Walking to the car and looking at stars

Bird Droppings February 18, 2013
Walking to the car and looking at stars

I started to practice getting up early today since we start back to school tomorrow. So I sat listening to the sounds of morning and started my wife’s car to warm it up for her. I drove into my favorite store to grab a drink and wait on the last sunrise before break is over. Now these events in and of themselves are not for many significant since most folks would simply say well so what. I wanted to get an early start to the day and sort out all of my procrastination and hopefully get caught up. I have several reports to ready for meetings through the week needed some extra time to get finished. Hopefully later today I will be taking pictures of a few new herbs in my herb garden and maybe get tulips planted since we have not had any cold weather yet.
This morning as I walked to my car just looking at how the light is reflecting off of everything about me got me to thinking back to last night and walking out into a beautiful clear sky and stars everywhere. I after running into town went to my quiet spot with a smudge stick and feather and stood facing the sunrise for wait seemed hours and turned to be only fifteen minutes or so. I was watching the smoke circle in the slight breeze fading into the dawn. Yesterday I read a post from Dr. Carla Goddard, Shaman Medicine Woman. It is not that it is new to me smoke is often consider by indigenous peoples to be a message to the great creator or simply to meld into the energy of all that is. A special ceremony is coming up that she will be attending and she will take a prayer stick which will be added to the fire.

“If you have an intention of healing that you would like carried to ceremony, we would be honored to carry it. A prayer stick will be created with the intentions of all who request it added upon the stick. On Saturday evening, in ceremony, the stick will be carried to the fire while the prayers are lifted in the smoke.”

In days gone by I used a similar sort of ceremony using pebbles. In Creek and Cherokee tradition you could pass your troubles to a pebble then toss into a quiet pool of water watch the ripples dissipate and feel better. I would have a bowl of pebbles and an empty bowl and tell youth to think about a problem while handling the pebble then place it in the empty bowl. In the afternoon several of us would go and toss pebble into quiet water. Granted it would be much better if you tossed your own but every time watching the ripples move across the water I would lose the physics of the movement and simple watch the art and soothing of the vision.

“Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.” Henry David Thoreau

What is about a man who lived well over a hundred years ago that could have an outlook so deep and encompassing. I sit and read his words and always am in awe. Thoreau’s thought is a very simple message if only people could grasp the understanding and meaning. It was interesting as I looked towards the sky my back yard amphitheater almost felt like it was centered on the little dipper. Over my shoulder a little better than a new moon barely visible out through the pines and oak trees. The air was cold and clean fresh might be a good word and while silent today I could imagine the chorus frogs were hard at work trying to shake off a slight chill. That might be a good air freshener name, “a clear starry night”. How that could be interpreted perhaps in the great bard Bob Dylan there is an answer.

“How many times must a man look up, before he can see the sky? Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry? Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Bob Dylan

So many groups and individuals have covered that song over the years. But the words caught my attention again. How many times must we look up before you can see the sky? My wife called my attention to the sunset a night or two ago, and as I walked around this morning drawn to a mist laying across the grass and it seemed my pictures are literally haunting with the faint fog coming off the ground going back a day or two to photos I took of several sunrises with the fog hanging along the ground.
As I was looking last night and turned to my left a constellation that always catches my attention. Perhaps it is because a friend showed it to me so many years ago. It is the constellation, Cassiopeia which forms a running W. Of course I read it was placed there during the campaign for president along with all the cute W bumper stickers back when George W was running for president. For several weeks during the last election when I first saw them I thought all those cars were filled with astronomers.

“How many years can a mountain exist, before it’s washed to the sea? Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free? Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Bob Dylan

Such powerful words when you read them. It was a trickle of water than formed the Grand Canyon which is three miles wide at some points all from a trickle of water over many millions of years, washed to the sea. But I get caught in the second line, how many times can, a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see. I look at news and see investigations into politicians and we have allowed through our own voting electing these people who misused our votes, or did they. Maybe we are as guilty as they are and as greedy. It is amazing how public opinion about wilderness dwindles when gas prices soar or when news media features stories about pricing as was the case today. Recently just a few years ago for the first time, First Nations in Canada has allowed the white man into very sacred lands to photograph and publish articles about the ghost bears of British Columbia. We hear arguments about the Keystone pipeline daily and how important it is and how China will get that oil if we don’t put this pipeline in. Canada has turned it down by a vast majority of public opinion going to the west coast of Canada because it would go through this section of wilderness where the ghost bears live and endanger two hundred and fifty miles of coastline. Eighty percent of Canadians are against the pipeline to the Pacific so we were the second option not the first.

“There must be some way out of here,’ said the joker to the thief. There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief. Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth. None of them along the line know what any of it is worth. No reason to get excited,’ the thief, he kindly spoke. There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke. But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate. So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late. All along the watchtower, princes kept the view. While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too. Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl. Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.” Bob Dylan

I think I heard this song by several others before I ever heard a Dylan version. This is my son’s ring-tone on my cell phone, All along the watch Tower. Many years ago watch towers were along the walls guarding cities and countries and guards were there to watch for enemies. In the song the princes kept a view but I have quoted an entire song for one line. Perhaps because I really like this song be it Dylan’s own version, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, and or Jimmy Hendrix’s but this line catches my attention.

“There are too many here among us that think that life is but a joke…. “So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”

The inevitability of life ending is a focal point for many and that is death. So many folks view life as never ending. I read blogs and listen to comments from teenagers all day and none of them seem to know what it is worth. Most feel there is plenty of time. A few weeks ago on a Friday as I was trying to explain to a senior for him to graduate he better start now and get his act together he responded he would later in the semester, there is always time.
Life is far too short and riders are approaching. Life is like a fuse lit on one end always getting shorter. Sadly sometimes it will get cut off prematurely. But it never gets added to and at some point it will end. Savor each moment never waste, squander and loose precious moments with family and friends.

“If I can’t help somebody with a word or song. If I can’t show somebody they are travelin’ wrong. But I know I ain’t no prophet an’ I ain’t no prophet’s son. I’m just a long time a-comin’ an’ I’ll be a long time gone.” Bob Dylan

I wrote in an email yesterday a prophet is never recognized in their own lands. I learned that many years ago in Seminary. I think it may even have a biblical twinge to it. My youngest son put one of my favorite Dylan albums of all time on from 1975 or so, Blood on the tracks, in my car the other day. One track I have to play as soon as it is on.

“Life is sad, life is a bust. All ya can do is do what you must. You do what you must do and ya do it well,” Bob Dylan, Track 10, Buckets of rain

Few songs and albums bring back memories like this one does for me. It is in Macon Georgia about 1975 searching as always. But, “you do what you must do and do it well”. After talking to the young fellow I mentioned about graduating and starting this last semester now to try and succeed rather than waiting till the end of the term. I thought back to 1967 when I was in high school and all I wanted was to not be in high school and it did not matter where I went to college since it would be to avoid the draft since getting drafted at that time and going to Viet Nam was every boys fear. Getting drafted in 1967 meant Viet Nam so I went to college. I officially started my career as a student; actually it was not until a few years later I started being a student. My freshman year was not too great in student terms. At that time I just existed in the space allotted. Sometimes borrowing from John Dewey, “It takes experience”. Learning can only come with experience, if only we had enough time to experience all in life. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Thinking about other times

Bird Droppings February 17, 2013
Thinking about other times

“The song that I will sing is an old song, so old that none knows who made it. It has been handed down through generations and was taught to me when I was but a little lad. It is now my own song. It belongs to me. This is a holy song, and great is its power. The song tells how, as I sing, I go through the air to a holy place where Yusun will give me power to do wonderful things. I am surrounded by little clouds, and as I go through the air I change, becoming spirit only.” Geronimo, Goyathlay (“one who yawns”)

As I went out this morning just a few minutes ago taking our dog out to a silent world, the air was still and the ambient temperature just cold enough to keep frogs in hibernation. Later in the morning I will be running to Quick Trip to get my mother her favorite breakfast sandwich. Yesterday evening I passed by several opossums that had been killed during the night along the road my oldest son and I were talking about this a few days ago as it seems the warm weather is bringing animals out and roads are busier.
A few days ago I mentioned going to Fort Sill to see Geronimo’s grave which is set back in along a quiet bend in a small river with aspen trees all about. It is actually a very peaceful spot. The song mentioned above is a medicine song one he would sing at opportune times or simply as a prayer. As he grew older Geronimo became a Christian as he would say just in case.

“I cannot think that we are useless or God would not have created us. There is one God looking down on us all. We are all the children of one God. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what we have to say.” Geronimo

An old man approached his new religion in that he felt this was a good example for living. Stories go that he never gave up his old ways as well singing his medicine songs and participating in rituals till he died. He died at eighty years of age at Fort Sill Oklahoma many miles from his beloved Arizona and New Mexico mountains. I wonder as I think so often how we say one thing and live or do another. As I was reading about Geronimo this morning and thinking a comment in his biography dictated when he was older at Fort Sill. He spoke of how his people the Apaches would vow to never do harm to each other of any kind and this was a bond of trust.
Here on a Saturday morning I am catching up on emails and reading blogs and I find the paradoxes interesting. On one hand speaking of their religion and faith and how steadfast and yet on the other hand a near opposite as you read from the same pen or computer near slanderous remarks about others and life in general. Such a paradox we humans provide. As I thought this morning even the soldiers knew if Geronimo gave his word it was done nothing would change even though the US government changed, his word was bond. He was one of the most feared warriors of all time in the American west and soldiers knew they could trust him. There were no exceptions to him; if he said he was going peaceful he was going peaceful.
Further west Chief Joseph as he surrendered told his people he would fight no more and he stopped which became a bond that lasted till his death even though treaties with the Nez Perce were broken numerous times. I guess where I am going is we live in such paradox of saying one thing and living another of claiming righteousness, and really wanting only to party, of saying we believe on a Sunday and taking a break Monday through Saturday. Recent news in Afghanistan of a young Christian convert who was condemned to death for converting by Islamic law. Our righteous nations intervened and he was released as a mental patient who could not be tried. Clerics throughout the country wanted him stoned and or pulled apart basically dead and we are fighting in that country for freedom. Who can be free with that type of laws and beliefs but from another side of the coin who are we to impose our beliefs on them.
All through history western civilizations have tried to impose their morals and civilization on primitives and anyone who disagreed. In Brazil it is now against Brazilian federal law to interfere with primitives and when tribes are found that are still in the wilds of the Amazon that act. Boundaries are made and traffic is not permitted through that area. If you read jungle signs the various broken branches feathers skulls and such also indicate “Not Welcome.” We are pressuring countries daily in our quest for world peace using threats to garner peace there has got to be logic there and I say that very sarcastically.
However one thing is lacking from the days of the Wild West and a handshake with Geronimo being his bond. There is no longer anyone to trust and six thousand page peace agreements are now broken the second oil or minerals are found and what was a peace agreement now has exceptions and or we lease from them. Trust is a powerful word and one that has lost meaning in our society. We know our politicians are crooks and we continue to reelect them beneath new banners of I will not be a crook this time I promise again. Let us use the NASCAR logic and put stickers on their coats for who they really work for.
I have been watching American Idol for the twelfth year and sorry it is my only reality show. I do I recall a line from last year a profound statement from another broadcasting company’s comic relief.

“35,000,000 votes were cast in two hours last night which really shows us the power of democracy I wonder how many would have text or called if it was a vote on Medicare or immigration”

We do have the power of the vote and yet American idol draws nearly thirty percent of the national vote in comparison to the last elections. A TV show in two hours received thirty percent of the possible vote, talk about paradox and I did not even vote on American Idol last year. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Pondering getting back to my routine

Bird Droppings February 16, 2013
Pondering getting back to my routine

“If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?” W.H. Davies, 1911, Welsh Poet

I shared nearly a year ago two pieces to my Facebook account. The first was a brief description of an event where an internationally known violinist went to a busy transit stop in Washington DC and played for forty five minutes. The entire episode was filmed secretly and people who passed by at a point were asked for phone numbers. Researchers in the experiment found literally less than ten percent of the people acknowledged the great musician playing. I found the posting on a friend’s site and reposted after several hours it had been shared and reshared several times. Later in the day another friend found the original article from the Washington Post and posted the link. I shared the link and among the editorial was the above quote from 1911. I responded that I seriously doubt in today’s hedonistic society if anyone would take a moment out of their routine and or schedule for the day to listen.
Maybe I am getting more cynical after a week or more of a winter break I am ready to get back into my normal school routine. We are all creatures of habit and routines I am finding many times even totally predictable. I was thinking back a few years to a day my wife called to me in the wee hours of the morning as I was starting to write, our son was sick, a virus had struck hard and none the less he was a very sick fellow. I had written about an hour and was near finished as we went into action. After running her to the clinic for medicines and such and the store for fluids I went back to writing and in between I lost what I had written. I really wasn’t very happy with my situation although in researching I found an interesting author Donald Schon, so all was not lost. Schon was a professor at MIT in education and is known for his theories of learning and reflective practice.

“We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.” Donald Schon, The Reflective Practioner

About seven or eight years ago our school had been audited and reviewed by the SAC’s committee. It was a several day process as reports were prepared. We are every so many years getting ready for a review as all public schools do and all through the school various committees and groups would be getting paperwork in order. As I look at schools however I do not see as much perhaps of a change agent as Schon would demand. Yet schools constantly will follow whims and fancies of authors and researchers, this reading program or that writing program. Program writers make very large sums of money as do the consultants that recommend various products designed to help you stay and meet accreditation and NCLB or Race to the Top standards. I have found that in many schools there is a comfort zone and many teachers will fall into that be it habit and or routine. It is not about a continuing transformation as Schon outlines.

“A learning system… must be one in which dynamic conservatism operates at such a level and in such a way as to permit change of state without intolerable threat to the essential functions the system fulfills for the self. Our systems need to maintain their identity, and their ability to support the self-identity of those who belong to them, but they must at the same time be capable of transforming themselves.” Donald Scion, 1973

How do we keep a self-identity and still be able to change? How do we make our routines work for us?

“The need for public learning carries with it the need for a second kind of learning. If government is to learn to solve new public problems, it must also learn to create the systems for doing so and discard the structure and mechanisms grown up around old problems.” Donald Schon

I was thinking as I was writing about a former student who had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD. Every day it would be a challenge to deal with this fellow when he went on an OCD roll. One of my favorite memories of him on a particular morning he started in with asking repeatedly. “Can I hold Stevie?” Normally while not a serious matter I would let him ask and I answered as I do almost every morning. “No not just yet.” For those of you who do not know Stevie, she is the wonder snake, a ball python about 50 inches long and 23 years old. She has been at the school as long as I have. Anyhow each time he would ask I would answer almost like a tape recorder.
Finally a student who was talking with me and not in my classes says Mr. Bird that was 52 times he has asked. She proceeded to tap the young man on the shoulder and said “I loveeeeeeee you!” as smoochy and little girlish as could possibly be done. My little OCD fellow took off across the room. In some instances letting an OCD individual run their course is fine and I am in a world of my own on planned ignoring other times it takes a change a sudden change of thought processes and OCD stops abruptly. As I was reading Schon again this incident popped in my mind. Sometimes it is the way the problem and or habit or routine is done that is the issue and a new way is needed sometimes abruptly. Often as in this case it happens suddenly but many times we do have time and as I do every day often reflection can be a tool for change.

“In every case of reflective activity, a person finds himself confronted by a given, present situation from which he has arrived at, or conclude to, something which is not present. The process of arriving at an idea of what is absent on the basis of what is at hand is inference. What is present carries or bears the mind over to the idea and ultimately the acceptance of something else.” John Dewey

We can review and reflect on our days and using past and present knowledge build our next day and get ideas from that. We can illicit change through careful and calculated refection.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Every once in a while an Einstein quote really sounds good. He was a very smart man I am told. Sometimes we need to change our direction our point of view in order to move on. Some might view the young man asking 52 times as stubborn and or I for not stopping him and letting him go on as stubborn. But I watch teachers and parents do this day in and day out and they are not being treated for OCD they are caught in a rut. For too often they continue day by day doing the same thing knowing there are better ideas and directions. Take a few moments and think are you locked in or if provided with information could you make a change. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

It would be wonderful if we could script great teachers

Bird Droppings February 15, 2013
It would be wonderful if we could script great teachers

As I watched the several various movies about teachers recently it hit me, wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow provide a package for teaching, write that perfect script anyone could follow and it would allow anyone to be a great teacher. Then it hit me hard, indirectly that’s what curriculum theory is for and even maybe various educational packages that consulting and publishing companies stake their names on. So why does it not work?
I was inputting my last bit of data for one of my research projects and was finding pieces of my student’s puzzles as I went. Most of my students that I have served in the last twelve years have improved grade wise when they were in my classes and or I was case manager for them. Granted I do not teach like most teachers. I rely heavily on empathy and innovative creative ideas to stimulate and make the time they have in my class a learning experience and fun. I thought back to the movies, it is so hard to imagine Morgan Freeman not being a great teacher. But I know he studied his character Joe Clark as good actors do and his interpretation was from what I have read is dead on.
In each individual there is a personality that you cannot package and bottle. The greatest possible program in the hands of a poor teacher or a teacher with a poor attitude will not change the fact they are a sorry teacher. So far to my knowledge we do not do personality transplants and or they are not covered by health insurance. In Jack Black’s movie, “The School of Rock” while Mr. S was for a moment content to idle away and collect his sub-checks a note of music hit literally. He found a mutually exciting interest, to the students and himself. Something we often do not look into. Are we as teachers enjoying what we do? If I did not enjoy going to work each day I would find another job.
Bit by bit as I watched Julia Roberts portray a teacher and have to reexamine where and what and why and then get hit with traditions and the boxes of societal demands, I know even today this happens. I have talked with my professors many times over the years of grad school about one of my concerns, which is how so many teachers go to a graduate school program and do not make meaningful use of what they learn after they leave. I am concerned! I have watched numerous graduates collect their additional money and not once utilize what they have learned or seen.
So perhaps the ultimate question is how do we bottle and or script a great teacher? I wish I could come up with a solution and a simple method. It is about the person inside. It is about empathy. It is about experiences and utilizing those pieces. There is an old adage that many teachers are simply folks who can do nothing else. The drab boring monotone teacher, even knowing all the content in the world you will teach few. But is it just about entertainment? Maybe scripts have been written but then the audience changes and what do you do? We live in a society of change of flux of disequilibrium. It is about balance but keeping enough of a leaning over the edge to keep growing. It is perhaps about the pathway.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Elwyn Brooks White

Often I reflect on the journey of life. The many directions I myself have traveled. This morning I sat watching a beautiful sunrise reflecting on my own life. Have I done more good than harm in my journey? I watch others going step by step along the way. I watch and listen as some stumble and are lifted up when pebbles and or boulders are in the way. There are choices at times as to which pathway to take as a fork approaches and we have to choose. Then I meet or speak with a former student or parent and one little comment makes my day. I did have a positive impact on a student at least that one.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it.” Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left

“Life is a cement trampoline.” Howard Nordberg

I am always wondering why so many of us each day think, perhaps too much, obsessing over reasons and rationale, and tripping over our own inadequacies and imperfections. Are we truly desperate or is this a façade to cover up our lack of enthusiasm and desire I wonder when I see a young person acting as a mime standing still facing an empty wall and unable to move forward or back simply immobile dressed in funeral attire waiting for an end. What has slowed their journey to this point what is it they have missed along their own pathway as we cross?

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” Erich Fromm

“To live remains an art which everyone must learn, and which no one can teach.” Havelock Ellis

There really is no road map and no specific travel itinerary as we journey along each day. It is just as unique for me as it is for others. Nietzsche offers a why as a reason to live. Fromm simplifies further stating only a happy moment or a bright morning is all that is needed. Ellis states it is an art form. That is life is an art form and perhaps it is in the wielding of the brushes and what colors we chose as we paint. Watching the sunrise this morning I use the term sacred to describe how I felt and find it hard to understand how so many find sacred in an organized scripted line by line recitation of words and music on a specific day and then only to feel empty within a few minutes of leaving that environment.

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus

“Following straight lines shortens distances, and also life.” Antonio Porchia, Voices, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

Yesterday I was thinking with a calculator you can estimate the number of hours of life you have. Let’s assume with good health care and a healthy lifestyle we live to be one hundred years old for the sake of conversation. So by using my calculator and applying some simple math I can calculate that equates to eight hundred seventy five thousand hours of living from birth to death again assuming you live to be one hundred years old. I sat and figured I have used up a little over sixty percent of mine and what have I done. I sat balancing earlier watching the sunrise the good I have done in life and bad, one item here and one there. As we go back however often things we do especially as teachers may not impact a student for many years.
We set the boulders in our own pathway; we throw out the pebbles that force us to stumble. We end up creating the forks in the road that force us to choose but looking back I would not have it any other way as I step along the path. However, we need to be aware than we must also clear the pathway occasionally. We also must make the choices as to which road to follow. I see my life’s map as a series of zigs and zags, what might have been an easy journey constantly side tracked. It may have been once a straight line between A and B now the page is covered in this way or that in back tracking and circumventing in over stepping and under stepping. In my own climbing of boulders and in pushing some out of the way I have come a long way.
I have used in Bird Droppings a saying by a Native American Orator from back in the day many times.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

For many this may not mean anything it has been years now since I could hear a buffalo snort and walk across the pasture and see his breath blown in the cool of a chilly day. It has been years since I have seen fireflies dance across my front field now covered in houses and roads. But I when I take the time I still see the little shadow as the sun sets and rises and I still hear the breeze in the morning, tree frogs calling, and the red tailed hawks forever crossing my pathway. Our scenery changes but life goes on and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Windows can be difficult to find

Bird Droppings February 14, 2013
Windows can be difficult to find

I woke up very early today as my dog was barking to go out and I walked out on my back porch only to catch a glimpse of the moon sliding behind the tree line. As I walked out a sliver moon was slipping below the trees. It was just a coincidence that my dog wanted out exactly as the moon moved out of sight. I tend to view life as a series of interactions each interdependent upon the next and each interwoven with the previous.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I meet people and try to understand where and why about each one I find so often many who are still seeking to understand themselves not clearly knowing who or where they are in relationship to all else about them. This is not to say I am searching for who I am daily.

“A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.” Albert Einstein

I was talking with a group of students working on projects for their class on learning how to teach a few days back. They work with a preschool class and each high school student works with a four year old on words, colors and all sorts of fun things. We were talking and a former student of mine came to mind. It has been nearly forty years since I took a picture of this child. He was about five years old and severely autistic. He was non verbal and spent much of his time simply staring ahead. On a spring day much like yesterday he was looking out the window of the school which was in an old house in Paoli Pennsylvania in 1970. I went out the back door with my camera ran around the front to his window and took a picture. He had his nose pressed up to the window staring out. I often wondered what he was seeing as he stared straight ahead. Over the years as I look at that picture I find myself thinking he was trying to find a window. Even as he looked out the window he was still searching for a window that he could see through.

“I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.” Henry David Thoreau

I watched him as he approached the window, it was not the view he wanted but the temperature, the coolness of the pane of glass against his cheek. I was seeing a window and he was feeling a moist pane of cool glass. I was pulling out various books and ideas as I talked to this group of students who worked with little students a few days ago. I shared author Shel Silverstein and a copy of The Giving Tree with CD, and also William Stieg and CDB a whimsical word puzzle(CDB – see the bee), and as I looked and thought many memories flooded back. Of working with children who probably still do not speak. Of searching for my own windows through in my life and occasionally only feeling the cool glass pane

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

As I think back over my discussion a few days ago with these teachers to be we started talking about people we would like to meet. Somewhere in an internet profile or such I wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, I added Gandhi the other day as we spoke. Most of the students were choosing contemporaries and most were celebrities. I thought over the years how our views change. For youngsters trying to find a window can be a chore not knowing where to look or maybe not even being tall enough to see out once there. As we get older the rules change we know where to look but have we drawn the blinds. We are tall enough to look out but do we really want to? Or are we content to simply press our nose to the glass and feel the coolness, never even attempting to see what lies beyond. It is a clear morning finally, although it is cold as stars fill the sky and a slight wind is blowing through the pine needles. A new day please keep all n harms way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

We all should be going to school

Bird Droppings February 13, 2013
We all should be going to school

After reading Joel Spring’s book Political agendas for education you might wonder why we even have schools. Springs implies they are simply to create and mold youth into whatever it is those in power deem feasible. His idea is that it is consumers first and then employees willing to work at meaningless tasks and not question those in power. While Spring’s book is not quite to that extreme, the book raises questions about agendas of various groups, political entities and some very powerful people within our nation.
The massive shift to high stakes testing and accountability based on that testing leading to teaching to the tests rather than the actual needs of the children involved is where we have come to. Teaching specific curriculum, approved researched based curriculum has become the catch word. The big question always in research is who is backing the research. I used a reading program where all the research was done by the company producing the books and program and it was not a very reliable study yet according to Federal standards it is a research based study. I often wonder if the actual students are ever talked too.
One of the segments used in the reading research study which directly applied to students I was working with at the time was a group of 14 Emotionally and Behaviorally Disturbed middle school students with average to above average IQ’s and one to two years behind in reading. The research showed how successful the program was, with a one hundred percent improvement to where all were on grade level. In years past I was told this study applied to a group of students I was working with who were eighteen to nineteen years of age with IQ’s less than 75 and were ten to twelve years behind in reading level. I did question the data and program and actually called the publishing company to verify what type of student study group the research was done on. My direct supervisor was needless to say upset I questioned the data. So where do we go as teachers, educators and students?

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.” Bill Beattie

Each day I get up write and go to school unless I happen to have a day off. I hope I am teaching my students how to think. Hopefully I am teaching them a desire to learn.

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris

I was introduced to Sydney J. Harris’s columns eleven years ago by a fellow teacher and refer to him often in my writing. Each time I find a thought I am intrigued anew. In life this is what education should be about creating windows in people’s lives.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Albert Einstein

Far too often we preach content especially now in our teaching to the test, when it is context that is the powerful glue that could hold it all together. I see context as the how does this apply in real life, how is it relevant to me pieces of the puzzle.
I have looked at reports from observers where a teacher ties geometry into the real world and how much more powerful is that lesson when students can see where and when and how it actually has meaning. John Dewey was preaching context and experience in early 1900’s it is not a new idea even though Dewey is still considered progressive. I find so-called education reformers tend to build on new packaging of the same philosophy with the added value today of profit as a driving force not education of children.

“The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Roosevelt said this nearly seventy five years ago and we have said this daily as teachers yet education is one of those things so often put aside when budgets comes up in state and federal spending.

“It’ll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers.” Dr. Ronald D. Fuchs

Amazing as we have spent hundreds of billions the military and our military spending is significantly higher than what we spend on education.

“An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.” Author Unknown

Semantics so often is the dividing line and as I read this simple thought about making a living versus making a life I am made aware in a deeper way of how conflicted our system is. We so often put all into economic means a dollar value yet life is so much more than how much do you make.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok

Daily I will comment “swearing shows ignorance and currently you are pretty ignorant” as kids utter language of inappropriate content and even context. Yet this is what they hear at home and where many learn the words and meanings. It is these same parents that pay taxes and complain about the cost of education.

“Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.” G.M. Trevelyan

I put my thoughts on several blogs, websites and in an daily email and as I read comments on student’s sites one that so often bothers me is when they answer the question of what books do you read and many answer, none. Read who reads when you have the internet and text messaging. How scary can it be when our children are not reading since it is far too easy to get on line or on the cell phone and pull up twitter and a hundred and forty characters of gibberish or Facebook or yahoo news? There is even a new program that reads to you from written word although it is being tested in court as a copyright infringement on audio-books.

“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.” Abraham Flexner

When the military, industrial, oil complex has a means of generating revenue from education, money will be spent there. About two years back a family friend of George W. Bush in Texas, actually a cousin raised nearly a hundred million in seed money from oil and mining interests for a computer module software company for schools. Interestingly enough it fit into federal legislation, NCLB as an alternative form of education. We pay companies to look for oil to develop new missiles and one of my favorites recently is we have stock piled millions of rounds of VX poisonous gas around the world. There were thirteen million rounds on an island in the pacific, several million in the northwest, and nine million rounds in Anniston Al. and now we are paying billions to clean up since containers are corroding and leaking VX gas. Just for the record that is the stuff movies have been made about and what we didn’t find in Iraq.

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” Edward Everett

Would it not be great if we could prove this?

“Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” Mark Twain

The great humorist and author over a hundred years ago saw what was needed and how it affects society I find that amazing.

“Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?” Erich Fromm

Wise man and philosopher states that school should not be just for kids but an ongoing ever present learning effort and what a world could be built if we would educate truly educate all people.

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” Malcolm S. Forbes

I recall a button my father used in his safety campaigns in the steel mills of Pennsylvania back in the day, it read simply, “IF ONLY”. That was all that was on the button, and it represented, if only we could, if only I would, if only has so many applications.

“What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.” Henry David Thoreau

I was never the fan of Thoreau and Emerson back in my own high school days perhaps I never tried to really read into their thoughts. This one line from Thoreau has significance for me. Education should be not forcing the content but allowing that content to be put into context.

“Did you know America ranks the lowest in education but the highest in drug use? It’s nice to be number one, but we can fix that. All we need to do is start the war on education. If it’s anywhere near as successful as our war on drugs, in no time we’ll all be ‘hooked on phonics’.” Leighann Lord

A bit long winded today but a good thought to end on as I think so many law makers are trying to destroy public education in the US. What if we truly did apply ourselves, what if? So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts till that day when no person is in harm’s way and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

A five note flute

Bird Droppings February 12, 2013
A five note flute

“The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers; he belongs just as the buffalo belonged…. Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux, 1868-1937

I listen quite a bit to flute music mostly played and recorded by Carlos Nakai, a renowned musician and Grammy nominee for Native American music. He plays a handmade wooden five note flute often unaccompanied except by echoes from his own flute. As I looked through news on yahoo earlier this morning an interesting article. The Dakota Sioux are playing scrabble to preserve their language. In the Sioux nation less than 205 members of the tribe are fluent in the old language. A good friend who happens to be Creek told me of going to boarding school in this day and age, he is my age and he was punished for speaking his native tongue, old style Creek. He grew up speaking only Creek from living with his grandfather who was the medicine man to the Creek nation and would only speak Old Creek, while knowing the language he refused to speak English having given up on the white man many years previous.
My day today was a bit slow starting off or perhaps even earlier than normal as I had a bit of granddadistis yesterday and last night going first to the zoo in the rain and then playing to all hours of the night. Then I was up and at it early on and no worse for wear just putting me behind a bit so now on to writing downloading photos and running to the grocery store and then building a webpage for local teachers association.
I was amazed at offerings that we used to have at our high school. In the previous catalog were courses in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Spanish and Latin and yet in our lifetimes or at least in mine we refused an indigenous people the right to their own language. I recall a scene from “Into the West” a several years ago mini-series that recently replayed, it is a Home Box Office movie with a different slant. Children were brought to the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania from reservations in the Dakotas and elsewhere and we tried to make them “normal”. Actually I am not just about Native Americans today but our feeble attempts at normalcy. Our guidelines we draw and rules we make it was not that long ago left handed children were forced to write right handed. In numerous research papers the concept of mixed dominance came up and showed significant damage being done to left handed children neurologically. Even today many traditional teachers will try and get kids to write with their right hand. Seems it is easier on the teacher. Here I am with a grand daughter who favors her left hand. We tend to forget you are right or left sided as well, eyed, and footed, literally your entire body.
Normal is such a simple word pretty much everything that is not abnormal borrowing from philosopher Foucault. But in schools it is the norms that drive everything. We look for patterns in testing, for averages, for norms all those things we can put numbers on and measure. I recall year’s back I had a student who would go to the door before a period and ask to be let go early because there were no norms about. He did not want to be recognized as a SPED, a Special Education student. I would have snuck him out the back door but we didn’t have one. What was funny it became a joke eventually as I would go to the door and determine who was a norm or not and clear the way when the bell rang.
I think back to my own high school days before IDEA became law in 1974. This was before most disabled children were allowed in schools. I worked in a private center with severe and profoundly disabled children and adults. Our kids were normal and we viewed the rest of the world as disabled and we talked this way. They were disabled because they were unable to experience what we did every day. To have an appreciation for little things, reading your first word, taking a step without a wheel chair, not having a seizure for a day or two.
I read blogs and bulletins about clothes and music and think back. I see jeans purchased with holes in them, we earned ours and yes I had numerous pairs of jeans with holes and patches my sons have claimed them all now. But we earned the holes and patches with wear and tear on and in our jeans. Back in the day we did not have fifty brand named labels to argue over it was simply Levis or Wranglers period and they all had brass rivets on the back pockets. It was funny as a matter of fact in high school we could not wear jeans because of rivets scratching seats at school. This is what we were told and girls could not wear pants although I am not sure other than the puritanical demeanor of dress code in those days. That was over forty five years ago.
Thinking back to what was normal and what a word that is. I recall special education back then and how one student who was special education all her life graduated from college and retired recently as a teacher. Now a days she would have been labeled as learning disabled and I wonder as I sit here thinking where will we be in another forty years. It was once estimated that by 2025 the Dakota Sioux language will be extinct and many said so what. It is sort of like so what if we lose a piece of wilderness for more oil as some politicians are calling for again with the drill baby drill chant at such endeavors as teabag rallies. So what if the Grizzly bear is extinct or eastern red wolf or some nondescript fresh water mussel no one ever sees or a rain forest tribe who is better off in a house and raising crops than hunting in the forest.
Something we tend to forget is all is interrelated each piece connects to the other and losing a piece, the puzzle will never be complete and there are selfish people who really do not care about 2025 and whether the Dakota Sioux language disappears or the wilderness is gone as long as they make their billions now. I wonder what you can do with billions of dollars when you are gone maybe that is the part I have a hard time with and on a smaller scale looking at lists that drive popularity on Social networks. Things like do you have a cell phone, IPod, car, Jet Ski, etc. I will admit I do have a few collections, still I keep books and I store literally hundreds of thousands of photos all bits and pieces of my life and understanding.
So where do we go and what do we do? We look for each connection to the next. We look for the coincidences and chance happenings we look for the synchronicity in life. I have found after a day or two of looking you will find amazing things. It is if the pieces fall into place and life takes a whole new outlook and what was important may not be as crucial anymore. Try reading Thoreau, there are several good sites on the internet. He walked about for several years just to learn. Enough of my wandering for today peace be with you all and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Listening to the stillness of a rainy morning

Bird Droppings February 11, 2013
Listening to the stillness of a rainy morning

I was sitting alone this morning as I do most mornings the ambient temperature is still a bit too cold to hear many early morning sounds down in the bottoms along the stream or towards the field. The rain and clouds help to muffle sounds adding to the silence and stillness. The air was not moving save for a single car leaving our subdivision early this morning. My dog would come by periodically as she prowls the back yard searching for signs of voles her new nemesis and my most hated adversary. Seems voles like plant roots and one has found its way to my herb garden and I have lost several plants already. Fortunately my westie has some hunting instinct left and she caught the culprit. I was thinking as I sat meditating some might say letting my mind float listening to the stillness. When I came home yesterday the cold is keeping any new flowers from poking up. However I saw my first robin of this year so who knows maybe spring is near. My rosemary is blooming profusely and daffodils are starting to poke through. Hopefully it will be just a few weeks from now that our azaleas will start in and color will surround our home.

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes we do not look and listen carefully enough and miss pieces of what is so close. It was last year a baby anole most people call them chameleons which is a little green or brown lizard we find on shrubs and around the house was on our porch about two inches long it nearly escaped observation. His bigger father greets visitors as they come onto our porch at about six inches long he usually sits on the door post in the later afternoon sun weather permitting. But I mentioned listening today I was sitting and talking with a student last week before break listening and arguing till something hit me. My student was seeing a different world than I was and beliefs and understandings were different. I was explaining from my own perspective and she was trying to assimilate into another world. A comment was made and my student’s response was not of a teenager but of a small child which is so difficult to explain. A comment was made and as I listened a light bulb went off I was using terminology and understanding that was in a different galaxy compared to what she had experienced in life. This was not about intelligence and or ability but beliefs, experiences, understandings and perceptions.

“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Henry David Thoreau

“Conversation was never begun at once, nor in a hurried manner. No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

I began to listen to the stillness when no talking was occurring just observing my student thinking about a word I may have said, imagination. What if we have a limit to our imagination? What if you were much like a tape recorder and could only imagine what you had taken in? Most of us do this anyhow with a bit of whimsy we can alter and add to and delete from and create anew. So this is a big what if, you could not add to and delete from only use what you had on tape. I recall reading a book, Thinking in Pictures, by Dr. Temple Grantin that best describes what I am saying. Dr. Grantin is autistic. It has been nearly seven years since I read about a young man, Jason McElway, who is autistic and was the star of his high schools last home basketball game. At that time he has been approached by numerous Hollywood production companies including Walt Disney to make a movie of his life. As I thought more listening to stillness this morning we all have autistic tendencies.

“Autism is more often referred to today as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). All these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills, social interactions, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior.” Wikepedia

What if rather than 1 in 500 children having symptoms of autism that those only who have more severe autistic symptoms were recognized as it was when I started teaching in 1970. Technically the American Psychological Association in its latest manual is changing the definition again and going back to the older view. Actually I think we all have the tendencies. This is a difficult explanation. As I sat listening today it was so quiet, I was able to think to imagine to dream. When I sat down today I started on this topic and in the back of my mind I recalled a test for creativity. I recalled reading about how Temple Grantin had to teach herself how to respond to emotional stimuli. As I read my morning messages and blogs in facebook and wordpress it hit. The tendencies are universal and vary significantly.
I was trying to explain from my world view an idea that was so alien to the student I was talking with on Friday. I was painting in oils with a student who was used to crayons and pencil. It was nearly five years ago that a little girl on American Idol and yes I do get caught up in the frenzy still or I should say we do here at our house, each picking favorites. This little country girl was as cute as a button and was explaining being in LA and going out to eat and having squid or calamari. She as she tried it was making cute faces and such. But having never had squid before there was no basis for her to even consider it. But if she had been from Italy, Mexico or Asia where squid is prepared as a standard fare it would be different. To those folk’s boiled okra would have been just as gross. Boiled okra by the way is far worse than squid.

“It was necessary to live through, and establish, a presence of stable consciousness within the world before it was possible for the detachment to gradually emerge which would permit that other, objective reality to connect with the conscious.” Dr. Karl Gustav Jung

What if someone has to experience an event to understand it? What if the limitations of those individuals make up do limit imagination and the ability to assimilate intangibles? I can explain an idea so clearly to me anyone could understand yet a person who needs experience needs to tape record that idea would not have the data to deal with it. What if belief is this way as well, faith or trust for example? The great educational philosopher John Dewey addresses experience and the ability to build from experiences past and present in his writings quite often.

“John Dewey’s significance …. Lies in a number of areas. First, his belief that education must engage with and enlarge experience has continued to be a significant strand in informal education practice. Second, and linked to this, Dewey’s exploration of thinking and reflection.” The Encyclopedia of Informal Education

Enlarging experience is not all that easy. What if a person is limited to their experiences only? What if they cannot enlarge that realm and are stuck within the confines of a limited reality? I am getting deeper than normal but it revolves around my discussion with that student the other day. Hearing myself listening to the words and explanation I was trying to do and then hearing a response that was limited and in being limited by certain parameters also confining. This is a significant piece we as teachers need to consider. I will expound another time the morning is closing in on me and I still have my daily sojourn to Kroger to go. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Sitting quietly trying to understand the word courage

Bird Droppings February 9, 2013
Sitting quietly trying to understand the word courage

I had been outside just a few minutes ago to a sunrise and cold morning in Georgia one of cooler morning recently. Stars were scattering as I went out allowing the sun to work its way through the haze. I am sure had I had the dog out she would be running trying to chase the phantom coyote calling midst the timbering getting started at dusk across the street and wrapping the lead around my ankles. A few days ago we were to have another winter storm headed this way and so far all we have had is rain. I prefer the warnings coming across my cell phone than the real thing most any day. Going back I wrote several days back about courage and looked at several views but it is a complex concept for many and I will wander a bit more through the lexicon and vernaculars of the surrounding current environment.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill

Generally I will bounce from topic to topic and occasionally will tie a few together in some sort of significant way. The past few days emails and discussion have kept me thinking about this word courage. I bought a book a few weeks back at Barnes and Nobles, The Lakota way. It is essentially stories and lessons for living by Joseph M. Marshall III. The book focuses on twelve core qualities crucial to the Lakota way of life which include bravery, fortitude, generosity, wisdom, respect, honor, perseverance, love, humility, sacrifice, truth, and compassion. The word courage was not used although in dictionary terms perhaps bravery is synonymous as I looked up the definition of courage on the internet.

“The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.” http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/courage

When I first started on this word a few weeks ago discussion went back and forth based on ideas of that this is what courage is and an example or is this courage. I found defining courage soon became a personal thing. What was courageous for one may be craziness for another. I used the example of counting coop among plains tribes and the sacredness of an eagle feather awarded for touching an enemy in battle without a weapon. I received an email yesterday from a friend responding and she wrote about a card sent to her with the following inscription.

“Flying in a circle of beauty, the eagle reminds all Lakota bout the great circle of life, death and life again. To the Lakota, the eagle–with its promise of strength and power–also brings light to the Morning Star. Held in reverence, the eagle’s feathers symbolize everything strong, brave and holy. The feathers are to be worn always with honor, dignity and pride.” A greeting card from St. Joseph’s Indian School, The Eagle and the Lakota People

As I thought for the Lakota a feather earned in battle touching an enemy was sacred yet in our day of modern warfare this would be crazy to most. I have attended several seminars and listened to a good friend and frequent commenter to my thoughts. Thinking back to Wednesday it was a busy day of emailing, meetings, teaching and my quarterly newsletter from my friend.

“Courage is probably like life; if you break it down to define it … you destroy it. Just a note from where I sit.” James D. Sutton, Ed.D., CSP, psychologist and author

I thought about this as I sat listening to the stillness of a cold winter morning the only muffled sounds were the puttering of my old jeep and the crinkling of the hard ground and I slowly moved taking sunrise pictures and a slight breeze rustling the pine needles to my right. Another friend responded as she often does with a story gleaned from her reading and thinking and as I thought about life and courage this story does apply. Courage often is in the sorting and doing of life. I will share this short passage sent by a friend.

THE MAYONNAISE JAR AND TWO (2) CUPS OF COFFEE
When things in your lives seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough – remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee. A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.” The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things–your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. “Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.” One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.” Unknown author, Emailed from a good friend Jodie Schmidt

I thought about this simple analogy to life and my current search for answers to the word courage. We all seem to find when the time comes what is courage for us. Courage often is the sorting of what is important in our lives. Deciding this is a golf ball and this is only sand can be a hard choice. I was reflecting back on a problem my son came home with from Georgia Tech several years ago. A diagram was of three molecules touching. They were circles (molecules) or better yet symbolized by circles. There was space between the circles a triangular sort of shape where they did not touch. The problem was solving for that space, to write a formula to calculate the number of molecules that will fill that space. My son worked many hours formulating an answer for a finite space with infinite answer. As I ponder defining courage it is much like solving for that space.
We can in each instance find a solution for our given time and place and yet tomorrow another answer. For the Lakota it is an eagle feather, which is only a bird dropping for some, a left over remnant of a bird passing by and yet to some more precious than gold. I recall a good friend carefully removing an eagle feather from a beaded piece of deer skin he had carefully placed away previously. My friend had received the eagle feather from his grandfather who at that time was the spiritual leader and medicine man for the Muskogee Creek nation and in his nineties. My friend was beading the feather into a special necklace for his grandfather. This was only a little over forty years ago and the feather was handled with great honor and respect. Always lay back on the blessed deer skin never just tossed aside. Always wrapped and carefully placed away when work was stopped.
Looking back at the twelve words from the Lakota all truly intertwine and interconnect. Courage is not a lone word but a weaving in the basket, a piece of the puzzle. Often I fall back to a small prayer sometimes attributed to St. Francis and officially published in a sermon by Reinhold Niebuhr, the serenity prayer when talking about courage.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Occasionally I will borrow stories from a friend and his chicken dairy tales, the adventures and misadventures of his free range chickens in his back yard. Many the stories I can tell about this fellow back to Junior high school. So I borrow again for today another adventure of King Calico and the wisdom to know the difference.

“Then the husky put two and two together, figuring a hot chicken dinner was preferable to a cold bone. He chased a couple birds in earnest, and the rest scattered. Then there was King Calico. Calico faced the hungry animal at a distance. The beast charged. Calico stared down the menace as the space between them narrowed rapidly. But it was no contest. Indoor (probably) dog against the smartest street smart rooster in the world. Calico jumped and flew away. After all, at this twilight of his life, he is not up to a tough fight with some big pooch.” Allan Gold, Chicken Dairies

As I sit here listening to Carlos Nakai on CD and the haunting notes of a Native American flute I close today. Nearly every news broadcast seems to bring more stories of people needing others of people needing people so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
Wa de (Skee)
bird

The interconnectivity of all that is a puzzle falling in place

Bird Droppings February 6, 2013
The interconnectivity of all that is a puzzle falling in place

“Every footstep is the journey. Every sight, every sound, every touch and taste and smell with which we are blessed is the journey. All of the colors before us are the journey, and we are the journey. May we always keep our feet on Mother Earth, our eyes and minds above the treetops, our spirit with the Greater Universal Spirit? And may we always walk the path of Good Medicine in harmony and balance, with a sense of humility, kindness, wonder, and respect for all living things as we follow the sacred trail of those who have come before us and those yet to come.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

It has been nearly six years since I last heard Dr. James Sutton speak. When I drove to Macon Georgia to hear him that time as I always do I watched as many details as I could driving down the back roads that I travel. I never know what pieces may fall into place for me at a later date or as it might be happening right this moment. I was going to listen to Dr. James Sutton, a psychologist from Texas who lectures around the country on Conduct Disorders and Oppositional Defiant Disorder which is quite a mouth full. I had been to several previously of his seminars and always came away renewed. I was in need of a recharge and some energizing as I drove. Occasionally we all need a break from the mundane even though so often I find vast amounts of material in the simple ordinary things of life. As I filled in my evaluation form as I left back six years ago the question stated; what did I gain from this course and I responded energy and revitalizing.

“A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I walked in the room Dr. Sutton who I met several times over the years previous in similar seminars and who has been on my Birddroppings list since that time announced as I came in the room, “Let me introduce the premiere educational philosopher Frank Bird.” I think my hat size went up three notches. As we went into the day pieces fell in place with ideas and thoughts jotted down on bits of paper and class notes. Several illustrations used were referring to puzzle pieces which fit right into my thinking. I have had an affinity for the concept of life being a puzzle for some time and the comments lent well to that thinking. A friend from my own school had attended the course with her husband and coincidentally another friend from many years ago was in attendance now a teacher in a nearby county. As I thought of why each person was there was it advertising sent out by the sponsoring group, myself an email from Dr. Sutton and then others through word of mouth.

“The journey is not ‘somewhere over there’ or ‘some other time.’ It is with us right here and right now. It is a part of us in everything that we do and everything that we are. What we perceive as our “pot of gold” may in fact be something very different when and if we find the end of the rainbow. What if the rainbow has no end? What if it is a circle that wraps itself gently around Earth in a continuous cycle of energy?” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

Over the years reading various books by Michael Garrett and his father J. T. Garrett the concept of interconnectivity, which is such a big word flows through their writing as it does in most Native American philosophy. As I went to lunch nearly six years ago we discussed children federal guidelines and spirituality. The discussion wandering about between parents seeking help and my own listening and observing it seemed I was gathering far more than I was sending out. I was given a slip of paper with a similar story to one I used recently about a family pet being put to sleep. Sitting back in the class listening to other teachers and their views gave me ideas on how to deal with and not deal with students I see each day. A little trick from that day that turns out to have a several thousand year old proverb attached to it, when trying to get a child who is defiant to do something offer options. You want three things done offer five. You only get three out five but you only wanted three. Offer ten and the child responds even better amazing thinking that they got one over they only answered three of ten. As I sat down this morning I found this thought.

“If one has to jump a stream and knows how wide it is, he will not jump. If he does not know how wide it is, he will jump, and six times out of ten he will make it.” Persian Proverb

So often in education especially in today’s test driven society students are failing because that score is out there. The teachers and students strive for that score. As I drove to Macon so many years ago I was thinking about all the, what ifs. What if we tested students coming into school and placed that number on the table as point A and then test at the end of ninth, tenth , eleventh and twelfth grades all points on the graph now we have a true picture of learning with this child not an arbitrary SCORE stuck out in no-where land. What if we evaluated the growth of information rather than what information is available at the end of the journey? I would really rather know what a student learned along the way than what they knew at the end. That would give me a far better idea of what was really learned but this is only me.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

I find it funny as I think back to the day I first saw this quote of all the interconnections, those pieces that seemingly are meaningless at one point in life find significance and meaning when all the pieces slowly fall into place. So often it is difficult to see what is forming in a jig saw puzzle when you only have the corner pieces or a few side pieces set in place. The true image does not come into view till more is in place. But each piece while on its own is really just a piece of a puzzle is needed to complete the whole.

“As we walk, all of our ancestors walk with us. As we dance, all of our ancestors dance the Sacred Dance. Each step that we place is an important one. All of our relatives are walking with us, speaking through us like the many colors of the rainbow. Listen and you will hear their steps, their voices, their colors. Listen, and you will hear your spirit calling upon all our relations, and you will feel their energy. Our spirit is an extension of them and they are an extension of us. Our spirit connects us with the memories of all that has gone before us, all that is, and all that will be. Our spirit connects us with all of our relations in the Circle of Life. Listen, and you will hear Water speaking, Wind dancing, Sun smiling, the heartbeat of Mother Earth pulsing beneath our feet.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

The interconnectivity of life as I was thinking back to that drive to Macon and a conference and to when I had been sitting at lunch discussing a trip to Stillwater Oklahoma which I would never have made had I not been in the sheep business. But the point I recall and borrow on is a side trip to Fort Sill and Geronimo’s grave site not the fact I was in Lawton Oklahoma looking for show lambs for 4H projects. It is the pieces of that journey that are significant not the destination. I am sure as I glean through my thoughts today and tomorrow other bits and pieces will come up. I walked out this morning and felt I needed to share that moment and typed a hasty status update in Facebook.

“I walked out into the chill of the morning. I was standing still and to the east a smiling moon and tree frogs chirping. To the south a coyote was calling. North of my quiet spot an owl seemed to be irritating a rooster to the west. It is a good day. Peace be with you all.” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.

So sitting in my classroom finalizing a few words for the morning there are pieces that I may not even be aware of as of yet some I simply need to recall and connect with others waiting to happen. In closing today as I have for over a decade now please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird