Are we attempting to build a bridge or just cross a stream?

Bird Droppings May 31, 2013
Are we attempting to build a bridge or just cross a stream?

“You can never cross a stream the same way twice.” Zen saying

When I recall using this quote and thought for the first time it was looking at a picture of my middle son dripping wet trying to jump stone to stone across the Toccoa Creek. He had made up his mind he would cross on the stones and not just wade through even though he was sopping wet from falling in off the slippery rocks. Some people might offer that how can you make a statement, “you can never”. No matter how carefully I place my footsteps into the water it is always different the water is flowing changing and moving so each time it is different water and often different sand or mud on the bottom. As I thought deeper and further about this idea my own dilemma of deciding the direction and flow of my dissertation passed by in my mind’s eye about four thirty one morning a few days back. This epiphany was not just a flash but a culmination of twelve years of graduate school, volumes of reading, every day writing, and constant thinking and of most import reflecting on education and learning.
After several years of serious pondering my own direction from an educational standpoint and in my own learning, primarily focusing on my dissertation which has been in process now for five years, this idea kept coming back to me. I had taken a picture over ten years ago of my middle son crossing the Toccoa Creek. I have over the fifteen years of pondering and writing my Bird Droppings used the Zen thought as a quote in my writing. Reflecting early one morning this week on Foxfire Core Practices and applications within todays standardized thinking it hit me. I came to this thought in terms of education after my experiences at Georgia Southern with the influence at GSU of William Pinar who discusses curriculum almost as a river flowing, evolving, changing, and in defining being life itself. Previously my experiences at Piedmont College with John Dewey and the Foxfire Approach and the concept of a democratic classroom, my dissertation title become or I should say evolved. I jotted down a note somewhere in the darkness of the morning, Crossing the stream of education: Using Foxfire Core Practices as stepping stones. As I thought further if you honestly approach education and learning there is no one solid way or definitive method that always works with all students. I considered the Foxfire Core Practices more as stepping stones than building blocks r pondering a few more hours and even the originator of Foxfire Elliott Wiggington found Foxfire evolved as it came into being. His initial experience was more fire related but using the idea of a stream you do get wet when you slip but through climbing back up you can jump to another stone.
I was reading an education related blog yesterday that quoted John D. Rockefeller and pointed at him as the initiator of industrialized, standardized education.

“In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds, and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people, or any of their children, into philosophers, or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen – of whom we have an ample supply. The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.” John D. Rockefeller General Education Board, 1906

Rockefeller wanted employees who would do his bidding. He wanted to strip away individualism and in doing so created the basis for many politicians and our leader’s view of what education should be. This rigid construct is akin to building a dam on a stream or building a bridge over a once and done approach eliminating creativity and innovation. One of my favorite educational thinkers John Dewey saw education as a means to achieving democracy and individuality.

“Dewey thought that modern industrial society had submerged individuality and sociality. Because of the confusion of modern society, he argued, the school should be an institution where the individual and social capabilities of children can be nurtured. The way to achieve this is through democratic living.” H. A. Ozmon, and Samuel M. Craver, 2003 Philosophical Foundations of Education.

Mary Aswell Doll, a Literature professor at Savannah College of Art views the classroom differently. The science classroom “should have movement and is seeping, it is noisy and things are happening. Students are doing experiments bringing meaning to the facts they are learning,” I use the term giving context to the content. This is how Doll sees her own view of a classroom. Doll sees the classroom as a stage, a place where ideas can perform and give life to words on pages.

“The barriers between stage and audience, that is, teacher and student should disappear; some might call it anarchy.” Mary Aswell Doll

In her writings Mary Aswell Doll writes about fiction as food for the soul. She sees it as the medium to bring forth the imagination and creativity of the soul. Doll refers to authors James Hillman and Thomas Moore both best-selling authors and therapists who delve into the soul in their writings. Thomas Moore in Care of the Soul states a definition for soul which is very much in tune with Doll’s thinking.

“The soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences; …..By soul I mean the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image, and fantasy — that mode which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical.” Thomas Moore, The Care of the Soul

This is what education in Mary Aswell Doll’s terms is about, it is about engaging the soul, which inspires learning and fuels the curriculum.
I was reading an article on Amazonian indigenous peoples when I found this quote. Payaguaje was the last of his kind, no one wanted to learn his secrets. When he was gone thousands of years of wisdom, from the jungle would be going away with him. Miguel Cabodevilla and Nathan Horawitz were attempting to glean at least pieces of his vast knowledge before he passed on. They recorded his visions of what was to be and of what had been. While able to speak in three languages Secoya, Quichua and Spanish, Payaguaje was also illiterate in all three refusing to learn gringo writing and reading preferring the wisdom of the jungle and the father to son passing of wisdom he had learned from his father and grandfather.

“I still can’t see any reason to count all the sand on the beach – why bother? Or minutes, either. Could I possible add one more minute to my life by counting them?” Fernando Payaguaje, Secoya healer and holy man, translated from Secoya by Nathan Horowitz

Payaguaje was once involved in a discussion of having someone tell him about time as if he needed to know about watches. He mentioned how his grandson had a fine watch and came to him telling him the time. The old man turned to his grandson and said I have no use, the jungle tells me when it is time. A bird called and he turned to his grandson and said one hour of your time and it will be dark that was the birds call before going to roost for the night. In exactly one hour all was quiet and darkness fell upon the camp. The grandson listened more intently from then on but still was engulfed by the modern world.
I mention this holy man for a reason Much as in my own studies of education I have found there is no solid structure to learning it is about the individual and about communities. Learning is an entity that is specific to that person and while we can mass educate the impact often has dire results. We lose pieces of who we are, much along the line of this indigenous tribe. This is not about primitive versus modern it is about wisdom. It is about what is truly best for children.
I have been involved with Foxfire teachings for nearly ten years and an avid fan since my first book in 1972. I have helped teach courses at Piedmont College in the Foxfire Approach to teaching, researched extensively the history and development of the Core Practices. How can we truly move on in life if we do not know where we came from and why? An aspect of Foxfire is going back in the community using pieces of and bits of whom and why we are. In eleven years now for me back in public education I have had not one student who can name a great grandfather. We seem to allow want the most efficient and quickest in today’s instantaneous world. I want learning now pulling out my Ipad. I see clearly the need for crossing the stream of education but it needs to be one stepping stone at a time not building a great magnificent bridge or dam. The Core practices provide pieces stepping stones to cross the stream and allow the students to have responsibility and advocacy within their learning.
My final thought before he passed on Parguaje would have to somehow record the 16 generations and he neither reads nor writes. This was crucial to him it is as crucial as eating or drinking and knowing who we are. Time was of less import he felt it was as if we want to count each second now and forget every second from the past. I was watching the TV show Psyche, a rerun of an old show with my wife and several times a Ford ad came on where the father was dropped off after a weekend with his kids and he thanks his ex-wife for letting him go and we wonder why our children cannot remember. Maybe they do not want too, it hurts to bad. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Wondering about the song lyrics of an old friend

Bird Droppings May 30, 2013
Wondering about the song lyrics of an old friend

I first started listening to Neil Young’s music in 1967 or so possibly even earlier if you count Buffalo Springfield, a short lived band and of course 1968 with Crosby Stills and Nash at Woodstock and Deja vu, their first album which I am sitting here listening too. While I did not make it to Woodstock I can say my old sleeping bag was there, a good friend at the time borrowed it. When I made my way south into the land of The Allman Brothers band, in the fall of 1971, the flower petals were still in the streets from Dwayne Allman’s funeral a month past, music and lyrics had become a part of who I was.
I was reading on line last night, a friend on line lists the songs of Neil Young on her website. I responded to her with a note that I did not think anyone under forty had ever heard of Neil Young. Several years ago Neil Young had a medical crisis and a sort of mid-life crisis all about the same time. After finding he had an aneurysm in his brain, decided he needed to record so in a few days he turned out what he was afraid might be his last CD. He took it upon himself from being warned he needed surgery and postponing the actual surgery for a week to write and produce an entire CD, Prairie Wind. A few days after leaving the hospital from successful surgery on the brain aneurism, the spot on his leg where the catheter had been inserted broke open and he collapsed outside his hotel, nearly dying from blood loss.
The words to this song caught my attention this morning, a questioning of who and why we are. Several of my friends and I have been discussing free choice and feel will in our blogs and on line discussions which perhaps led me to this today. The title of the song is, When God made me, by Neil Young.

“Was he thinkin’ about my country or the color of my skin? Was he thinkin’ ’bout my religion and the way I worshipped him? Did he create just me in his image or every living thing? Was he planning only for believers or for those who just have faith? Did he envision all the wars that were fought in his name? Did he say there was only one way to be close to him? Did he give me the gift of love to say who I could choose? Did he give me the gift of voice so some could silence me? Did he give me the gift of vision not knowing what I might see? Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil young, When God made me, Prairie Wind

I walked out into the stillness of the morning earlier today. There was a lone bird I think had gotten mixed up on its timing (I wonder does anyone give the daylight savings time to nature). Maybe the bird was still adjusting or maybe migrating in from another time zone, but here nearby singing all alone deep in the woods. I like days when even with the overcast the moon cast light through the spring trees, a hint of green and the lace work of twigs and opening buds provide a background for thought, everything smells and sounds so new in spring.
Thinking ahead to coming back to school after a summer break it always amazes me. More than half the students will have T-shirts from Panama City Florida air brushed with a boyfriend’s name and or girlfriend’s name and various partying information and or connotations maybe parents should not know about, and of course tan. There will be a lot of shell jewelry and then there is the other half still asleep from staying in bed till one or two and having a hard time readjusting to school hours, with their puffy eyes and dozing off during the day. It is so difficult to get started the week or so day after summer break. I offered to an administrator why not start back on a Tuesday instead of Monday and we both agreed we could all use that one extra day.

“Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil Young

Funny, how a line sticks with you in a song or poem or book. I keep thinking about this line yesterday. Between oil spills, getting tough on North Korea and as always the breaking news today Benghazi is fizzling out, IRS was actually doing their job, and a leak from a Washington reporter in 2009 all seem insignificant. Some want to attack Iran after we try diplomacy again. I wonder if the word compassion ever made it into Washington. I was walking through a Wal-Mart sort of the entire world at a glance; everyone ends up in Wal-Mart. One of students came in he was all excited he had just gotten a job there. But as I walked through a Wal-Mart employee near the pharmacy was explaining the new Medicare drug plan to an elderly person. They actually had a booth set up with a fulltime staff person. They are to be helping elderly folks and they need to have people telling them what is going on since most people including myself haven’t a clue. Ironic and they wonder why so many people haven’t joined up yet the line is too long at the explanation booth.
Compassion is such a simple word. It has been several years since I did work with indigents work finding housing and food for families. I recall several bits of wisdom coming from Washington, for example cutting off welfare if a person was not looking for a job. A favorite is if you fail a drug test no more welfare. If you are homeless by choice you are off of welfare, that one sort of floored me. It had to do with issues of not paying taxes by one person somewhere in Texas who found he could save money being homeless. Another was if income was too high cut out Medicaid.
Cutting health care was always one that intrigued me. I worked with a fellow who had worked all his life till a massive heart attack disabled him and he was limited to drawing disability. His wife due to illnesses all of her life had never worked enough combined quarters to draw anything more than a minimum disability check. I find it so interesting that anyone can even consider we do not need health care reform. Unfortunately between them their medical bills exceeded their monthly government disability checks and because their income exceeded federal standards they did not get Medicaid. In a compromise they took turns each month on which medicines to not get. They were getting help from one agency but doctors had to fill in paper work literally volumes each month for them to receive free medicines. Sadly eventually the doctor’s office stopped filling in the paperwork for them. Compassion is such a powerful word.
What of a disabled man I worked with for several years who lived on about 350.00 per week. He is a severe diabetic and has numerous other health and psychological related issues and virtually spends a week in the hospital a month. However his monthly disability income keeps him from Medicaid and so he moves periodically to avoid harassment and bill collectors from hospitals. Having a quality of life is that compassion? Are we helping our fellow man? As I watch what we do worldwide as a nation I seriously wonder sometimes. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Do we all have empathy or not?

Morning Droppings May 29, 2013
Do we all have empathy or not?

“The capacity for consciousness of ourselves gives us the ability to see ourselves as others see us and to have empathy with others. It underlies our remarkable capacity to transport ourselves into someone else’s parlor where we will be in reality next week, and then in imagination to think and plan how we will act. And it enables us to imagine ourselves in someone else’s place, and to ask how we would feel and what we would do if we were this other person. No matter how poorly we use or fail to use or even abuse these capacities, they are the rudiments of our ability to begin to love our neighbor, to have ethical sensitivity, to see truth, to create beauty, to devote ourselves to ideals, and to die for them if need be. To fulfill these potentialities is to be a person.” Rollo May, Man’s Search for Himself, pp. 74-76

Empathy is a very difficult word to ponder and discuss. For many it does not exist and others actually live by this simple word. As I look at May’s idea of empathy which is a capacity for consciousness I consider we are all conscious I would think. But it is being able to see and feel in someone else’s shoes that is the key to this consciousness. Love perhaps becomes an integral aspect of empathy. In my own views I feel empathy is crucial to any field dealing with people be that nurses, teachers, pastors and all who touch lives. For these folks empathy is a must and it is that gift that allows us to be closer and to be able to touch the soul of another.

“One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession” Sophocles

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Scott Adams

“Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other – it doesn’t matter who it is – and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.” Mother Theresa

Key aspects of empathy are kindness, love, and caring and these are all positive attributes of empathy. Adams says there is a ripple effect. I have over the years used the illustration of a pebble in the pond story many times. When you toss a pebble into still water and the ripples emanate out from the point of contact going till they hit the edge of the pond and in effect they return only colliding with the ripples still in coming. That small act does continue many times over. Several years ago a movie was made of small acts of kindness and the impact on a community I always think what if.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” Kahil Gibran

“…successful learners also have insight into the motives, feelings, and behavior of others and the ability to communicate this understanding–in a word, empathy.” B. F Jones, The New Definition of Learning: The First Step to School Reform

“Understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts and motives of one are readily comprehended by another.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

A simple word that can be so powerful if put to use. Empathy can be a tool for teachers, nurses, pastors and a key to the heart and souls of others. Recently in defining my own philosophy of teaching I used the word empathy as a key aspect of my own personal belief in teaching. Having empathy makes for a more meaningful and believable teacher. I was talking with a good friend the other day and discussing consequences. I have never given detention in ten years. I asked is detention a meaningful consequence? What if it is for talking in class as he was writing slips for detention? Well what else do I do? My answer was having class so intrigued they are not talking and mesmerize them to a point of attention. As I ponder further, granted with ninth graders that might be wishful thinking.
Most consequences are due to not teaching and not empathizing with students. Trusting, understanding, and caring these are keys to successful teaching. I was asked about referrals and in school suspension and out of school suspension. I have found nine times out of ten writing a referral and waiting a few days for a consequence effectively negates the consequence so why not deal with in class unless it is such that needs immediate response. If the issue is serious enough and requires attention and immediate action; then go directly to administration. But more often than not with empathy it is not even happening so often it is seeking attention or a plea for help.

“In addition to the shared feeling and accurate understanding dimensions of empathy, some writers also focus on the empathetic person’s communication of understanding to the person whose “internal frame of reference” he or she has grasped.” Kathleen Cotton, SIR, Developing empathy in children and adults

“Regardless of conflicting views about the appropriate place, if any, of “values education” in the schools, people are generally able to agree that developing this capacity to understand, appreciate, and communicate meaningfully with others is an important and desirable goal. This enables us to move away from our differences of opinion about the specific CONTENT of “good character,” focusing instead on the PROCESS whereby people come to care about one another and communicate that caring through their behavior. “ Kathleen Cotton

One of those times I wished I could say I wish I had said that maybe someday. So often we forget that this interaction with others is so critical to success in life. Not only in school but when have you walked out the door from your home and to the store or to work. Each moment we are alive we interact with others unless we sit on a mountain top somewhere contemplating about the passing of a cloud although that is not a bad thought. I wonder if there is a decent pay scale for that position. We interact and if those interactions are in an understanding way and I think it is empathy. So much more will be gained by both people. Kathleen Cotton writes further about developing empathy in students and adults and perhaps this is something we should be pursuing. Maybe we all should try and empathize a bit more and maybe then I would not be offering daily please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

What do we consider success to be?

Bird Droppings May 28, 2013
What do we consider success to be?

“Most of the people we call successful are not twice as smart, or twice as able, as the rest of the field. Indeed, if they are only 10 percent more proficient, this is generally more than enough to give them a consistent edge.” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly Personal

One of those moments that make teaching worthwhile was just recently as I was going over grades before school finished up and students were getting their progress reports and it hit me. I have a graphic organizer for Learning Focused School folks that essentially explains their grades, each student lists their grades and classes and why they have that grade and what can they do different to better it. One student who last year had failed nearly every class had all A’s and was on cloud nine. But what can you do to keep it up and even do better?
As I read Sydney J. Harris’s comment this morning often it is not a great deal more just a little bit and so many times people choose to not do it. I am passing that’s all that matters and sadly just a tad bit more effort would be an A.

“A young person, to achieve, must first get out of his mind any notion either of the ease or rapidity of success. Nothing ever just happens in this world.” Edward William Bok

“The road to success runs uphill.” Willie Davis

It does take more to be successful than to simply pass or be average. Some are content as I hear every day I am passing that is all that matters but really are they happy just passing. For that moment that brief second of not doing that extra bit to get an A maybe they are but in the end as they see jobs and dollars lessen, because an employer doesn’t just want average when great is available.

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it’s the same problem you had last year.” John Foster Dulles

“Success is relative. It is what we can make of the mess we have made of things.” T. S. Elliot

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have used Emerson’s definition of success many times in class and in Bird Droppings and each time it is so much truer. Success is relative, it is going that bit further than what is expected and what may be even more than you thought possible when you started. It is sorting out the debris cleaning up the mess we make as Elliot states.

“When I am delivering my very best, then that is when I feel successful.” Art Fettig

“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.” Harvey S. Firestone

So often it is comparison, we see success in competition, and we see success in achievement. As I sat here thinking can we be successful within our own right by ourselves and I look back at Emerson’s definition which is a self-fulfilling success.

“Successful people are successful because they form the habits of doing those things that failures don’t like to do.” Albert Gray

“Strategy is a style of thinking, a conscious and deliberate process, an intensive implementation system, the science of insuring future success.” Pete Johnson

Back a few days ago I mentioned my philosophy of filling a liter bottle sort of a teaching strategy. Teaching is more than just details or content. Teaching is where to find and how to find instead the answer instead of giving a thousand answers. When we only have a liter and we have three gallons of information what goes in has to be special. Strategies are that style of thinking, a process and implementation system as Johnson says. Several years back I would study for tests on the way to Athens, a 45 minute drive using key thoughts rather than details.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.” Colin Powell

Hopefully my next progress reports will be a point of reference not a destination for students and parents and we can build on that rather than tear down. But for today as for many years now please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

A de (Skee)
bird

Pondering in my search for wisdom

Bird Droppings May 27, 2013
Pondering in my search for wisdom

I started my day a bit later than normal being out from school and trying to recover from cooking and cleaning getting ready for a shower for my daughter in law and son and grandson to be. Sort of out of sync but my plans for this memorial day include yard work, writing and a finishing up several pieces of my research later today since I have been lazy. I ran by my second most favorite store Quick Trip to grab a morning grapefruit cranberry drink and energy shot. I had planned on picking up a few parts to work on my old Isuzu at the auto parts store and shock of all shocks it was closed for holiday as I pulled in which is unheard of at seven o’clock in the morning. I forget not all people live by my sunrise to sunset standard. So I went on about the day but somehow ended up at one of my favorite stores Kroger to pick up things for a cookout later this evening so I would not have to travel out and could get serious about paper work and gardening.
On the front page of today’s paper the lead story was how high school graduates are not ready for college and right next to it was an article on an assistant principal who is being investigated in Atlanta’s school system cheating scandal claiming she did not know they were cheating only cleaning up eraser marks so testing machines would not err. One comment was essentially in Georgia twenty five percent of the graduates have to take remedial courses in college. As I thought about this pondering as I do I recalled I too took a remedial language arts course my freshmen year in college. Actually took it twice since the first time I did not go to class very often. How valid is taking a remedial class in terms of success in school?
Why did I have to take a remedial college course and yet I was accepted into all three colleges I applied too. My SAT was a few points too low for the school I applied too on the verbal portion and yet today it would be more than enough to get into any college without remedial classes. As I think to my days in High School Literature with the exception of maybe one or two years I hated it and could not understand why we needed to listen to a teachers opinion on why Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. As I think back I really did not like Math classes, Spanish classes and all but one science class. Considering we had math, literature and science all four years of High School I really did not like high school and perhaps my GPA reflected this. Even though my SAT scores were what got me into college and conversely in a remedial class, my saving grace in education was standardized tests which I seemed to always do well on. My first set of SAT scores were in today’s terms over 1300 for verbal and Math which really would get me into most undergraduate schools shy of Ivy League today. The second time I took SAT I decided I would see how fast I could actually take the test and in twenty three minutes had completed the SAT and scored only a few points lower than my previous testing.
So where am I wandering today. My conclusion that I came to after reflecting on my own High School experience and many kids I talk with in High School today is that we are teaching subjects that many consider irrelevant to them, even kids going to college. Some students will strive and get high grades acquiring the content that is provided so they take End of Course Tests and do great. But as I look at High school subject matter and even the photo used in explaining how deficient students today are in Math I looked at the problem on the board behind the teacher being interviewed and in real life shy of being in physics or math as a job you will never see that material. Learning is what is missing from education today. It is about that desire to learn and making it relevant to students who more than likely do not even want to be in that class. So how do we get teachers on board that have been brought up in the same system? We have taken the passion out of learning. We have stripped learning of imagination and creativity.

“The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results; all his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge. The wise, ever satisfied, have abandoned all external supports. Their security is unaffected by the results of their action; even while acting, they really do nothing at all. Free from expectations and from all sense of possession, with mind and body firmly controlled by the Self, they do not incur sin by the performance of physical action.” Bhagavad Gita 4:19-21

I can easily substitute learning and wisdom as I read through this ancient passage from a Hindu holy text. It is a matter of who you are with and when and how you have been told is this learning? But as I read this passage that is many years old, a person is wise when what you do is done without anxiety about results. You are not concerned about your grade or what college or who has the highest GPA. We sadly live in a competitive world where being number one is even a marketing tool for advertisers. I often wonder if politicians get stressed out, other than around elections over what they do. I always thought of my grandmother as wise for her understanding of life. As a small child perhaps I saw only that her knowledge was what she needed to know to raise her children justly and correctly and how to make really good Grandma Seitz chocolate chip cookies. As I grew up there was a different understanding on my part of her deep faith and wisdom maybe one day I can possible come close too?

“This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety….It becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” The Dalai Lama

As a society we seem to encourage anxiety and stress often at the expense of our children and grandchildren. Our previous elected government pushed to spread democracy through numerous wars and our current government has continued and added a war or two to the pot which has caused a tension and insecurity in our children according to Progressive Curriculum Theorist Henry Giroux. Is it turning to a deeper meaning a spiritual center as “the only firm base” as The Dalai Lama states.

“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate well, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.” Alex Noble

How many of us take this approach to life I use often the term of being a searcher in that I am always searching. When walking in the forest I have the urge to check under rocks could be the unrelenting herpetologist in me searching for a snake or lizard. As I sit or stand in the hallway at school observing, searching faces, listening, empathizing and trying to understand.

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

I used a statement several weeks back about seeing the bubble in a thousand clear oceans. Bonheoffer addresses that same issue here. In education it is about context not content, that is being able to apply what knowledge we have and that can be more significant than an encyclopedia of information.

“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” Helen Keller

Many the times, I will sit and think about people I would like to meet. My biological grandfather on my mother’s side is one, Gandhi another and Ralph Waldo Emerson but if I was allowed another it would be Helen Keller. There are few people who have overcome such insurmountable odds and then accomplish what she did. The title to the book about her life does not do justice to the real life situation, The Miracle Worker.

“It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Henry David Thoreau

I need to be more cautious as I write, the other day Thoreau was searching for clam rather than calm, spell check does not read minds as of yet. But Thoreau eludes back to that thousand plus year old statement from the Bhagavad Gita,” when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results”. Being wise is being in tune so to say with all around and to borrow another word perhaps harmony could be used.

“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” Immanuel Kant

In education there are in The Common Core Standards points of reference in each subject to attain or to have knowledge of. We in Georgia had a system in place of Performance Standards and previously to that Quality Core Curriculum which literally was each and every aspect of what the educational committee thought was important in that subject. Teachers were teaching to QCC’s and it was almost purely content. There was excitement as new standards came out and the school administrations “curriculum” people got hold of them and unpacked and now we have curriculum maps and curriculum pacing and what was to be wonderful has become a monster. The heart and soul has been stripped out and in its place organizational overload.

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” Lin Yutang

I have several times used my example of a liter bottle and having three gallons to put in it, how do we do it? A funnel still only fills to a liter and the rest spills out. I use this illustration in educating special needs kids and I believe it applies to all children and adults. It has been a few months since my last trip to Mountain City and the Foxfire property. I am heading up in a week or so. If you are in Mountain City Georgia take a look it is well worth the drive up the mountain. The museum will provide a guide to take you around. I recall the late Robert Murray and numerous walks with him around the property, here and there he would pick a plant leave or three or four telling about what they could do and what they can be used for.
As he would go building to building explaining mountain life he eventually gets to a shed with a large copper coil sort of device and asks “So what is it” and answers run the gambit? Finally laughing he explains it is a condenser for making moonshine. If you have watched the miniseries Hatfield and McCoy’s you will know. So how do we fill a liter bottle? We condense and we synthesize and much like making cane syrup we boil the cane juice down to get the good stuff. Wisdom is knowing what is the good stuff and being able to transcend the frills and extras.

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.” Mark Twain

Make that number five on my list of people who I would like to meet somehow Mark Twain could always have the right words and thoughts. As I meander about today searching for books and ideas, tilling in my garden and planting plants I will end with a line from a founding father and one maybe our current in power folks should read.

“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” Thomas Jefferson

I hope we will listen to Jefferson please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Trying to regurgitate a previous days thought

Morning Bird Droppings May 24, 2013
Trying to regurgitate a previous days thought

I am beginning with a crazy sort of title but then again very specific perhaps. I walked out into a mild morning with a near full moon setting behind the pines, plenty of humidity and whippoorwills calling that almost surrounded me with calls. It has been several days that when I walk out my head is foggy with an almost dream like feeling. Today was similar and listening for a few moments to the calls so soft yet sinking into my soul I began to ponder as I tend to do. Nearly every day I sit down and write and some days it makes it into my daily or almost daily ritual Bird Droppings and others well into my files for later use. It has been a few months back that I received an email from a friend, a fellow teacher who I have never met in real time. I met through the acquaintance of another friend who I have met and who referred me to this other friend. Now I know that is confusing but actually how it happened. Anyhow I received a great series of old farmer quotes in this email from North Georgia and this one in particular caught my attention.

“Words that soak into your ears are whispered…not yelled” An old farmer’s advice

After sorting emails and getting serious about writing I started with wanting to continue my thought from a previous day. Truth is so often an elusive quarry and somewhere along the line talking with my wife we got into technology and a new topic sort of evolved, the spiritual loss within children as we inundate them with technology and literally occupy every moment with a gadget or thing. Paradoxically I was registering some software this morning and got to one screen where you check which of the following you or your family own. There were thirty objects listed ranging from Blackberries to cable TV. We had twenty six of thirty in our household. Had we not been so against Apple computers excluding iPads and iPhones we might have had all 30. Actually I do like Apple we just do not have one currently and the more I use my iPad and iPhone the more I like Apple.
As I thought of how much we count on and “need” all of these things it hit me how we replace aspects of our humanity with the immediateness of technology. I see anger transmission as a good example. I was reading various blogs on Facebook this morning and saw several venting which on an educational blog yesterday had a middles school principal asking parents of middle school students to shut down their children’s social networking sites in a Midwestern state. Some of this was in light of cyber bullying and several suicides linked to online bullying. I being old can recall back in the old days waiting till you see someone to argue or yell but now instantaneously you blog, email, text message and or cell phone immediately your anger. That is significant change in how we react and deal with life. So often we miss the journey since the destination is immediate.

“Life is about the journey not the destination …. We don’t know what tomorrow brings” Steven Tyler, AEROSMITH

So many years ago I first read this line and have told the story many times of finding a yellow sticky note (again technology with 3M post-it notes being old as well) on my computer. Every once in a while I get amazed, and as I was driving from point A to point B on a recent day a song was playing in my son’s truck he swapped with me so he had a working AC. It happened to be the Aerosmith CD with this line in it. An old Aerosmith song entitled Amazing from the 1993 album Get a Grip that never went higher than number three on Billboards top ten but it was good enough to have its own Wikipedia site. However for me it is a very powerful couple of lines about life. Over the years I have paraphrased and altered a bit so here is the real line from Steven Tyler’s lyrics. Promoting Aerosmith with Steven Tyler on American Idol and touring this summer I have heard.

“Life’s a journey not a destination and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow brings. You have to learn to crawl, before you learn to walk.” Steven Tyler, AEROSMITH

I never realized Steven Tyler was a developmentalist, I always just considered him a rocker. There are steps in each of our lives as I grow older with technology and without I learn each moment is special and unique and intertwined with so many others. I have learned to enjoy and view the journey. I have my technology but I use it to work with me and enhance not to substitute for any piece or part of my existence.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating you.” George Bernard Shaw

We each get up in the morning and begin the day usually very similar to the day previous. I was thinking back nearly ten years ago and how my house was quiet, everyone was gone. My wife and middle son were at Georgia Tech for orientation my son started there now almost ten years ago. My youngest was at a music camp for the week, I actually did not know if they were ready for him or not, he took his tuba but his passion has always been the blues harp (harmonica) and still is. He and his cousin went to camp to do some serious jamming his cousin bringing his national steel guitar and my son his harmonicas. My son is always trying to turn some folks on to some old Robert Johnson songs instead of the standard pop music so many teenagers listened to. My son today is in his last semester at Piedmont College in Demorest Georgia in nursing school up in the heart of some awesome bluegrass music we shall see what happens when bluegrass hits blues.
I drive by my mother’s house many afternoons after school often dropping off some digital photos for my mother’s hobby or taking dinner. She has over the years created one of kind greeting cards from photos and artwork for her family members. She uses the image on the front and then writes a unique phrase for that person to go inside. I recall driving around looking for a picture of a spider web for her and in the process took 60 or more other photos one I have used as a screen saver on my laptop for some time now.
My oldest son many years back started a ten gallon mini reef tank that has been through ups and downs and at last time was a twenty gallon tank but now sitting idle. However in basic a mini reef is a salt water aquarium that simulates a coral reef, in miniature. The denizens in his had been primarily colonial polyps and coral which from a few feet away look like lumps of rock in a very brightly lit tank, but up close and the rocks have quarter inch creatures with tentacles waving in the current and are very much alive. I have taken many pictures over the years and one is of a group of anemones that cluster together each only a quarter inch wide covering a piece of coral rock with what looks like hair till you look closely and it is tiny tentacles catching microscopic creatures in the water. Tiny mantis shrimp that have hatched in the tank would be swimming about each less than a sixteenth of an inch What is amazing is how much beauty is contained in a space thirty six inches long and thirteen inches wide and a foot high. I often think of life this way we miss so much when we do not look closely.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

Dr. Albert Schweitzer for many today is an unknown having passed away nearly sixty years ago. He was a humble doctor in the jungles of Africa and very well known in his time for his musical talent as well as his medicine. It is difficult to even find his books in print today. Of course if you Google or do an internet search he will pop up and his exploits of saving lives will be found. So many people are not content and struggle looking for what may be right in front of them literally all the time. Having a good outlook and open minded perception are crucial to truly seeing all around you. In today’s world so often this is impeded with the lack of altering of the truth. I did get into yesterday’s topic a bit on that.

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” California special Olympics song

“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” Walt Disney

How many years ago there was a man walking through orange groves and palmettos in central Florida with a dream that today is one of the most visited places in the world, Disney World. It is all in the journey, it is walking along seeing all there is to see not missing that minute detail or word and with conviction and achieving your goals. No one can see what you see or hear what you hear only a vague proximity and only you will know when your goal is met. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary stepped to the top of the world on Mt. Everest twenty nine thousand feet plus above sea level and no one else had ever done that. Now Nepal and Mt. Everest is a nearly tourist trap albeit a very expensive one but many have made the summit.

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” Sir Edmund Hillary

We all can achieve, we all can do great things, we all can overcome obstacles, it is with confidence, constancy, courage and curiosity as Disney said. I might add one thing it is to always be looking and observing it is about trying to understand the depth and passion of our existence. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

We should many times question our questions?

Bird Droppings May 23, 2013
We should many times question our questions?

Sitting in my class room after a week of articles and innuendos about who and why Georgia students in high school and middle schools across the state do so poorly on certain CRCT’s and EOCT’s which are Georgia’s version of grade or course end tests in subject matter. Sadly the state knew ahead failure rate would be high in certain areas and still administered the tests. I am always amazed by a state educational system and by individual teachers who teach to fail students. I just finished a discussion with a colleague about passing a fellow who had a 79 on his end of course test in Algebra Geometry and was failing class due to homework not being turned in. When you look at his overall work he has an eighty six percent disregarding homework portion of grade based on his test scores and quizzes. For me that was a no brainer he mastered the material and do you cause trouble for next year’s teacher failing a kid who knows the material and also happens to be SEBD, severely emotionally and behaviorally disturbed and refuses to do homework and hates this particular teacher.

“To find the exact answer, one must first ask the exact question.” S. Tobin Webster

“Ask the large questions, but seek small answers, A flower, or the space between a branch and a rock these are enough” Kent Nerburn

I wrote an email to a friend only a few moments ago sitting here gloating at issues I should have addressed and could have before they were issues. Some days I am bad about letting the flow go and spill over as it may be. I read this line from a book I am reading and wonder now as to answers I was seeking, maybe too often we seek large answers from small questions or ask the wrong questions thinking we know the answer.

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” Anthony Robbins

Somewhere on my shelves in my room at school maybe in a drawer are a series of tapes from this guru of self-help, he occasionally has a good thought or two. Max Thompson of Learning Focus School fame uses the term an Essential Question. We need to ask an essential question and build from there as we develop our course or train of thought. Several weeks ago I used some thoughts from Zen teachings over a thousand years ago and from Socrates who also taught by asking questions.

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Naguib Mahfouz

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” Anthony Jay

A wrong question, can that even be? Could a wrong question be asked?

“If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems.” Edward Hodnett

Over the years I have acquired many books dealing with the care of animals and have even participated in publishing several in days gone by when I was in that line of work. Years back we found a book for diagnosis of fish disease and problems. It was questions with various answers, such as if answer A go to page 3, or if B go to page 6, then on page 3, if A go to page 34, and on 34 if C this is the disease. In looking at questions and answering you literally could follow your way to a diagnosis. Essentially it was dichotomous key of fish disease. A good friend in Virginia literally borrowed the idea and wrote a sheep manual in a similar fashion that has become the Ovine diagnosis book of choice across the country. Actually have my name in there somewhere as a resource and editor.

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” Decouvertes

I had to think as I read this if you know the answer why question. Is the paper white? I know it is but I am questioning and in questioning will show it to be white so in effect proving its whiteness or not. I learned it was white even knowing it was.

“He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked.” Voltaire

“To find the exact answer, one must first ask the exact question.” S. Tobin Webster

“For example, when you sail in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as you can see at that time. All things are like this.” Eihei Dogen, 1200-1253

Maybe we who ask the questions need to listen more carefully to the answers and in listening learn as well, a symbiosis of sorts. It is about another day beginning and another sunrise to see. In talking with a friend through messaging on the computer that is all she looks for and as she rises each morning and is thankful for another day. She is a survivor, having survived breast cancer and you know what, as simple as that sounds for some. For her in particular each moment is a miracle and after seeing her each morning smiling and thankful for another day my day goes so easy and I too am thankful. We are getting ready to share a Memorial Day weekend thinking of our fallen friends and family members. I ask with a sincere heart please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird