguments from the media people on both sides as to fanning the flames of violence. However it was not that many years ago in this county people would be lynched, moonshine was the main industry and killing someone and losing a body was part of doing business. Early in the week in my writings I issued a line or two about mental institutions closing and how there were many who twenty five years ago would be residents of said institution are now in politics, religion, military, jail, homeless and or waiting on the right trigger to set them off. It has been made very clear the individuals involved in the numerous shootings were mentally ill which will play well in various congressional, court and civil meetings, hearings and trials. But how do we as teacher’s help children choose differently.

 

“… Martin Buber had what he called a life of creativity in mind, and also a capacity for participation and partaking. He said that all human beings desire to make things, and what children desire most of all is their share in the becoming of things. Through their own intensively experienced actions, something arises that was not there before. This notion of participant experience- and sharing in the becoming of things- comes very close to what we mean by aesthetic education.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

Maybe I should post the Foxfire Core Practices that I have been writing about for several years. I like this idea of participant experience. We need to be actively involved in learning both as teacher and as students.

 

“Not only do we want to keep the aesthetic adventures into meaning visible and potent in the schools, along with the other ways there are of making or achieving or discovering meanings. We want to keep enhancing them with some understanding of contexts- movements, styles, traditions- and connections among diverse works at different modes of history. For one thing, we know very well that none of us comes to any work of art devoid of context or with what has been called a totally ‘innocent eye.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

I have watched a new math curriculum wreak havoc with students and teachers and not just in math as math dictates the entire school schedule now. The idea to simplify titles of courses to Math I, II, III, and IV does not do justice to the texts being used or curriculum proposed. Several years ago the test groups failed the first proto type test miserably and continually the curve has to be extreme to provide some passing numbers. The teachers are the same ones who were good and great teachers just a few months back but a simple change in state curriculum and we go backwards. The content needs context and it needs reasons.

 

“I hope you think about the wonder of multiple perspectives in your own experience. I hope you think about what happens to you- and, we would all hope, to our students- when it becomes possible to abandon one- dimensional viewing, to look from many vantage points and, in doing so, construct meanings scarcely suspected before.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

I am being hard on the math curriculum but the idea we are so far behind is not a valid one. In the US of all the major industrialized countries we are the only one that mandates education for all children. On international testing we tend to be down the list in part because of the greater number of children of all makes and models being tested. There are ideas within Maxine Greene’s words from 2003 that could help a teacher or teachers improve how they respond to students. Changing perspective looking from a different vantage point rather than simply that podium in the front of the room can make a world of difference. A simple thought but world changing.

 

“Our object, where public schools children and young people are concerned is to provide increasing numbers of opportunities for tapping into long unheard frequencies, for opening new perspectives on a world increasingly shared. It seems to me that we can only do so with regard for the situated lives of diverse children and respect for the differences in their experience.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

Seeing the differences in children is a sign of a great teacher. For it is in being able to see each child as unique and then in turn being able to, pardon the word diversify the teaching enough to interest all children. That is in and of itself a huge task.

 

“It is sometimes said that ‘all teachers care.’ It is because they care that people go into teaching.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person

 

I honestly do think, no one goes into teaching not caring. Somewhere along the line maybe they forget and get too caught up in teaching to the test, making sure they cover every miniscule detail in the curriculum map or just trying to get a good appraisal. As I have watched good teachers and great teachers it is that caring aspect that sets them apart. They tend to build relationships with students. They try to understand why a student comes to school the way they do not just simply give a zero for a missed assignment.

 

“In a caring relation or encounter, the cared-for recognizes the caring and responds in some detectable manner. An infant smiles and wriggles in response to it mother’s care giving. A student may acknowledge her teacher’s caring directly, with verbal gratitude, or simply pursue her own project more confidently. The receptive teacher can see that her caring has been received by monitoring her students’ responses. Without an affirmative response from the cared-for, we cannot call an encounter or relation caring.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person

 

Teaching is so much more than a job and if only that were a teachable topic. For many years I have searched for what it is that sets apart the truly great teachers and simplified into one word it is caring. If only we could magnify and personify and spread that word through the world. For far too long I have ended my droppings each day with the same line. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

 

Wa de (Skee)

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