A morning meandering while the quarter moon sets

Bird Droppings March 22, 2014
A morning meandering while the quarter moon sets

As I read through several old emails of my former doctorate and graduate cohort folks as they some are defending their dissertations in the coming weeks. In another set of emails from an article review several commented on how these particular readings provided insight into successful educational programs. I actually had enjoyed the readings and it made me recall a teaching principle I learned in from my father who used it in the steel industry many years ago and I actually was taught this concept in a Red Cross course for instructors in 1968. It is called the FIDO principle, hence Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over again. If you repeat something, often enough maybe it will sink in. Granted in today’s educational system of teaching to the test we might be using FIDO a bit too much.

“I believe that the school is primarily a social institution. Education being a social process, the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own powers for social ends. I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed, The School Journal, Vol. LIV, No.

I look at John Dewey’s ideas from nearly a hundred years ago and how we still call those ideas progressive education it amazes me. With all of the educational materials out now, many are only a few years old they are still called traditional when comparing to Dewey. One of our topics was looking at performance versus social support. I am of course leaning in the social support direction as this is an integral part of my day when I am teaching even with general education students. This is how I see kids and deal with kids. I go back to my idea in one of the postings I read earlier today of getting away from a swing of the pendulum and going in the direction of a pulse, no swing either way but a steady beat or energy. Last evening I chatted with a good friend who is writing a book about the top twelve things a new teacher needs to know. He is interviewing five teachers he has met in his professional career and I was one by chance. Made my day I should say.

When dealing with children we should try and steer away from that concept of right or left swing and go towards what is best for the kid not always for the society. I have worked with a large number of kids from a certain low income housing area nearby. Many are very bright and all are very poor. The sixteen hour syndrome as I call it is alive and well in that area. As I go by often several times a day between my mother’s house and my own, I see kids I have had and often new ones but always similarities. As I look back at the last twelve years of teaching EBD students I have had more kids from that one spot in the county than any other specific spot. Sadly in actuality many are marrying within that small community. There are more kids being born, coming from that environment. Many are on the fringe of society. Many of the kids are anarchists, punkers, suffering from divergent behaviors, drug addicts, alcoholics, and few if any have jobs. I wondered why as I drove by thinking of past kids from this enclave. Several are serving serious hard time; some have escaped and moved away, many will be going to our newest high school down the road next year. I wonder if anyone in that community was approached about their participation in the greater good.

Interesting as I am having a difficult time getting started this morning wandering off a bit as if I had just driven by that community. I am always trying to stay up with our youngest sons thinking and had spent a few moments over in Athens at St. Mary’s Rehab Center with him this morning. I recall back to a day he decided to do a Godzilla marathon six of the old Godzilla movies. I did not make it through the first one. When I got up the next morning the video was still on and he crashed somewhere after five this morning watching the twenty eighth movie featuring the man in a monster suit. He just found the latest installment which features every major other monster and a walk on by the computer generated Godzilla. I often wonder if there is a hidden meaning to Godzilla the powerful beast who always eventually has a weakness. Sort of the David and Goliath of nature and humanity, and my youngest of course came to the rescue offering that the original concept of the monster was an antinuclear effort. My oldest son and I promised we would wait to see new Godzilla movie till he can go.

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Van der Post

For many years I have been intrigued by this man whom I had not heard of prior to finding a quote several years ago and yet he has written literally hundreds of books and articles on Africa and numerous other countries. He was raised by an African Bushman woman and taught their ways and his philosophy of life. His writings are permeated with nature and the thoughts and aspirations of this primitive people. Van der Post was knighted by the Queen many years ago and actually is the Godfather to Prince William. He is the only non-royal to have ever been given that honor.

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennett

“What is to give light must endure the burning.” Victor E, Frankl

As I sit this morning so often it is conversations and happenings of yesterday that drive the thought that inspires me as I write. Yesterday I was talking with some friends of where they had been and where they were going, adversity is a good word as we spoke. It is about looking the lion in the mouth and walking away knowing you have survived. Only a few days ago I was talking with a former student. She was a graduate of a respected associates program was floored at one point by her rejection at a four year school. She had gone to the two year program on a full athletic scholarship and suffered grade wise in order to play on a nationally ranked junior college team. As time to graduate came close she had to quit softball and actually lost her scholarship in order to raise her grades and put more time into studying. She had conquered her adversary and now was trying to move on. She was after graduating with a four year degree in business still working as a waitress but just a few days prior to our talking had been interviewed and got a job she had been dreaming about.

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” Maori Proverb, the Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand.

“Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.” Laurens Van der Post
“The chief condition on which, life, health and vigor depends on, is action. It is by action that an organism develops its faculties, increases its energy, and attains the fulfillment of its destiny.” Colin Powell

Overcoming adversity begins with action, with a step forward, with realizing shadows are cast by light with knowing that growth comes from effort. It is difficult to cross a stream if you never take the first step. In borrowing from the Zen teachings “You can never cross a stream the same way twice”. I was sitting here remembering old stories and thoughts in the past we would hike up a stream in north Georgia the Toccoa Creek and in that hike transverse about 500 feet up hill over rocks and boulders and such climbing up the creek. In the process of course water is continually flowing against you and depending on the rainfall it could be a good bit. Cracks and crevices abound and more than several times you actually swim in rock channels ten feet deep and eighteen inches wide all uphill but at the top is a water fall.

“The view at the top is always worth the climb” Sir Edmond Hillary

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

Pondering in my search for wisdom

Bird Droppings May 21, 2014
Pondering in my search for wisdom

With my son in rehab and school nearly over sort of out of sync but my plans for this memorial day which was to include yard work, writing and a finishing up several pieces of my research. I went out to a moon glowing brightly to get a few images to post and listen to sounds of the night. I ventured out last night to a litany of gray tree frogs blasting away. I sometimes forget not all people live by my sunrise to sunset standard.

On the front page of today’s paper the lead story is how high school graduates are not ready for college and right next to it was an article on an assistant principal who is being investigated in Atlanta’s school system cheating scandal claiming she did not know they were cheating only cleaning up eraser marks so testing machines would not err. One comment was essentially in Georgia twenty five percent of the graduates have to take remedial courses in college. As I thought about this pondering as I do I recalled I too took a remedial language arts course my freshmen year in college. Actually took it twice since the first time I did not go to class very often. How valid is taking a remedial class in terms of success in school?

Why did I have to take a remedial college course and yet I was accepted into all three colleges I applied too. My SAT was a few points too low for the one school I applied too on the verbal portion and yet today it would be more than enough to get into any college without remedial classes. As I think to my days in High School Literature with the exception of maybe one or two years I hated it and could not understand why we needed to listen to a teachers opinion on why Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. As I think back I really did not like Math classes, Spanish classes and all but one science class. Considering we had math, literature and science all four years of High School I really did not like high school and perhaps my GPA reflected this. Even though my SAT scores were what got me into college and conversely in a remedial class, my saving grace in education was standardized tests which I seemed to always do well on. My first set of SAT scores were in today’s terms over 1300 for verbal and Math which really would get me into most undergraduate schools shy of Ivy League today. The second time I took SAT I decided I would see how fast I could actually take the test and in twenty three minutes had completed the SAT and scored only a few points lower than my previous testing.

So where am I wandering today. My conclusion that I came to after reflecting on my own High School experience and many kids I talk with in High School today is that we are teaching subjects that many consider irrelevant to them, even kids going to college. Some students will strive and get high grades acquiring the content that is provided so they take End of Course Tests and do great. But as I look at High school subject matter and even the photo used in explaining how deficient students today are in Math I looked at the problem on the board behind the teacher being interviewed and in real life shy of being in physics or math as a job you will never see that material. Learning is what is missing from education today. It is about that desire to learn and making it relevant to students who more than likely do not even want to be in that class. So how do we get teachers on board that have been brought up in the same system? We have taken the passion out of learning. We have stripped learning of imagination and creativity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have several times used my example of a liter bottle and having three gallons to put in it, how do we do it? A funnel still only fills to a liter and the rest spills out. I use this illustration in educating special needs kids and I believe it applies to all children and adults. It has been a few months since my last trip to Mountain City and the Foxfire property. I am heading up in a week or so. If you are in Mountain City Georgia take a look it is well worth the drive up the mountain. The museum will provide a guide to take you around. I recall the late Robert Murray and numerous walks with him around the property, here and there he would pick a plant leave or three or four telling about what they could do and what they can be used for.

As he would go building to building explaining mountain life he eventually gets to a shed with a large copper coil sort of device and asks “So what is it” and answers run the gambit? Finally laughing he explains it is a condenser for making moonshine. If you have watched the miniseries Hatfield and McCoy’s you will know. So how do we fill a liter bottle? We condense and we synthesize and much like making cane syrup we boil the cane juice down to get the good stuff. Wisdom is knowing what is the good stuff and being able to transcend the frills and extras.

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

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

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

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

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

I am trying to regurgitate a previous days thought

Morning Bird Droppings May 20, 2014
I am trying to regurgitate a previous days thought

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

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

After sorting emails and getting serious about writing I started with wanting to continue my thought from a previous day. Truth is so often an elusive quarry and somewhere along the line talking with my wife we got into technology and a new topic sort of evolved, the spiritual loss within children as we inundate them with technology and literally occupy every moment with a gadget or thing. Paradoxically I was registering some software this morning and got to one screen where you check which of the following you or your family own. There were thirty objects listed ranging from Blackberries to cable TV. We had twenty six of thirty in our household. Had we not been so against Apple computers excluding iPads and iPhones we might have had all 30. Actually I do like Apple we just do not have one currently and the more I use my iPad and iPhone the more I like Apple.

As I thought of how much we count on and “need” all of these things it hit me how we replace aspects of our humanity with the immediateness of technology. I see anger transmission as a good example. I was reading various blogs on Facebook this morning and saw several venting which on an educational blog yesterday had a middles school principal asking parents of middle school students to shut down their children’s social networking sites in a Midwestern state. Some of this was in light of cyber bullying and several suicides linked to online bullying. I being old can recall back in the old days waiting till you see someone to argue or yell but now instantaneously you blog, email, text message and or cell phone immediately your anger. That is significant change in how we react and deal with life. So often we miss the journey since the destination is immediate.

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

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

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

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

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

We each get up in the morning and begin the day usually very similar to the day previous. I was thinking back nearly ten years ago and how my house was quiet, everyone was gone. My wife and middle son were at Georgia Tech for orientation my son started there now almost ten years ago. My youngest was at a music camp for the week, I actually did not know if they were ready for him or not, he took his tuba but his passion has always been the blues harp (harmonica) and still is. He and his cousin went to camp to do some serious jamming his cousin bringing his national steel guitar and my son his harmonicas. My son is always trying to turn some folks on to some old Robert Johnson songs instead of the standard pop music so many teenagers listened to. My son today is in his last semester at Piedmont College in Demorest Georgia in nursing school up in the heart of some awesome bluegrass music we shall see what happens when bluegrass hits blues.

I drive by my mother’s house many afternoons after school often dropping off some digital photos for my mother’s hobby or taking dinner. She has over the years created one of kind greeting cards from photos and artwork for her family members. She uses the image on the front and then writes a unique phrase for that person to go inside. I recall driving around looking for a picture of a spider web for her and in the process took 60 or more other photos one I have used as a screen saver on my laptop for some time now.

My oldest son many years back started a ten gallon mini reef tank that has been through ups and downs and at last time was a twenty gallon tank but now sitting idle. However in basic a mini reef is a salt water aquarium that simulates a coral reef, in miniature. The denizens in his had been primarily colonial polyps and coral which from a few feet away look like lumps of rock in a very brightly lit tank, but up close and the rocks have quarter inch creatures with tentacles waving in the current and are very much alive. I have taken many pictures over the years and one is of a group of anemones that cluster together each only a quarter inch wide covering a piece of coral rock with what looks like hair till you look closely and it is tiny tentacles catching microscopic creatures in the water. Tiny mantis shrimp that have hatched in the tank would be swimming about each less than a sixteenth of an inch What is amazing is how much beauty is contained in a space thirty six inches long and thirteen inches wide and a foot high. I often think of life this way we miss so much when we do not look closely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why not just imagine?

Bird Droppings May 19, 2014
Why not just imagine?

Some days I wonder if adults I know have ever imagined even considered imagination. For example have you ever lain on your back watching clouds trying to determine if this one is a dragon or a whale? I was driving home from Georgia Tech with my son and his roommate several years ago. They were planning on going to the premiere of the new Star Wars movie. As we drove my son mentioned an article he read about video games and creativity. It was probably the exact opposite of what many of us would say, evidently this particular report indicated video games and their realism and such increase brain capacity for imagination. I won’t vouch for that one however. But I do know I do not see the creativity and imagination perhaps as much as I would like.

So many adults have chosen a rigid world of exactness and parameters tight little boxes of comfort and calmness. They are often limiting themselves only to a few inches of space in this vast universe, stodgily staying within the lines and forcing others to do so as well. By dictionary terms creativity is “the ability to create”, that is a simple version of a complex idea.

“Some people will only love you as long as you fit in their box. Don’t be afraid to disappoint them” Lecrae Moore

“The creative process is the emergence in action of a novel relational product, growing out of the uniqueness of the individual on the one hand, and the materials, events, people, or circumstances of his life on the other.” Carl Rogers

A synthesis of things people have and hold on one hand and what the available materials might be on the other.

“One sees from this that genius: 1) is a talent to produce that to which no specific rules can be applied, not that to which learned and practiced skills can be applied; therefore, that originality is its primary characteristic. 2) Since there can also be original non-sense, its products are at the same time examples, i.e., that they must be exemplary; in fact, though themselves not products of imitation, they must serve as such for other products, that is, as measures or rules of judgment. 3) It cannot describe or scientifically establish how it brings its product about; rather, as an expression of nature simply provides the measure. Therefore, the creator of such a product does not know himself how the ideas come about, and does not have the ability to come up with these ideas at will or according to a plan, and cannot communicate a set of rules by which one could bring about similar products. (Presumably for this reason one uses the word “genius,” which also means a spirit who accompanies a human at birth, protects and guides him.) 4) Nature prescribes to art rather than science through genius; and this only insofar as art desires to be an art form.” W. Miller, Duke University

A long winded definition that actually raises more questions than it defines. Creativity is a most difficult word to clearly define. Years ago my youngest son was being tested for “the gifted class”; his second grade teacher saw glimpses of something a bit more than average children his age. His IQ test bolstered her thoughts and his achievement tests were ok nothing that would knock you down and his grades well in some areas one hundred percent plus in some areas and in others that he was not interested in well he was passing. However in Georgia at that time gifted labeling required a battery of tests and three out of four tests the child should exceed in to be considered gifted. This little kid had two out of four and indicator of grades was a loss so he had to ace creativity test. So on the given day the school psychologist took him aside and tested. The test was given and scored and given again several more times since the first one was obviously flawed and finally by the third time and similar results she decided it was a real score. It seems he was off the charts in creativity and the tester had never scored a second grade student so high.

I immediately pointed to genetics as a factor standing tall and puffing my chest out a bit. It was with that he ended up in gifted class. Since that time I have been impressed with teachers and parents who encourage their children to imagine, to ponder and think beyond the required tasks assigned. After the testing the teacher who tested my son asked if we did anything out of the ordinary. His spontaneous answers were what floored her in testing. Since he was four or so every day as I drove him to school we would make up stories taking turns adding to the plot or even to what we were making up a story about. My father’s grandpa Niper (my great grandfather) stories were embellished and expanded often for days.

Some days the stories would be of imaginary creatures and often it was a contest to stump me with a creature I could not make up a story about and only once was I stumped. I do not recall the request and or what monster he had come up. But my son initiated the process and would offer twists and turns as we built the story. My kids grew up in the middle of 183 acres of farm land and they would often find their way to Paradise a pile of rocks and stones sitting on a slab of granite in amongst several trees. They would build tiny villages and forts with pebbles and small stones and take match box cars along to add to their game. Even today the word Paradise conjures up vivid memories for my kids and imagination and every once in a while I will get asked to retell a Grandpa Niper story especially now that grandbabies are getting to storytelling age. We need to encourage each other teachers and parents not to hinder imagination. We need to stop infringing our limitations and our boxes and parameters on children’s minds and souls. We need to imagine as well and live each moment. So on my official first day of summer break I am sitting at school writing pondering and as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to give thanks always namaste.

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

Teachers what about adding to reality TV, The great teachers of America?

Bird Droppings May 16, 2014
Teachers what about adding to reality TV,
The great teachers of America?

I taught my college class last night and when I got home I was sitting mesmerized by the night sounds when the kitchen door opened and my son poked his head out wondering what I was doing. I was not in the mood for TV and the sounds of darkness seem to calm me after a seriously crazy week of emotional ups and downs regarding my son and his accident, for sleep. Off in the distance a whippoorwill was calling to one near the house and crickets tree frogs and an occasional owl chimed in. It was an exceptionally human intrusion on a quiet night since few human influenced noises were present. I found myself thinking to the idea of; I wonder if this is what it sounded like hundreds of years ago just the various birds, crickets, frogs and owls. A heavy dew and rainwater were dripping from pine needles nearby adding to the ambiance. I gave tanks and headed to bed.

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our federal education program No Child Left behind is about lifting standards higher to make the United States number one in education. In the news literally daily the idea of raising the bar in our educational process was suggested again. We need more students to succeed so we will raise the standards and graduation rates. So to say raise the bar educationally. The theory is that more students will succeed with higher standards for teachers and students. However changing of teaching methods, changing delivery, and even changing standards does not raise the ability or desire of a given student.

I can’t help but think of high jumping when the idea of raising the bar came up. Let us use as acceptable a height of currently thirty six inches and tomorrow we will raise the bar to sixty inches and you will succeed because we have a new way of telling you how to jump. We will use a megaphone now and just as you jump we will yell “NOW JUMP”. As silly as this sounds this little exercise which is akin to many educational programs is more how not to succeed than before. Before raising the standard did we look at why the students could not clear thirty six inches. Was it the teaching method, or the physical ability of the student, was it the shoes they are wearing, perhaps the surface of the run way to the jump pit is too soft or slippery, is there a wind that knocks the bar off as they approach. In education time after time the mention of zip codes and test scores comes up and in today’s jargon that’s why we need these charter schools run by businesses who know what to do. So in my naiveté, I wonder how does a real estate mogul or software genius know how to teach or seemingly increase knowledge over say a teacher? Even more interesting is many of so called experts have not succeeded in school and or did not go through college. But they know what it takes to help poor kids or failing kids how to raise the bar.

Basically in any type of medium if a person cannot jump thirty six inches moving to sixty inches will only assure failure. However with practice and time sixty inches is possible but several factors have to be in place and a key one is the desire and attitude of the person doing the jumping. The coach can be the greatest in the world but if the student is content on failure they will fail. A few years back I watched the induction of John Madden into the NFL hall of fame. Madden has been one of my favorite commentators and coaches of all time.

“Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” John Madden

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” Ara Parasheghan

Coaching and teaching the terms are often synonymous in many ways. It was a number of years ago I raised and showed horses. I had a very good Appaloosa gelding we affectionately called “Spot” and with me riding Spot would be third or fourth but always place. Funny thing was with my trainer on board Spot would win. I once asked about this phenomenon and was told the following.

“You put a ten horse, and by ten I mean on a scale from 1-10 out with a 1 rider again on a scale of 1-10 and you have a 5 ride, however you put a 10 horse and 10 rider out and what are your odds” Earl Burchett, trainer and judge of Appaloosa and Quarter horses

As I thought of my horse days quote, teaching and coaching are similar. A good teacher can get more out of a poor functioning group of students and a poor teacher will get something out of great students. For thirty five years I have asked how do we distinguish that good teachers and or coaches are from a mediocre ones.

“Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.” Don Shula

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Vince Lombardi

Commitment is a key word in selecting a great teacher and or coach and the ability of instilling that commitment in their students and players. Over the years few coaches have been compared to the great Vince Lombardi who is perhaps the greatest of all coaches.

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.” Vince Lombardi

The ability to succeed is based on hard work desire and determination these are skills that great teachers and great coaches can instill in students and players.

“The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else” John Madden

Far too often we only see the champion and how many folks can remember who finished second or third in the national championship game. This may be a fault in our society that we settle for only the greatest only the best. We live on a bell shape curve and only a few will ever be the best but it is in the trying and it is motivating students into trying that as a teacher is to excel. It is so easy to succumb to the down side of that curve. Fifty percent will not succeed and that mentality is often so powerful that so why should I try harder.

“One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.” Knute Rockne

A slight paraphrase of this great quote from the great Notre Dame Coach, “One teacher teaching is better than fifty saying they do”. This is what it is about; it is about truly teaching, motivating, instilling determination, and desire. It is about coaching and succeeding rather than failure. I hear every day, but I have a seventy percent I am passing that really makes me upset that a child concedes to a seventy percent. Who gave out seventy percent passes but we do it all the time. Can a thirty six inch jumper clear sixty inches? Many years ago a so-so high jumper changed his form. He was also a student of physics and as such and he noticed jumpers were leading with their foot and the body following. He changed his form and lead with his head and torso and high jumping changed forever. Shortly thereafter a world record and Olympic gold went to Dick Fossberry and the Fossberry flop as it was called is now the jumping style of all record holding high jumpers. Funny thing is, today all high jumpers lead with their head a matter of physics getting the heaviest part over first and those muscles pushing it over last which takes less effort and the world record keeps going up. It is about ideas, determination and commitment and any goal can be accomplished.

Can this apply to teaching and learning? Most assuredly we can, but we have to make an effort and we have to look for the means of accomplishing our goal. Federal standards called for research based programs in educational settings yet there are only a few the field is narrow and the difficultly is doing new research which requires guinea pigs and too many teachers and programs do not want to fail. Teacher’s jobs are at stake as well as administrators and so we in trying to improve may actually have boxed ourselves in by limiting improvement to a narrow window of research proven programs, which in reality may or may not work. Are they researched n the same demographics as the students you teach or will be teaching is always a question? Has this program truly been tested on a large enough group? Is there room for improvement and progress within the program?

From personal experience I have watched administrators then limit programs due to their own limitations in imagination and creativity. One of my favorites is the notorious word wall. A teacher must have six inch letters of vocabulary words on the wall and that is it. So an electronic version that is available at home anywhere on computer is not a word wall or a well-designed graphic as a lead in for a students working notebook in class is not a word wall, a set of personal flash cards is not a word wall, t-shirts with vocabulary, sky writing vocabulary words these are not word walls it has to be six inch red letters not yellow or blue. Teaching gets defeated by limits, impositions and parameters imposed by lesser imaginative administrators and legislators.

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I went out waking and to my quiet spot before posting today sitting at home waiting for grandbabies to come visit getting paperwork for insurance and such finished for my son. I sat in my quiet spot giving thanks for all that has transpired in the past week for each element good and bad makes all involved a better person. The doctors and nurses that meet and care for my son are blessed as is each member of my family and friends who have kept Matt in their thoughts. I shared with my History class last night how each person we interact with gives us a piece of our life’s puzzle and shared my business card which is covered in puzzle pieces and one member of the class smiles and says it makes sense now. The pieces are all falling in place. So I end my writing for today and continue getting phone calls made and computer forms filled in but still the hard part is keeping all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and always giving thanks namaste.

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

It seems to be a new morning?

Bird Droppings May 14, 2014
It seems to be a new morning?

Last night I had my son drive up to the corner store to get a few things. When he I had been waiting outside and the sounds of the evening were stilled from the chill all the humming, whistling, chirping and barking that should have been going on was still. Living in the country we are used to quiet but this was still other than a slight breeze which occasionally would rustled the pine needles. I seriously miss the cicadas, tree frogs, crickets and every other creatures that normally would be out and still going strong this morning but forty eight degrees on a May morning silences all. Through the silence this morning a lone owl hooted two or three times and then it too was quiet.

At the high school today they are doing a few make up tests for End of Course Test and getting ready for finals and graduation. I wonder often about the usefulness of such endeavors are we truly assessing students or simply going through hoops. Sadly it is a state and federal requirement. I have a little book that I found at Barnes and Nobles, “Teachers Little book of Wisdom”. I found it on one of excursions into the vastness of our local Barnes and Noble bookstore. Seldom do I come out without reading material or at least an idea. Bob Alogozzine is the author/editor of this little tome. Bob is someone who ended up in teaching sort of by accident and fell in love with his job. With an economics degree and few jobs in his field, there was a need for Special Education teachers so he ended up by chance teaching. This little book is 365 statements about teaching.

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

It is not just about math or science there is an aspect of life in each day we walk into a room or see another person. Teaching is not simply a job done by a teacher it is a piece of everyone’s existence. Parents teach from day one. Friends teach or they are truly not friends and some of us who choose to be in a class room teach. As I read this little thought I realize how wonderful of an idea it truly is. It is not about learning calculus for the big test but about doing better than has been done before. If each of us could look at life that way and do today just a bit better than any other day before I wonder what kind of world we could make.

I was looking at my blue berries yesterday and they are not quite ready but it reminded me of several years back picking blueberries at a friend’s house. It was hot out we nearly stopped several times but we kept on and you know when I finish writing today I will throw some big blueberries on my cereal and milk from the freezer. Blueberries really freeze great. Life is moving in so many directions as I read the news today and maybe one day soon I can stop ending my emails with this. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Children learn what they live

Bird Droppings May 13, 2014
Children learn what they live

It is such a beautiful day and quiet outside, I had the opportunity to sit and meditate for for a few minutes just before the rising sun pushed across the wheat fields behind our house. I took pictures of the nearly full moon the air was still and nearly silent however the quiet and sounds that permeated were fantastic. A great horned owl periodically pierced the quiet along with a whippoorwill just as the sun came up shifting to morning dove calls and a mockingbird imitating everything else around. As I listened a bit more carefully, still little noise even in the background other than handful of birds, crickets and a soft breeze in the trees. I had burned some sage leaves in a bowl with a smidgen of sweet grass and the aroma added to the ambiance.

It has been several days since I have even sat down at my computer since my sons accident and today as I went quickly to the store for vittles a great red tailed hawk swooped up the road at me and then over my car as if to say all is well. When I came home for the first time in some time there were very few human interactions in my moment of solitude. Air conditioners were still as it was cool, cars were not quite moving on the nearby roads still too early for school buses, and most normal animals and humans were still asleep. I started thinking about my own views on education and raising kids. My youngest son was nearly killed in a car accident and some will say thinking about education is insane as I came back to some old ideas I have had around for some time. It is education on a daily basis that makes us who we are.

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

I have used this story several times over the years having shared this short thought in previous droppings and in classes. It is a story entitled “Our nature” which is from ancient Zen thought and writings I found this copied and written on a professor from Rdyer University’s website after seeing the story numerous times thrown out on the internet.
“Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, ‘Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?’ ‘Because,’ the monk replied, ‘to save it is my nature.’ “ Dr. John Suler, Ryder University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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