What if treaties and promises were all kept, what a world we would have.

Bird Droppings February 21, 2013
What if treaties and promises were all kept,
what a world we would have.

I begin each morning waking up and finding my way to my computer taking our dog out if she wants to, checking my ipad, making sure my connection is on or network up since we have an archaic internet provider and grab a bottle of water and go to work. I try and settle in, answer emails, various postings and write a bit before heading to school. My day got a bit hectic running my wife’s car for gas and by the bank forgetting my computer at home running back and so forth. My original plan was to put out some effort on the word reform. That will have to wait a day or two. This morning as I answered an email with a thought from yesterday and in thinking about today I found this thought.

“One does not sell the land people walk on.” Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875

A great warrior and chief Crazy Horse died on the reservation because he was feared by the army but he never understood why the soldiers wanted the land that was sacred to the Sioux. He never understood that we wanted to possess, to own it, and in that comes a driving force for us to win at all costs. Over the years I have been involved in many discussions about culture. Cultures vary and each is often about seeing the world differently. Several of my current reading efforts look at the world through feminist eyes and or Indigenous eyes.
While I finished my graduate classroom studies nearly four years ago it felt like it was not that long ago as we discussed these books and the culture of feminism in a class here at school. We discussed how we tend to look at others only in terms of our own beliefs and ideals. Bell Hooks in her writings discusses the appreciation of Paulo Friere and how he never wrote about feminism actually he addressed it but the title sort of went a different direction. A recent blog post on education addressed how could he Friere as a male truly write and or address feminism which is a valid response. Recently a former student of mine wrote about how can anyone who is not mentally ill, truly discuss mental illness. As I look at my direction today how can anyone who does not understand someone’s beliefs and culture even think they can relate.

“My father, you have made promises to me and to my children. If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled!” Shinguaconse, Little Pine

In many ways we too still do this if we have control we promise much yet it is only to get more and a trusting person would not question a man of authority. If it was a questionable person maybe yes but we do this we use trust to get what we want still today. Look at our politicians on both sides and never before have sides been so distant since the day our current president was elected. Throughout history in the conquest and overpowering of peoples lies have done far more than war. The broken promises do more damage than any weapons. Look at students in class rooms as we go through a school and all the broken promises. We even legislated that all children will be reading on grade level by 2014. I said it was absurd in 2004 when the law passed as a teacher of special needs kids I knew not all children will read on grade level unless we decide to selectively euthanize eighth graders who do not meet standards. Maybe in the political arena that will come up of course if all children are homeschooled by 2014 as one candidate suggests or all in select charter schools where special needs are not allowed no big issue. People joke but there are charters asking to be exempted from IDEA today around the nation.

“I would have been better pleased if you had never made such promises than that you should have made them and not performed them. . .” Shinquaconese

As we go through life as friends, parents, teachers, and employers so often we take advantage of the inherent trust. We use it to gain from to go forward with our ideas and concepts. We use promises we know we will never keep to accomplish our goals. The ends justify the means is our motivation. Look at how we are discussing oil exploration and destroying wilderness. No one is going to use it why not destroy it. It has taken me three weeks to get a photo of a male and female duck on a lake nearby so that we could identify them. By chance a large group was near the bridge Saturday and I got a photo as they all took off. In one frame of several images I shot a male and female together and ring necked ducks were identified. This duck is a Canadian winter transplant to Georgia. But what if greed supersedes and we destroy all the rainforest and wilderness and kill all the whales. My great grandchildren will never know what waking to the sound of a red-tailed hawk calling or morning dove sounds like. I am sorry but to me that is worth not drilling or fracking and looking at other rationale to the twisted world of oil and gas profiteering.
I got a bit off on an issue that is bothersome to many but we currently are selling gas in surplus overseas. Public opinion says if we open up more drilling in North America our gas prices will go down. Does not work that way oil prices are fixed internationally and it is a supply and demand. Right now China and Mexico are buying all the gas and oil refined they can get from us. So pricing is based on capitalism not regulation. Interesting fact we sell quite a bit to China who is supposed to be a competitor for our gas and oil. As we do have a free market American oil companies are in business for profit and selling gas and oil where ever the best price is. Currently US consumption is down and many countries are rising and willing to pay more than we are. So we are victim to our own free market capitalism. So sad we never look at both sides of any issue and only listen to what we want.
Parents use the promises of a toy or treat with small children and the child quiets down later the parent forgets or maybe never intended on supplying the prize. The child at first is confused but soon as it happens again and again becomes jaded calloused and resentful. In school so often children with learning problems get passed along and soon distrust, resentful, jaded and calloused they are behavior problems or quit. Employers use similar ideas and goals to accomplish the task at hand getting the job out and soon employees are too calloused and unionized. Although now in Georgia we are in effect passing a law that is in direct conflict with the constitution in the freedom to protest against tyranny. A state legislator in Georgia is trying to get a law passed that union organizing is a felony. We are being warned as teachers not to use our “teacher email” for politics.

“… I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.” Lone Man (Isna-la-wica) Teton Sioux

Imagine a world where word was bond, where promises were kept where a hand shake was a contract for real and students and children knew they were respected loved and would be cared for. Imagine that what was said would be and not change or be different. We do need each other. We are social creatures and dependent on one another. We ourselves are to blame for so many of the issues we are confronted with through distrust and broken promises. A simple guide when you say something, do it. Perhaps I need to begin with myself as we all do. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)

The most powerful of teaching tools is REFLECTION

Bird Droppings February 20, 2013
The most powerful of teaching tools is REFLECTION

“It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” Helen Keller

Helen Keller was one of the most envisioned people to have walked the earth yet never for most of her life did she ever see anything in that she was blind and deaf. AS I have gone through life and learned it is the ability to reflect that inner vision of looking back on what we have done and then build upon it that makes us visionaries. For many of us in graduate school and in our general course of doing things reflection is an integral part of the day. It has been nearly twelve years since I began putting my daily sojourns in life on the internet and sharing with others.

“Collaborative reflection can have a greater impact than solitary reflection because others can push you to look deeper and harder; to go places you may not think about or even be willing to think about on your own. When you tell others your story — when you share with others what you did and why, what happened as a result, why you think it happened, and what it might mean — several things take place that do not happen when you process your thoughts alone:” Hal Portner, Teachers as Learners

So often In the midst of researching and thinking an idea comes forward and or is found that can truly change your course and direction. Recent bits and pieces in my own life have left me thinking and wondering. One such reference is a Foxfire course in teaching that I have been involved with for several years and using Foxfire’s Core Practices. I took this course through Piedmont College and within their education department the attitude toward reflection is paramount. I had a sort of inspiration more recently as my wife was responding to a post dealing with instructors in college and reflective practice. Reflection on our teaching practices is a key element to improving and accomplishing more through our instruction.
I was working with a student recently and developing ideas on how to use digital imaging in various student projects, we all tend to see so different. Perceptions vary so much person to person even with images that are taken on a digital camera you get different views. Many times when I am taking pictures I will end up with reflective images views of lakes, streams, images reflected from cars windows and such. On my one laptop the screen saver is an image at Georgia Tech of a historic building with me taking a picture reflected in the headlamp of the Ramblin Wreck.
I created an image many years back, and was using this image to show students the effects that can be had with careful viewing, camera angles and imagination. In another image a large alligator was lying alongside a pool of water in its enclosure exactly parallel to the pool. The image reflected in the water was literally a duplicate of the great alligator, two alligators lying together touching toes. My students came back with images that made me proud, literally a camera filled with reflections.
I recall a comment from a fellow grad student about mirrors and an article we read recently again on reflecting. One of the images my students came up with was the one student viewing the other as the picture was taken so both photographer and model are in the reflection almost as if standing next to each other. This was a powerful image from a couple of novice teenagers.
It has been a few years since many schools began banning journaling sites on the internet. Still occasionally there will be an arrest for harassment or threats on the websites. In one county several arrests were made directly from information from the website pertaining a few years back to a bomb threat at a school. Personally I still have a problem with banning sites since so many kids communicate this way. What if kids were educated on use and shown innovative ways to work on their sits and be proud of them?

“Collaborative reflection can have a greater impact than solitary reflection” Hal Porter

I was reviewing sites earlier today as I am limited in access on line at school due to our own computer blocks and such. I think it amusing how instead of journaling or messaging kids spend more time finding ways around blocks now a days. But looking back at my morning previews, the journal writing in many of these sites are reflections of individuals lives, a reaching out for others opinions for approval and for social interaction.
I realize there often is a dark side and have read many times where individuals tear each other apart online. This morning I responded to a former student currently away at school that left a note on my own site. I hadn’t heard from them since graduation nearly four years ago, reflection time. My daily sojourn into my own contemplation has been on public display for many years. For me reviewing and pondering as I say the day previous has helped me find answers as I read and as I write, looking for others views and ideas on that subject even though it may be only a quote or thought.
My students who turned to reflection as they photographed into art a contemplative image perhaps have taken a different approach as they view the world much in a similar manner. They see not directly and in living color but in a mirror image with filters and screens so many times or is it us as adults who see through filters and sun screens and image enhancers and miss so much of what really is there. Life is moving, flowing, transgressing, and alive whether we choose to acknowledge that or not. I begin a new journey soon moving from one course of thought to another trying as I can to pass pieces to my students offering bits and pieces as I go.
Years ago I recall my dad getting a small weekly booklet “Bits and Pieces”, full of thoughts and inspirations. It is the bits and pieces we share as teachers that add seasoning to the lessons, it is here we add context. Recently I have been recorded answers to a questionnaire I have designed as a rubric, “The M r. Bird Skittles challenge”. Contained within students offer ideas on what motivates them and why they set goals. This fun exercise makes for good research actually as I compile answers. One aspect brought up by numerous students as to why they were motivated by particular teachers was family stories. In my study number three on why they are motivated by particular teachers. Teachers gave context from their own lives relating to material and content.
Perhaps in my own reflection today it is a good analogy to teaching, for many cooks (teachers) simply throw the meat on the flame and cook. While others will marinate, season, carefully monitor the internal temperature, and even carefully select the cut and quality of the meat before cooking. Some will tell their secrets to others to provide success in that persons cooking. There are so many similarities to teaching. Far too many times I have watched teachers throw the meat out often even without cooking seeing their students as simply savages who can eat it raw. Others just seer the edges a bit and unfortunately there are some who over cook and burn the meat, (I am bored being the result from students!).
I tried an exercise the other day, I made a referral sheet for students to refer teachers and then proceeded to make a teacher evaluation sheet for students to grade their teachers, a rubric of course. Interesting ideas came out as they had a hard time with why they were bored. They say it, but cannot pinpoint why. Maybe bored is an overused word and as in cooking maybe bland is better. Perhaps a tad of seasoning added would change everything.
Many years ago I had a history teacher in college who would walk in, never look at the class, never take roll, set his book on the podium, and begin reading the book. We had the book and literally could follow or read on our own soon people stopped coming as day after day he read from the book. It was not long that less than half the class was there, and those that came slept since it was an 8:00 class. Sadly nearly everyone failed including me. The professor covered the material in minute detail he read every single word in the book, and bland was an understatement, did I mention monotone as well.
A few Fridays back I tried a bit of an experiment. We did essays on, how do you know if a teacher is good or bad. Midst the turmoil and amusement, actually some pretty in-depth answers came from that gem. Coming from a kid who is pretty much a parasite on humanity and the educational system, after two paragraphs of whining and complaining he had an epiphany, look for wrinkles. If a teacher has fifty or more he or she is a bad teacher. Their thought was, wrinkles are caused by being stressed and if a teacher is stressed they are not enjoying themselves and if they are not enjoying themselves in what they do they cannot be a good teacher. I wish I had thought of that. As I thought to this statement, from the mouths or should I say fingers of babes. I watch the news with a heavy heart every day, children killing their families even here locally in our county. There are so many in desperate straits in so many different places. So please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)

Wet and dreary as I ponder educational genocide And or NCLB, Norming, Children, Leaves the Best

Bird Droppings February 19, 2013
Wet and dreary as I ponder educational genocide
And or NCLB, Norming, Children, Leaves the Best

I was huddled in my blanket as I went outside to sit and think a bit earlier granted I was barefooted. The air was still except for a slight rain, dripping from the branches and pine needles rustling with the breeze. All in all it was so very quiet this chilly wet morning even my dog was silent this morning sitting on the porch waiting for me to let her back in while I was there staring at the sky thinking. It might have been too damp and dank for my dog to bark and yap as she does most mornings.

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Sitting Bull

A good friend once emailed about a conference he was going to hold in Georgia. It is funny how ideas often co-mingle in the cosmos. At that same time I had a mother and co-teacher needing help with a son and she had been finding answers in my friend’s books. Along with that several students I was working with at the time needed assistance. But as I read this note from the great holy man and war leader of the Sioux nation so many years ago I was intrigued. Sitting Bull wasn’t looking at the now he was looking ahead, “What life we can make for our children”. His own was cut short as he held his grand child’s hand. Legend has it as the Native American marshals were arresting him for instigating a ghost dance ritual they thought he was going for a weapon and shot him. As the story goes his grandchild dropped a toy and he was picking it up it was not a gun.

“I do not wish to be shut up in a corral. All agency Indians I have seen are worthless. They are neither red warriors nor white farmers. They are neither wolf nor dog.” Sitting Bull

It was many years later that Kent Nerburn wrote a book borrowing from this comment entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog. The book was the editing and recording of the words of an elderly Sioux man who felt the need to relate the Indian view of reality and life for others to read.
In recent days as End of Course tests and Graduation tests results have been published and passed out and as I deal with children who have issues we tend to look at test results based on norms. As it is I love bell shaped curves sarcastically, we want everyone to fit in this percentile or that. But the interesting thing about a bell shaped curve everyone does not fit in on both sides there are extremes and legislative fiascos or endeavors such as No Child Left Behind do not allow for that 12.5% on each end who are on the extremes of the curves, that is twenty five per cent of the population. There is no magical cut off point. This child is in and this child is out yet we have imposed these boundaries through legislation.
We have stripped away individualism and seek to make all children equal and fit in the same mold, and the same parameters. Recently I saw an entrance requirement for a class in vocational studies requiring a certain level of math. Many students who could have benefited are now out. The funny thing I believe it was back in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s when specific requirements for existence be it hair color and skin color became issues for international debate and war and history and yet we now are instituting educational cleansing by weeding out children who cannot pass tests and or be accepted in a charter school.
I know a student now a mother and in the work force who five times when taking the end of course test in science missed passing by a total of ten points combined and several of those times by only a point. By chance I read graduation tests for some special education students and for instance question seventy on the test used a few summers back was of a nature no answer was correct technically. The answer was essentially to be a logic oriented response yet hidden within was an answer that in actuality was correct but only if students watched a Disney movie on Desert Life made in 1963 they would know the real answer. Semantics played in and what is so sad the question was probably worded wrong. I questioned the testing board and the question is not out there anymore. But what if that was one of the questions the little girl missed who missed five times what if she failed to graduate because of a faulty question no one caught five times? We have normed out of the parameters so many children.
In recent months I have watched students withdraw because of tests or because of standards. I have watched select students get credit and others not for the very same issues. Perhaps we are practicing educational genocide maybe somewhere there is a conspiracy to eliminate from the gene pool students who cannot pass this test or that one. A school I have great faith in has dropped its undergraduate special education major. With current laws for highly qualified most special education teachers are being delegated to assisting regular education teachers. We are setting aside disabilities and or assuming they are not there and working on deficits only, the symptoms. It is funny how it may be the disability that caused the deficit, albeit educational genocide. Sitting here playing with NCLB, Norming, Children, Leaves the Best, what a society we have.

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing” Chief Joseph

Watching critiques unfold of recent test results and listening to teachers criticized for low test results it is sad that we put so much emphasis on a paper and pencil operation. Teachers are facing many of the same situations Native Americans faced hundreds of years ago be it treaties, or laws and many are literally meaningless. We won’t and don’t use test results and yet teachers are being called to attention and only the test is taken into account the demographics of a group of students is only looked at after publicly posted test results are out.

“It does not require many words to speak the truth” Chief Joseph

It did not take long for the great chief of the Nez Perce to understand and realize talk from Washington was often meaningless and only fulfilling for those that initiated the talk generally those in Washington and or their friends. In 1974 we passed laws to allow for mandatory education for all children and now we are saying all children should be educated exactly the same and all children should pass the same tests and all children will be the same by 2014. Georgia now has received a waiver based on proposed educational evaluations that will still be done but of a differing nature.

“You might as well expect rivers to run backwards as for any man who is born free to be penned up” Chief Joseph

For most today this may be meaningless gibberish as I wander in my thinking today. I recall my first visit to a residential treatment facility in 1969 or so. Of that I recall the smell first, then the hollow gaze of residents who had lived their lives in isolation and away from normal society. It was several years later I did another internship this time from a spiritual aspect as part of my seminary experience in 1974 and 1975 again at a residential facility and while in another state the smell and gaze were the same. It has been many years since big cats were at the Atlanta Zoo and back in the day, The Cat House as it was called, held numerous species of large cats from around the world and all had a gaze about them as they paced steel cages staring off into the distance. I wonder as we commit educational genocide are we pushing back to days gone by in the name of progress taking us back to 1974 and before when we only took children who would be able to pass tests and allow them into schools and programs. I truly wonder sometimes. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)

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)

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)

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)

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)