What is the Sixteen Hour Syndrome and should we embrace it or find a cure?

Bird Droppings August 18, 2014
What is the Sixteen Hour Syndrome and
should we embrace it or find a cure?

I was away from my computer for several days other than downloading some photos from the weekend so I may be a bit wordy today letting it all out. It has been nearly fourteen years since I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome in relationship to emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students. The idea developed from my observations of a group of twenty-eight students in a Georgia high school. At that time, I was seeing the negative aspects that came to school in the form of students too tired to stay awake or too upset to attend even to any lesson presented. While unknowingly in my observing and understanding I was able to be successful with these students. As I read Dr. Alexander Sidorkin’s introduction to his book, Learning Relations I understood all too well what was going on in my first few weeks back in teaching in 2001. Much as he was referring to in his teaching it could have been mine.

“I finally learned how to be a decent teacher, which involves a lot of improvising, paying attention to my intuition, listening to kids, and trying to take it easy. Having learned to do something is not the same as understanding how it works.” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

Fourteen years ago for me was coming back to teaching after a twenty-three year hiatus and finding very quickly that as a teacher I was in a paradox. We as teachers have the students for eight hours approximately a day during school sessions and are often expected to teach them everything they need according to some parents. However, those same parents and society have those students for sixteen hours to undo and or add to the educational possibilities of the individual student. As I read various books for my graduate courses, I seemed to find an underlying theme in each book, many teachers seemingly never consider this issue of what students bring with them to school.

“There is incumbent upon the teacher who links education and experience together a more serious and harder business. He must be aware of the potentialities for leading students into new fields which belong to experiences already had, and must use this knowledge as his criterion for selection and arrangement of the conditions that influence their present experience.” John Dewey, 1938

The sixteen-hour syndrome is that accumulated experiences of that student each day out of school and if acknowledged and used by teachers could be an asset and boon to a child’s learning and future. The sixteen-hour syndrome is the family, community, culture, friends, society, and all other variants and possibilities that are actively involved in the student’s hours away from school. I believe and will address the need and importance of teachers attending to and understanding this concept and aspect of a student’s life, the sixteen-hour syndrome.

On many mornings I begin the day walking into the local Quick-Trip and getting my customary bottle of Smart water and two Five-hour energy shots, a shot of caffeine to keep me going through the day. Over the many times, I have walked into QT I have found that of all the stores and retail facilities in the area that perhaps this one place is the most homogenous of all. Eastern Europe represented behind the counter by an assistant manager, Hispanics both in line earlier on as they head to work and a cashier, Afro-Americans in line and working at the store, local born and raised kids and it is almost a rainbow of humanity. As I watch interactions all seem to flow and work. There are foods stuffs and drinks to cover the range of cultures and personalities purchasing in that store, obviously a good marketing plan. Why then is it so hard in education to see and delineate that we have multiple cultures and peoples within our schools. When we look at AYP and discuss this group or that and test scores, we seem to leave the realities on the table in the conference room.

Using as an analogy, the classroom is much like a jigsaw puzzle with numerous intricate pieces, that when placed on the table and worked with they all interconnect often in minute detail. I will often place a jigsaw puzzle out and deliberately turn the pieces over so only the grey back is visible making all the pieces essentially neutral. While looking at the pieces in this color blind manner, it is difficult to truly see where each piece can find its place. Teachers as they scan the room on day one often try and look at grey pieces and miss the fine detail that in reality is there. In many ways, it is a racial starting point, but culture and socio-economics as well provide intricacies we so often overlook as teachers.

“While it is recognized that Afro- Americans makeup a distinct racial group, the acknowledgement that this racial group has a distinct culture is still not recognized. It is presumed that Afro-American children are just like white children, but they need a little extra help.” Gloria Ladson- Billings, The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children

Referring back to my jigsaw puzzle analogy it is when we look at the pieces and investigate that we solve the puzzle. It is often when solving the puzzle like pieces are sorted to one pile often by color. I have watched children look for shapes and corners as they solve the puzzle. It is far too often that teachers in their classrooms feel constrained and or limited and often never get past sorting color or shapes. Dr. Delores Liston in Joy a Metaphor of Convergence offers a rational explanation of this societal impact on teachers and limitation that many feel is imposed.

“The Cartesian worldview presents us with the false security of objective truth, but if we accept this view, we also accept our powerlessness to enact change. …. This perspective leads us to say, ‘What can I do? That’s just the way it is.’” Dr. Delores Liston

Sadly many teachers succumb and for thirty years wait till retirement to rid themselves of their pieces to the puzzle without ever once seeing the real picture presented by those pieces.

While many parents, school reformers and even society look to teachers to provide during school all the needs of a child which for some includes teaching morality and ethics. These same parents, school reformers and society overlook the impact and consequences of that period a student is at home and out in society that is approximately sixteen hours during the school day. John Dewey is very well represented in my readings and is touted by some of the authors as one of the premier educators of all time.

“The development within the young of the attitudes and dispositions necessary to the continuous and progressive life of a society cannot take place by direct conveyance of beliefs, emotions and knowledge. It takes place through the intermediary of the environment. The environment consists of the total of conditions that are concerned in the execution of the activity characteristic of a living being” John Dewey

It is the total of our experiences that makes us who we are, and these are not bits and pieces we learn and acquire totally within school and the educative process. These are pieces and bits we bring to school from outside.

Somewhere along the line many of the pieces formerly learned and understood at home were transferred or assumed to be transferred to the school as the supplier of and provider of implementation of various human attributes. Jane Roland Martin views the industrial revolution as an integral part in altering the delineation of various aspects of humanity in her book Cultural Miseducation: In search of a Democratic Solution, (John Dewey lecture 8). Martin views the home and school as separate entities and that students in school “castoff the attitudes and values” from home. I would offer perhaps teachers unknowingly disenfranchise those attitudes and values in light of education and even neutrality going back to my grey backed puzzle pieces and political correctness. There is in effect a lack of understanding in general within education as a whole, and far too often what students could be bringing to the classroom is ignored and or overlooked.

“No one asks if the wealth that is not in the schools keep is elsewhere being transmitted to our young. No one dares talk about cultural liabilities are being passed down to the next generation, let alone calculate the intergenerational injustice the older generation is doing by passing them along.” Jane Roland Martin

How much is being lost by not seeing the wealth of experiences that students bring to the classroom? So many teachers argue there is not enough time to even consider anything beyond the curriculum. Dr. Delores Liston reviews the commonly held view of curriculum as that of an assembly line in industry and follows with; “This the belief persists that if we can just find the right formula, and clear away all the unnecessary steps in the education process, we will educate more as well as more efficiently. So many teachers view the curriculum, and the teacher’s package of books, manuals, and transparencies as the key to their success in the classroom. Sadly we are no better off than we were years ago.”

How do we attempt to see beyond the facade presented in education? Can we even attempt to do anything different and would that even help at this time? Dr. William Glasser looks to a more recent event that of World War II.
“What is true in our schools, and has been true since the end of World War II when we first began to make a real effort to pursue universal education through high school graduation, is that many students (my conservative estimate is at least fifty percent by the eighth grade) who are intelligent enough to do well, many even brilliantly, do poorly.” Dr. William Glasser

Dr. Glasser, of course, sees this as a choice in his writings. However in the pursuit of universal education, in 1974 the inclusion of students with disabilities of all natures placed into the public schools all children. As this universal education developed could we have overlooked and perhaps passed by crucial elements of whom and what we are as human beings in terms of those students. Have we attempted to provide for and truly recognize the differences in students? I think back to the assembly line mentioned by Dr. Delores Liston in Joy is a Metaphor of Convergence, which is so often echoed through other authors, like how so many administrators and even teachers see education. It has been a few years since I was introduced to the author and educator, Ivan Illich. He was a radical thinker in terms of education and religion and offered a rather grim view of schooling in his book Deschooling Society.

“A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching it is true may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstances. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.” Ivan Illich
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Ivan Illich may be a bit extreme but within schools are we missing those experiences that students bring to the classroom that could be integral pieces to the puzzle, the sixteen-hour syndrome as I call it. In Paula M. L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia’s book Reclaiming Identity; Hames-Garcia addresses the idea of restriction in terms of various groups within society. Hames-Garcia states: “I call the process by which such individuals come to be misrepresented and misunderstood ‘restriction.’” Is it that we as teachers restrict students by seeing only grey instead of what is actually there? I look back to John Dewey and possible solutions.

“It is the function of formal schooling to extend, broaden, and improve cultural construction of emerging minds begun at home and in the community.” John Dewey

Dewey continues suggesting that humankind reproduces itself in two ways: first biological and the second cultural. In our efforts should we not be addressing what children bring with them in their experiences, which includes culture, race, and socio economics? Can we adequately address the need for understanding and trying to develop in students that knowledge of their life experiences? Can teachers learn to look beyond the curriculum and reach for a student-centered understanding caring classroom? In her book The Dreamkeepers, Gloria Ladson-Billings addresses issues concerning African-American students and the teachers who have been successful with predominantly African-American classrooms. She writes, “this book is about teaching practice not curriculum.” How does this author view a successful teacher?

“Teachers who practice culturally relevant methods can be identified by the way they see themselves and others. They see their teaching as an art rather than technical skill. They believe all their students can succeed rather than failure is inevitable for some. They see themselves as part of the community, and they see teaching as giving back to the community. They help students make connections between their local, national, racial, cultural, and global identities.” Gloria Ladson-Billings

Making lessons culturally relevant to the students as a key for successful teaching is not only restricted to those teachers working with African-American students, but logically the more we involve the culture of our students the more interested they will be and perhaps Dr. Glasser’s observation will be a thing of the past and students will want to learn.
Looking to at a critical aspect of teaching and getting more actively involved with students is that of caring. In the mid-1980’s two developmental oriented psychologists came at the development of morality in differing ways. Lawrence Kohlberg viewed morality as an ethic of justice, impartiality and fairness and in developing his theory used only white males as models. Carol Gilligan’s approach was one from the point of view of caring and viewed through a female perspective.

“A care orientation, according to developmental and educational psychologist Carol Gilligan (1982), reflects the presence of benevolence and compassion. A caring person treats another person with sensitive discernment of, response to, his or her contextually embedded need. Care means liberating others from their state of need and actively promoting their welfare; care additionally means being oriented towards ethics grounded in empathy rather than in dispassionate abstract ethical principles.” Dr. James Fowler

Should we be approaching teaching in a caring, compassionate manner? Most teachers would answer yes, but few attempt it. Perhaps it is difficult for some but as I read and researched is not much of what we see as compassion and caring a learned by example part of who we are?

I first read of Gilligan and Kohlberg in a book by Dr. James Fowler, Head of the Center for Ethics in Public Policy and professor at Emory Universities, Candler School of Theology. Dr. Fowler wrote about the development of faith in his book Stages of Faith. In my studies and in using Dr. Fowler’s thoughts, I viewed the concept of trust as a synonym of faith. Trust has significant application and understanding within the classroom. Fowler in developing his ideas uses some thoughts from Richard Niebuhr a 1950’s theologian.

“He sees faith taking form in our earliest relationships with those who provide care for us in infancy. He sees faith growing through our experience of trust and fidelity – of mistrust and betrayal – with those closest to us. He sees faith in the shared visions and values that held human groups together. And he sees faith at all those levels, in the search for an overreaching, integrating and grounding trust in the center of value and power sufficiently worthy to give our lives unity and meaning.” Dr. James Fowler, The Development of Faith

We can superimpose trust in place of faith and soon as I look at students coming to my class I see that they either learned trust in the process of growing up and or they perhaps learned betrayal. Just how significant is that piece of information as a child walks in the classroom? In order to be successful in teaching students need to trust their teachers and in return be trusted for a community to develop and hold together.
What should education be about? Should it be as John Dewey discusses a basis for our democratic society and community? Should education be about caring and compassion? An aspect that Dewey is well-written on, and numerous others have addressed community.

“For Dewey, the quality of life mirrors its aesthetic depth, understood as the extent to which embodies grace, artfulness, and appreciation, whether in maintaining a home, classroom, business or government. The quality of life reflects its emotional maturity and attentiveness, which Dewey contrasts with sentimentality and superficiality. Moreover, the quality of life displays its moral depth, which encompasses considerations of freedom, justice, compassion, humility and personal as well as social responsibility.” David Hansen, Ethical Visions of Education: Philosophies in Practice

It is about community, belonging and relationships that could be a driving force in education.

“My hope is that students will be attracted to schools because of the quality of human relationship, the quality of communal experiences there. In other words, students will want to go to school, not because of what they will do but because of whom they will meet” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

As I looked at how we can piece together all of the information that could come into a room with students my first thought was teachers need to ask questions of students. There needs to be a learning period where teacher becomes the learner and tries to understand all the bits and pieces that their students bring with them.

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves. The methods used by these weavers vary widely: lectures, Socratic dialogues, laboratory experiments, collaborative problem-solving, and creative chaos. The connections held by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as the place where intellect and emotion and spirit, and will converge in the human self.” Parker Palmer

Perhaps if we try and learn about our students, and try and understand the experiences that they bring if only a few moments is taken from the day, be it in reflections, journals, discussion and learning community is developed education could be changed. We should be looking to embrace what I once considered a negative, the sixteen-hour syndrome, and weave it within our classroom tapestry. Again as I have for over ten years now ended please keep those in harm’s way in your heart 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

Staring into the sky listening to an owl call: LEARNING – KNOWING – FINDING

Bird Droppings August 15, 2014
Staring into the sky listening to an owl call:
LEARNING – KNOWING – FINDING

When I went out on my morning excursion this morning or I should say several times as I think the moon plotted against me glowing through partially opened blinds. I heard several dogs add a coyote or two barking and howling in the wee hours of the day. Out in the stillness and dark you could hear owls were calling off in the distance. The area of the county we live in is relatively flat, and it is easy to hear surrounding calls from far off. Much of the land is still in timber although there are a few houses. Several hundred acres behind us are currently a corn field after being a wheat field in the spring and is standing eight feet tall in children of the corn style. My mornings are always a treat contrary to the verbal threats today on neighborhood dogs lives as I get awakened.

I received an email from a friend that helped steer me along the pathway many years ago. She has in her midlife crisis changed directions and found new answers herself as well. Something we sometimes do not get a chance to do is to thank people who have actually showed us or taught us in life. Often it is an expected situation such as at school with a teacher we expect to be taught; however true teaching is symbiotic it is not simply a one way street. There are thanks in both directions from the student to teacher and vice a versa. So this morning thank you to all the students and teachers I have had.

“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.” Amos Bronson Alcott

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana

So often I watch teachers believe they have learned all there is to learn; a great vocabulary and witty way and they are the world’s gift to students. But teaching is about learning and learning needs never to cease.

“There is no human reason why a child should not admire and emulate his teacher’s ability to do sums, rather than the village bum’s ability to whittle sticks and smoke cigarettes. The reason why a child does not is plain enough — the bum has put himself on equality with him and the teacher has not.” Floyd Dell

A simple thought yet so often true. Why do students not learn or reject a teacher? A simple thought equality, students even small children know when they are being taught down too and not taught too or with.

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

Somehow always an Emerson quote is floating around, and I have found Emerson had a world view that would be impressive to many in today’s world. But this thought is truly what teaching or education is about, taking a concept that some do not know and making that understandable to others. Finding a way to convey knowledge and develop thoughts. I have heard the term strategies thrown around from many educators, but there is more to it than a packaged strategy or curriculum.

“The teacher is one who makes two ideas grow where only one grew before.” Elbert Hubbard

Several of my recent emails concerned apathy and in emails with several friends we discussed apathy as well. One word kept creeping into the dialogue relevance making what is taught relevant. Apathy often is from lessons that have nothing to do with the student absolutely no relevance. I use the word context quite often as well when discussing the relevance. Hubbard offers that teachers are growing ideas, which is so true. John Dewey in his thinking addresses drawing from experience and using experience in education and learning.

“To teach is to learn twice.” Joseph Joubert

“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” George Bernard Shaw

As often as I walk into a classroom I find students who want to find answers or look for the new idea that is pursuing knowledge. It becomes so easy to teach when that process occurs. It is providing the atmosphere that will allow that to happen. Often traditional desks in rows and chalk board stifle creativity and something so simple a change as tables versus desks and rolling chairs open new doors.

“We must view young people not as empty bottles to be filled, but as candles to be lit.” Robert H. Shaffer

I have often used an illustration from Sydney J. Harris of education should not be as so many surmises a sausage stuffing machine, but more like culturing pearls in oysters. Throughout our educational system especially in light of legislation such as NCLB, as an example, the sausage stuffing idea of putting in what is needed and filling the space is what many school systems and school reformers are promoting. I often wonder if somewhere there is a school and or school system where culturing is occurring and if there are any teaching openings there.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William A. Ward

A simple definition for quality in teaching and capability of teachers – Great teachers inspire in their students.

“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom
“Getting things done is not always what is most important. There is value in allowing others to learn, even if the task is not accomplished as quickly, efficiently or effectively.” R. D. Clyde

Recently in a meeting about a student a teacher complained that this student never finishes their work. I made a comment that I never had that issue. I produced a 300 word essay and said it was worked on till complete. I was asked how much time did it take and said three days. “Well, it should have been done in a day” was the response from the angry teacher. Too often teachers are looking at more than one piece of information the complaint was not finishing work that I showed is being done then it changes to time, which I was not worried about. Interesting how the addition of time alters the first complaint. So it becomes are we looking at completing work, staying on task or completing a given assignment in a given time, two different aspects and yet many see as only one. I used a quote yesterday from Sandy Grande referring to how the natural cycles are ignored in the white world which so often is the world of school.

“Those who trust us educate us.” George Eliot

This works both ways there needs to be trust in the student for the teacher and trust in the teacher for the student or true learning will not occur. Memorizing facts is not learning. Using facts to accomplish a goal and then understanding those facts is learning. Several years ago I recalled my middle son raising an issue while a student at Georgia Tech. In his senior design class, several students who were straight A students and at Georgia Tech that means have never left their rooms albeit always studying had a difficult time equating their learning to physical design. The book knowledge did not have context for them. These straight A students were floundering in senior design. My son while not a straight A student had great conceptual understanding of information from working in the lab.
I thought back a few years to a former principal who would dress up as a goat herder in his social studies classes when a teacher. He would use a method of teaching many would take offense to, almost a virtual history class. The students would live within the confines of the game, and in world history. Sometimes it takes dressing up in a goat skin and rattling bells to get a point across. So today a special dedication to all the goat herders (even those who were recently selected principal of the year in Georgia) out there, let’s rattle some bells and shake up a few minds. Keep students on their toes and thinking let us all make apathy a word never having to be used again. Please my friends let us all keep so many who have been harmed and all in harm’s way on our minds and our hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Teachers, is there much difference in our perceptions?

Bird Droppings August 14, 2014
Teachers, is there much difference in our perceptions?

“The delineation of the difference between modern (secular) society and traditional (Sacred) societies and their competing views of land and nature helps to explain the persistence of severe conflict between such societies. Unlike secular societies – where land signifies property, property signifies capital, and capital signifies wealth, status, and power – land in sacred societies signifies connection to family, tribe, and ancestors. Land is furthermore thought of in connection to sacred sites, burial grounds and medicinal plants.” Sandy Grande, Red Pedagogy

Sometime during each semester I get out the toilet tissue tubes and go about demonstrating how perception changes in how we look at things. I once did a poster and took a picture through a toilet tissue tube and then the same picture with a wide angle lens. It was amazing to see the difference. We each come into the world of our school with previous experiences and understandings. These tend to provide us with the information that we form our perceptions with. Sadly many are very limited in their views. I often wonder how some people walk around seeing so little of the world. Many people simply choose not to open their eyes and repeat what someone else has said.

Having grown up in the secular society and spending most of my life following along the pathway that is so narrow within this point of view it is often hard to step off the trail and to see that even another perspective is out there. It has been many years since I walked along trails in North Georgia alone and listened to nothing but the sounds of nature. Today as I left my home this morning and walked to my car the silence was amazing as most air conditioners and other human contrivances were quiet. We had a rainy, cool night and above my head I could imagine through the clouds looking to the east the constellation Orion just in front of me a smiling moon and silence. I listened for several minutes before driving to school.

This year if there is interest, I will stay after school one day a week for a journalism club which is turning out an electronic school newspaper. I go into my office and room early to get ready for first blocks and then have a second block planning getting ready for third and fourth blocks. By evening after being awake for nearly eighteen hours I am weary. Earlier this morning I released a small ground scorpion that had been captured in the school a few days ago. I took it to a safe place and let the little critter scamper into the rocks.

“Western civilization, unfortunately, does not link knowledge and morality but rather; it connects knowledge and power and makes them equivalent.” Vine Deloria Jr.

I wondered as I first read this statement by author Deloria. Looking back in history it has always been those in the know who held the control or power up unto literally the dawn of the printing press. As more information and understanding became available more people were able to ponder the wonders of reality. In my readings of various indigenous peoples, a man of knowledge is always held in high regard and honor. In our society as we merge knowledge and power men of knowledge are often construed as bad men. Far too often those who unravel the wonders of the world get greedy and use their knowledge to their gain rather than of mankind’s.

“Who will find peace with the lands? The future of humankind lays waiting for those who will come to understand their lives and take up their responsibilities to all living things. Who will listen to the trees, the animals and birds, the voices of the places of the land? As the long forgotten peoples of the respective continents rise and begin to reclaim their ancient heritage, they will discover the meaning of the lands of their ancestors. That is when the invaders of the North American continent will finally discover that for this land, God is red.” Vine Deloria, Jr

So often we get tangled in the day to day and lose track of and perhaps sight of where and how we are in the world. As I sit listening to the sounds of running water and cedar flute music sometimes, it is easy to drift away in thought. For me, it is being tired from being up long before most normal folks even consider getting out of bed to try and get ready for the day. Although today perhaps it was a bit too much to stand and look at the sky above me in the darkness lit with stars. I was listening to the quiet of a cool morning. Crickets and tree frogs I tend to like it a bit warmer although a few secluded sounds could be heard. Each day I wonder have I done what I could to better this world.

“But the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to a lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature’s softening influence.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux

I listen to each student as they talk and ask questions. I try to be understanding rather than look down upon often childish questions. I try to hold the words of the young ones as they seek to know. How simple is life if we allow the natural flow to travel through us and with us. A little friend of mine just came by to check on the animals. She goes around my room talking to each of the animals and checking if everybody is ok and right now talking to a rug made from the pelt of a timber wolf my father gave me many years ago. I always am amazed at how close small children are to nature. They have not grown weary of listening and ask questions unhesitatingly one after another until somewhere an adult forces them to stop. Then what was an open zeal for learning becomes in some cases a hatred of school and even reading. Today is a cloudy day, a cooler day than it has been and most of all the first day to walk a new road if I choose. For over fourteen years, I have closed with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and recently added please give thanks for all namaste.

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

Thinking about where I am going

Bird Droppings August 13, 2014
Thinking about where I am going

“Sooner or later something seems to call us onto a particular path… this is what I must do; this is what I’ve got to have. This is who I am. It’s important to ask yourself, how am I useful to others? What do people want from me? That may very well reveal what you are here for. “James Hillman

One piece of my day is that I am always wondering, am I where I am to be at this particular moment. Each day’s various coincidences lead me to say yes on an ongoing basis. In a casual conversation, I found out one of my students in my new adventure in co-teaching I knew from ten years ago. Having been back in teaching now for thirteen years I can honestly say I am where I need to be right now. Saturday late morning I was dropping off my car for some servicing and by chance a restaurant was within a few steps, so I walked over to get some fried cheesecake. Out of the door comes a former high school student yelling Mr. Bird. As it turns out, we talked about education for nearly an hour as it was slow at the restaurant. Was it meant to be or simply by chance I was late getting to the service station or that this student had chosen to work an early shift which she normally doesn’t do.

“Just stop for a minute and you’ll realize you’re happy just being. I think it’s the pursuit that screws up happiness. If we drop the pursuit, it’s right here.” James Hillman

I remember not that many years back when I closed a business, one I had been in for twenty-three years and never thought I would be doing anything else. My business failed, and I had no other choice but to close. Thinking back, I recall trying to find similar work in the publishing trade and being turned down and or not able to get in due to being overly qualified and or too old. At one point, I actually went to work for eight dollars an hour at a large copy shop as a customer service representative.
“I don’t think anything changes until ideas change. The usual American viewpoint is to believe that something is wrong with the person.” James Hillman

“As Plotinus tells us, we elected the body, the parents, the place, and the circumstances that suited the soul and that, as the myth says, belongs to its necessity.” James Hillman

James Hillman has come up in my readings over the years. I was reading, Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore nearly twelve years ago and he referenced quite a bit of Hillman and it turns out that Moore studied under Hillman and of course Carl Jung is referenced by both Moore and Hillman who studied under Jung and was in charge of the Jungian Institute for a period. Author James Redfield references all three in his writings as he developed the Celestine Prophecies. The overriding question is, do we have a purpose, and I have found we ponder this question over and over. For many years I have searched in my thinking, research and reading that there is some grand plan and then I find it could be just that smile in the morning when the students first walk and it brightens their day.
I spent yesterday and some of today when not playing with my granddaughter pondering and thinking about school. There was an email from a friend who is teaching in Korea, another from a parent of an autistic child and my purpose in life. Each moment all through the day yesterday and today each aspect of my weekend seemed directed. Be it thinking about since it is raining mowing grass, playing Lego with my granddaughter, trimming the bushes, getting ready to watch Tech football in a few weeks or reading for grad school and in all I pondered purpose. In the coming weeks ahead, I have so many anniversaries of many things including coming back to teaching. It is easy to remember the bad things this date brings forth but a true memorial is looking at the positive. As I am listening to various news stories and interviews while the destruction of the Twin Towers was a horrible event and one, I wish had never happened it has created and evolved all of us into who we are now. Twelve years ago I started teaching again after twenty-three year layoff.

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Charles A. Beard

I do recall that first day of class years ago as much of it spent in lockdown, and most of us were confused as to what was really going on. It was many days later I thought about what day I had come back to teaching. Charles Beard was a historian and often a controversial one at that. Commenting that Roosevelt brought the US into World War II for economic recovery was a pretty strong statement in its time. Interesting historically that has been the case several times over. When I first looked at his quote, I was thinking about little children being afraid of the dark and night time and several times when out with youth and trying to ease fears of darkness I would use stars as a focal point, and it does have to be dark to see the stars. But in life so often we lose sight of the stars until trials and tribulations show in contrast, and we again can view our stars. Folks they are there today with all going on it is often hard to see the shining stars but rest assured they are there, and they will be shining when we need to see them.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Sometimes it does take shifting gears, so often I watch parents and teachers simply approach an issue just as it occurred sort of like fighting fire with fire and the flames just get bigger. Technology is a great tool, and many teachers are still fighting to avoid or to prolong their lack of certification in technology.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein
As I talk with teachers, it is not so much the task of manipulating a digital camera or power point, but the imagination that is required to put it into action. How can I use this in class? That is the most-asked question. I ask how can you not which should be the real question?

“Men are only as good as their technical development allows them to be.” George Orwell

“Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages or we remain mute.” J. G. Ballard

It was not that many years ago some teachers argued against white boards versus black boards and for a long time chalk dust ruled. We have access to tools for education that can enhance and multiply learning often they are simple tools. Here at LHS it is now iPads that are the norm.

I had a student who is functionally illiterate yet could in a few moments generate powerful PowerPoint presentations on most any subject pulling from his stash of photos and knowing where to go to find more. I have had several teachers argue is he learning? I recall many years ago I had an essay as an assignment 250 words he stopped at 181 and asked if that would do. When I first met him years ago when I first asked for an essay his two lines of type were a different language. He could read it back to me which was strange in and of its self and for a while I found I could decipher his words, but we worked on it. He found to get to point B on the computer you had to be able to read this essay of 181 words I read, and anyone could have read and I still have it filed away to remind me that maybe I am in the right place. I credit his reading teacher as well who had been working with him, but now reading has context for him.

“However, far modern science and techniques have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.” Lewis Mumford

Years ago I recall my father telling me if we could think of it; it was possible. We need to embrace that notion in education and learning because it is true. Limitations often our simply those placed on a child by a teacher somewhere along the way. They can’t do it is a challenge or should be to prove that person wrong.

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

We tend to allow others to provide our interpretation of the world albeit teachers in a classroom. Teachers need to be the most imaginative and open people alive. I enjoy this quote of still waters reflecting. Often I refer to setting an example, students can become a mirror image of what they see and hear and can limit their intake of reality on what they have been shown and seen.

“The way we imagine ourselves to appear to another person is an essential element in our conception of ourselves. In other words, I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” Robert Bierstedt

I hear fifty times a day; I am stupid in classrooms and or in the hallways. Even in the lunch room occasionally you will hear that statement. Many times students feel that from teachers. My immediate response is since when or as compared to whom. Then I get serious and ask why they think that. Several years ago during the summer school session one student caught my attention. For several sessions and during regular school classes, I had emphasized vocabulary in the science classes I taught. The goal of “the not yet” program was to get 60-69 percent grade students passing in two weeks of intense classes. They had one-class mine and only could get to 70 percent on their transcript in this program. But they would get credit and not have to retake the entire course. All students took a pre-test and post-test which was each of the various departments’ final exams. In three years, everyone passed who my attended classes most with splendid grades and we concentrated on vocabulary. Every day I would do a pre-test of that day’s words and every afternoon a post-test.

In four years, never a student who did not improve till this one he would get 20 in the morning and 21 in the afternoon everyone else would average about 80. I tried talking, and he had a very low self-esteem about school. I tried different approaches and one-day technology using an LCD projector and power point of our vocabulary words. That day he looked at power point several times when he had a chance and his afternoon quiz was a one hundred percent. Each day there out as I used power point as a tool for him all other grades went up as well is that a simple solution, but perhaps in how he sees or perceives that bigger version made more of an impression.

“Pictures help you to form the mental mold…” Robert Collier

Each person is unique in how they perceive and see the world

“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream. I can remember this very clearly.” Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Grandin is considered to be one of the leading authorities on animal handling in the world. She has designed and engineered 75% of the commercial livestock handling facilities for commercial packers in the United States. She has been recognized by animal rights groups for her ethical treatment in design and development and has written college texts on animal science. She also is considered a world leader in autism as Dr. Grandin is autistic herself.

“People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet. I was very lucky to receive superb early intervention with magnificent teachers, starting at age 2 1/2 years. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher. A good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. Some teachers just have a knack for working with autistic children. Other teachers do not have it. If you find a good teacher, hang on to him or her tight.” Dr. Temple Grandin

Going back to my student who through Power Point learned vocabulary, it is using ideas and imagination in dealing with students. It is about opening doors finding that one thing that works in that one instance and looking for other solutions as well constantly. “There is no single magic bullet” as Dr. Grandin states. But if we keep our eyes and ears open we can find another and another and all children can have the opportunity to succeed. So as I search for my purpose in life, and we remember all those who lost their lives this day I ask as always to, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and 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

I wonder what my favorite store is; Then again is it even important?

Bird Droppings August 12, 2014
I wonder what my favorite store is;
Then again is it even important?

Interesting two thoughts while similar struck me this morning as I started the day out. One I heard on the radio going to get gas for my wife the other morning from a radio announcer recalling an old Bush quote, and the other thought is from Harry Potter. Amazing what pops up before dawn as I ponder and wander and a trip to one of my favorite stores, Quick Trip. QT is still my favorite since they are open twenty four hours a day however it is only since our Super Kroger went to a shortened day closing around 1:00 AM through 6:00 AM. You just never know when you might need something. It had been rather hectic all weekend between mowing, trimming shrubs, reading, doing laundry and making the rounds being back in school was almost relaxing yesterday. What a glorious week still ahead?

“It is not about the goods we accumulate but about the good we do” George W. Bush

“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” Professor Dumbledore to Harry in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by J.K. Rowling

I wish it would be possible to believe the first, but with trying to drill for oil in wilderness Alaska, off shore in Florida and other parts of the country and friends in high places reaping huge profits and a war costing trillions of dollars that was bogus from many people’s standpoints while he was in office sort of makes it hard to grasp philosophically. Although perhaps as some people indicated in writing and articles he was simply a puppet of others. Still at the time war efforts and accumulation seemed more important than doing any sort of good. Of course, the philosophy of the ends justifies the means could possibly be applied.
That was sort of the approach when the last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati zoo and some people had the attitude well it’s only a pigeon. Sadly once there were billions flying over the forests of the east coast, and yes it is only a pigeon except we can never at this time replicate that one, it is gone. The Alaska wilderness even though a great expanse when it is gone it is gone and can never be replicated. But if the end justifies it many people see no problem. However as I sat this morning, perhaps a better brighter thought from J.K. Rowling thorough the character of Dumbledore “it is our choices that show who we really our”. I wonder how soon Harry Potter books will be classics and teachers will be analyzing the plots and developing theories as to why Rowling characterized Harry as a boy or teenager and why an owl as his companion versus a weasel.

I recall eleventh or twelfth grade English and my teacher Ms. Stern and the Melville novel classic, Moby Dick. According to her lessons and teachings, the ship represented the world and Ishmael the wanderer got stuck on that ship. What was Melville really telling us besides a great story and history of New England’s whaling industry? I really enjoyed the story but not the analysis, and when I wrote my opinion based on my own love of history, it was wrong according to Ms. Stern. Many years ago the choices we make not our abilities was the credo. I do think however had I been in a different teacher’s class my idea of a historical novel on the short lived whaling industry would have been applauded.

”Ability is of little account without opportunity.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“The first requisite for success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.” Thomas A. Edison

It is about being at the right place at the right time or is it a choice we make. It is also about applying and choosing when opportunity provides a window, and then plot thickens. In some of my more recent readings several differing views and yet again somewhat in a line of thought that is parallel the following quote.

“All things are made of energy. Thoughts and feelings, for example, are nothing more than energy. Through the choices, we make, our thoughts and feelings, and even our actions, take on a distinctive nature according to the direction in which they are moved.” Dr. Michael Garrett, Walking on the wind

“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.” Elbert Hubbard

Ability is an added aspect of today’s search and seeing in others that ability almost is an intuitive aspect of humanity.

“The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.” Booker T. Washington

This morning as I was being lazy actually I left my computer at school yesterday. I did however go out and sit thinking on my back porch for nearly an hour. I was listening intently to nature and even sort of intermingled man’s interactions with an occasional car or truck sound in the distance. However in getting started later than normal and then procrastinating even further talking with another teacher as I went to my classroom only to find my siren Lester has started going into a fake log I placed in his tank. Most people see the nearly three foot critter and think it is an eel but he, or she is a Greater Siren and an aquatic amphibian never leaving the larval stage. I would also add more than likely the slimiest creature out of water known to man.

I enjoy my weekends where I can read and answer emails and work on my photography often downloading a gazillion photos to Facebook and working in my gardens. One of my emails from a now senior in high school recently was about realizing school was nearing the end and graduation was only a few months ahead. They would have to make a way in life. In that same email concern for a friend stationed in the Middle East was almost heart rending. Watching the news doesn’t give justice to friends and families with loved ones overseas still in harm’s way, as I think, choices we make. Yesterday as I went home I recalled seeing a flag our town had a memorial to a recent fallen local fellow who was killed in a suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan. In other emails with a suggestion of a book to read and out of 70 or so yesterday and this morning maybe those three really truly caught my attention.

I started with a Bush quote and maybe that applies to a job search, so many of my teacher’s friends are involved in as well. So many of the following what we do with our lives is our choice how the world will see that choice is dependent upon the direction and choices we make. It is not the ability that you will be known for or how great an actor or musician or football player but what you do with your talent is what is seen. Aspects of family are so crucial and friends equally as well and always seek to learn to know more reading, writing, thinking and reflecting.

“If there were no writers there will be no readers” unknown source

“Choose wisely”, it has been said and in the end some do and some will not. So today take stock of where you are and look at the road ahead and pick that path way that will direct you where you need to be.

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

In today’s hectic world we all look for quick solutions, five minute abs, six minutes to wisdom, and one minute egg. Wisdom is not on the stock exchange; it is not a brokered commodity. It is there, and it is a journey. The journey is not an easy one and to even be involved in finding wisdom is difficult. It is only those who actually travel that road who truly become wise.

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

Several nights ago I was bored no American Idol, new NCIS, House is gone, and I put on a video of Star Trek of all things, “Star Trek Insurrection”. The plot revolves around a planet where all is at peace. The few residents, all 600 have forsaken technology for art, or literature, for the aesthetics in life and for all that they can make of themselves. Interestingly a weaver studies 40 years to become an apprentice and apprentice another 40 to become a master weaver of rugs and tapestries. These people live on a planet whose innate radiation prolongs life and rejuvenates them cellular, so they have time to accomplish what it is inside them. It sounds so easy when the time allows it.
Daniel Day Lewis, actor went and became a cobbler. He took a five year hiatus from movies to study cobbling, (shoe making) in Europe from the masters. As the Star Trek movie progressed a comment was made about a perfect moment, a special moment that stands out above all else. Captain Pickard mentioned seeing earth from space for the first time; many astronauts recall that moment. For me it was a sunrise over the Atlantic one morning on Cumberland Island with the waves splashing about and the most brilliant reds and oranges I have ever seen. A shrimp boat slowly moved through this picture yet in its awesomeness the boat was insignificant.
As Pickard spoke with this woman on this planet of a perfect moment, she then offered now to learn to make every moment prefect, and the movie continued and soon he was seeing a hummingbird flit to a flower or pollen blown from a flower.
“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am intrigued as I read various thoughts on wisdom and for some reason I am always drawn to Emerson. He was controversial to some in his time yet perhaps one of the greatest thinkers as well as poet of his lifetime. He was alluding to wisdom as a temporary entity in his statement. The next quote is an interesting statement from a President oft misunderstood

“Wisdom oft times consists of knowing what to do next.” Herbert Clark Hoover

“Wisdom begins at the end.” Daniel Webster

So often we spend time simply doing, not seeking, we spend time worrying about which path to travel or preparing our needs for the journey and worrying about the destination. We forget to go, and there we are no better and no worse, only we are where we were to start still. Somewhere in among all things is the destination but the destination is not necessarily the end but a point B of the line AB and still out there is C and D and E and much more. My procrastinating journey of my doctorate, wandering taking pictures which lead me flower to flower and occasionally to one I have never seen and actually a few years ago I photographed an Atlantic pigeon wings or butterfly pea, Clitoria marina. It was growing along a dirt road near an old homestead sadly now in some construction it is gone, and I have found it nowhere else in the area but did find a source for seeds today. But as the sun is near rising time draws near today for the first bell, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your thoughts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Teaching and or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

Bird Droppings August 11, 2014
Teaching and or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

Today is my fourteenth first day of school at this high school. I will just assume it will not be as tense and hectic as my first on September 11, 2001. I began the day thinking back to a song one of my students chose to write about several years ago, Live like you were dying by Tim McGraw. I have been sorting through books and files and found a small inspirational book based on the song. The song came up when I had given a writing assignment to pick a favorite song, find the lyrics then explain the song. There is something about country music and lyrics and emotions that hit you.

As various music genre came forth that one song stood out among all the rest that day. Here we can argue genres and such although I did use Beyoncé and Bob Dylan in a sarcastic graphic mainly pointed at our system of measuring schools. Bob Dylan if anyone is not aware has been chosen as the greatest songwriter of all time. Some can argue, and I got into this the other day with a fellow teacher and friend as I was picking on his heavy metal blaring after hours. I used the rock and roll hall of fame as an example, and Dylan has songs covered by the greats, Knockin on Heaven’s door, All along the watchtower to name a few.

“You have to do what you love to do, not get stuck in that comfort zone of a regular job. Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.” Lucinda Basset

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

Searching for words amidst a deluge of thought I got caught up in Tim McGraw’s words from that assignment so many years back.

“I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift, and you got eternity to think about” Tim McGraw

We take life so often for granted, wasting precious moments, missing bits and pieces as we go hurriedly to the next event of the day.

“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” Josh Billings

“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth

“I went Rocky Mountain climbing I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu and then I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter and I watched an eagle as it was flying and he said someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.” Tim McGraw

Yesterday morning I walked out as I do so many mornings early in the day, to my right clearing the pines I could imagine a full moon glowing behind the clouds. The stars blocked by the clouds off and on added to the effect and I was surrounded by a great chorus of crickets and tree frogs, it was overwhelming. I have yet to figure how crickets in our neighborhood can harmonize.

“The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, and passion.” Nadia Boulanger

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter; wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

We each search and try to find the pathway that is best for us as we journey through life. How and why we go the direction we do is our choice and the attitude that we have again is our choice. As I am reading the words from Tom McGraw’s song again and listening to teenagers respond is interesting, living each day to the fullest is not just about riding a bull named Fu Manchu for 2.7 seconds or mountain climbing in the Rockies. It is more about loving deeper and speaking sweeter; it is the moments, not the events, it is extracting as much as possible and giving as much as possible in each second of each day.

“I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t and I became a friend a friend would like to have” Tim McGraw

Again a flashback, to a phone call several years ago. It was again a few years back another incident struck me, my middle son called from college and sounded upset there was an un-easiness in his voice. A female student had killed herself in the dorm; several of his friends were peer leaders on that hall. In another situation, I was informed two students I have been talking with for three years were both pregnant distant events each encompassing in its own, a life ended and lives starting. One of the girls came by to tell me personally after I had heard rumors.

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

“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

It has been many years since I would walk out into the pastures at night and hear the snorting of our buffalo. It is so hard to explain seeing a bull buffalo’s breath blowing across the grass in the wee hours of the morning on a cool day, or watching fireflies skirt the kudzu and sumac of our back yard. A young lady takes her life; she had a plan with a stopping point I wonder if she lived as if she were dying or was she dying so she could live? What a paradox we set in motion as we journey each day.

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

“I asked him when it sank in that this might really be the real end how’s it hit you when you get that kinda newsman what’d you do…….live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift, and you got eternity to think about what’d you do with it what did you do with it” Tim McGraw

I won’t be riding bulls or skydiving, but I will be smiling and I will love and I will be living each moment that I have got and hopefully set an example for the students I teach. So my dear friends take a moment and truly think about it, live your moments to the fullest and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and please be sure to give thanks for the moment’s namaste.

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

A quick reflection this morning and thinking of others

Bird Droppings August 10, 2013
A quick reflection this morning and thinking of others

“I think that empathy is important not only as a means of enhancing compassion, but I think that generally speaking when dealing with others on any level, if you are having difficulties, it’s extremely helpful to be able and try and put yourself in the other persons place and see how they would react to the situation.” The Dalai Lama

Sitting here in my writing area on a Sunday morning officially back in school although no students for till tomorrow I was thinking about how do some teachers succeed where others have difficulty. I got into a discussion with another professor yesterday about this. I have for some time used the idea that teachers more than knowing and understanding content must have empathy. As I read this passage from The Art of Happiness by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama with Howard C. Culter M.D. the idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes hit me hard. That is a premise essentially for starting a school year or teaching a class for that matter. John Dewey refers to starting with the students past experiences and building from there. How many times do we as human beings simply assume we know all and our experiences and everyone else’s, is the same?

“What is important is that we have a superior way of life. We Indians will show this country how to act human. Someday this country will revise its constitution, its laws, in terms of human beings, instead of property. If Red Power is to be a power in this country, it is ideological….. What is the ultimate value of a man’s life? That is the question.” Vine Deloria, Jr. 1971

We did in class several weeks back address the idea of the Constitution was written by predominately white, wealthy property owners. However, plasticity in the wording allows for change and interpretation albeit equal rights, etc. I liked Deloria’s idea of acting human as if most of the time we do not act human. Going back to The Dalai Lama and looking at the concept of happiness a comment is made about happiness is having all of those things you want. Conversely that approach to happiness never is fulfilled since when you acquire what you want you want more. Watching the mega yacht and mega lifestyle reality shows sometimes makes me wonder how you can be happy when all you strive for is material. It is looking within that real happiness can be found.

“The man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures and acknowledging unity with the universe of things was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization. And when native man left off this form of development, his humanization was retarded in growth.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

I enjoy sitting in my classroom listening to the running water of various tanks and aquariums I will be working on putting up some new photos on my wall and trying to get some cleaning done later today. The building will be quiet save for the running water and hum of my computer. The air conditioning has been cut back and hopefully it will be one for school tomorrow. I just finished a conversation with a friend about this last quote on Facebook. Sometimes we forget that all about us interconnects and we are simple a piece in the puzzle. We like to believe we are more than the sum of the whole rather than an integral piece. I still have a good bit of paperwork I need to address and sort through this evening so maybe for this dropping I will leave with this. I end each of my wandering in the same way and have now for nearly eleven years. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

I am always searching for the ends of a bell-shaped curve

Bird Droppings August 8, 2013
I am always searching for the ends of a bell-shaped curve

I was reminded as former students came by last night at Open House of how we as teacher’s impact lives. Students are so much more than test scores and grades. So much more than content we teach. I was joking with a fellow teacher about watching my former students posts on Facebook and their first day of school with their kids. I wonder if any of my crazy stories are being told and retold. After getting home we had several storms and during the night my early morning companion of fifteen years passed away. I joke about how we still called her puppy.

“Tell me what gives a man or woman their greatest pleasure and I’ll tell you their philosophy of life.” Dale Carnegie

In the days leading up to the last Democratic and Republican conventions, I realize how much I do not like politics. Political promises the flip-flopping that each candidate says the others do falls right into the idea that by definition politics are lies. Simply words were spoken to get elected, and as I look at the words of Carnegie maybe, we should find a simpler way to decide on a candidate. Look to where the largest donors are and what dollar amount is provided, and that is where that politician’s philosophy is.

“The courage of the truth is the first condition of philosophic study.” George Hegel

“All the interests of my reason, speculative as well as practical, combine in the three following questions: 1. What can I know? 2. What ought I to do? 3. What may I hope?” Immanuel Kant

Perhaps we should make a philosopher president as I sit back and touch base with several of the greats. In education maybe philosophy needs to have more input. As I venture forth this morning trying to not reiterate the multitude of media that has deluged us all week with political dribble in regards to education and reform, I wonder. As the new school year begins for many teachers, the focus on getting ready for our students takes the edge off all of the politics of recent weeks and days and various testing issues that are impeding and surrounding us throughout the country. Sadly many of us see it that way it is in another state and who cares, long as the impact is not in our schools.
In reviewing the information on students, employees and even politicians in the past I have found the person who is writing the reference very definitely allow their perception to drive the effort.

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

As I read this morning thinking of various reports about a student, I had recently reviewed.
Often I will wait to review records forming my opinion before digging into files, trying not to be prejudiced by others thoughts. I wish we all could do this with politicians perhaps the truth would come out instead of the corporate jargon and media advertising.

“The heart has eyes which the brain knows nothing of.” Charles H. Perkhurst

“Simple people… are very quick to see the live facts which are going on about them.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

I am often amazed at how our system works; we design everything in generalities that are driven by what might work most of the time. Which leads me to there is some truth in the bell-shaped curve. But those fringes of humanity at either end of the curve that minute quantity end up in judgment and in reality are forced to survive by same general guidelines as the majority and or if in power force their guidelines on the majority.

“To do exactly as your neighbors do is the only sensible rule.” Emily Post

“The idea that men are created free and equal is both true and misleading: men are created different; they lose their social freedom and their individual autonomy in seeking to become like each other.” David Riesman

I was chatting with a fellow teacher about kindergarten, interesting how we take the little children and make them conform to totally unnatural standards for four and five-year olds, be quiet, stand in line, color in lines, do this, do that and then for twelve years continue adding to the guidelines. No wonder that by high school they have an agenda to guide their day.

“Agenda – 1: a list or outline of things to be considered or done, 2: an underlying often ideological plan or program” Webster’s Dictionary

It bothers me that we eliminate individuality from children; we strip away the aspects that make them who they are.

“We are citizens of an age, as well as of a State; and if it is held to be unseemly, or even inadmissible, for a man to cut himself off from the customs and manners of the circle in which he lives, why should it be less of a duty, in the choice of his activity, to submit his decision to the needs and the taste of his century?” Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

“We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove.” Mark Twain

Sort of sad to be compared to sheep but after watching the politics of the past few years in education it is so easy to see. Years ago herders would have a “Judas goat” to lead the lambs to slaughter, the flock simply never followed questioning they just followed along. Many years ago Disney Studios had a film on border collies. They, of course, saved the day but one particular scene was of the flock pushing and following, and a number ended up in the stream. A quick note about border collies they always have very short names, Dot, Jim, Bo generally one syllable, easier to say quickly when working sheep. Anyhow the two dogs risk their lives to save the drowning sheep and the rest of the flock and get them safely home. Earlier when I started I did not realize the direction, and I am sitting here now thinking of teachers as border collies, steering guiding the herd, occasionally we get a Judas goat as a teacher but hopefully they get weeded out quickly. Occasionally we get a Judas goat in administration and they end up in power and soon are dictating national policy sadly.

“It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.” Albert Einstein

A bit of grounding and as I think of the bell-shaped curve and sheep and how we in education strive to have standardized everything. I also see Einstein that great thinker point out that even in our world of majority rules the individual can still be found and still be “warmly acclaimed.” Teacher friends the battle is far from over we need to pick up the battle flag and push forward this battle is about our children’s future, Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Teachers need to try and care

Bird Droppings August 7, 2014
Teachers need to try and care

With school starting back again, it is like remembering years past the past few weeks as numerous former students have called, emailed, come by and visit my room or messaged me on Facebook. Some are former students and non-students who would spend time in my classroom over the years holding Stevie the wonder snake or asking questions about various animals in my room, stop by to check on favorite animals or ask me to take pictures of their weddings. Two days ago a little girl now a mom and future pre-med student came by. I recall many days back a former model in New York City now winner of Next Greatest Baker came by and as I sit and think how powerful are we as teachers. Whether a student accepts what we say or not we are a direct influence on students. Do we impact them positively or negatively is the big question I ask daily as I carry on and get students to think and ponder? I wonder do they learn or simply take up space.

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

I have used this quote in several presentations in graduate school, and recently a similar line was used by the presenter to the teaching staff of the county. We do have a very powerful impact on children and many teachers do not realize past the moment of their teaching of that wonderful lesson. I often refer to my children and impact teachers have made on them as I talk with kids. One teacher in particular, who is a good friend, had all three of my sons, and each would say she is one of best teachers they have had and one of the hardest. It could be because thinking was required, and thinking was often needed not requested just implied and you would do it because of the teacher and the teacher’s example and attitude.
But this teacher also knows that tomorrow this student will be in another classroom and with another teacher and maybe will be a father or mother and teaching their children. Our jobs do not end with the bells as so many teachers think.

“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.” Mother Teresa

It is difficult for me even to imagine the ability to do what Mother Teresa did day after day. She would walk the streets of India dealing with poverty and human suffering. We of our comfortable world can barely imagine. She asks to light a light in the hearts of people, and I try and compare and feel like a match struck barely casting a spark.

“No matter what age you are, or what your circumstances might be, you are special, and you still have something unique to offer. Your life, because of who you are, has meaning.” Barbara De Angelis

“The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.” Ethel Percy Andrus
As I look at my day and my effort to try and emulate some of the humanities great givers. I realize I am here now in this moment, and that other person was there at that moment. For now, even if only a spark, a minimum of light, it is still some light and it is shining. What I can do now within the context of where I am is what is so important. My morning is spent before class in the hall talking to students often students who are walking down the hall just simply being there. I interject questions, how you and such are are and often more times than not make some smart remark, I wonder if they are still grouchy today. Yesterday my friend who wasn’t speaking to me, I followed down the hall directly behind her with comments like some people just are annoying they stop talking to other people for no apparent reason anyhow after about fifteen feet of annoying remarks she turned around cracking up and said ok I will talk to you. Later in the day I well of holding back spilled out.

Have you ever tried to listen to a kid with ADHD try and explain why they were mad at you and all that has happened in a week in fifteen seconds or less, hypersonic listening is required.

“It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.” James Baldwin

“It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.” Richard Braunstein

Always as I read Mother Teresa’s comments the “L” word comes up time and time again, love. In teaching so often it is difficult to use that word, even parents find it hard to tell their children. I have heard many times the line “My children know I love them even if I do not tell them.”

“The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one to others.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” Flora Edwards

It amazes me how people do not see how love and giving are selfish. When you love and when you give it is nearly always returned, and the circle is complete. I know this is an understatement and love, and giving are not selfish by any means but it is so true that this circular motion occurs; it may be simply the feeling of doing well. It has been a few months since I did a poster for school about the relief fund one of the classes had started. There was a feeling of good will, of love. While these kids will never witness any effect as to what they do here in our town collecting money for a relief fund, there is satisfaction and pride in the effort.

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran

“He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.” Lao-Tzu

I have been a visitor in schools where teachers wall themselves up in their rooms opening the door for class and lectures then close the door, open the door, and maintain this assembly line routine throughout the day. They never once have true contact with a student. They take roll and call names. I did that the other day started calling names and said we have been required to call the roll, and students must raise your hand and say present. After about two or three students did it one pipes up, “Mr. Bird but you know we are here” and therein lies the difference. Some teachers are so engrossed in not knowing their students they never know they are there. Many choose not to give for fear of caring.
I called a home many months ago and spoke to a dad if I can call him that. He was pleasant and polite. I asked about his daughter who is a ninth grader. According to him she was with friends for the weekend, and he had told her she was responsible for her ride to and from a town about thirty miles distant. In an average car at say 20 miles per gallon that is about four or five gallons maybe six gallons of gas and if careful we can get gas for $3.55, so it is then maybe $20.00 in gas. It seems she could not get a ride back, and he told her he could not afford to come get her. Perhaps my comprehension was a bit off as I spoke with him. If one of my children went out of town for the weekend and were unable to get home, I would have found twenty dollars in gas or found a way to get them home. My reason for calling was due to her attendance. A few weeks later that student quit on her sixteenth birthday and left home.

“A handful of pine-seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forests. I too will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high.” Fiona Macleod

“We must give more in order to get more; it is the generous giving of ourselves that produce the generous harvest.” Orison Swett Marden

“In Giving, a man receives more than he gives, and the more is in proportion to the worth of the thing given.” George McDonald

I was looking through old photos from back in the day and found several of some friends from Auburn Alabama. These photos go back nearly twenty-five years. The young man in the photos used to work for me when he was in college. I jokingly recalled as I talked to his wife after I spontaneously called after looking at the pictures meeting his wife’s father, seems my friend was hiding in our stock trailer at a livestock show. Her daddy did not want her to see him, and he was looking for the young fellow. A small side note, they lost a baby several years ago and they had two healthy boys and a daughter. No cause could be found in the autopsy of their first child, and as I talked with my friends wife she offered that in her heart it was meant to be there was a reason, and she may never know.

I end with remembering those in harm’s way. In harm’s way is a big term. Several years back I spent some time walking through an NICU unit at the hospital. Those little babies were all so tiny after seeing my granddaughter healthy and almost ten pounds. I have great respect for NICU nurses and doctors and keep them in my daily thoughts these are special folks.

“If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” Mother Teresa

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?” Mother Teresa

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.” Mother Teresa

Today make an effort to know your students, your children, your friends, your family and those you meet. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Wondering is a powerful tool

Bird Droppings August 5, 2014
Wondering is a powerful tool

Several years back we started sort of a school-wide vocabulary of the week and with today being the first day of teachers going back to school I was reminded of this as I was looking through my various files for quotes and such. About three years ago as the day wound down an email came out from the head of the English Department featuring our vocabulary words of the week. The email was asking each teacher to feature and or have out a featured word. The word for the next week was to be diligent, which is an adjective and means to be showing care in doing one’s work. I had a photo I took the first day or so of school of one of the teachers across the hall from me talking with a student. I knew there was a use for that photo, and it became the background for the word of the week poster. Conveniently the teacher is an English teacher as well. Here I am sitting in the wee hours of the morning thinking back to my first word of the week poster in near darkness wondering about today and words of the week ahead.

“He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder.” M. C. Escher

I first became aware of artist M.C. Escher in the early 1970’s. As a side note for those of you not familiar with Escher, he would use forms and geometric shapes to create his pictures. Many would be wood block prints that often took the form of a puzzle like maze. There is one I remember that is a series of lizard-like creatures that as they pass the midpoint of the picture begins to change into birds. He was a man who was in awe of awe.

“It is the unseen and the spiritual in people that determines the outward and the actual.” Thomas Carlyle

Perhaps as Carlyle points out it is that aspect of our nature we do not totally reveal that is more in control than what we think. Coming from a psychology background and over the years working in settings where these aspects are integral to what might transpire in a day I have come to find there is fragileness, gossamer, delicate layer that makes us tick and yet there within that fragility is our strength as well.

“To know what people think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

I recall as we listen to our politicians who pass laws that they are immune to. So often for politicians the rhetoric that elects have little meaning once elected. I am always amazed at how we cut taxes and increase spending and wonder why you are in deep deficits and going deeper. However, in reality it seems that all people in general seem to be politicians as we go through life.

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton
We all our in effect are selfish creatures and be that it may occasionally we try to alter that behavior and focus on others but deep down unless we find something in that effort we seem to turn back. I am being cynical this morning as I near the end of the week and did not start that way today. I was reading several pieces by Skinner this morning one of which has always bothered me even though we have ethics guidelines as teachers.

“Give me a child and I’ll shape him into anything.” B. F. Skinner

During the early 1970’s as I received my undergraduate degree in psychology Skinner was a mainstay of my thinking with behavior modification. I ran many rats through Skinner boxes. Press the lever and receive a food pellet. Skinner firmly believed all behavior can be controlled, manipulated and repackaged. I have learned much if only one thing over the years since. There is a bit more too it. If Skinner was right totally and in the wrong hands there would be little to be in awe of. There would be little wonderment left, but it is that aspect where behaviorism hits a wall. We can to point control and manipulate behaviors. We can change behaviors. We can alter, negate and extinguish behaviors. But somewhere deep within there is a spark as Carlyle says. There is that unseen part of us that is outside that reinforcement of desired behaviors.

“Just as a flower that seems beautiful and has color but no perfume, so are the fruitless words of a man who speaks them, but does them not.” John Dewey

“Don’t you believe that there is in man a deep so profound as to be hidden even to him in whom it is?” St. Augustine

As I read this morning and searched looking for answers yet to be known, I find we all are searching each in our way. We each are trying to find that elusive aspect that is unseen, that hidden portion as we journey and trod the pathways of life. There are answers and simply sharing answers would be in a way like cheating but by providing lesson guides to help others find answers that perhaps would be different. So with a day ahead a new journey to go. Take a step forward one before the other. As you walk look at what a person does more than what they say. I do believe that there is more to man than simply what is there and seek to find answers and keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind and always give thanks namaste.

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