Finding Soul in looking at Curriculum or can I get a nickels worth of cheese

Bird Droppings July 31, 2013
Finding Soul in looking at Curriculum
Or Can I get a nickels worth of cheese

There is something about the first light on a summer’s morning. It could be about trying to discern how many different birds are singing and calling back and forth as they are waking up. It could be pondering whether the frogs and crickets are harmonizing or more into jazz. Near by a wisp of smoke is floating along the old fence line trying to rise up and is dissipating into the trees. It has been a many years since I studied psychology at Mercer University in Macon Georgia and a quite a few since my seminary studies at Emory University. Sitting here before sunrise as I continue to wander through my educational career I find new authors and new favorites and often I recall a few from days long gone that have significance right now. I have been a fan of Carl Gustav Jung for many years and in my assundery readings the past few years have come upon James Hillman, Thomas Moore, Kent Newburn and James Kavanaugh.
I am reading right now an article by Mary Aswell Doll for a paper I am writing. Doll is known for her work in curriculum and the teaching of literature at the Savannah College of Arts. As I read her paper which is actually an introduction to her book “Like Letters in Running Water; A Mythopoetics of curriculum.” it is entitled “Fiction as food”. She referenced several times Jung, Moore and Hillman. In my own search for further reading and understanding of who I am and why the concept of soul in education came up. Mary Aswell Doll uses the word soul as a medium for learning and growing almost as an art form.

“In another attempt upon the idea of soul I suggest that the word refers to that unknown component which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern. These four qualifications I had already put forth some years ago. I had begun to use the term freely, usually interchangeably with psyche (from Greek) and anima (from Latin). Now I am adding three necessary modifications. First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences; second, the significance of soul makes possible, whether in love or in religious concern, derives from its special relation with death. And third, 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, writing about his mentor, James Hillman

Over the past few months I have seen the word soul used quite frequently and yet, is it ever defined clearly? Over the years I have worked with adults and children who I sense (a very scientific term and definitely not research based) a void or you could say a vacancy that I have referred at times as a lack of soul. It is not looking at this in a religious sense, and as Moore infers other possibilities as well could be drawn. In this sense of vacancy perhaps learning issues as well could occur. Doll in her writing emphasizes making a connection with content and existence, bringing the two together.

“First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences” Thomas Moore

Thomas Moore defines soul as that piece that becomes a piece of your reality not just a fact memorized and categorized. As I read through Doll’s article other issues came to mind. I find in today’s educational settings we as a society and attempt cramming as much curriculum into a very specific given space as possible regardless of whether it will make sense later and in that we seem to lose something. Just get the test over with and I am out of here, I have heard that line from teachers and students many times. I have raised the question of filling a liter bottle with two gallons of information as an analogy. As always though where does that lead us. I think Thomas Moore sees us stripping away any soul we may have or not taking time to nurture the soul that could possibly be there.

“But the culture is going into a psychological depression. We are concerned about our place in the world, about being competitive: Will my children have as much as I have? Will I ever own my own home? How can I pay for a new car? Are immigrants taking away my white world? All of this anxiety and depression casts doubt on whether I can make it as a heroic John Wayne-style individual.” James Hillman

Could it be we are killing off or siphoning off soul in kids and in adults? I was watching Law and Order just before I went to sleep last night. It was an old show about a father who was so enraged with a hockey coach after a game from not playing his son enough, the scouts from colleges his son wanted to attend were there, that he beat him and killed him. His defense was parental rage, losing control and the attorney for the state came back with how can we excuse this man. His rights stopped when he put his fists up to the coach. We cannot accept road rage, parent rage any kind of rage. Then I read Hillman’s statement. What is our self-view? What leads to psychological depression, is it because we are all supposed to be John Wayne.
Borrowing from a thought I read a day or so ago from Steven Pinker that behaviors are not manifestations of our environment but of our genetic makeup and environment triggers behavior.

“Instead of seeing depression as a dysfunction, it is a functioning phenomenon. It stops you cold, sets you down, and makes you damn miserable. So you know it functions,” James Hillman

Is it in this rat race society where being John Wayne, never stopping, emailing till all hours of the night, working 24/7, getting no sleep and pouring down energy drinks (I tend to like the five hour energy shots) is how we live and feel justified? I remember seeing my first bottle of Coke BLAK, a short lived coffee flavored Coca-Cola a few years back as the Coke man was loading coolers at a nearby convenience store. It reminded me I was one who stopped drinking Coca-Cola when new coke came out.
Hillman sees our increase in depression as a response to our competitive society. That we are leaving behind something perhaps it is our soul. Hillman authored a best seller, “Soul Code” and Moore authored the best seller “Care of the soul”. These two men are not just flyby nights. James Hillman studied under Carl Jung in the 1950’s and Moore a former Monk studying for the priesthood has a doctorate in psychology and music studied under Moore. Interesting he is a pianist as well as therapist. Both men are concerned about this thing we call soul. In Doll’s article she emphasizes children learning literature in a manner that stirs the soul. By going back to Moore’s first definition, “First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences” John Dewey sought to pull experience into learning making it a crucial aspect of his philosophy. I have many times related to context and content being equal partners in learning.

“According to the German poet Novalis, “The seat of the soul is there, where the inner world and the outer world touch. Where they permeate each other, the seat is in every point of the permeation.” Thomas Moore

Over the years I have read several of Moore books. One thought he refers to often is that primitives die from water born disease and in modern society the major cause of death is stress related illness. That thought has made me think about how we teach as well. Are we taking the soul out, leaving only the content much like a tape recorder, children simply give back facts? In Doll’s article she describes several things to help teach fiction. One is deliteralization and getting back to imagination. Another is letting imaginations run wild. Doll uses the word fluidity and one statement that is significant for me is;

“…fiction is food, fiction feeds the souls hunger.” Mary Aswell Doll

“Second is a teaching method for fiction probably not favored in surveys courses: slowness” Mary Aswell Doll

I have been wandering, thinking, and throwing out far too many ideas today. It could be that I have been reading too much over my summer vacation days even while I have been teaching classes and attending classes a large portion of the summer. However a slight change of thought but very much in line, borrowing from James Kavanaugh, several lines from his poem Men too gentle to live among wolves.

“There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who prey upon them with IBM eyes
And sell their hearts and guts for martinis at noon.
There are men to gentle for a savage world
Who dream instead of snow and children and Halloween
And wonder if the leaves will change their color soon.
There are men to gentle to live among wolves
Who anoint them for burial with greedy claws
And murder them for a merchant’s profit and gain.
There are men to gentle for a corporate world
Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
And pause to hear the distant whistle of a train.”
James Kavanaugh

I wonder if we could slow down or change gears or maybe find that which is missing from so many. I get excited when I read Moore and Kavanaugh hoping maybe as a society we will find answers. But then I turn on the TV, or pull news on Yahoo and for example this a few mornings back a news story about a high up official in Homeland Security who was arrested for soliciting sex with a underage girl over the internet. He had been reported using secured cell phones and computers for his obsession. A crazy what if going back a few years; The Katrina mistakes were because a memo slipped up during a computer session. I was thinking back to when every day it seemed another mega conservative powerful person was found being naughty. Now in a more liberal political setting and still scandals pop up I was thinking back to the Governor getting in trouble for trying to sell the Senate seat from Illinois.
Like the parent rage on Law and Order I am sure someone will say this man has an illness. I would say it too borrowing from Pinker’s thoughts it was in his DNA. Maybe he just needed something to bring it out and fortunately this time it was an undercover officer posing as a fourteen year old girl on line. But what if terrorists figured him out and got into his secured files, what if it was black mail? I spent the better part of several hours discussing politics and ethics in schools yesterday with peers. I came to the conclusion a politician by definition cannot be ethical. A politician will vote the way someone wants them to vote not how they know in their heart they should. I might email Thomas Moore maybe we need a repair book for souls.
Another week ahead and so much going on through the world, I will try and be optimistic and continue to hope for peace. I was at my current favorite store Kroger yesterday getting a few provisions for the family and while standing at the Deli counter an elderly man and myself got into a conversation recalling the old days and country stores. When I first moved into Walton County back in 1978 you would still see mules occasionally plowing fields and an outhouse here and there as well. But a found memory is the hoop cheese at the corner country store. The elderly man and who am I to be calling anyone elderly so I should say two old men got talking cheese at Kroger. I get the Boars Head black wax cheddar which is very close to the old hoop cheese. Well as we discussed smoked turkey and how thin it should or should not be hoop cheese came up and I got to listen to a story that I will share.
My partner in cheese talks said do you remember that hoop cheese back in the day and of course I said we would get it just up at the corner a wedge and wrapped in wax paper for a few dollars made a good lunch. I shared my just sliced Boars Head black wax cheddar and it was just about as good he said. He offered back about fifty years ago Joe Smith was a kid then and would come up to old Mr. Jones store couple times a week and ask for a nickels worth of cheese. Old man Jones would get out of his chair and ever so carefully slice a paper thin slice of hoop cheese for that kid. I seriously do not know how he did it. You just can’t slice cheese thin it falls apart but that old man could do it. I listened to this story from someone I never met before and it hit me how each day we respond to how many people. How often do we find ourselves in conversation seemingly about nothing important and yet this was a very important story for this man to tell me. It made his Kroger trip I would like to think as it made mine. I find new ideas new friends as I journey along lives trail. I thought that I would share with those of you who read my daily droppings and or are reading for a first time. However I still find in necessary to end please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)
bird

What do we miss?

Bird Droppings July 30, 2013
What do we miss?

All Along the Watchtower

There must be some way out of here,
Said the joker to the thief,
There’s too much confusion,
I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine,
Plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth.

No reason to get excited,
The thief, he kindly spoke,
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that,
And this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now,
The hour is getting late.

All along the watchtower,
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went,
Barefoot servants, too.
Outside in the distance
A wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching,
The wind began to howl.”

All along the Watch Tower the words and Music are by Bob Dylan and have been covered by almost every major rock star from Jimmy Hendricks, Eric Clapton, Guns and Roses and Bruce Springsteen just to throw some names around. I read the words from the song and thought how easily this could apply to the political fiasco we continue to be mired in. Every day I talk with strangers, students, friends, family and a few maybe that are hard to define. Within my family I have a reputation of whenever I leave the house allow an extra hour or so because I will find people to talk with. I use the reference of a circle often as far back as 1971 I wrote about the circle of life and defined myself within a circle. It was my understanding of the circle that has changed over the years. Perhaps it is wisdom and reading and discussing with all of the above. I reference often the passage from Black Elk, Lakota Sioux medicine man.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours….”Black Elk

It was back a few years I was writing still learning about the circle of life and received on August 6, 2003 an email from a dear friend.

“Dear Bird, The circle may have more to do with the philosophy of letting the river flow. I think our culture is more involved with the spiral in the up direction. We have a hard time revisiting, editing, honing, or learning from experience – all involve the circle.” Frances Friedman

Frances and I have a dialogue of sorts ongoing now almost ten years with thoughts words and ideas and as I read this I recalled a bowl of objects in my room, and a Shel Silverstein book, The Missing Piece meets the Big O.
Most of us are familiar with river stones, pebbles or rocks worn smooth with the flow of the river or stream. In Africa some of the hardwood trees have wood so dense it sinks and as a result pieces of trees will fall into the river or stream and much like river stone tumble and spin and soon have a round look like a river stone. I have a bowl of river stone wooden rocks in my room.
The story from the late Shel Silverstein’s is that of a pie shape piece missing from the whole (or so they think) and is sitting waiting for the right piece whom is missing a piece to come by. The piece sits and sits and finally after many seasons and many pieces, a BIG O tells him you are on your own. You can do what you want. The piece begins to flip flop and such and soon as the edges wear down and it begins to roll. It is its own piece a simple child’s story maybe in a world where we all search for identity.

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

So often we wait wanting only to be that which we are not willing to learn to change into and grow. A piece of wood lying on the bottom of a stream in many parts of the world would float away and simply be gone. However as my pieces attest to some will roll and tumble smoothing the edges rounding off and soon be as the river stones. Just as the missing piece learned sometimes you have to move adjust begin to roll and sometimes even change or simply sit and wait. As Carlyle states what will you miss.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Frances Friedman mentioned how so often we forget to learn from experience so often in our hurries we are not watching looking seeing. As I prepare for my classes I have been working on the concept of SUCCESS. Many of the people I know can relate to failure but not success it is a new concept. It is a new experience but hopefully they will learn through and of experience and move beyond failure.

“When I hear somebody sigh that ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” Sidney J. Harris

Contrast and compare, Harris is a thinker that many may not know. He was a writer in the 1960’s through his death in 1980’s. A teacher friend nearly thirteen years ago shared several of his articles with me and Harris’ columns are intriguing reading. Strictly Personal is the name of his old column and in archives on the internet. You can find many of his articles and they are all good reading.
As I look back in my own life and times and see where and when corners were rounded and I learned and succeeded and failed many times. I also see other people who were affected by that moment and hopefully they have affected positively and grown as well. Yesterday I was in the guidance office and a little boy was sitting on the floor his dad is still overseas and I was forced to think a moment please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)
bird

Listening to a chorus of Frogs, Crickets and an occasional owl

Bird Droppings July 29, 2013
Listening to a chorus of Frogs, Crickets and an occasional owl

“You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” Doug Floyd

Most every night and early morning when I walk about especially early in the morning I am listening to the choral arrangement of tree frogs, crickets, whippoorwills and an occasional owl. None in tune with the other yet so much together an interesting mix of harmonies and melodies as they do what they do in the trees and forests around our house.
A few years back I am guessing my wife and I got alarm clocks for the boys that had earth sounds for going to sleep as well as CD or radio to wake you up, one of the sounds of the ten or so to fall asleep was crickets and frogs and an occasional owl. I have found it haunting as I listen to this at night live. Many the night back in the day while camping I have fallen asleep to that chorus. As I look perhaps a bit deeper and further in our society, this quote rings true as well it takes differing of opinion to make all work in unison. As I read this short thought from Doug Floyd who is the editorial page editor for The Spokesman-Review I thought how appropriate to the issues at hand. A single voice would never succeed as much as we would like to think as I listened to the green party nominee this past election cycle for president as they ran not so much to win as to offer a thought, a differing voice, a change or an alternative.

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” Albert Einstein

“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing –to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. Not a select party.“ John Keats

As I think to my chorus of frogs and crickets it is not a mix of voices with simply chance bringing it together there are specifics as the insects and amphibians call looking for mates or signaling territory. Each is very clear and concise and there are reasons and responses to each note and call.

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” John Stuart Mill

Thinking back a week or so to that day we celebrate our country’s independence which is a day where opinions became free to express, a day where as I watched the movie the other day Majestic, with Jim Carrey, where a young man is accused during the McCarthy era of being a communist and he draws his defense not on whether or not he is a communist since the committee had already decided that but that he was entitled by the constitution to free speech The First Amendment. You know it is the opinion and thoughts of others that allow us to have room to think to pursue and grow to achieve beyond where we are. As I sit here listening to the sounds from outside to the chorus of frogs and crickets and an occasional owl I am pleased we can in this country have differing opinions and hope one day maybe most will be opinions of peace. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

For all of our relations
Wa de (Skee)
bird

Doc Bird’s Monday herb garden note:

I started my current herb garden about seven years ago with a Spanish Lavender plant and two rosemary plants. My Spanish Lavender passed away in a severe winter two seasons back when the extreme freeze did it in. My rosemary plants succumbed that first winter but I was hooked and expanded to over one hundred thirty culinary and medicinal herb plants species. If you can find the plant I highly recommend Bar B Que Rosemary as a great culinary plant especially fresh. The leaves are big and tender and the flavor is excellent. The plants are not fast growing but this year they have done well. I started some new ones from cuttings last week off my three plants.

Grilled or baked rosemary chicken
© 1995-2011 CDKitchen, Inc.

INGREDIENTS:
4 chicken breasts, halved
4 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

PREPARATION:
Mix together minced fresh rosemary leaves and minced garlic. Loosen skin from chicken breasts and slide rosemary/garlic mixture under the skin. Brush olive oil onto breasts and sprinkle with salt (preferably coarse Kosher salt) and pepper (preferably fresh ground).

The breasts can now be grilled over a medium-hot fire for about 20-30 minutes or until done as desired, or baked in a 375°F. oven for about 30 minutes.

*I will be trying this recipe tonight and as usual using mesquite lump charcoal in my Green Egg.

How do we know we are grown up?

Bird Droppings July 28, 2013
How do we know we are grown up?

“The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.” Alden Nowlan

Earlier this week a former student posted on my Facebook wall a simple line, “If you haven’t grown up by fifty you don’t have to.” As I read this quote from Nowlan and thinking in terms of wisdom not being confined to an age but to an affect or understanding of one’s self I do after spending several days with my granddaughter, grandson and family I think we cycle wisdom. I do believe children are born wise and become through societal pressures unwise.
Looking back at the quote I started with these are amazing words as I only recently became aware of this writer, poet and essayist from Canada. I wish I had written or said these words. Over the years I have noticed that students walking about high school for the first few days and being at that adolescent age they begin to see the flaws and imperfection but their perception is to enhance their world and creates ripples. They see the flaws and are upset and react generally in a negative fashion. Adults then reciprocate with reactions and behaviors elicit consequences.
For some that point of forgiveness comes soon others many years after leaving home and college and marriage and their own children till forgiveness hits and adulthood true adulthood is realized. In some cases but for that rare few, wisdom can come earlier and they truly are wise from an early age. I find trust too follows a similar road as we move through life we realize that we cannot trust everyone, we tend forgive and forget and then we realize we should trust everyone. My dear friends as we embark on a new week try and trust and forgive two good vocabulary words for the week and seek peace and balance in your life. As I do every day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)
bird

Can we use the word sacred truthfully?

Bird Droppings July 26, 2013
Can we use the word sacred truthfully?

“Teachers who do not take their own education seriously, who do not study, who make little effort to keep abreast of events have no moral authority to coordinate the activities of the classroom.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom

I have been a student and learner for some time. I would like to say I am a teacher at times sharing pieces of what I have experienced over my sixty plus years of existence. For me it is more about sharing those pieces then using the word instruction. I somehow always conceive of instruction involving step by step directions and pieces to glue together with what we used to call air plane glue. My life has been one of numerous pathways and trails leading to the point at which I am now. Sitting writing about education and about living a life trying to maximize each breathe and over turned pebble. I find it amusing as I talk with teachers those that turn over rocks as they journey looking for new creatures seem to be some of the best teachers. I admire those who are constantly looking and learning.

“Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.” Chief Seattle, 1854

This is a portion of the surrender speech of Chief Seattle in 1854, as translated by Dr. Henry Smith from a column in the Seattle Sunday October 29, 1887. So realistically on a Sunday morning what is sacred? Sounds like a silly question but for some it is the sacraments of the Church and others the Holy Bible or Qumran or Torah. Throughout the world we could find Saturdays or Mondays or numerous differing holy days that people would be objectifying their beliefs. Native Peoples were perhaps too simplistic in their search for the concept of sacred. William Edelen, author and former pastor titled one of his books, In Search of the Mystery. I was reading emails earlier today and a good friend from many years back wrote about easing of environmental laws for corporations and how a thimble full of mercury could contaminate all the fish in a lake and the lessening of restrictions on mercury by chance in chemical processing in industry will release tons into our environment all because someone needs to make another buck. The head of EPA and a Supreme Court Justice both worked for a chemical company and have been involved in favorable legislation for that company.

“Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or for worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subjects, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle teaching holds a mirror to the soul.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to teach

Teaching for Palmer is a sacred thing as we impact as teachers children who literally are learning as we speech in just watching us as teachers. It is hard not to tie back to a mini history lesson as the first settlers wanted to buy land and the indigenous people said it was not for sale it was sacred to only be used as needed not exploited. As the legend has it that we civilized people will destroy all animals and plants and one day be gone when it is of no use to us anymore and the buffalo and deer will come from hiding and the trees will return and then “the people” can return home.
We all look at life around us in differing perspectives some seeing a large tree as fire wood, others a wondrous living thing to share with grandchildren. Yesterday for the second day in a row a hawk was circling screaming as it flew in circles. On Sunday my wife, granddaughter, son and I first heard this hawk as it circled a great sycamore tree near the house. We have had a pair of red tailed hawks hunting around our house for six years now. When we first moved in they were doing a mating flight over our house circling and diving together. My first impulse was one of the hawks had died. I did search yesterday around the sycamore tree and found nothing. Yesterday the great hawk flew circles over the pines next to our house again screaming continuously. I stood in silence watching the circle follow the wind updraft and then drop again only to rise up screaming every minute or so.
Perhaps some teachers might not need to go to work on some days as I thought back to my reading of Parker Palmers book. The idea of a mirror image of an inward look ties in with ideas of my own idea of trust, of building a comfort zone with students and then as I look beyond teaching is this not true for every aspect of our lives teacher or not. Should we each not be going further than simple existence? Palmer describes the process as coming from within untangling convolutions and touching the soul. The word project is used and truly we do project our inner selves as we walk through life? Dr. Laura Nolte states so eloquently “children learn what they live”. Are we comfortable with who we are and where we are? Daily I will find people who are seeking answers. Sometimes simple questions other times more perplexing and deep are asked of me. It is this process of looking for answers that builds who we are and develops for us what I am calling sacred. It is this process of inquiring that adds to our ability to deal with and go beyond daily issues. It is taking what seemingly is defeat and turning that into victory.

“It goes on one at a time, it starts when you care to act, it starts when you do it again after they said no, it starts when you say we and know who you mean, and each day you mean more.” Marge Piercy, The low road

I went to a nursery the other day perhaps one of my favorites in the area. They specialize in native and herbs along with landscaping plants and traditional garden varieties. They are going out of business not because they do not believe in what they do and enjoy it but because plants like so many aspects of farming prices have been rather stable for thirty years and the cost of living has not. Another landscaping business closed its retail outlet a few years back but I recall just outside their office was a boulder with a hole drilled in it and a fountain bubbling out of the hole. This package was one thousand five hundred and fifty dollars installed. Next to the price is what constitutes the fountain, two hundred fifty pounds of river rock, two hundred pounds colored crushed lava rock, a drilled boulder which had to be near a ton, a pond liner, ten landscape timbers, 1000 pounds crushed granite and a pump kit. It took numerous pieces make the whole.
I was amazed by the simple fountain and how peaceful it was water bubbling out of a rock flowing over into the river stones it was a whole that was a sum of its parts. Without a pump kit to push the water and create the fountain it was just a rock. You could say without the boulder it would have been only a bubbling of water in a pile of rocks. I have found each of us is similar we are pieces of a whole and inside a driving force as Palmer uses the word soul and heart interchangeably in his book and it is here we determine sacred for ourselves. If that pump stopped working on that simple fountain all effect is gone we need maintenance on our heart and not just our physical heart but that of our emotional heart so that that fountain flows and the entire package has meaning as we go out in our days. So dear friends please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)
bird

Are we not always getting ready?

Bird Droppings July 25, 2013
Are we not always getting ready?

“In the government schools, which are referred to as public schools, Indian policy has been instituted there, and it’s a policy where they do not encourage, in fact, discourage, critical thinking and the creation of ideas and public education.” Russell Means

I walked early this morning just before the sunrise taking my dog for a stroll. The moon was barely gone below the tree line for now as we walked down our sidewalk. There were streaks of color intermixed with the clouds overhead in all directions. Georgia is in a tropical rainforest mode since we have had rain almost every day for seven weeks now. A spot here and there, a raindrop here and there I swear some days it seems it rains on the front yard and not the back and then two inches of downpour. Generally it is thunder storms and pouring rain sporadically around it might be in town and drive a half mile and nothing, sort of a typical Georgia summer. We have been lucky we have had the rain at our house and in the surrounding area easily judged by kudzu growth which has been defoliated recently by county along roads as it inched out to pavement.
As a teacher there is anticipation, as the first official day of school draws near only twenty one more days or so away. My son starts his new teaching job officially today. I am sitting here wondering what to teach or say. Do we have the books and paper, pencils and pens, markers and poster board and all of the materials and such we need to go forth and spread the required knowledge? In a world of rapid access and instant everything can we even compete with all that is there as a humble teacher. I started with the late Russell Means who has been a key figure in Indian Activism for nearly forty five years. Means is an actor having portrayed Chingachook in the movie Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day Lewis.

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun. “ Kent Nerburn

“Yesterday is ashes; tomorrow is wood. Only today does the fire burn brightly.” Inuit proverb

I read these two lines and wondered, perhaps an ancient version of the Aerosmith quote I use so often “Life is about the journey not the destination. “ In the world of the Inuit the moment is of utmost necessity as life literally hangs in a balance constantly. There is a line of forward looking knowing we need wood to keep the fire going, food to sustain living and yet the moment is so crucial. Last night I had a dream of teaching. Odd a teacher would dream of teaching but it had significance to me as it was about teaching swimming. I started teaching swimming lessons when I was twelve or so. In teaching swimming you have to learn to swim by swimming you cannot learn by reading a book. I find it amazing how we have taken that simple concept of having context to the lesson and forgotten it. John Dewey would be rolling in his grave if he could see how much we have bastardized learning.

“Predicting the future is easy. It’s trying to figure out what’s going on now that’s hard.” Fritz R. S. Dressler

“Create your future from your future not your past.” Werner Erhard

Recently I helped a friend write and design a brochure for a program they were doing the front cover and had a picture of a foundation and it was worded something to the effect of building a strong foundation. For many people life is trying to focus on the future and they literally try and build a foundation based on a goal far off. Often they lose sight of what is here now and immediate. The Inuit knew tomorrow they would need wood for the fire and it would be found but the heat is here now while it burns. So often we need that goal set off in the distance but we need to live now to reach it.

“There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.” Johann Sebastian Bach

Now right this moment is when you proceed to build toward your goal. Bach could not create his masterpieces without time spent hitting the right keys practicing perfecting the music that would become timeless.

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Yogi Berra

Many years ago newspapers would make jokes of the yogism’s and pick on the great catcher for the New York Yankees and when he became a Major League Manager they still made fun of his comments. However looking at this quote, there is little difference when speaking about a fire and wood but when you need the fire there sure is borrowing from the Inuit statement I started with.

“Don’t do anything in practice that you wouldn’t do in the game.” George Halas

The great NFL coach was accurate as to life as well if you practice it in your life you will end up actually doing it. I write often about example and trying to set an example. It is in what we live that others see and understand us. I was walking in and noticed posters on a coaches wall alluding to this concept. Actually several of the following were on his wall.

“If I don’t practice the way I should, then I won’t play the way that I know I can.” Ivan Lendl

“We all knew there was just one way to improve our odds for survival: train, train, train. Sometimes, if your training is properly intense it will kill you. More often — much, much more often — it will save your life.” Richard Marcinko

Richard Marchinko was a former US Navy SEAL team commander and founder of the notorious SEAL team Six which is the group that took out Osama Bin Laden. He was an antiterrorist before it was being supported with federal tax dollars. Marcinko now is a security advisor and author writing about his exploits during Viet Nam and after during the tenuous period as terrorism shifted as a means to accomplish a groups ends, his concept of practice and training kept both himself and his men alive.

“If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.” Ignacy Paderewski

“An hour of practice is worth five hours of foot-dragging.” Pancho Segura

I received an email months ago, a good friend was going to be singing in a concert and in her email she spoke of the joy and fulfillment of singing and performing and perfecting the music. She was excited in her description of the event yet to take place and the thrill of performing. But is it the hours of dedication the audience sees and the emotions poured in over the hours of learning the music that is heard and not simply the one hour recital at 7:00 Saturday night. Life is about practicing and working at knowing the wood will be there to keep the fire going. I will end today my meanderings with a quote from a great football player in his time perhaps the greatest running back ever in High School and he was from a small town in Georgia, went to The University of Georgia, and then to fame in the USFL. He was actually who the USFL built the league around.

“If you train hard, you’ll not only be hard, you’ll be hard to beat.” Herschel Walker

Herschel is now many years retired from football and many years from High School where he still is a legend in football here in Georgia and of how he trained as a child pulling tractor tires around the yard and doing thousands upon thousands of sit ups and pushups. It is interesting how so many know what he did yet do not emulate the feat. They know what got him to his greatness yet they want to be there but avoid the work. Sadly LIFE too is similar. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)
bird

Why is experience the greatest teacher?

Bird Droppings July 24, 2013
Why is experience the greatest teacher?

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

What a way to start with a line from a fiction book about space travelers. However in the span of ten minutes this morning as I finished a paper on differentiation, read emails and posts on various blogs the idea of learning through and of experience was prevalent. One fellow mentioned he learned from his friends. Another learned through the doing of something. Still another got into experiential education. We are the sum total of our experiences and great educators along the way have seen this and written about it for many years.

“Any experience, however, trivial in its first appearance, is capable of assuming an indefinite richness of significance by extending its range of perceived connections.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Dewey believed that it was through utilizing the previous experiences of a child that we build their education. As I read more on Dewey’s thinking and subsequent thinkers who have built from Dewey I have found within the research when learning has context and relevance it is retained exceedingly more so than when simple a mass of content. It saddens me to see our children learning what they need to for a test and not what they need to walk out of school at the end of twelve years for life.

“Education, in its broadest sense, is the means of this social continuity of life.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Each day as I wonder what direction will I go today in my reflections and wanderings I always seem to come back to the interconnections that bind us together? It is through the interconnections of the pieces that we learn and through which our lived experiences become actual learning and knowledge.

“To ‘learn from experience’ is to make a backward and forward connection between what we do to things and what we enjoy or suffer from things in consequence. Under such conditions, doing becomes a trying; an experiment with the world to find out what it is like; the undergoing becomes instruction–discovery of the connection of things.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

In looking at behavior we use the terms antecedent, behavior and then consequence to show how a behavior is elicited and continued or stopped. The antecedent precedes the behavior which is followed by the consequence which is considered how it is to work according to behaviorism. This is very easily applied and followed in animal research and in many school settings is a standard we call it behavior modification. However I do think Dewey was seeing this sequence differently. In order to learn from experience we need to be able to rearrange and redirect the antecedent, behavior and consequence so as we go those interconnections are literally liquid and flow back and forth rather than this than that.

“Thinking, in other words, is the intentional endeavor to discover specific connections between something which we do and the consequences which result, so that the two become continuous. Their isolation, and consequently their purely arbitrary going together, is canceled; a unified developing situation takes place. The occurrence is now understood; it is explained; it is reasonable, as we say that the thing should happen as it does. Thinking is thus equivalent to an explicit rendering of the intelligent element in our experience. It makes it possible to act with an end in view. It is the condition of our having aims.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Perhaps as I see it behavior modification can work where thinking is not allowed. When we take away critical thinking and imagination then the standard of antecedent behavior and consequence is firm in charge. As I reflect today this could be why some teachers like maintaining that hierarchy of teacher and students and have a difficult time with Dewey’s ideas of a democratic classroom. This could be why Texas wants to do away with critical thinking in education. When we mass a group of students and lose the individuality in the masses it is far easier to maintain the status quo. Education is notorious for tracking and grouping kids in ability groups or classes. Might have something to do with control again or could be that research show children learn best when they are with their own kind. Fifty years ago this was the premise for segregated schools.

“How one person’s abilities compare in quantity with those of another is none of the teacher’s business. It is irrelevant to his work. What is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning. Mind, individual method, originality (these are convertible terms) signify the quality of purposive or directed action.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Trying to provide the right tools and understanding so that children can learn in a setting that will provide them with opportunities to use what they know and build can be difficult and tedious at times. Many teachers give up on this type of learning because there is more work involved. I look at my new room two weeks from school starting back and know I have a good bit to do. Clean organize and sanitize my humble crazy class room. I did move my snakes and turtles home I have a few things less things to get done now to getting computers all checked out and each student’s portfolio set up and I will be ready to rock and roll. One thing I have found is that is about kids wanting to be in a class room. If they want to be there amazing things and learning can happen.

“The educator’s part in the enterprise of education is to furnish the environment which stimulates responses and directs the learner’s course. In the last analysis, all that the educator can do is modify stimuli so that response will as surely as is possible result in the formation of desirable intellectual and emotional dispositions”. John Dewey, Democracy and Education

With only two weeks left for my summer and I am sitting here in my room writing pondering a new year and ideas. Hopefully my students will learn and go away with something that they can carry through their lives. Each day I have ended my droppings with the same line and do so again. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

For my relations
Wa de (Skee)
bird