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.

It is said dreams do not stand alone

Bird Droppings May 9, 2014
It is said dreams do not stand alone

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

It has been so many years since I first experienced the whimsical book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, this was Bach’s tale of a seagull who dreams of more than simply eating fish entrails at the pier. I was going through my files on my computer and the only book I have had for more than five years is this one. Occasionally when in a quiet place and not too tired so my eyes work I will pull up JLSG and read a few lines thinking back so many years to when I first read the book.

I hear each day and listen to the dreams as student’s talk of where and when, there are some who say whatever and that is hard for me to understand. Having experienced so much in my lifetime good and bad to hear a young person with no concept of tomorrow often because today was dashed it takes me back. I recall several years back on a first day in a class when a student answered a simple goal sheet. Question one: Where will you be in a year? Probably still in school, Question two; where will you be in five years? Probably in jail, and Third Question; where will you be in ten years? Dead was his answer. Gladly that is not the case as I still have contact almost thirteen years later and he is a motorcycle racer and mechanic in Texas although jail part he got right. I have been keeping touch indirectly with him since he has spent the better part of four years in jail and currently is out so he did attain his five year goal. He saw no future and when I talked with him about his answers he really did not want a future because of the present he was experiencing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Follow your bliss.” Joseph Campbell

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

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

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

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

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

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

So often I find myself drawn back to an idea or quote, Kennedy’s quote is one of those as is dreaming. Each time I find something new, a new piece to the puzzle, a new thought as I am rambling through my day, pondering on those moments of new ideas and direction. Today reading about William Burroughs and Kurt Cobain who both achieved the immortality of fame and genius, one lived to barely 30 and one to almost ninety only slight differences kept the parameters of their lives from being identical. I often speak of following a path, we do at times, have choices to make, and how far can we veer off the path? How many times can we make a new path without getting lost?

Mathematicians hold the shortest distance between two points is a straight line however by expanding that thought if point A and B if they are next to each other that line makes a circle which has no end or beginning.

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

Perhaps this is a great point to end on this morning. Over the years well past forty now I have heard this phrase in my head. My father had a worn out a tape recording of the entire speech. Maybe a sermon would be a better word, for it was a sermon to mankind not just the United States. I am
subscribed to Russell Means website entitled “it is a good day to die”, which is not one of pessimism but one of approaching life without fear and knowing you believe in that which you are striving for. I believe Dr. King would have embraced the Lakota statement as well as he approached life that every day was a good day to die. Sadly his life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet as were many great men over the years. Dr. King, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull all did not fear death for they knew in their hearts they were right.

We less brave in this reality can fulfill our dreams but we have to do the work we have to strive to make that dream a reality be it small or monumental. It is our choice where we place point A and point B and whether our path’s become simply a line or a circle. So this morning please keep all in harm’s way, for one of my dreams is a world in peace. So please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Looking for and clearing a pathway

Bird Droppings May 8, 2014
Looking for and clearing a pathway

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Elwyn Brooks White

Often I reflect on the journey of life and the many directions I myself have traveled. I watch others as they step by step go along the way and I listen as some stumble and are lifted up when pebbles and or boulders are in the way. There are choices at times about which pathway to take as a fork approaches and we have to choose. Walking out this morning the smell of a third or fourth straight day of rain with moisture still in the air and whippoorwills calling surrounding me with a chorus that is hard to match I stood listening for what seemed hours before getting into my car to head to the school. I am at times overwhelmed with the idea of why we are so lost as to education and learning in today’s world. As I walked out last night the principal asked if I was going to a state playoff baseball game and I responded without thinking said simply no as I headed to the house.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it.” Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left

“Life is a cement trampoline.” Howard Nordberg

I was wondering why so many of us each day think perhaps too much obsessing over reasons and rationale eventually tripping over our own inadequacies and imperfections. I look far too deep too often beyond the politics of the educational process of which rampant is an understatement with headlines in local papers addressing issues with Charter schools and state education officials. Are we truly desperate or is this a façade to cover up are lack of enthusiasm and desire? I wonder when I see a young person acting as a mime standing still facing an empty wall and unable to move forward or back simply immobile dressed in funeral attire waiting for an end. What has slowed their journey to this point? What is it they have missed along their own pathway as we cross? I wonder why my enthusiasm for teaching dwindled has and my energy drink not recharged me today?

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Sadly we seem to not be able to find the whys and as a former colleague of mine and now a research associate in education in an early morning rant a year or so ago points out.

“If a child isn’t learning then we assume that more teaching is what he or she needs rather than a readjustment of pedagogy; we expect that there is something wrong with the child rather than the teacher (both must be considered, neither should be blamed without proper cause). If democracy isn’t working or there is a problem (voting fraud in FL, etc.) then we reconcile this with more democracy. We suffer a cascade of choice, what Renata Salecl calls a “tyranny of choices” that confuses us and distracts us from the real substance and problem at hand.” Dr. Antonio Garcia former teacher LHS

When I first read through Garcia’s note that morning almost two year’s ago rather early and ended up responding with almost gibberish but heart felt as I jotted it down. I was thinking to a famous quote by Karl Marx, “Religion is the opiate of the people”, and wrote perhaps education in its current process is the opiate muddling cognition into submission.

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” Erich Fromm

“To live remains an art which everyone must learn, and which no one can teach.” Havelock Ellis

There really is no road map and no specific travel itinerary as we journey along with each day being unique for me and for you. Nietzsche offers a why as a reason to live and Fromm simplifies further only a happy moment or a bright morning is all that is needed. Ellis states that life is an art form. Life is an art form and perhaps it is the wielding of the brushes and what colors we use as wield we paint. I have started looking deeper into kids this semester as to why they do not perform academically. There is a formula somewhat of pieces that equate to educational success or educational opiated submission. I am getting to bleak and need to lighten up a bit. I downloaded a book that I have in hardcopy on my shelf and since I walk around with my iPad thought a good one to start my library along with several by John Dewey. J. T. Garret has a doctorate in educational psychology and has worked for the Health Dept. on reservations for many years. He also has studied the medicine ways of the elders of his tribe and knows and writes about Indian medicine.

“There is equality in all things. Everything has its own purpose, all things are equal. There is no such thing as dominance or control by any living thing over any other. There is basically only one relationship in the circle of life. We are humble and show humility to all things here on Mother Earth, even every rock and mineral.” J. T. Garrett Ed.D., Meditations with the Cherokee: Prayers, Songs, and Stories of Healing and Harmony, 2001

Several years ago a movie starring Robin Williams was out “What Dreams may come”. The author of the book researched extensively on the afterlife there are nearly six pages of references in the back of the book. But a scene that caught my attention was as Robin Williams realized that he was painting the world around him and that his attitudes and concerns altered the surrounding colors as they would change and the hues fluctuated as he walked about. When the character Robin Williams plays arrives in the afterlife portrayed in the movie there is an equality of all life it is integral to each aspect of the vision seen.

“You cannot discover the purpose of life by asking someone else – the only way you’ll ever get the right answer is by asking yourself.” Terri Guillemets
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus

“Following straight lines shortens distances, and also life.” Antonio Porchia, Voices, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

As I look at my own drama that I write in my own life we set the boulders in our own pathway and we throw out the pebbles that force us to stumble. We end up creating the forks in the road that force us to choose. But I would not have it any other way as I step along the path. As well we need to be aware that we must make an effort to also clear the pathway. We also must make the choices as to which road to follow. I see my life’s map as a series of zigzags an easy journey constantly side tracked. Where once a straight line between A and B now the page is covered in this way or that in back tracking and circumventing in over stepping and under stepping and in climbing boulders and in pushing some out of the way. It has been a few months since I have used at the end of Bird Droppings a saying by a Native American Orator from back in the day.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

For many this may not mean anything. It has been years now since I could hear a buffalo snort and walk across the pasture and see the breath blown in the cool of winter. It has been years since I have seen fireflies dance across my front field now covered in houses and roads. But I still see the little shadow as the sun sets and I still hear the breeze in the morning. Our scenery changes but life does go on and 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

Looking for the passion in life or is it just obsession?

Bird Droppings May 7, 2014
Looking for the passion in life or is it just obsession?

“All games have an important and probably decisive influence on the destinies of the players under ordinary social conditions; but some offer more opportunities than others for life long careers and are more likely to involve innocent bystanders.” Dr. Eric Berne, The games people play

In a recent bit of pondering I had a thought. Why are we passionate about our jobs, friends, families and perhaps life in general? I started thinking and yes perhaps I think and even obsess too much. I use the word ponder as I call it, often over trivial thoughts for some meaningless dribble, little shadows that many simple never see. Can we be passionate about something any other way? Nine nearly ten years ago today I filled in a form for a young man who was very obsessive in so much of his life. He was and still is obsessive to a point of distraction from reality many times. If you would mention Jeff Gordon’s number or name and his eyes would light up and immediately, in a torrent of language almost as fast as most people can understand there would be statistics, information on this NASCAR race or that and this sponsor or that and soon you would wish you never mentioned Jeff Gordon. I bumped into his mother two days ago at her job.

With Obsessive compulsive individuals changing the subject often will solve the immediate symptoms. I used Jeff Gordon to pull him back from another subject or thought that he would have obsessing on that was less reality focused. Obsessive compulsive Disorder, OCD, can be manifested so many different ways often crippling a person with routines and rituals that have to be fulfilled. As I sit here I see passion in that obsession. Perhaps there is obsession in passion.

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, recorded by Dr. Henry Smith, 1854

So often in life we do or say things that seemingly are independent thoughts random utterances that mean only a bit to us as we pass in that moment. Yet the ripples, the effects and flow of direction from that utterance can carry and evolve far beyond that moment and place. As in a game where one person manipulates a piece and often the other parties involved are unaware of strategy and plan and soon there is nothing left. I think back to that obsession and what may be said in meaningless thought and or pursuing a thought or an idea that is driven from some physiological mechanism we do not control. Is passion mistaken for that an errant whisper and dream? Could passion be an obsession on a simple concept that is mistaken as true passion for that concept?

“Passion and prejudice govern the world, only under the name of reason.” John Wesley

“Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, when some mightier touch than their own may have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the calm content, the marble image of happiness, which they will have imposed upon her as the warm reality.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

It was perhaps John Wesley’s obsession that leads to his passion. Wesley was one of the founders of the United Methodist Church. Wesley was an Anglican Priest who was methodical in his thinking often having communion 30 times in one day. He would be often on his knees in prayer for hours on end or composing hymns and music as did his brother Charles. The web of life has so many strands, woven in and about. Was John Wesley a man obsessed or was he passionate about his calling?

Hawthorne sees a different picture of man. He sees one of seemingly change of personality, differences and varying capabilities. Emerson’s ideas I find often in my thinking as I do and in his ideas there is a close kinship between obsession and passion. Passion is very much a powerful spring but it is so difficult to regulate.

“Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” Amiel, Journal, 17 December 1856

“Passion is universal humanity. Without it religion, history, romance and art would be useless.” Honoré de Balzac

“Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work.” Aldous Huxley

I look at how we see passion and conversely obsession and wonder if often the two are not synonymous baring attributes of each other and offering similarities within the differences. It is easier to offer you are passionate about your job than obsessed with it when discussing with others. It is far easier to except a passionate person than an obsessive one. Religion needed obsession to succeed as I look at Wesley and so many of the Saints yet passion for their beliefs is a more powerful and believable offering. Within the world of art I see Vincent Van Gogh who without his obsession would have never painted with the feverish pitch and effort that he did and his paintings today would not be selling for tens of millions of dollars. Yet to many in his time he was crazy and his painting barely kept him alive. Some will see passion as he sent his ear to a girl he loved, while the poor girl saw obsession.
Can we turn that obsession into useful and meaningful work? Often in the game of life as I started this morning passion is turned not against the passionate but for the person holding the winning hand.

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.” Elbert Hubbard

I have known many who even take medication for OCD and some of us can tell when and how much they took based on their interactions. I wonder how we deal with passion. Do we manipulate and propagate as needed or do we simply medicate when not needed, or push under the rug when the deed is completed and game won. Passion actually is a difficult course in life to ponder. Do we possess it or is it simply obsession. Please keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind 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

Always try and see through eyes wide open

Bird Droppings May 6, 2014
Always try and see through eyes wide open

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” Dolly Parton

It has been nearly eight years since we last moved and seems we might stay here a while. I recall seven or eight years back when we made several quick moves and one time as I removed the last bits and pieces from our then house and bagged up the trash putting it on the pile sort of like saying goodbye. As I drove over to our new house I was wondering about where and when and why. I remember several emails had been about our move, they were sorry we had to move or sorry since moving is so hard.

Moving is hard, always hard I am finding as I get older. We had raised our kids in a house for nearly 23 years that I built in the middle of several hundred acres. Since that time we have moved four times, but in our moves there was a temporary sense hard to explain and then we moved here there is something a bit different as I plant my herb garden a sense of permanency. I was thinking of expanding my garden this spring, maybe planting tomatoes, squash, and a few beans, actually have some Anazai bean seeds from heritage heirloom seeds. First time in seven eight years I had even considered that. I am still stiff in my old age from the little yard work I currently do but the thought of a garden somehow made the day brighter.

“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.” R. I. Fitzhenry

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” Hal Borland

So often during the day I will check the weather just pull up the weather on the internet and check radar pictures from the southeast and see what projections are to be had. Will it be rain or be cold or combinations of both I check the predictions about tomorrow’s weather just so I can plan my gardening. Yesterday on channel 2 a weather person made a comment about the cold front pushing from the Midwest and how this mass of artic air high pressure was the highest at 30.99 inches he had ever seen. As I came home yesterday a small bird flew into the open screen door of the back porch and puzzled by the space that she was confined within flitting about clinging to a wire back to a closed door thud, back to the wire.

I carefully walked to where the bird continually went to an opened the door. I talked for several minutes to the little bird calmly reassuring it all was fine several times during our conversation as it looked constantly for an out reminded me of my students eyeing the door to escape and freedom. The bird flew to the window sill and out the door. I apologized to the bird for leaving the door open and said comeback any time. I will need bird seed today to fill feeders just in case my new friend understands English.

But as I wander aimlessly we have forgotten an aspect of our world that we once knew. In a disaster in Asia several years ago the stories tell of a tribe of fisherman who listened to their elders and safely moved to the mountains. The elders had read the sea and knew what was coming. Today we count on radar and air pressure but in days gone by a small birds antics may have been enough. Does a squirrel gathering more food mean a hard winter? Why in Asia did so many animals move away from the impending disaster?
“Man shapes himself through decisions that shape his environment.” Rene Dubes
“You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success — or are they holding you back?” W. Clement Stone
Within certain parameters we alter and manipulate that around us yet we find ourselves at the mercy of our environment as well. Snow storms paralyze cities and rainfall creates devastation in other areas. Yet we think we control our environment. I keep thinking back to the first quote today and the simplicity so often of Dolly Pardons words. It has been several years since Matthew my youngest son and I were driving back to the college when the sky lit up after a rain the entire landscape was gold from the brilliant rainbow and soon a second joined it and the road and countryside were bathed in light literally I understood the search for gold at the ends of rainbows it was so brilliant. But we drove through rain to get there.

I have wandered through so much today it is how we look at what we see that is so important and seeing what we see. We have lost so much in our ability to see and to understand. Many years ago my wife and I attended several concerts presented by Harry Chapin, a very active and avid environmentalist and out spoken in that regards. But he was a songwriter extraordinaire. A song came to mind today as I wandered about in my thinking and finishing of my graduate papers. It is a song of rainbows, of seeing the world with different eyes, and of understanding. The song is entitled “Flowers are red” the words and music are by Harry Chapin. Please if you get a chance pull up the utube version and listen to this song. It is a powerful song in its simplicity.

Flowers are red
By Harry Chapin

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin’ young man
I’m paintin’ flowers he said
She said… It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There’s a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one
And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen
But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one
Well the teacher said.. You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me…..
And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen
But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one
The teacher put him in a corner
She said.. It’s for your own good..
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And are responding like you should
Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said.. and he said
Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have bee
Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found
The teacher there was smilin’
She said…Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one
But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said.. and he said
Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen.

What a powerful voice we have as teachers. It has been teachers that taught children not to listen to the elders, and instead to listen to the news and weather stations because science knows all. It has been teachers who stopped watching squirrels gather nuts and it has been teachers who altered our environment with new ideas and changed all the flowers to red and leaves to green. The sad part is some will say that is what we are to do as teachers. That is what the Common Core or QCC’s or whatever curriculum we are doing is about, uniformity. So I write each morning for the teachers who like rain because rainbows follow and watch for leaves changing colors and who see flowers in many colors and can share that enthusiasm with students and inspire and change our world. 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

Acceptance is often getting over fears

Bird Droppings May 5, 2014
Acceptance is often getting over fears

As I stepped outside into a beautiful clear humid chilled morning the rain had passed but the humidity hung in the air and the grass was like walking on a sponge soggy and wet but then again it could be from my wife pressure washing the porch and sidewalk. I was thinking of one of my classes actually what should be the easiest class is the hardest to teach. Kids that could do but do not are much harder to work with than kids who have real physiological or psychological problems. These kids choose to not learn and a group of them feeds each other and then you have acceptance of that do nothing norm. My premise is that this do nothing is based indirectly on fear. In education it could have started as a fear of failure or lack of self-esteem but relegates itself to doing nothing rather than risk ridicule.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Carl Rogers

As my days go often in opening a book or researching a thought quote or statement I am curious about, I fine ideas and inspiration that leads me further in my own endeavors. It was last year about this time I was thinking as I was getting ready to go back to teaching after a long spring break since I always miss the clamor of the hallways and interactions with students I got to thinking, I actually find I draw energy from the communications and feedback. I found a statement that for many reasons drew me to it. I found more as usual. I am working on an idea that deals with a student’s depression and so often getting that student to open up and to talk about their issues aids in overcoming the withdrawal and educational barriers of depression.

Rogers’s statement is not a paradox as much as a truth. In 1967 Carl Rogers wrote The interpersonal relationship in the facilitation of learning, in which he emphasized three factors. The first factor is, realness in the facilitator of learning, secondly prizing which is acceptance and trust and third empathetic understanding. As I went through graduate school and came back to teaching I had been looking for explanations on how and why my teaching style worked. Amazingly I see this in Rodgers three points. Yesterday I was discussing why some teachers are so much better than others and it was these three issues.

“When the facilitator is a real person, being what she is, entering into a relationship with the learner without presenting a front or a façade, she is much more likely to be effective. This means that the feelings that she is experiencing are available to her, available to her awareness, that she is able to live these feelings, be them, and able to communicate if appropriate. It means coming into a direct personal encounter with the learner, meeting her on a person-to-person basis. It means that she is being herself, not denying herself.” Carl Rogers

Looking back nearly fifty years, pronouns for teachers were consistently she and her and I recall a dear professor at Eastern College telling me there should not be men in elementary or special education. As I look at Rogers words teaching and education could be set aside and life reinserted. We should enter into all relationships without facades and utilize ourselves as human beings not trying to be someone we think we should be instead. Our best visual aid is ourselves and we are the example for life and others.

“There is another attitude that stands out in those who are successful in facilitating learning… I think of it as prizing the learner, prizing her feelings, her opinions, her person. It is a caring for the learner, but a non-possessive caring. It is an acceptance of this other individual as a separate person, having worth in her own right. It is a basic trust – a belief that this other person is somehow fundamentally trustworthy… What we are describing is a prizing of the learner as an imperfect human being with many feelings, many potentialities. The facilitator’s prizing or acceptance of the learner is an operational expression of her essential confidence and trust in the capacity of the human organism.” Carl Rogers

I have written about trust so many times, it is in accepting people and trusting people inherently that we find difficulty. Almost ten years back for my professor in Human Development, Dr. Udhe at Piedmont College I did a paper on the development of Trust. I had researched the concept of faith and found faith and trust literally synonymous in definition and in development. Dr. James Fowler a professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology wrote a book on the development of faith borrowing from educational developmentalists including Piaget and Erickson. As I read Dr. Fowlers work and looked at others I found parallels in the development of trust and evolved over several months a chart.

Watching my granddaughter as she grows up I am seeing this now as she is acquiring the ability to choose through her own little responses to life at almost four years old. Only a few years ago she would cry when hungry or wet. Last weekend as I played with her I have been noticing how she will use words to describe and words to clarify what she wanted but still occasionally here and there and then little whimpers that escalate if she does not get her way. It may be she wants to sit different, or wants her momma, or a specific toy. She has learned this ability rather quickly. Last weekend on one occasion as she whimpered and turned towards her momma from my lap she pouted her lower lip and whimpered her mother said come to momma and picked her up and she looked over her shoulder right at me and smiled her impish little smile. That is acquired learned behavior at its best.

The Bird development stages of trust
Stage 1 – Unconditional Trust – a baby’s view of trust totally unconditional
Stage 2 – supportive Trust – a child begins to feel trust in the support of family and parents
Stage 3 – Learned Trust – venturing out the learn and acquire trust
Stage 4 – Experienced Trust – trying and experimenting they experience trust
Stage 5 – Questioned Trust – first love and friendship and questions arise
Stage 6 – Answered Trust – slowly we work through events and answer questions
Stage 7 – Universal Trust – As we mature we find trust is there
Stage 8 – Unconditional Trust – very few come back to unconditional trust

The graphic that I did is very colorful and I have put into comparison other devlopmentalists in various fields including Kohlberg and Gillian. We do move through these stages as we go in life, some fixate at one point and never move past. But in Rogers statement acceptance is paramount to trust. The third component of Rogers’s thoughts is empathy.

“A further element that establishes a climate for self-initiated experiential learning is emphatic understanding. When the teacher has the ability to understand the student’s reactions from the inside, has a sensitive awareness of the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, then again the likelihood of significant learning is increased…. [Students feel deeply appreciative] when they are simply understood – not evaluated, not judged, and simply understood from their own point of view, not the teacher’s.” Carl Rogers

Nearly a year ago I ended a paper that in my philosophy of teaching with the idea that empathy was a key element. There is an aspect to life that some people have and many do not. I have watched my wife with patients as a nurse practitioner understand where her patient is coming from and then able to better deal with that persons illness. Years back reading a sales book by Harvey McKay I recall a secret of his. When walking into an office of a customer take notice to what is there build a repertoire. Do you see University of Georgia signs, bulldogs and or logos? Where did they graduate from college and high school? Build a relationship was McKay’s secret and then he made notes for the next meeting. As I am sitting here remembering from way back when, I still keep notes on people. Today when I meet a new student and or anyone I try and find a common ground to start with. I try and not to prejudge and push aside but try and find where we are similar. Sometimes in life this is hard but understanding goes far and empathy is also powerful tool in life. As usual looking for Harvey McKay’s book I found another aspect of Mr. McKay’s writing his daily moral or quote so for today coincidently.

“Teachers strive not to teach youth to make a living, but to make a life.” Harvey McKay

Far too often we get caught in the trying to make a living and lose the three elements of Rogers thoughts and that applies across the board not just to teachers but parents too and friends. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and as the great Sioux Chief and Medicine man Sitting Bull offered to always give thanks namaste.

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

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

Bird Droppings May 2, 2014
Are we attempting to build a bridge or just cross a stream?

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

When I recall using this quote and thought for the first time it was looking at a picture of my middle son dripping wet trying to jump stone to stone across the Toccoa Creek. He had made up his mind he would cross on the stones and not just wade through even though he was sopping wet from falling in off the slippery rocks. Some people might offer that how can you make a statement, “you can never”. No matter how carefully I place my footsteps into the water it is always different the water is flowing changing and moving so each time it is different water and often different sand or mud on the bottom. As I thought deeper and further about this idea my own dilemma of deciding the direction and flow of my dissertation passed by in my mind’s eye about four thirty one morning a few days back. This epiphany was not just a flash but a culmination of twelve years of graduate school, volumes of reading, every day writing, and constant thinking and of most import reflecting on education and learning.

After several years of serious pondering my own direction from an educational standpoint and in my own learning, primarily focusing on my dissertation which has been in process now for five years, this idea kept coming back to me. I had taken a picture over fifteen years ago of my middle son crossing the Toccoa Creek. I have over the fifteen years of pondering and writing my Bird Droppings used the Zen thought as a quote in my writing. Reflecting early one morning this week on Foxfire Core Practices and applications within todays standardized thinking it hit me. I came to this thought in terms of education after my experiences at Georgia Southern with the influence at GSU of William Pinar who discusses curriculum almost as a river flowing, evolving, changing, and in defining being life itself.

Previously my experiences at Piedmont College with John Dewey and the Foxfire Approach and the concept of a democratic classroom, and my dissertation title become or I should say evolved. I jotted down a note somewhere in the darkness of the morning, Crossing the stream of education: Using Foxfire Core Practices as stepping stones. As I thought further if you honestly approach education and learning there is no one solid way or definitive method that always works with all students. I considered the Foxfire Core Practices more as stepping stones than building blocks pondering a few more hours and even the originator of Foxfire Elliott Wiggington found Foxfire evolved as it came into being. His initial experience was more fire related but using the idea of a stream you do get wet when you slip but through climbing back up you can jump to another stone.

I was reading an education related blog yesterday that quoted John D. Rockefeller and pointed at him as the initiator of industrialized, standardized education.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what education in Mary Aswell Doll’s terms is about, it is about engaging the soul, which inspires learning and fuels the curriculum.

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

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

Payaguaje was once involved in a discussion of having someone tell him about time as if he needed to know about watches. He mentioned how his grandson had a fine watch and came to him telling him the time. The old man turned to his grandson and said I have no use, the jungle tells me when it is time. A bird called and he turned to his grandson and said one hour of your time and it will be dark that was the birds call before going to roost for the night. In exactly one hour all was quiet and darkness fell upon the camp. The grandson listened more intently from then on but still was engulfed by the modern world.
I mention this holy man for a reason Much as in my own studies of education I have found there is no solid structure to learning it is about the individual and about communities. Learning is an entity that is specific to that person and while we can mass educate the impact often has dire results. We lose pieces of who we are, much along the line of this indigenous tribe. This is not about primitive versus modern it is about wisdom. It is about what is truly best for children.

I have been involved with Foxfire teachings for nearly ten years and an avid fan since my first book in 1972. I have helped teach courses at Piedmont College in the Foxfire Approach to teaching, researched extensively the history and development of the Core Practices. How can we truly move on in life if we do not know where we came from and why? An aspect of Foxfire is going back in the community using pieces of and bits of whom and why we are. In eleven years now for me back in public education I have had not one student who can name a great grandfather. We seem to allow want the most efficient and quickest in today’s instantaneous world. I want learning now pulling out my Ipad. I see clearly the need for crossing the stream of education but it needs to be one stepping stone at a time not building a great magnificent bridge or dam. The Core practices provide pieces stepping stones to cross the stream and allow the students to have responsibility and advocacy within their learning.

My final thought before he passed on Parguaje would have to somehow record the 16 generations and he neither reads nor writes. This was crucial to him it is as crucial as eating or drinking and knowing who we are. Time was of less import he felt it was as if we want to count each second now and forget every second from the past. I was watching the TV show Psyche, a rerun of an old show with my wife and several times a Ford ad came on where the father was dropped off after a weekend with his kids and he thanks his ex-wife for letting him go and we wonder why our children cannot remember. Maybe they do not want too, it hurts to bad. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

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