Being patient

Bird Droppings December 16, 2013
Being patient

I find the end of a semester both exciting and sad at the same time. There are students who I will see every day coming by my room and others possibly never again as in a large high school it is easy to remain hidden away if you try. We are looking forward to family gatherings coming up next week. Now that we have three grandbabies Christmas is very special. We are not sure of who will be around for Christmas Eve so my wife suggested we get movies and do something fun. I was thinking about just being alone and reflecting which is hard to do with grandbabies in the house. Although I savor every minute they are there and that we interact. I am looking forward to taking pictures again as my time has been limited the past w=few months. I did manage to get out this morning and sit and think meditate a bit before everyone else was up and moving however. It has been a hectic few days and this week ahead as well for me finishing this semester.

Watching children this time of year and even adults allows you to see various degrees of patience running rampant and or in a total lacking thereof. A few days ago I was standing in line at a store where I knew the owner and she was helping a customer with a purchase without even thinking she asked me to help a customer, even though I was a customer as well. Trying to help a young man decide between a bearded dragon and a leopard gecko actually something I knew about as we have kept both species. Patience is a virtue many people say they lay claim too yet we seem in life to avoid it when at all possible. We gear our existence to being done now as soon as possible ASAP as we use in internet abbreviations.

So how do we learn to be patient? How do we learn to wait? How do we learn to know when is right and when it is time simply to listen or watch? Often I have a tendency when concerned with myself to want to get on with things yet in dealing with others I can often allow life to jell to come together as it is intended. Perhaps it is in my experiences with dealing with people throughout my life. Although my mother and father were patient people perhaps there is a genetic component to patience. That would definitely make a good topic for a Doctoral dissertation. But other times I see patience as an art form one that is perfected as we practice the art. I truly think it is one concept or behavior that is learned and literally acquired over time. I see a lack of patience as one of the causes of many of our societal ills.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I go out each morning and watch the moon change from full to a smile over the days and to see the stars and wonder at the millions of years of distance between us and billions of years to come to where we are patience is an aspect of nature. I have often used river pebbles in discussion with each pebble as it started as a chip of rock somehow ending in the stream, tumbled and turned until the edges are smoothed and rounded eventually finding its way to your hand. It took time, effort and much patience. On my shelf at school is a wooden bowl containing several pieces of rounded wood? In Africa and in other rain forest areas some of the trees wood is so dense it sinks in the water and chips of wood tumble much like river pebbles and eventually you will find river wood chips rounded and smooth almost polished much like river pebbles. They tend to be an interesting conversation piece and one that comes up daily as students find my bowl of round wood pebbles.

I mentioned a young man in my droppings a few years ago. I met him several years back. He is a high school student at a nearby school and is autistic. An aspect of autism often is the ability to obsess over an object or a task and he will sit and do puzzles for hours his mother said often through the night till the puzzle is completed. During his life he has never spoken as he communicates with an Etch a sketch and or hand signs. His mother speaks in code at times using certain words which have directions to them. Obsession however is not patience but almost on the opposite spectrum.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” St. Augustine

There is thought in patience while in obsessing literally no thought and yet how do we tell them apart?

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?” Paul Sweeney

These are questions to answer to ponder this wonderful day as the rain ceases to fall for a few days in Georgia. How do we learn patience and how do we teach patience?

“Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” Epictetus

I recall seeing a famous pear brandy with the pear in the bottle. You have to literally grow the fruit inside the bottle attaching to the flower as it grows and changes and the fruit itself grows in the bottle. Patience is a similar task starting as a bud and a flower and growing as we learn to accept more and understand more. There is a correlation to thinking and patience or wisdom as St. Augustine states and in that perhaps the difference between patience and obsession. A bright mark as the lead news headline states negotiations continue on the fiscal cliff perhaps there is some sort of common ground if we are patient. However for now on this holiday for so many people please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Reading your own view sometimes offers a clue

Bird Droppings December 15 2013
Reading your own view sometimes offers a clue

After thirty five years of marriage tomorrow it seems almost like day one. Every day and each day keeps getting better. Periodically over the past years I would receive at some odd hour of the night and or morning a paper to review for my youngest son and or a student from the high school or college I am teaching in. It is always with a very narrow window of time between when I see it and it is due. Recently one caught my attention as the individual that was being referenced was one I have read about and had some interest in as well. I will borrow a few bits and pieces from my son’s paper.

“There was a prominent study conducted by psychologist and educator Dr. Albert Bandera involving environment and personality. His goal was to see in what ways people come up with their impressions of other people…. The idea behind the experiment was to gauge the ability of people to judge someone’s personality based upon their environment…. I found reciprocal determinism to be quite interesting in how it added free will to the idea in contradiction to most previous behaviorist theories, where people are completely determined by their environment. What opened up this concept to me the office study because it explained the concept on how people affect their environment?” Matt Bird

“People not only gain understanding through reflection, they evaluate and alter their own thinking.” Dr. Albert Bandera

As I read my sons words and recalled many readings of Bandera I found myself intrigued reading my sons view of me and my room at the high school. As I read I realized how much I impacted my environment through my room and my interactions with people who come within it. On Friday after school I ran into a student who only a few years ago came to my room daily and was never one of my students. She manages a pizza franchise now and is doing very well. Today while grocery shopping I ran into a former secret senior again never had her as a student but she would come by my room nearly daily to talk or discuss ideas.

“I often in my life have seen offices and bedrooms that truly embody peoples’ personalities. For instance my Dad’s school room at my high school back home a person could easily determine that he has a high level of extraversion, you could grade his level of agreeableness, his conscientiousness, his high level of emotional stability, and his openness to experience. My father’s school room has walls covered in various pictures of current and past students, various exploits and accomplishments, and there are animals all throughout the room in various aquariums. Naturally students clamor to my father’s room and love to be around the man. Throughout my life I have not seen experience affect my dad’s personality but I have seen my father’s personality drastically take control over his environment and the situations he has been placed into.” Matt Bird

As I do every day I sit down and write thinking and reflecting as I go. As I read my sons words so many thoughts came to me. Former students and teachers I have met along the way. Photos on my wall go back thirteen years to when I started back to teaching and today it seems so long ago. Thoughts ranged to recent papers I am working on dealing with community and learning. Always I somehow end up thinking of Foxfire, John Dewey and experiential learning methods.

“In this world, in order to enable society to develop, all its members have to assume responsibilities and make their contribution. If we do not make collective contributions then there will be no development. The Dalai Lama, speaking to the Tibetan National Assembly in Dharamsala, May 1989

Each of us lives in a society, a community, and we all share in that aspect and as much as we choose so often to be individuals we are members of and interact within that group. It is the vitality of that group the development and growth that is so intertwined with contributions physically mentally and spiritually of the members. Society exists because of those interactions and relationships.

“Compare society to a boat. Her progress through the water will not depend upon the exertion of her crew, but upon the exertion devoted to propelling her. This will be lessened by any expenditure of force in fighting among themselves, or in pulling in different directions.” Henry George

We have to be working together to be moving forward and as humans do so often much time is wasted fighting and arguing among ourselves and the motion and or growth is limited.

“The greatest difficulty with the world is not its ability to produce, but the unwillingness to share.” Roy L. Smith

“Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.” Dr. Albert Bandera, From Self-efficacy: The exercise of control, 1997

Watching high school student’s form clicks and groups and while adults have clubs, and social groups we tend to be a somewhat selfish animal. We look so to ourselves and what benefits us limiting friends and such to a degree we box ourselves in. Sharing a simple task is so often a distant thought if even a thought. TV humor even plays on this subject several times as in the old Seinfeld and Will and Grace sitcoms where giving is a chore, a burden, and the characters are literally parasitically instead of symbiotic. As I was reading and looking for quotes and thoughts this one seemed to pop out at me.

“Societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do.” Ronald Wright

Wright was speaking literally, yet interestingly enough we of modern society while we do not literally eat people we still do psychologically destroy them. As I look at how we respond to others so often it is how we see ourselves indirectly. I find sarcasm is often a reflection of how we see ourselves.

“The most difficult thing is we do not deal in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.” Mark Twain

“We are more heavily invested in the theories of failure than we are in the theories of success.” Dr. Albert Bandera, from APA address, 1998

In a recent project assignment, several students simply “completed it” they did not finish the task but answered what they thought was the question because they just wanted done. Whether it was right or wrong good or bad was not the issue it was over with. I am sitting here now working on reviewing a similar situation with a one hundred question test that most of my students just want done and the grade is of no significance.

“Until you value yourself you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck

“By sticking it out through tough times, people emerge from adversity with a stronger sense of efficacy.” Dr. Albert Bandera

“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.” John Holt

I read these quotes and saw an answer if you truly do not appreciate your self your time has little if any value even when you are self-absorbed in using it frivolously you simply are taking up time not using it. Guessing at answers to a test to simply get done or rushing through just to be over still you wait just as the rest do so is there benefit. A favorite catch phrase of high school students is “I don’t care” should read “I really do not care about myself” if we look back at Bandera’s thoughts and others. As we enter a new week especially after the latest school shooting and the horror of a year ago it saddens me how our world is troubled and sore, so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Finding the right spot for the puzzle pieces

Bird Droppings December 14, 2013
Finding the right spot for the puzzle pieces

“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 and behaved 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 and 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.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards

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. What always amazes me is that the sixteen hour syndrome is never discussed; we never tend to see where the issue really lays, that of parenting strategies and all the overt issues that children contend with as they leave school. 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 this person was a 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. It is a funny thing that as we became so mobile and our family structure somewhat altered that number increases as well. Another interesting point is that during the 1980-90’s ADHD increased so rapidly, almost in epidemic proportions, over nine hundred percent. It is so funny how we began seeing this issue when it got on our nerves as parents and or teachers and took up our time. As an old person I was thinking to my own history and 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 those same jig saw 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 next. 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 as I pulled Emerson in amazing how a hundred years ago a 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

“Do not educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they know the value of things not the price. “ Santosh Kumar

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. Only a few moments ago a former student posted a status update with the line from Santosh Kumar. In trying to track down the unnamed quote I found Santosh Kumar. On Facebook a huge following for a young philosopher, and then I found the name is much like John Smith with thousands of internet hits. So perhaps this young fellow did not spout these words but they are good ones and worth repeating.

“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 always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Can you give it one more try?

Bird Droppings December 12, 2013
Can you give it one more try?

“You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out, but you gotta suit up for them all.” Satchel Paige often attributed to J. Askenberg

Sitting here this morning after walking the dog out into one of the coldest nights and mornings of this year and trying to warm my toes you would think I would learn to put shoes on before going out still thinking flip flops will warm any weather. My herb garden is nearly gone as all of the salvias took a beating yesterday with cold. My angel trumpet plants have finally gone by the wayside although after literally thousands of blooms they had a good run. I am ready for summer and officially it is not winter yet. As I thought sitting here I liked this quote to start my day today. Often when I stumble on a quote I try and find who this person is. J. Askenberg proved a bit difficult, I found this quote 160 times in sermons and lectures and various quote engines but not who this person was other than a writer. Then in my looking one more time I actually found this morning it was Satchel Paige who first said it and Askenberg is often attributed.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas A. Edison

It has been some time since I had the chance to ride into Atlanta with my middle son; we were comparing football games from the previous weekend. Now he and several other Georgia Tech fans and graduates have a running blog site of course featuring Tech’s various athletic teams although he seldom in involved anymore. My son is a graduate and a very big Georgia Tech fan having been a past driver of the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech and a former avid member of the Swarm, and Ramblin Wreck clubs. Many months ago we got talking about a young man who went to The University of Georgia from the Air Force Academy, I recall our conversation. This young man walked on in football and became the starting Fullback. This young man perseveres and many the stories at our high school. One my son brought up was how in Calculus it would take him 45 minutes to get problems others got in 10 minutes or less. The interesting thing was he was Salutatorian of his graduating class, he never quit.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Walter Elliot

“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.” B. C. Forbes

“Some men give up their designs when they have almost reached the goal; while others, on the contrary, obtain a victory by exerting, at the last moment, more vigorous efforts than ever before.” Herodotus

Each step we take in life can be difficult; each new pathway we face as we plod a long can have more bumps than the last. It is through effort we reach that place we are going. What if life were so simple and there were never difficulties? What if the road was straight and clear and only forward momentum was needed? I remember many road trips out west and roads that were perfectly smooth no pot holes and straight as an arrow for many miles, it was all I could do to stay awake. Life would be so boring without a bump or a curve in the road, or perhaps a fork to choose from as we go.

“We can do anything we want to do if we stick to it long enough.” Helen Keller

Most folks will not remember Helen Keller and may have seen the many different versions of “the Miracle Worker”. Annie Sylvan was a teacher who wouldn’t give up on her student Helen. Helen was blind and deaf and Annie found a spark and hope, and with Annie’s help Helen would go on to address leaders of the world in her public life.

“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.” H. Ross Perot

“It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.” John Wooden

If you ask who was the greatest coach in college basketball of all time at my house John Wooden will be a unanimous pick. As I read this Woodenism, it is so true, so many students and teachers start out
(We are all related)
bird
but at the first difficulty quit. It could be a difficult student that does not conform to a set pattern and way of doing things or a new teacher who comes to a class of students who are all ready to quit. There are answers; there are solutions if we choose to look. Edison had a barrel of failed light bulbs as a reminder as he proceeded to find a workable light bulb. It is about not quitting, the answers are there when you give it one more try. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin

How we perceive is often the beginning

Bird Droppings December11, 2013
How we perceive is often the beginning
“I love a people who have always made me welcome to the best that they had. I Love
a people who are honest without laws, who have no jails and no poorhouses. I love a people who keep the commandments without having ever read them or heard them preached from the pulpit.” George Catlin (1796-1872), Artist and Chronicler

“People only see what they are prepared to see.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can remember growing up seeing the fascinating prints of George Catlin’s paintings of American Indians throughout the US. Many of his images are all we have of tribes that in later years were decimated through disease and slaughter by white soldiers. Catlin saw a different people than did most. So often we all tend to misuse our perception we see only what we want to see and not what is really there. Perhaps it becomes difficult to tell the difference as we tend to push our own ideas on others.

“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.” Richard Dawkins, Evolutionary Biologist

This is an interesting outlook from one of the world’s leading biologists. It still becomes how we each see this amazing world. Some will go at life seeing how much they can squeeze from the earth much like an orange being put through a juicer. Others see as Dawkins does “a sumptuous planet sparkling with color”. Many of the authors that reflect on Native thought look at the interconnections and how they are so critical to our continued existence.

“I know that our people possessed remarkable powers of concentration and abstraction, and I sometimes fancy that such nearness to nature as I have described keeps the spirit sensitive to impressions not commonly felt, and in touch with unseen powers.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Eastman, Santee Dakota, Medical doctor and author

In the movie Wounded Knee, Dr. Eastman is depicted being trained as a physician in the late 1800’s one of the first Indians to go through medical school. Dr. Eastman was the attending physician to the survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre. His views were conflicted by his immersion in the white culture and yet as he grew away from this his writing tried to show the other side, the Indian side. Yesterday I was sitting in my co-teaching class of ninth grade biology we were going over the idea of various forms of evolution. The lead teacher flashed an image on the wall one of an owl sitting in a tree and I listened to the various comments from the group as to what they saw. Ideas varied and often would be more about a color or shape that they were reminded of. It became evident to me that as we talked it became evident that our ideas come primarily from our experiences. Even the teacher of the class being a seasoned teacher with limited experiences was limited in what she was adding to the talk.

I saw a duality as I viewed the picture of an owl. Using native thought in which from tribe to tribe owls are viewed differently. My dear friend who is Creek believed owls to be a harbinger of death. Other friends from western tribes see the owl as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. So in my own thinking I see wisdom and fear as parallels running along together never quite touching but also flowing in a symmetrical pattern that ties the two together.

“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castaneda

Being a fan of Carlos Castaneda even though controversy surrounds his writing I recall several stories in his books of various times when his mentor kept after him to look deeper not just what was presented. He might being seeing an owl sitting on a post but what Don Juan his guide would say would be to look into the owl beyond the owl what is there that is meant for you to understand. As my friend feared owls I came to embrace the calls at night often calling back to the great horned owls that would nearly surround me in the early morning hours calling to each and to me.

“All civilization in a sense exists only in the mind. Gunpowder, textile arts, machinery, laws; telephones are not themselves transmitted from man to man or from generation to generation, at least not permanently. It is the perception, the knowledge and understanding of them, their ideas in the Platonic sense, that are passed along. Everything social can have existence only through mentality.” Alfred L. Kroeber, The Superorganic

A very deep thought and as I ponder this morning perhaps the novel of a group of young boys marooned on an island comes to mind. All civilized thought seems to pass away and instinctual and survival modes kicked into gear. It is the thinking processes that are passed on. As I watch students in school one comes to school already reading and one is not even ready to read and when you look to the family each child came from you see one where education is a key and the other where it is simply mandated. I was talking with an assistant principal at one of the local high schools yesterday about just this thought. We teachers are often considered the bringers of education, morality, normalcy, commonality and who knows what else when we only have one third of a day for less than two hundred days a year. It is that sixteen hour syndrome of another perception that so often dislodges any sort of attempt at helping a child find a way in life and so often then carries into school especially in older years. In thirteen years of teaching and working with emotional issues at a high school I have yet to find a student who also did not have some sort of contributing factor from home.

“There is, perhaps, one universal truth about all forms of human cognition: the ability to deal with knowledge is hugely exceeded by the potential knowledge contained in man’s environment. To cope with this diversity, man’s perception, his memory, and his thought processes early become governed by strategies for protecting his limited capacities from the confusion of overloading. We tend to perceive things schematically, for example, rather than in detail, or we represent a class of diverse things by some sort of averaged “typical instance.” Jerome S. Bruner, Art as a Mode of Knowing

As I read again this thought from Bruner it makes more sense we tend to after several experiences establish a mean and mode of experiences and then treat each new experiences based upon the average. Rather than embracing a new experience we simple take it as what has happened previously and soon you find students saying I am bored. We as teachers have not expanded the perceptions of our students to see the details that are presented. In a hurry to teach and get through a specific amount of material in a given time we too form averages and then teach to averages and soon a world full of simply averages exists and there is no longer a bell shaped curve but we are flat lined.

“Every man feels that perception gives him an invincible belief of the existence of that which he perceives; and that this belief is not the effect of reasoning, but the immediate consequence of perception. When philosophers have wearied themselves and their readers with their speculations upon this subject, they can neither strengthen this belief, nor weaken it; nor can they show how it is produced. It puts the philosopher and the peasant upon a level; and neither of them can give any other reason for believing his senses, than that he finds it impossible for him to do otherwise.” Thomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

Sadly so sadly as I finish my journal for today this statement is true. We all tend to so strongly believe in our own perceptions we disavow the possibility of any other even when we know it is so. But our perceptions are based only on the experiences previously held and if those are limited by averages as in paragraph above then rather than a “a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life”, as Richard Dawkins so eloquently describes we have just a boring façade that never changes and never goes anywhere. I wish for each of you to exceed the mean and mode of what you presume to be your perceptions and for a day or two try and see more and hear more and do more. As I end my daily sojourn as have for nearly fifteen years now please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Possibilities

Bird Droppings December 10, 2013
Possibilities

“Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” Les Brown

I was sitting talking with one of my sons yesterday remembering when I was their age. I should say trying to remember when I was their age that would be more appropriate. It has been a few days since my sons and I have been to lunch with my mother and as they would; they got picking on each other and she always enjoys the show. My oldest has recently started his first full semester of fulltime teaching and I recall one of his last semesters of graduate school he was having some difficulty getting registered because his student loans had been electronically fouled up. I was trying to tell him take each moment as it comes, deal with it and move to next. He was upset and as the day progressed the lesson was learned it seems the wording in the college catalog allowed him a “loop” hole so he could register and get started in school that semester while the paper work of his student loan was resolved.

“It is necessary; therefore, it is possible.” G. A. Borghese

Perhaps as I get older I find nothing is impossible when we set our minds to it. Somewhere along the line I took a picture of my son crossing a stream stepping rock to rock. He had fallen in playing several times but even soggy and wet he was still trying to maneuver across, stepping rock to rock. I have used this illustration so many times and even have a picture of the stream hanging in my room at school as he does in his bedroom. So often life is like crossing a stream, a stone at a time and we do fall in quite a bit. The ones who are successful in life climb right back up soggy and wet and keep going.

“Oh man! There is no planet sun or star could hold you, if you but knew what you are.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have really come to like Emerson over the years almost as if he wrote some lines specifically for me to use and they have been sitting and waiting. I altered slightly Emerson’s words, “If we but know what we are”, and what a powerful statement. We go through life trying to understand where and who we are and many of us spend the better part of a lifetime searching. Some will find themselves at a young age and the rest of us it seems like eternity trying to know.

“Never measure the height of a mountain, until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.” Dag Hammarskjold

While not a household, Dag Hammarskjöld is the name of the former United Nations Secretary General during some of the world’s craziest times. The Cold War was one of the biggest historical events of our time between Russia and The United States. His statement of waiting till you attain your goal before you stop to measure is so crucial. So many of us when we stop to look and see where we are going become frustrated and slow down or stop completely.

“Of course we all have our limits, but how can you possibly find your boundaries unless you explore as far and as wide as you possibly can? I would rather fail in an attempt at something new and uncharted than safely succeed in a repeat of something I have done.” A.E. Hotchner

Each day at school I post on my door a new quote something to offer a challenge to students, to open doors, to expand wisdom, to stick their neck out, and to go beyond where they are now. Each day many hundreds of people go by my door and some will crane their neck to peek inside the door, some will stop and talk as I sit in my outside my room between classes at my door. What is that thing, what do you teach, and whose room is this are my favorites that students come up with. Each day is an effort of trying to open boxes and pry the lids off sealed containers of minds and thoughts.

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!” Soren Kierkegaard

It has been many years since I heard Dr. Norman Vincent Peale speak in Macon Georgia in 1973 when he recognized a small church my brother attended, The Church of the Exceptional, as the National church of the year. That was over thirty eight years ago yet his ideas are as relevant today now at this moment as I write this cold morning in Georgia.

“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities — always see them, for they’re always there.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

A possibilitarian is someone who always see possibilities, what an interesting thought in a day and time when so often we are subjected to negative and belittling concepts and ideas. So many students quit long before they ever get a chance to succeed. At this time of year we see many seniors leave high school or at least our school due to graduation tests. They have tried numerous times and while they will have enough credits and may even have been a B student or better cannot pass one of the five Georgia High School Graduation Tests. Many will seek enrollment in a small private school that does not adhere to same standards and does not require GHSGT’s and will graduate in May on time only they graduate from that school.

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” Song from, The California Special Olympics

Sometime ago I followed UCLA’s basketball program more closely that I do now and on the team was a red haired fellow who just happened to be 6 foot ten inches tall. He becomes a premier professional player and in retirement one of the great commentators of sports Mr. Bill Walton. I recall the night that the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team tied the eighty eight game win streak of Coach Wooden and Bill Walton’s team.

“No matter how good you get, there’s always something further out there.” Bill Walton

There is to all lessons more than one aspect, and more than one possibility. It is seeking, understanding and achieving those numerous other possibilities by never simply stopping because you made your initial goal. Now set higher goals achieve more and better, grow further and farther, always lifting up continually. I was reading several small pieces this morning as I started writing. We all are givers and takers at one time or another as our lives balance out, try and balance to the giving versus the taking. You will never run out giving, but when you take soon doors will close. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Why do we even have public education?

Bird Droppings December 9, 2013
Why do we even have public education?

For teachers today is the National Day of Action. Standup for what you believe in. I shared an article that references children as others yesterday. Our children to corporate entities are simply others, consumers and I have seen the world capital used in state documents. In a short note yesterday I actually wrote I was about to retire and homeschool my grandchildren by the craziness in education brought about by corporate profiteers.

“Instead of seeing these children for the blessings that they are, we are measuring them only by the standard of whether they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs.” Jonathan Kozol

On the front page of our main local paper recently several articles all related to education and all discussing the impact of cuts to funding and how we are now adding to costs but not providing finds. One is based on a popular scholarship program funded through Georgia State Lottery funds which the scholarship committee is chaired by a Represenitive who opposed the lottery to begin with back in the beginning how ironic is that. More ironic is that this representative just resigned amid investigations into his former employer. Our governor who hit the ground with education in his sights for funding cuts and in same article proposed cutting corporate taxes. Somewhere in this ridiculous thinking logic seems lost.

As I read the article it is interesting how the arguments of college tuition rising and costs of education increasing for college students seemed to be in a way misrepresented. The state cut funding to state colleges over the past eight years which forced state colleges to raise tuition which lead to increases in Hope scholarship funding which was set up to cover cost of tuition for state colleges. Funny I recall a similar pattern in Florida where the lottery was billed as a saving grace to education in the beginning and as the years went on state funding to education was cut and eventually lottery funding was cut and many fantastic educational programs once lauded nationwide were gone.

While a staunch supporter of public education there are times when I raise the question should we even have it? Why not be a nation of an educated elite and a subservient uneducated mass who can then run the industrial complex which we no longer have and or work at minimum wage in what service industry jobs are available. So quickly we forget there is little industry left in US, interestingly Wal-Mart is one of the leading employers in the nation so everyone can now work in service and retail taking care of the educated elite. I am being caustic about our educational situation and so many attitudes towards it. I personally believe in the public education system in the US it might need some tweaking but it has produced many great individuals and it is still one of the greatest in the world contrary to popular thinking and test results.

“Many of the productivity and numbers specialists who have rigidified and codified school policy in recent years do not seem to recognize much preexisting value in the young mentalities of children and, in particular in children of the poor. Few of these people seem to be acquainted closely with the lives of children and, to be blunt as possible about this, many would be dreadful teachers because, in my own experience at least, they tend to be rather grim-natured people who do not have lovable or interesting personalities and, frankly would not be much fun for kids to be with.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher

I think where I am having difficulty is we so often grasp at very thin straws and the loudest brightest new idea that comes down the pike at least this is how it seems in education. Talk to any teacher with experience and they will joke about the cycles in education. We have a new math curriculum in Georgia that is wreaking havoc on students. One of the previous texts we were using had no explanations in it only problems. So when a student goes home to do for homework say fifty problems and if the student does not know how to do problems and asks a parent unless the parent knows how there is no way to help the student.

“I am more and more convinced that we in the schooling game have no idea what real learning is about. It is no wonder that we embrace every so-called new idea that comes down the pike, and yet nothing really changes. We are the proverbial dog chasing its tail.” Dr. Grant Bennett

I thank Dr. Bennett again for a morning quote that I could use. I started on an idea the other day as I finished up my Bird Dropping about perhaps looking at the bottom end of the spectrum rather than always looking at the top in education. How do we help those who always seem to fail or not succeed in school? Within our own school we have added graduation coaches and other supplemental staff to work with high risk students. But still we are working to attain a goal based on best students and not on potential or rationale that has mired this or that student in the bottom end of the educational barrel. We never look at the bottom of the bell shaped curve.

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” John F. Kennedy

I think there are issues with semantics and understanding as to what we deem success in education or in politics, battle, or the gaining and or lack of wealth. At our state level we continue to talk about raising the bar even though many are still failing. Raising the bar does nothing to improve those who cannot attain the bar to begin with let alone those who will self-defeat as standards and challenges get more strenuous. So often the test scores of various countries are compared and we are somewhere not near the top and politicians want to be at the top.

A point made in an extensive article yesterday was in international testing poverty is not considered. When you equate poverty into the mix and separate scores the USA is on top in every category. Take out children in poverty from test scores and the USA is on top. Look at comparable countries with similar poverty and USA education is the highest scoring. We are being successful when you look at test scores in light of what and who are being tested.

In many countries of the industrialized world education is number one and somewhere around twelve years of age in those countries children going into trades and those going into secondary education part ways. Effectively we are testing all children in the US while many other countries are only testing those who are going into college. I had a friend who taught in Korea for a year in an exchange program. She made the comment that Koreans children planned on three hours of homework each night. There was not time for TV or video games or phone calls and texting it was serious and all about education.

“We are the children of this beautiful planet that we have seen photographed from the moon. We were not delivered into it by some god, but have come forth from it. And the earth, together with the sun, this light around which it flies like a moth, came forth from a nebula….and that nebula, in turn, from space. So we are the mind, ultimately, of space, each in his own way at one with all…..and with no horizons…” Joseph Campbell

Over the past three years I have spent a few mornings in other states attending and participating in weddings and births of grandchildren. I am still a bit tired from the driving and nonstop pace of the past three years. I went looking for quotes to use today and found this statement by Campbell. As I thought of Dr. Bennett’s words and those of Jonathan Kozol it seemed to filter through Campbell’s thought. Education is not a static closed ended entity but vast and limitless and individually unique to each person and student.

“Life’s a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler, Amazing

For a number of years I have used this simple quote by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. The song it comes from is one of addiction and pain and in many ways this is Steven Tyler’s journey back from addiction. I keep thinking to education and our continued effort trying to get to the destination without the journey. It is always simply a quick fix.

“You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk” Steven Tyler

Who would have thought Steven Tyler took Human Development. Sort of reminds me of Piaget and I have always been a big fan of human development with each aspect of our lives passing through stages one stage after the other. I keep thinking back to my original thought of education and should we even have public education. Many people want education to be clean and neat all children learn the same and no child will be left behind yet each child is totally unique and then problems arise. Publishers cannot cost effectively produce books for each student needs and curriculum people cannot provide the multiple disseminations of a subject in a way that teachers can efficiently teach.

We coined a great word in education diversification. In classes we are to diversify and teach to every level of student. Technically that is nearly thirty different levels if we have thirty kids in class. I was pondering a program we have for mentally impaired students entitled The Georgia Alternative Assessment. Basically the State standards are taken and tasks that sort of meet that standard are employed to evaluate a student’s capabilities meeting that standard. So in effect a student on GAA might have two standards to have tasks applied to in biology and is checked at various points during the year to see if there is progression and a portfolio is compiled and then graded. Several millions of dollars are spent evaluating these portfolios and then if standards are accepted by evaluator student can receive a high school diploma. Sadly a student who does not meet MI qualifications has to meet the same standards as a college track student. Quite a bit of differentiation I would say and having been involved in GAA formatting rather ridiculous.

“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.” Dag Hammarskjold

Sent as a delegate to The United Nations in 1949 he was elected Secretary of the UN in 1951 by a near unanimous vote he presided over the UN in its early years and many world tribulations. During his time in office we had the founding of Israel, the Korean War, and the independence of countries worldwide along with the spread of communism in Europe. As I read Hammarskjöld’s words this morning I found this as well.

“Tomorrow we shall meet, Death and I and he shall thrust his sword into one who is wide awake.” Dag Hammarskjöld

He lived each step on his journey to the fullest and it was these words that he wrote as a young man that embellish his tombstone.

“No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.” Henry Miller

So often in life we come to a place where do we walk across the field or do we follow the edge of the field safely. Some will choose to go the shortest distance between two lines and walk abruptly across never looking at the newly planted field and seedlings sprouting leaving trampled crops beneath their feet. Others fearful of being in the open choose immediately to walk the edge staying close to the woods for safety. It is a choice and we make them daily. The direction of your own journey is based on your choices each day.

“It’s not what’s happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it’s your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you’re going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny.” Anthony Robbins

“Nature is at work… Character and destiny are her handiwork. She gives us love and hate, jealousy and reverence. All that is ours is the power to choose which impulse we shall follow.” David Seabury

As a teacher and learner I travel the pathway always looking trying to see all I can in my travels. I am constantly reading on how to improve my own teaching and that of others. I am always trying to understand who and what I see and why. I try to instill that curiosity in my students as they travel their own journeys and for me it is always about the journey.

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I will have to continue another day looking further at should we have public education. Please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Go up another rung!

Bird Droppings December 8, 2013
Go up another rung!

A week or so of testing is coming up and the mountain is nearly climbed as we approach the holidays. I even with my aversion to shopping will be going out with my wife to brave the masses of the malls and finish up the majority of holiday shopping while toting a ton of gifts to be. Perhaps that is why I am with my routine in total shambles the past few days getting to writing late. I am looking forward to the holidays while we are out from school for nearly two and a half weeks. I am finishing up my meditation and writing this morning after an evening filled with driving a hundred miles, reading posts from friends to a fellow teacher and family friend whose husband was killed in an automobile accident three years ago. It is a difficult time of year for families to deal with a loss but as I read through hundreds of posts and support from friends literally all over some even returning home for the holidays to be with their friends in this time of sorrow and joy. Some days I am disappointed in the human spirit but this is not one of those days.

“One only gets to the top rung of the ladder by steadily climbing up one at a time, and suddenly all sorts of powers, all sorts of abilities which you thought never belonged to you–suddenly become within your own possibility and you think, ‘Well, I’ll have a go, too.’” Margaret Thatcher

The first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain was in her time the most powerful woman in the world. It is her philosophy of success that she discusses here and is simple, one step, one rung, one at a time to the top. So many folks want to jump from the ground to the top and forget there is so much in between. Seldom do you here negative comments about Prime Minister Thatcher of her time in office and the great dignity and poise she brought at a difficult time in our world’s history.

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

One of the major ways that we as humans learn is through trial and error. However true success is not repeating the error again and again but doing anew and that is when we are succeeding.

“What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team.” Benjamin F. Fairless

As I read this note and the four simple rules or ingredients to success I was amazed at the simplicity. First love what you do, and then give it your best, thirdly seize opportunities, and finally teamwork and success can be yours. As I walk through the doors of a school and look at teachers so often you can tell good teachers by who is smiling, a sure sign that they want to be there. For these teachers it is not just a job they love what they do and do give the job their best. In no other field have I ever seen people seize opportunity such as in teaching. When paper is allocated or budget cuts restrict supplies you learn quickly to be resourceful and work with others it is so much easier to accomplish then working independently.

“Success is that old A B C; ability, breaks, and courage.” Charles Luckman

We acquire ability through learning and effort and taking advantage of breaks that come along and keeping your eyes open and always being ready. Courage is that character aspect of us that is that inner drive that can lead a person upward.

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

As he lead US forces back a few years and then as Secretary of State Colin Powell has simply put it all in order as far as life goes, in order to find success you must prepare do your homework. Then you do the work and get it done and finally learn from your errors, from your mistakes and use them to succeed. As I read this afternoon between cleaning and shopping I found a thought I would like to end with.

“It is more important to be of service than successful.” Robert Kennedy Jr.

For many people the idea of success is a selfish thing, but finding true success is when what you do is affecting others positively. As I think back to so many who are taking time today and yesterday to help with the pain of losing a loved one and so many others pieces of life’s puzzle let us all take heed of our time we have. Today in this coming holiday please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Words can be significant and or meaningless

Bird Droppings December 6, 2013
Words can be significant and or meaningless

So often when we open our mouths to speak but do we really think about what it is we are going to say. Often it sort of just spills out. Occasionally we wonder I wish I could have held on to that word or used a different word. Others often do not hear the word the way it is intended or perceive the thought in a similar vein than we were thinking. Working in public school we face daily kids who have limited vocabulary which so much of is learned at home. Standing in front of a group of kids offering an answer only to find you need to explain the answer can be difficult. I was going over a test in literature with some students and most did not know words that were answers to question. How do you answer a question about the meaning of a word if you do not know the words in the answers? Over the years I get responses from folks who read my Droppings and one is a good friend from Texas, Dr. James Sutton, a leading speaker on Psychological disorders with children.

“Your “Droppings” got me to thinking this morning. To me, existential means the basis for existence, which involves many things, I suppose, and it does have implication into the education process. (For instance, I describe a certain kind of behavior in young people as “desperate behavior.” It’s existential because I believe some youngsters feel they HAVE to do what they do, or something terrible will happen … like they’ll evaporate or something … i.e. cease to exist.)

I got into some conflict in a university faculty lecture talking about this stuff once because one professor jumped on the word “existential” and tried to take it all in a whole philosophical direction. I guess the point is that the words we use are important sometimes … especially if they can be misinterpreted.

Experiential (to me) means to witness for oneself with the senses, and to be able to draw conclusions based on the experience, such as what Montessori taught a century and a half ago. (Isn’t it always interesting, Frank, how we think we come up with so many new ideas, only to find out that good teachers like yourself were doing these things hundreds of years ago?)” Dr. James Sutton, Child and Adolescent Psychologist

On a simple basis two words perceived totally differently yet intertwined for some and radically different for others. As I read and ponder about education and life in general I find how we receive a word from another person often may have been not exactly as they intended. As we move through the scope of human kind in advertising and politics which are very similar, words are being molded and placed in positions and times when they can most impact a certain population. Pondering as I do I cannot but help think about my grandchildren and words they may hear as they grow up. For it is in words that they will learn to read and write at some point in her life. It is in words that she will describe their feelings to their mother and father as they get older.

“These thoughts did not come in any verbal formulation. I rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterward.” Albert Einstein

Over the years I have found Einstein’s wit and wisdom very interesting and powerful. As I read this I started thinking here is a man who was thinking of things that had not been named yet. No words were attached to the thought as he pondered… which in many ways provides freedom. In a spiritual light American Indians would call what they could not describe as the great mystery while in other parts of the world a definition soon was attach to any conception of a God that might come down the pike. Soon thousands of God and Goddesses wandered about each with a new name and title and definition. Why is it we so eagerly need a definition and a name for whatever we come in contact with? Perhaps this great thinker is a good example he chooses to wait till later to attach words and sort of wallow in the beauty of the idea first.

“How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right.” Black Hawk, Sauk

“Words alone cannot fully convey the realities of the soul or the greatness of the human spirit.” William Shirley

In today’s headlines the word entitlement can convey a negative meaning and yet as I read the paper a group of high school activists in Georgia in response to some Georgia legislators implying that the Georgia HOPE scholarship is not an entitlement as the State looks at reducing the amount awarded to students.

“If it’s not an entitlement, stop advertising it like it is. We are beaten to death in high school that HOPE is there and that we need to do is maintain a 3.0 and our tuition is covered. We should feel entitled to this because a promise was made.” Hira Mahmood, Georgia Students for Public Higher Education

In my own high school we have scholarship contests. Each advisement is encouraged to have students apply for and try and receive as much in scholarship including HOPE as they can. Students are pushed to maintain that 3.0 grade point average because they will receive HOPE. Across our state students in high school and in college are concerned as legislators make suggestions for this program. It is such a simple word, entitlement, but for some a bad word and others it has significant meaning. A very similar situation was National Teacher certification several years back when Georgia teachers were promised a bonus if they received National Board certification a two year intensive process. Recently after nearly eight years of bonus money it was stripped from education budgets and laws made linking it to whims of current legislators.

“Once I was in Victoria, and I saw a very large house. They told me it was a bank and that the white men place their money there to be taken care of, and that by and by they got it back with interest. We are Indians and we have no such bank; but when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by and by they return them with interest, and our hearts feel good. Our way of giving is our bank.” Chief Maquinna, Nootka

For several years I wanted to find a copy of a book, To Walk the Red Road, Memories of the Red Lake Ojibwa People produced by the high schools students at the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota. It is not a fancy book but one of few words and many photos. The photos are all black and white and many over a hundred years old. In 1989 Dr. Kent Nerburn who was the project director and with the students in his classes accumulated and found the historical information that became this book. It was a combination of providing a vehicle to instill pride in their history and to give some relevance to their literature and language classes.

In 1965 Elliot Wigginton used a similar approach developing with his students what would become the Foxfire magazine and books. I am saddened when a student has a difficult time conveying what they feel due to a lack of vocabulary or an inability to put it into words. Listening to students it is that sixteen hours away from school where most of their understanding and language comes from. How can we as teachers promote improving vocabulary at home?

It is our language that drives us and our society. It is the words we choose to use that indicate to others feelings ideas thoughts and dreams. Trying to provide each minute a means of conveying understanding and new words to students occasionally feels frustrating as the stumble and slip and fall over context and content. We are in process of finishing up our End of Course Tests for this semester and our schools over all grades should look good. In the midst of higher averages than previously are still those kids slipping through the cracks. I will admit the cracks are getting smaller but it is still sad to watch a child flounder in his own language and words. Well I need a new acquisition of a room pet or two. My son found some axolotls for me and while pink and almost transparent they are pretty cool. This amphibian is one that maintains its larval stage for its entire life. It never leaves the water. So I end today with a vocabulary word for all those Scrabble fans that need to use an x for a good score, axolotls. So for today teach someone a new word of meaning and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

What is the Holy Grail solution/answer in education?

Bird Droppings December 5, 2013
What is the Holy Grail solution/answer in education?

“Obsessive search for the holy grail through only that which can be measured and documented effectively diminishes the sacred and leaves us standing empty without souls.” Dr. Grant Bennett

A day or two ago I got a bit carried away and wandered into about two thousand words on what is it about great teachers and why can’t we teach that. Well in my discourse I did not really solve the dilemma but a response from a dear friend, a former professor in my graduate studies and who is a middle school gifted teacher got me thinking. I recalled a scene from an Indiana Jones movie where the old knight who has guarded the Holy Grail for thousands of years has an evil Nazi officer trying to pick the Grail from hundreds of cups.

He chooses a gaudy and elaborate chalice and soon feels the pain of his error and he disintegrates before our eyes. (Movie special effects of course) Shortly thereafter Indiana Jones has the same situation and chooses a simple plain cup to dip from the water of life in order to save his father. For hundreds of years we held an idea of a fancy embellished chalice as the epitome of the Grail and yet it was a simple cup that so often was not even seen. Looking back at Dr. Bennett’s thought in education we have sought the Holy Grail in testing, in curriculum, in various new-fangled gimmickry full of trappings and programs and maybe we truly missed the secret of good or great teaching and education.

I had to sit back ponder and think about my response a bit to Dr. Bennett’s follow up to my note of the other day. Seldom do I skip a day in my meanderings as I think about the coming weekend and driving over seven hundred miles and us old folks will be worn out. We will be going all different directions, North Carolina to for a first birthday for our granddaughter and to Thomaston Georgia for a third birthday for another granddaughter. Nearly three years ago on a drive to Florida for our first granddaughter’s birth my daughter in law gave me a book by Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher.

“It’s a humbling experience but I think that it is a good one too, for someone who writes books on education to come back into the classroom and stand up there as the teacher dues day after day and be reminded in this way be reminded what it is like in the real world. I sometimes think every education writer, every would be education expert and every politician who pontificates as many do so condescendingly, about the failings of the teachers in the front lines of our nation’s public schools ought to be obliged to come in a classroom at least once a year and find out what it is like. It might at least impart some moderation to the disrespectful tone which so many politicians speak of teachers.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young teacher

As I started this book by Kozol one of the first letters discusses that first day of teaching we all went through. I over the years have had several as I moved from Pennsylvania and my first teaching job to a program I stated in Macon Georgia and then to a school in Warner Robins. But the day I recall most vividly and actually forgot about was when I started back after nearly twenty three years away from teaching. I started on a Tuesday in September of 2001. Just by chance it was September 11th. For most of the year had you asked me what day I started teaching I would have responded the weekend after Labor Day. However my principal one day came in and said what day did you start and I pulled out a calendar and sure enough my first day was spent in lock down. I was replacing a teacher who had a nervous breakdown dealing with the EBD kids that I was thrust into.

So here I was I had not taught a day in twenty plus years and stuck in a room I should say locked in a room with ten kids who all had been in jail or were on probation still. What do you do? Curriculum was out the door and over a few minutes we had our windows covered and all outside contact severed. Here I was with ten kids who were actually some of the worst in discipline referrals in the school in a tiny room for about five hours. I winged it and we got to know each other. It wasn’t long till those kids were coming to my class and not going to others which of course did not sit well with some of the other teachers whose classes they were missing. I thought about this and still at times wonder why was I being successful with them and another teacher had a nervous breakdown. I come back to perhaps it is not something we can actually put a label on but an easy word to use is relationships.

Teaching is about relationships it is about building and maintaining them. I went out of my way to know these kids beyond the fact they were all jailbirds or into things most kids in high school would have never thought of. After my long dropping of the other day another note from a high school friend who taught Literature in high school in Pennsylvania for thirty six years loving every minute of it. I was asked the other day who was my favorite high school teacher and I could at the time only recall one. A former class mate from high school sent this email.

“Anyway…your point is well-taken. What makes a great teacher? I can honestly say that many teachers at Scott influenced me: Joey Inners, John Kerrigan, Dave DeFroscia, Joan Tuckloff, and, of course, Miss Cristoforo. They made classes come alive; they went the extra mile; they touched my spirit and made me realize what I could do if I worked hard and applied the talents I had. I think Mark Twain said: Teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theater. I think he was right. If the students like a teacher, they will walk through fire for them. One of my favorite activities asked students to write a quick note to a teacher who made an impression on them, thanking them for what they did. It was the best assignment ever. Here’s a salute to all of the teachers who have influenced me.” Beckie Backstetter Chiodo

My father once told me that teaching was entertainment as well as imparting knowledge I am sure he had read Twains comment as much like me he had a vast quote library saved up which is sitting on my book shelf and I do borrow from occasionally. My father taught about industrial Safety and Loss Control and was in his day considered the leading authority in the field. He lectured in most parts of the world and often spent months teaching for example in South Africa to mine safety folks or in the Philippines or Australia. I went into a lecture many years back when we had an affiliation with Georgia State University and held many of his courses on campus or nearby. This course was in I think the Down Town Ramada Inn and I stepped in to watch the master at work.
He was lecturing about a topic and to make a point he got down in a football three point stance and said hike and charged up the next yard or so of carpet. My father was a lineman in college and even in his sixties was pretty imposing. He lowered and raised his booming voice. He used many learning tricks we teachers still use to help his classes remember ideas. A famous one in safety is ISMEC. Identify, set standards, measure, evaluate and correct or commend a simple acronym and it became a mainstay of Loss Control management.

I recall another idea from my father when he visited a plant the first place he went was the maintenance shop. He would talk to the supervisor and ask where they saw issues. I was always amused at how many safety guys would question my father about this tactic. His response was this was ground zero for knowing where potential major loss will occur. In the maintenance shop doing repairs for example repeatedly for a specific shift or piece of equipment will indicate a potential problem waiting to hit.

I started thinking that this could apply in a school. Several possibilities what teacher writes most referrals for seemingly inconsequential reasons? You cannot teach by referral. Look at remedial classes are there similarities with kids who are there? Did they have the same teacher? Did they come from the same school? What is their life at home? Far too often in education we start at the top and go down. I have found the gifted kids even without a teacher will do great. I am being somewhat sarcastic.

As I am reading Kozol’s book and now interested in looking at others of his I am sure I will be borrowing ideas but I would like to leave today with this idea should we start at the bottom or the top in trying to solve educational problems? I am no closer to finding the solution to how do we tell a great teacher but maybe some food for thought. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird