Life is about practice

Bird Droppings May 19, 2013
Life is about practice

On a wet cloudy and stormy Sunday morning in Georgia with a high school graduation only a few hours previous I am thinking ahead. I often wonder at how to tell graduating seniors to ponder and think about the future. How do you build upon what you have and go further? It seems to always come down to practice get better at what you do. Is it studying or reading work at it does it as the NIKE ads spell out so clearly. I am a poor one to speak sitting on my dissertation now for several summers procrastinating writing yet writing daily in volumes. Sometimes we need to be specific and get to the dirty parts of work and life and move on.

“There may be more to learn from climbing the same mountain a hundred times than by climbing a hundred different mountains.” Dr. Richard Nelson

I went out several days ago to get photos of football practice at our school. We have a scrimmage game with our offense and defense playing each other. This has been a tradition for a few years now. Watching the coaches and players interact and drill the same play again and again it dawned on me maybe enough times and you will get it right. But then as I thought not really if you practice a play a thousand times perfectly and know each step engrained in your mind and body you can now focus on what may change as you actually run that play. Your thoughts will not be occupied with the play but with succeeding with the play.
As I read Dr. Nelson’s thought earlier I wondered and then it hit me so many times I will in my daily routine go through the same motions same processes and yet each time something new will hit me. On my way to school a new house or tree I never saw. It might be a hawk I missed or the angle of the sun as it filters through the trees. It is those minute details that add so much more to life. Several years ago I found a quote from an athlete who is listed in the ESPN list of top twenty five records that will never be broken. He has been called the great one and in his day and even today there is no other greater ice hockey player.
Wayne Gretzky held or still holds every scoring record in professional ice hockey but his combined points will more than likely never be equaled. ESPN has Gretzky’s all-time scoring record as the number two record in the top twenty five least likely to be broken. Why was he great? He will say practice and from the time he was a small child and just learning to skate he made shots on goal. It amounted to thousands upon thousands of shots even tens of thousands of shots till his playing was near automatic.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

Gretzky had an uncanny ability to know anticipate where the play was going from practicing not only shooting the puck but watching and understanding people. There is another aspect to his great ability as a player reflected in his next statement

“You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky

Procrastination was not in Wayne Gretzky’s vocabulary. Gretzky’s believe in practice and perseverance which also happens to be two keys to success in life and in school. On the job and at home practice and perseverance can significantly make a difference. We all cannot be as successful as Wayne Gretzky perhaps not at Ice Hockey but at being a teacher, a parent, and a friend and for me I would be rather remembered as the dad whose record of being a great father will go down in the record books. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

It seems to be a new morning?

Bird Droppings May 17, 2013
It seems to be a new morning?

Last night I had my son drive up to the corner store to get a few things. When he I had been waiting outside and the sounds of the evening were stilled from the chill all the humming, whistling, chirping and barking that should have been going on was still. Living in the country we are used to quiet but this was still other than a slight breeze which occasionally would rustled the pine needles. I seriously miss the cicadas, tree frogs, crickets and every other creatures that normally would be out and still going strong this morning but forty eight degrees on a May morning silences all. Through the silence this morning a lone owl hooted two or three times and then it too was quiet.
Today we are doing a few make up tests for End of Course Test and doing our last day of finals. I wonder often about the usefulness of such endeavors are we truly assessing students or simply going through hoops. Sadly it is a state and federal requirement. I have a little book that I found at Barnes and Nobles, “Teachers Little book of Wisdom”. I found it on one of excursions into the vastness of our local Barnes and Noble bookstore. Seldom do I come out without reading material or at least an idea. Bob Alogozzine is the author/editor of this little tome. Bob is someone who ended up in teaching sort of by accident and fell in love with his job. With an economics degree and few jobs in his field, there was a need for Special Education teachers so he ended up by chance teaching. This little book is 365 statements about teaching.

“Teach them the difference between things that need doing better than they have been done before, things that just need doing, and things that don’t need to be done at all.” Bob Alogozzine

It is not just about math or science there is an aspect of life in each day we walk into a room or see another person. Teaching is not simply a job done by a teacher it is a piece of everyone’s existence. Parents teach from day one. Friends teach or they are truly not friends and some of us who choose to be in a class room teach. As I read this little thought I realize how wonderful of an idea it truly is. It is not about learning calculus for the big test but about doing better than has been done before. If each of us could look at life that way and do today just a bit better than any other day before I wonder what kind of world we could make.
I was looking at my blue berries yesterday and they are not quite ready but it reminded me of several years back picking blueberries at a friend’s house. It was hot out we nearly stopped several times but we kept on and you know when I finish writing today I will throw some big blueberries on my cereal and milk from the freezer. Blueberries really freeze great. Life is moving in so many directions as I read the news today and maybe one day soon I can stop ending my emails with this. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Reading a friend’s book a fifth time

Bird Droppings May 16, 2013
Reading a friend’s book a fifth time

I was so tired when I laid down last night after driving around doing errands, working in the yard, working in my gardens, and attempting to get into my reading and writing. My youngest son is waiting to hear on a nursing program internship with Piedmont College and he and his wife and our grandbaby live with us so my granddaughter keeps us hopping. My oldest and I have been working on some outdoor ponds summer homes for several turtles and various water plants. Physical labor and getting to bed late I did not think I would be awake this early this morning. My dog did not wake me up a few times to the whippoorwills which were nice even though I was so tired. I have my last paper work session of the year a summary of performance for a senior today and that got me thinking about Dr. Sutton’s book today.
Dr. James Sutton sent me a copy of one of his books nearly eight years ago, What parents need to know about ODD. Dr. Sutton is one of the leading writers and authorities on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the country. One of these days when, Bird Droppings a teacher journal, comes out the forward is by Dr. James Sutton. I have been reading academic books lately with numerous big words, long words, often times useless in the normal setting of education, words like post-structuralism, phenomenology; semiotics and hermeneutics are a few good ones. It seems many academics want to use words and pages to bolster their endeavors and then question why common folk don’t understand.
I responded to Dr. Sutton with the following sentence or two in response to his book. My first experience with Dr. James Sutton was going to a conference in 2003 in Macon Ga. and listening to his ideas on working with some of the hardest kids to deal with in education in Emotional Behavior Disorders. His ideas hit the nail on the head and this latest book, What Parents need to Know About ODD, is an easy to read, understand and to use tool for parents and teachers who daily have to deal with the trials and tribulations of kids who are ODD. I recommend this book to my student’s parents and educational associates almost daily. This was not a sales pitch but when combined with another issue our federally mandated NCLB, the law requires teachers to use evidence based practice, EBP when dealing with exceptional children. This becomes a problem in special education because there is not that much to work with and as I thought today a good teacher with a good idea could be hindered by a packaged program that is an EBP and not as effective and there have been many cases where teachers have been criticized for not using a recommended program.
Every year we lose good teachers who are hindered by administration and packaged programs of which many were researched by the company publishing the program. I had a situation myself a few years back and was told this program was what I was to teach to a specific group of teenagers and it was research based. I called the publisher to verify what research was done. It was never done with a population anywhere near what it was being recommended for and the one study that was done was with kids ten years younger and 20 IQ points higher but it did work with them.
A Harvard study posted June 14, 2006 states “…the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over academic competitiveness.” from the The New York Times referring to NCLB. Funny how we keep trying to make schools better or I should say politicians keep trying. I often wonder when teachers will be asked.

“I will stake my reputation and over thirty years of experience on this: Real change occurs when relationships improve.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

I have watched wheels spun testing kids at the end of semesters and courses and at the end of high school and all because laws say we have to that are established by politicians. Yet all you are truly testing is what someone knows at that moment and not what they learned in any given time frame or how well a teacher taught. My son who recently graduated as biology major could have taken the end of course biology test without the course and pass it does that measure how much he learned or simply what he knows. Sadly teachers and administrators are losing jobs and schools are being threatened by these tests.
Recently in a discussion in an online class I raised a question about NCLB and how kids were being left behind and a teacher an advanced degree teacher offered “well some children want to be left behind”

“The power paradox is a simple concept. It suggests that the more force we put into controlling an ODD child, the less effective those efforts become. Golf pros will tell you that, when you try to muscle that ball down the fairway, looking for distance alone, there’s no telling where it’s going to go. When you focus on form rather than force, however, the distance takes care of itself. It’s much the same idea in managing an ODD child.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

So often when I read Dr. Sutton’s ideas they apply elsewhere in life. The power paradox is in education all the time it is in relationships between people, in government and definitely in the working of a school.
Far too often we go for power not form as I recall many years ago the TV show Kung Fu in which David Carridine was a Sau-lin priest who had escaped to America for killing someone in self-defense with his martial arts. It was not about power but form the swan or deer. They were almost ballet movements yet lethal as well. It is so easy to get caught up in just words. I read numerous writers words each day in blogs, books and articles and a thought I have been having keeps coming up the reader has to be able to understand the writer for communication to occur.
The experiences and perceptions have to be there so what is written is understood? One excellent writer I read daily uses riddles and word puzzles and play on words and many have not a clue what is being said and or why. That is part of her mystic and then all of a sudden it hits you.

“Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centered society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.” Nelson Mandela, speech at the opening of the South African Congress

It has been nearly twenty years since South Africa truly became democratic and how long will it be till we here in the United States can say democracy is back and not rule of the dollar and lobbyist.
Much of what I have been reading lately addresses the issue of education and how it is that today’s education is to make good consumers. Customer’s, one author calls college students and on many campuses that is the word used by the administration very much a corporate world. Historians have said over and over wars are always fought for money and if we look back at any war in history always money was a key factor. I questioned Viet Nam and Johnson wanted the war effort to continue as industry was getting a shot in the arm and the economy turned around. The power paradox in Iraq and most of the Middle East is a very interesting thought. I wonder have we ever focused on the form, for example the individual in Iraq. Maybe we need to ask for Nelson Mandela’s help in Iraq and elsewhere. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Can we seek balance while walking on a see saw?

Bird Droppings May 15, 2013
Can we seek balance while walking on a see saw?

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” Henry David Thoreau

I walked in my room at school yesterday and missed my stuffed eland on the wall; the largest African antelope was removed when I moved to a smaller room however I am having second thoughts. (Clarification I do not hunt and actually raised this huge animal for nearly eight years. One winter he got sick and would not let us near him when he died a friend said to get him mounted. I did and for many years this huge eland sat in my garage. When I started back teaching he has become quite a conversation piece.) One day I was trying to balance the eland that got me thinking how life is a balancing act much like walking on a see saw.

“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.” Henry David Thoreau

I generally start my morning pondering with a walk outside often in the dark listening thinking and wondering about all that is around us. Today was no exception listening to whippoorwills and owls and an occasional coyote howl. To start today an exercise of sorts first find the image of a see saw, I remember back in my earlier days on our playground at Caln Elementary School in Thorndale Pennsylvania, heavy wooden boards attached to sturdy pipe frames, a simple machine, a balance beam of sorts ponder that idea. As long as both sides were of equal weight you could push off and go up and down giggle a bit and go all through recess. Now put a larger weight on one side and let that one push off and the smaller person sooner or later may land on the moon. We go from see saw and balance to catapult and imbalance.

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” Helen Keller

We tend to seek balance in our lives. Many biology books will state the natural order of nature is homeostasis, a balance. In nature we have food chains and various balancing factors such as larger eat smaller and plants are eaten by animals and a constant balancing effect. A more modern thought is the Chaos theory which throws a monkey wrench into the whole nice natural thing. Homeostasis is where nature strives for but it always is just a little further down the road, volcanoes occur, earthquakes, El Niño’s and yet on a larger scale universally are we still not reaching for homeostasis. A balancing of internal pressures and external pressures, even when an asteroid hits from deep in space still in some larger scheme balance is being achieved.

“Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your mind, upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside, from others. All of your happiness and all of your suffering are created by you, by your own mind.“ Lama Zopa Rinpoche

There is a word used in educational settings disequilibrium, out of balance and it is true on a small scale we do this constantly. It is this imbalance that provides us with potential for growth. It is that imbalance that gives us direction and goals to attain. A few minutes ago I was thinking of many of my friends looking for retirement and settling down reaching homeostasis. What do we do when we attain that state?

“Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” Erich Fromm

It could be that is why we have rocking chairs to aid balancing and that comforting state. Maybe that’s why we put in ramps as we get older to reduce the challenge. Maybe that is why we tend to have diseases that try and throw us off balance and slow us down. Maybe it is because we have been brought up wanting to get to homeostasis or I should say that this is the ideal state.

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Utopia is where you can worry no more sit quietly and vegetate. Time for an energy drink and someone to jump on the other end of your see saw is my theory. We need the imbalance to provide fodder for seeking the balance.

“Hearing is one of the body’s five senses. But listening is an art.” Frank Tyger

The trick is always to keep pushing that goal a bit further on a bit more a bit deeper. It is in the seeking of homeostasis that we grow we learn we become more than who we are. Yes we all do age but it is never closing the lid to the box. It is never having a box to begin with. Living is about the trials and tribulations it is about the disequilibrium and imbalance and yet to it is also about hope and seeking homeostasis. My dear friends let us all please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

How hard it is to find the trail in the search for knowledge?

Bird Droppings May 14, 2013
How hard it is to find the trail in the search for knowledge?

“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly…. We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way; the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.” Eagle Chief, (Letakos-Lesa), Pawnee

Eagle chief a spiritual leader and elder of the Cherokees of North Carolina writes in one of his books about the theory of opposites and how in Indian belief there is always an opposite to contrast and compare the other too. This also ties into circle of life that runs through this philosophy. Almost as a compass has opposing points within its circle life has its opposite aspects. Black and white, north and south, east and west, love and hate, wet and dry and the list continues on as we need each to understand and appreciate the circle of life. As I sat reading and writing the past few days primarily on various Indian philosophies and understandings I noticed that the main methodology of conveying of this knowledge had been word of mouth down through time. Within a given tribe or family group knowledge was past from elder to child. In many societies and cultures oral traditions hold the keys to understanding.
Continuing that idea further in today’s world how do we as teachers who in the now are considered to be the main purveyors of this transfer and parents convey knowledge to our students and children? It could be said that by following the established curriculum guides and maps and doing what is expected of a high school student you will learn this material. I think my frustration comes when students do not want to learn. I get very frustrated when I hear statements such as I know enough to get along in this world already or know enough about this subject. I think my favorite is why do I need this anyhow? It has been nearly thirteen years since I first met Frances Friedman at Loganville High School.

“I do believe that with some students, if they are not ready, learning cannot occur. But I worry that some students aren’t ready because they are not aware of the full table that is set. There is rejection without knowledge. I think the challenge may be to try to get them to the full table and then let them decide.” Frances Friedman

I have been sitting here thinking about this email from my dear friend for several minutes, pondering and reflecting. What if we do not provide enough information to a student? I spend much of my day doing academic support with emotionally disturbed students and or co-teaching in science classes. Many times I will hear from students the teacher never taught us that which I heard yesterday several times after the End of Course tests. Trying to keep both sides in perspective I will discuss with the student’s teacher and with the student and work out a compromise of sorts, often just buying a bit of time. However often there can be learning curves on both ends especially with special needs students. Over the summer I am gathering data on the ten percent of students who do not pass standardized tests. It is easy to look at scores of passing students and understand why they succeed in class. But why do others not succeed in that same class? I found one example yesterday albeit a simple one. Not to discuss a question on a state mandated test simply a word. Longleaf pine was the word and the student was confused not ever seeing that particular word before. The student knew about long needle pines but not longleaf pines and was concerned. According to Wikipedia, Pinus palustris, commonly known as the Longleaf Pine, is a pine native to the southeastern United States, found along the coastal plain from eastern Texas to southeast Virginia, extending into northern and central Florida. The student had never used or heard that term and was lacking a simple piece of knowledge.

“There is rejection without knowledge” Frances Friedman

“Knowledge is that which, next to virtue, truly raises one person above another.” Joseph Addison

I have always been fascinated with information. It made my day when several years back the game Trivial Pursuit came out and became a big hit tiny bits of information questioned and answered. On TV the show Jeopardy is still a popular game watched around the world and it was here where a few years back Ken Jennings won over two million dollars with bits and pieces of information. He defeated opponents by answering over two thousand seven hundred questions correctly. It has been a few years since the final episode of his winning streak aired and no one has equaled his feat.

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

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

We have to encourage active participation in students. We have to try and instill a curiosity and not set limits and parameters on learning. Far too often in today’s standards based curriculum there is a preapproved package of information that is taught because this is what is on the end of course test that we all have to pass. Anything else is superfluous. If students do not know something, then we should provide the means, the pathway, so that they can learn. Knowing where to find an answer can be as meaningful in the life of a student as the knowledge of that answer. We have to somewhere put in place learning for critical thinking.

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R.K. Bergethon

“Knowledge is like money: the more he gets, the more he craves.” Josh Billings

Trying to keep learners learning is the key to great teaching. It is about making learning something students want and need. I would borrow from a friend who also teaches high school and teaches in Pennsylvania, “Make learning fun”.

“To me the charm of an encyclopedia is that it knows and I needn’t.” Francis Yeats Brown

“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” Sandra Carey

When I was in second grade we got our first set of World Book encyclopedias. I thought I was in heaven and literally began reading the books cover to cover. My mother told my sons recently that I would go to bed with a World Book under my arm. As I now sit and remember minute details of the ancient past and try to instill knowledge to young folks, it is not to go read the entire encyclopedia but it is, in which room and on what shelve they are located. With modern technology it is now about what and how to find information on the internet. Knowing where things are is really more important than knowing every single fact, although the facts help. We in education get into a content and context sort of disagreement. Some teachers want to teach only content and others believe that context is the motivating force. It is true however that for information or knowledge to be useful and coherent, it has to have context.

“It is not the quantity but the quality of knowledge which determines the mind’s dignity.” William Ellery Channing

“Knowledge of the world can only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.” Lord Chesterfield

We have to provide the venues and pathways to information, and to acquire knowledge, Ms. Friedman stated in the first quote. Students have to have access to the table. If we set a wonderful feast before them and don’t allow access to the table, of what good is all that is there. They will still starve. If we never take off the saran wrap they will never learn starving while seeing it right in front of them.

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

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

Can there ever be enough knowledge? Should we ever limit what knowledge is available? In 1956 the great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote this simple prayer as part of one of his sermons.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

For many years that simple philosophy written on a card has been laying on my desk. I recall a scene from a movie; most folks will not remember one of my favorite films of all time, “Billy Jack” where this prayer is used. Imagine a school or society where we lived what Niebuhr taught in his prayer. What if we applied serenity, courage and wisdom to our lives daily? Today we are challenged by which way to go and why. Thinking back many years to an old movie “Indiana Jones and The last Crusade”, “choose wisely” the old knight told Indiana Jones and he did. It is about teaching our students and children to choose wisely in life and in learning. Today is the first day of my summer holiday. Last Friday we graduated our seniors to go out into life and hopefully many will continue to learn to seek knowledge and understanding. Some will stop learning and simply exist by finding jobs that pay enough to survive and function. It saddens me when I think of how limiting some people’s view of life is.
As I read various postings earlier on Facebook, a former student wrote about dreaming about what if you knew you could never fail at what you did. I responded that it would make all of your effort less and of a lesser quality. Knowing you can fail is what drives us to succeed and accomplish our tasks in life. I go back to my starting quote.

“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly…. We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way; the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.” Eagle Chief, (Letakos-Lesa), Pawnee

In life it is about balance, we need failure to provide guidance and leverage for success. We need understanding to counter balance ignorance. We need on each side of the circle an opposite to provide the continuity that drives the life force of this reality. As I hear of death and illness there are new lives being brought into this world there are those being cured for everyone being found in sickness? How we cope with and deal with each aspect is with knowledge and understanding. I walk out into the darkness without fear knowing that soon light will permeate the dark.
A dear friend’s father in law passed away and several friends I have known for years have in recent days been imposed the task of dealing with cancer and soon an end to their life’s journey. It is with these friends and their families I end each morning with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. Today so many here right beside are in need of support and concern. Keep each one with you as you go about your day and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Is innocence more than a definition?

The daily meanderings of a teacher

Bird Droppings May 13, 2013
Is innocence more than a definition?

I start my mornings standing in the dark listening before I drive to school. Listening wondering pondering I might say. When I sit down and begin to write I will many times pick up my ear phones and put on something I enjoy Carlos Nakai, Neil Young, C,S,N&Y, and today no different as I selected an album to play who better than Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks distinctive voice blasting away the fog from my emotions and thoughts amazing how good Bose headsets are. I read earlier a statement by a friend on one of my Facebook groups wondering about the whys of the moment. I often refer to Piaget observing his own children and the impact that must have had on his kids. I responded to my friend, when you try to over analyze the moment you shift…

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Is innocence more than a definition?

Bird Droppings May 13, 2013
Is innocence more than a definition?

I start my mornings standing in the dark listening before I drive to school. Listening wondering pondering I might say. When I sit down and begin to write I will many times pick up my ear phones and put on something I enjoy Carlos Nakai, Neil Young, C,S,N&Y, and today no different as I selected an album to play who better than Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks distinctive voice blasting away the fog from my emotions and thoughts amazing how good Bose headsets are. I read earlier a statement by a friend on one of my Facebook groups wondering about the whys of the moment. I often refer to Piaget observing his own children and the impact that must have had on his kids. I responded to my friend, when you try to over analyze the moment you shift from experiencing the events to observing them only and lose what might have been.

“Look at children. Of course they may quarrel, but generally speaking they do not harbor ill feelings as much or as long as adults do. Most adults have the advantage of education over children, but what is the use of an education if they show a big smile while hiding negative feelings deep inside? Children don’t usually act in such a manner. If they feel angry with someone, they express it, and then it is finished. They can still play with that person the following day.” the Dalai Lama, “Imagine All The People”

It has been a quite a few nights back since my wife and I had a chance to go out together. I was thinking back to one evening as we sat down at a booth at a country style restaurant nearby, an elderly couple (older than me) carefully made their way to the adjacent booth. Both the husband and wife helped each other moving ever so slowly. After his wife had seated herself the husband went and fixed a plate at the buffet for her. When he returned to the table my wife happened to glance over and the woman was smiling as her husband came back to their table. My wife said “she looked like a child”, the child in her was coming out as she smiled. I have found in my many years of observing people that the inner child does surface quite often in all of us if we allow.
Several years ago, for a class in human development, I developed a chart on the development of faith and trust. I had been reading a book by Dr. James Fowler professor and Director of Emory Candler School of Theology’s Ethic Center on the development of faith. It was interesting as I read and saw correlations of various concepts to other educational devlopmentalists such as Gillian, Piaget, Erickson and even Freud.

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” John Ruskin

When I read the passage from the Dalai Lama I was reminded of a stage I wrote about in my subsequent paper after research and reading Fowler’s book, the idea of learned trust. Children when they are born inherently trust and in my paper this is what I called it, a Universal trust. A baby instinctively trusts as it survives by literally instinct and in effect a trusting behavior, sucking reflexes only require milk to satisfy. A bitter taste and the baby would soon withdraw. The baby would learn to not suck. A simple example that as the child grows becomes more complex. Each new facet of life requires new information and understanding and soon a child learns trust. We go from an instinctual universal trust to a learned trust.

“Who would not rather trust and be deceived?” Eliza Cook

Quite a few Sunday night’s back, going on ten or so years now I delivered my youngest son to a local restaurant where the Early Learners were having their Christmas banquet. Our high school has a group of twenty or so, four year olds, under the supervision of a lead teacher involved in teaching Early Childhood Education. Actually this is a technical class in our school, an experimental school in some ways a teaching school for high school students. Many of the little learners are children of teachers within our high school. Many of the high school students go on to teach as a profession.

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” Frank Crane

It seems my son had been Santa Claus for two years for the little learners. Matt inherited my father’s Santa suit. Dad, for as long as I can remember, has been Santa for our family. I recall a night in Modena Pa., Santa came through the fire escape window when I was four years old. This image is still vivid in my mind and many things are not as I get older. I check my driver’s license for name and address periodically. For one reason or another Matt had to wait, which meant sitting in the waiting area of the restaurant. Little children came through, some would hide behind their parents, and others would go up and sit beside him and or ask him questions. Each child was unique.

“No, I don’t understand my husband’s theory of relativity, but I know my husband, and I know he can be trusted.” Elsa Einstein

“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When Matt finally went into the Christmas party each child came up to him and I would take a photo. There was no questioning of whom this was, it was Santa. After all of the little learners came up, the teenagers, high school girls came and sat in Matt’s lap. Now I know why Matt did this each year. But within the context of these moments, trust was adamant. Children have learned to believe in, or not, Santa Claus, that is not an instinctual event.

“Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love — and to put its trust in life.” Joseph Conrad

So often we take the innocence of children and convert or divert it to the learned ways of adulthood, greed, envy and all the other influences of mankind are learned. But I have found in life’s journey that trust does begin to filter back as time and age goes on. Thinking back to dinner with my wife and how she noticed the elderly woman’s smile, sometimes is it the glint in an eye or a smile from an elderly person that shows the inner child is still there. Perhaps it is that untouched innocence and universal trust has returned, or maybe like me, you forget all else, that you have learned not to trust. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Children learn what they live do they not?

Bird Droppings May 12, 2013
Children learn what they live do they not?

It is such a beautiful morning and quiet outside, I had the opportunity to sit and meditate for nearly an hour just after the rising sun pushed across the wheat fields behind our house. I took pictures through a large portion of the morning and the air was still and nearly silent however the quiet and sounds that permeated were fantastic. A great horned owl periodically pierced the quiet along with a whippoorwill just as the sun came up shifting to dove calls and a mockingbird imitating everything else around. As I listened a bit more carefully, still little noise even in the background other than handful of birds, crickets and a soft breeze in the trees. I had burned some sage leaves in a bowl with a smidgen of sweet grass and the aroma added to the ambiance. For the first time in some time there were very few human interactions in my moment of solitude. Air conditioners were still as it was cool, cars were not quite moving on the nearby roads still too early for church goers, and most normal animals and humans were still asleep. I started thinking about my own views on education and raising kids. I came back to some old ideas I have had around for some time.

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” Will Durant

I have used this story several times over the years having shared this short thought in previous droppings and in classes. It is a story entitled “Our nature” which is from ancient Zen thought and writings I found this copied and written on a professor from Rdyer University’s website after seeing the story numerous times thrown out on the internet.

“Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, ‘Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?’ ‘Because,’ the monk replied, ‘to save it is my nature.’ “ Dr. John Suler, Ryder University

As I look at this story there are many possible reactions. How foolish is the monk who gets stung, first he knows it is a scorpion, then he also knows scorpions will sting, and lastly he has been already stung once. What lesson is being taught in this passage? There is also a similar story Dr. Suler uses from Native American lore of a fox and scorpion crossing a stream. I find there are applications to parenting, friendship, and teaching within the context of a stinging scorpion. As I read this morning looking through various articles by Dr. Suler and Sydney J. Harris I came up on this article from Harris’s column Strictly Speaking. .

“The student, who could really get an A if he wanted to, cannot really get an A because he really doesn’t want to. And the wanting to is an essential part of the achieving, not a separate thing, as parents imagine, that can be injected into him like a shot of adrenalin. All genuine and meaningful and lasting motivation comes from the inside, not from the outside. The carrot and the stick work maybe only as long as the carrot is in front and the stick behind. When they are withdrawn, the motivation ceases. You can get a mule to move this way, but not a person for very long.” Sydney J. Harris, Motivation, a key part of Talent

I still have a hard time moving from the ease of extrinsic motivation to intrinsic which is so much more difficult to instill. Yesterday in class I was listening to students tell why they have low grades as we get into End of Course Tests. One made the comment “but I am passing I have a 70” and another blurted out “what do I need this crap for anyhow”. As I listened and looked through various notes and ideas I wondered how we instill the idea of motivation in a child or in a student. How do we change the attitude of so many? Most of the students yesterday when told about the monk getting stung would say he was stupid, just step on the scorpion or why waste your time. Occasionally a person will pop up and say, “The scorpion has a right to live too and that is why the monk helped it”. Somewhere when I first started working with children back in the dark ages I found a black light poster around 1972 or so in a headshop on the Mainline outside Philadelphia. The poster is entitled “Children Learn what they Live” and was written by Dr. Dorothy Nolte in 1972 and goes as follows:

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves
and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Every day I look across my room and there hanging is that ancient poster still as viable today as it was in 1972. Sydney J. Harris couldn’t put a finger on motivation but he mentions in his article how parents want it to be like adrenaline and we could give a shot of motivation. The monk showing kindness to the scorpion, an attribute that had been learned by observation by seeing and by example, is it that motivation is from inside. Harris states and as Dr. Nolte so eloquently points out in 20 or so statements it is what children see and feel as they grow up that provides them with that inner drive that inner spark.
Children do learn what they live and as parents and teachers we are modeling their future. We are what they will be and can be.

“If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.” Dr. Dorothy Nolte

It really is not that difficult. How can we expect a child to be motivated to succeed if we take away any of the twenty possibilities presented. No matter how big the carrot dangled in front of us it must come from within as well and eventually we as teachers, parents, and friends need to be providing that support and effort. Today a beautiful day please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

PS. Maybe, just maybe it is Dr. Nolte’s thoughts hanging on the wall in my room for the past forty years that has kept me going and to not step on scorpions.

Searching for, looking at and finally placing those pieces into the puzzle

Bird Droppings May 10, 2013
Searching for, looking at and finally placing
those pieces into the puzzle

“The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the ”social worker” -judge.” Dr. Michael Foucault (1926-1984), French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas
It has been a year since I received a call from my nephew and was asked if I knew a certain person. At first I thought why is he calling me and in my old man memory issue dilemma especially names so I struggled for a second trying to place the name. After a mention of Appalachian Trail hiking that my nephew and this fellow had shared I recalled the man. A former Marine, Special Education teacher and someone who would sit and talk with me on many occasions discussing education and needs of people. Sadly the call was not intended simply to refresh my memory but to search for reasons and rationale as to the funeral service my nephew had just attended.
Looking back this man was just about my age and survived while he had gone to Viet Nam and I had not the seventies. It seems many did not know the inner demons that lurked and for many years the trauma of a war laid beneath the surface. On their hike almost twelve years ago which is when I taught with this fellow a peace sign was carved on a picnic bench up in the mountains of North Georgia. My nephew thought it was pretty cool and this man only saw the disgust as upon returning from Viet Nam he was looked down upon by peace sign carrying hippies. He had not wanted to be a part of a war in Southeast Asia and I am sure much like me was either quick to enlist or drafted and found his way to the Marines while a childhood infirmity kept me home. .
I have for many years used the image of a puzzle describing life in general a rather large infinite yet finite puzzle falling into place piece by piece. There is fragility to this puzzle and a seemingly almost delicate touch needed as we approach pieces. Much of my background and education is in psychology and counseling and searching within helping people deal with those pieces that are lost or missing. Many times through empathy and discovery we find and can replace a missing piece and work to get the puzzle back on track.
It was back a year ago on a Sunday I picked up a local paper and a headline mentioned a second killing by local police of a suspect in less than a month. It was not a detrimental headline toward law enforcement as it was toward the depravity of society and how low we have come culturally that agreements and or disagreements need to be settled with weapons. A man whose name escaped me as I read the article was firing rounds into his separated wife’s home when officers asked him to put his weapon down. He turned his weapon on local officers and in defense they fired back. Having worked with many psychologically unstable minds over the years I have come to find there is a very fine line between normal and abnormal, between sane and lost, and reality and another world. A friend died although I had not talked with or seen him in nearly four years. The man who died may not have been the man I knew twelve years ago yet sitting here this morning the only image I have is of that friend and I sitting talking in my class room listening to the quiet of running water and Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Deja vu.

“In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.” Genjo Koan

There are times when we in looking we miss what it is we are trying to find. Contained within a drop of water there is an entire universe. Sometimes we want to have things to be simply round or square and yet infinity abounds. Yesterday I was speaking with several teachers discussing why students acted as they did, behave as they do. In a recent presentation on a chapter from a book on behavior management and treatments the last paragraph of the chapter summed up quite a bit so often we look everywhere else and the answer is right beneath our feet.

“The absence of evidence to support medication as a viable alternative should lead future researchers and clinicians to further explore parenting strategies that facilitate the development of better sleep habits.”

As we do so often we look for excuses we look for medical, physical, emotional reasons for sleep disorders in children. Yet with behaviors at school we blame class room activity, we blame teachers, planning, books, and or administration. Always amazes me that the sixteen hour syndrome is never discussed, we never tend to see where the issues really lies, parenting strategies. I often wonder why we cannot accept the blame as parents or why we want an excuse in any aspect of life.

“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do –or don’t do.” Simone De Beauvoir French Existentialist, Writer, and Social Essayist 1908-1986

I was ready to write down how the great Simone was a heroic figure in Bolivia, a crucial part of South American history and yet really was a woman philosopher from France and under study to Sartre.

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” Frank A. Clark

“Parents are not quite interested in justice, they are interested in quiet.” Bill Cosby

It is so funny thing how in the United States we have most of the world’s ADHD children and the funny thing as we became so mobile and our family structure somewhat altered it continues to increase. During the 1980-90’s ADHD increased so rapidly almost in epidemic proportions, over nine hundred percent. What I find as interesting is how we began seeing this issue when it got on our nerves as parents and or teachers. As an old person I was thinking to myself where was ADHD when I was a child.

“The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow

We try and look at the whole and miss pieces or sometimes we look so intently at a piece we miss the whole. This is a paradox of sorts. I hate jig saw puzzles yet am fascinated by them and often I use the comparison to puzzles for life in general. Life is very much like a myriad puzzle, millions of intricate pieces all falling into place one at a time, each more intricate then the other. Sometimes we see a piece and for days focus on each minute detail, each little facet and each little color speck of white or red and the details over whelm us. We so easily lose sight of the whole picture the vast array of life in front of us forming over a minute tiny aspect.

“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Amazing I pulled Emerson in amazing how a hundred year ago poet has pieces for today. We as parents, and or teachers try so valiantly to cast our being into a child to see ourselves living again. Maybe that is why we focus on a piece for so long.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop former Surgeon General of the United States Famous

As I think of Dr. Koop it is so much more so for the adding of the warning on cigarettes than his philosophy most people remember him. As I think I recall my dad’s story of how he also prayed by the bedside of my younger brother many years ago in Philadelphia Children’s Hospital where he was Chief Surgeon. He is an interesting man and great doctor.

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Dr. Michael Levine, professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology at The University of California

More so as I write today I find who these people are as I am looking at parenting as it is interesting as to what they say. Dr. Koop told my father as he sat with him one evening discussing my brother how parents of critically ill children were so different than so many others. They talked about how faith was so much an aspect of their lives and trust a critical piece of their puzzle as that dealt with their children’s issues.

“The word no carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say yes.” Joyce Maynard

On many mornings I am really not sure where I am going with a thought and I know I wander about here and there. I wonder as well what I am trying to say as I start and many times midway I still am wondering. Joyce Maynard’s statement may be where I was going in the last page or two looking and building to this. Whether a parent or teacher or friend this applies as I look back to my starting quote from nearly 1000 years ago written by Dogen, a Zen master and told to his student. Back in those days, a koan was a question put out to answer a puzzle piece in a person’s life. A Genjo Koan, is an essential question, a question that entails and involves life itself.

“When fish go through water, there is no end to the water no matter how far they go. When birds fly in the sky, there is no end to the sky no matter how far they fly. But neither fish nor birds have been separated from the water or sky – from the very beginning. It is only this: when a great need arises, a great use arises; when there is little need, there is little use. Therefore, they realize full function in each thing and free ability according to each place. “ Dogan, 1243

As I sat this morning, thinking and writing so many ideas flowed listening to teachers yesterday express concern and question hearing parents gathered round their SUV’s trying to solve world issues and who was wearing what and what was the latest gossip. It is so easy to be sarcastic. Children are our greatest future commodity we should not waste them. As Dogan said about fish when parenting there is no end as long as you are a parent when a teacher there is no end as you are teaching. When as I say you are placing pieces in the puzzle it is not a whole as you focus and look at a piece in your hand. We all have work to do as parents, teachers, friends, as a child, or student. In all of this please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

It is said dreams do not stand alone

Bird Droppings May 8, 2013
It is said dreams do not stand alone

“You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.” Richard Bach

It has been so many years since I first experienced the whimsical book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Bach’s tale of a seagull who dreams of more than simply eating fish entrails at the pier. I was going through my files on my computer and the only book I have had for more than five years is this one. Occasionally when in a quiet place and not too tired so my eyes work I will pull up JLSG and read a few lines thinking back so many years to when I first read the book.
I hear each day and listen to dreams as student’s talk of where and when, there are some who say whatever and that is hard for me to understand. Having experienced so much in my lifetime good and bad to hear a young person with no concept of tomorrow often because today was dashed it takes me back. I recall several years back on a first day in a class when a student answered a simple goal sheet. Question one: Where will you be in a year? Probably still in school, Question two; where will you be in five years? Probably in jail, and Third Question; where will you be in ten years? Dead was his answer. Gladly that is not the case as I still have contact almost thirteen years later and he is a motorcycle racer and mechanic in Texas although jail part he got right. I have been keeping touch indirectly with him since he has spent the better part of four years in jail and currently is out so he did attain his five year goal. He saw no future and when I talked with him about his answers he really did not want a future.

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you are alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach

“I have heard it said that the first ingredient of success — the earliest spark in the dreaming youth — if this; dream a great dream.” John A. Appleman

So often when I meet people and or students who have little thought of a future there is significant past holding them back, I recently wrote a paper on an idea I had of funneling. Our past is a significant part of the antecedents that drive our behaviors. The fellow above in my questions and answers was in this situation. Years ago as I did research for a graduate school paper I found in looking at twenty eight Emotionally Disturbed children in my study only two were still with biological parents only two had not had trouble with law enforcement and not been adjudicated. Only four were not currently at that time on probation.

“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” John Barrymore

“If there were dreams to sell, what would you buy?” Thomas Lovell Beddoes

I had not thought of this but what a question to ask young people what if dreams were for sale what would you buy. Often those that do not want to think ahead only see more of the same, for my young man above death was actually something he was looking forward too at that time.

“The moment of enlightenment is when a person’s dreams of possibilities become images of probabilities.” Vic Braden

“You’ve got to create a dream. You’ve got to uphold the dream. If you can’t, go back to the factory or go back to the desk.” Eric Burdon

For some of you the name Eric Burdon is insignificant but for a few of us, back in the sixties three British bands came across and stormed the United States, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Animals. Eric Burdon was the lead singer for The Animals. He is still around although now living in California and performing often solo or with his new band The Eric Burdon, I Band; he has gone back to his roots, blues. But as I read Eric’s quote and look at Bach’s quote coming from a fictional character the idea of dreaming and possibilities all tie into you have to do something. You have to work to attain the dream. Here is a possibility, the dream and here are the opportunities, life in general. Just Do it as it is scribbled on your shoes.

“When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” Leo Burnett

“There couldn’t be a society of people who didn’t dream. They’d be dead in two weeks.” William Burroughs

William Burroughs name in literary circles often falls with Allen Ginsberg as part of The Beat generation spawned in New York’s coffee houses and universities. But he also is often associated with Timmy Leary and Andy Warhol and in the early nineties before killing himself, Kurt Cobian recorded an album with the then nearly 80 year old Burroughs reading his own words over Cobain’s guitar chords. A drug addict for most of his life Burroughs’s tried to write himself out of where he was and many of his greatest efforts are reflections of his own addictions and reflections on the addictions and limitation others impose on themselves.

“Follow your bliss.” Joseph Campbell

“If your dream is a big dream, and if you want your life to work on the high level that you say you do, there’s no way around doing the work it takes to get you there.” Joyce Chapman

Trying to get teenagers to accept getting from point A to point B requires more than simply saying so, it can be a tough sale. Several weeks ago I was sitting talking with two students both who had dreams of college. One of the fellows said he was going to college and get a scholarship to play football. I thought for a moment and said you have never played in high school how will you get a scholarship? He thought for a minute and said he would go out for the team. He thought because of his size and make he could be a football player. Ok but you would still have to go to class and study and read. His dreams were dashed for him college was simply a football scholarship and playing football sort of the Forest Gump approach. I tried also to explain playing football meant practice four or five hours a day, no TV, no video games, and no four or five honey buns and a coke for snacks. Very quickly he decided to change his goal, too much work, and no fun. He wanted the glory of the football player but did not want the work.

“When your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme.” Jiminy Cricket

I have always thought it interesting that a cartoon insect could possibly go down as one of the world’s great philosophers. When you believe you can you can I have always been told?

“We’ve removed the ceiling above our dreams. There are no more impossible dreams.” Jesse Jackson

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Robert F. Kennedy

So often I find myself drawn back to an idea or quote, Kennedy’s quote is one of those as is dreaming. Each time I find something new, a new piece to the puzzle, a new thought as I am rambling through my day, pondering on those moments of new ideas and direction. Today reading about William Burroughs and Kurt Cobain who both achieved the immortality of fame and genius, one lived to barely 30 and one to almost ninety only slight differences kept the parameters of their lives from being identical. I often speak of following a path, we do at times, have choices to make, and how far can we veer off the path? How many times can we make a new path without getting lost?
Mathematicians hold the shortest distance between two points is a straight line however by expanding that thought if point A and B if they are next to each other that line makes a circle which has no end or beginning.

“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: — we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Perhaps this is a great point to end on this morning. Over the years well past forty now I have heard this phrase in my head. My father had a worn out a tape recording of the entire speech. Maybe a sermon would be a better word, for it was a sermon to mankind not just the United States. I am subscribed to Russell Means website entitled “it is a good day to die”, which is not one of pessimism but one of approaching life without fear and knowing you believe in that which you are striving for. I believe Dr. King would have embraced the Lakota statement as well as he approached life that every day was a good day to die. Sadly his life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet as were many great men over the years. Dr. King, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull all did not fear death for they knew in their hearts they were right.
We less brave in this reality can fulfill our dreams but we have to do the work we have to strive to make that dream a reality be it small or monumental. It is our choice where we place point A and point B and whether our path’s become simply a line or a circle. So this morning please keep all in harm’s way, for one of my dreams is a world in peace. So please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird