Taking small steps

Bird Droppings October 14, 2014
Taking small steps

“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How many times are we told “take your time”? So often in life we are anxious to get the job finished or to get to the top today. We often forget there are many steps along the way; many puzzle pieces needing to be placed in order to see the whole picture. For many months a student I used to work with had issues with sleeping in class and at one point was suspended for three days. I have tried to get his family to get him to the doctor due to large doses of medication and combination of meds he is on. His sleeping is not typical teenager tiredness.

Walking through the meat section of Kroger I ran into his mother and his doctor had called back with blood work his level of one medication was three times what it should have been and the doctor was amazed he could even walk. One thing that so often happens in life is we want everything to be what we want now, placing a random puzzle piece on a table does not represent where or how the puzzle will turn out. It takes numerous more pieces till we see a bit and we assume to know the whole far too many times.

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” Elizabeth Taylor, A Wreath of Roses

A good friend asked me the other day about a job opening at another school. It happened to be in EBD, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. He asked what or could he succeed and what was key to my success. Unfortunately he asked as one of my students was for first time this year making a scene. I emailed back that evening the following. If you can trust the un-trustable and be patient with those who would drive you crazy, EBD is no big deal, they soon will do what you ask. Force them and you are in a fighting situation and ISS and OSS are not meaningful consequences. Building to intrinsic consequences is far more powerful, taking a kid off the computer and or me just being mad at some of kids bothers them more than ISS or OSS. Sometimes little pieces work better than big ones. Solving small issues will eventually accomplish big goals if there is plenty of time.

“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” Dutch Proverb

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you, so in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

“There will be a time when loud-mouthed, incompetent people seem to be getting the best of you. When that happens, you only have to be patient and wait for them to self- destruct. It never fails.” Richard Rybolt
A simple word is patience. Often I wonder what might be one of my major attributes and in one word I would say patience. Yesterday a student was asking what would it take to get me mad, calling me names etc. I said it takes a good bit to get me mad and name calling wouldn’t do it. He proceeded to try and after a few choice words actually he wasn’t upset just wanting to prove me wrong. I said first I know the statement to be false and secondly I know the person saying this to be ignorant and or stupid for saying such things. He sat back and said, well I would be mad if somebody said that to me, and I told him that is your choice. Puzzle pieces forever falling in place is my motto. Patience has kept that kid in school versus an alternative setting and is taking a piece one at a time rather than trying to solve a puzzle in one fell swoop.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them every day begins the task anew.” Saint Francis de Sales

A monk can address patience but they have to it’s their job. But monks too are alive and human and the frailties we face they too face or have faced. Breaking a task into manageable pieces often aids in completing the task.

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Victor Hugo

“How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.” William Shakespeare

Looking back on my own life it has been one of pieces falling in place slowly. One portion of my journey was twenty three years in the making. I left the teaching field directly for twenty three years all of that time in graphic arts and publishing for the training industry still indirectly in education. Coincidently during that time having delivered training manuals to most of the buildings at Georgia Tech which is where my son is now graduated from what a small world. It has been so long in coming and even now I know this is only a portion of the puzzle, more is yet to come. In life I have found you savor each moment each second enjoy the cool breeze if only for a moment. Pull off the road if you need to view a rainbow or sunset and truly bask in the magnificence but that is another day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

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

It takes more than one strand to make a rope, in life and in education.

Bird Droppings October 13, 2014
It takes more than one strand to make a rope,
in life and in education.

“You cannot contribute anything to the ideal condition of mind and heart known as Brotherhood, however much you preach, posture, or agree, unless you live it.” Faith Baldwin

Each day as I talk to my students I try and set an example and not every day am I successful. But as I think this beautiful fall morning getting up somewhere in South Carolina on my way home from visiting our son, his wife and our granddaughter. We still have about three hours of driving and in the old days that would have been easy last night but now relaxing for a few minutes and getting a good night sleep rates higher. So I am sitting here trying to decide if I should work on grading papers or be to be lazy I thought I would take a few moments to write. Since I have been lazy about writing for a few days writing wins out. Many of the children I talk to everyday stand alone, often due to their own choosing.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” John Donne

It has been several years since I did an experiment with a group of young people using sewing thread. I had a thread for each person and then I asked each of them to break the thread which of course was simple and easily done.

“The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” James Baldwin

After breaking the threads I gave each of them another piece of thread and one by one we joined the threads together. In the end we had a thirty strand piece of string/rope and we twisted it slightly to keep threads together.

“In union there is strength.” Aesop

“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” Alexander the Great
Amazingly enough no one could break the new combined rope even when several folks pulled on each end it would not break.

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” Bahá’u’lláh
I still carry that piece of string/rope in my wallet. It surely does make a great example when talking to students.

“I look to a time when brotherhood needs no publicity; to a time when a brotherhood award would be as ridiculous as an award for getting up each morning.” Daniel D. Michiel

It has been a few years back that I attended a demonstration up in Mountain City Georgia. The lecturer at the Foxfire Museum was using a couple of folks in the group and had them twisting and turning six strands of twine into a rope.

“Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.” Mahatma Gandhi

Real unity, that is the question, and in today’s politically charged atmosphere unity is not to be found. I had shown my students so many years ago that even though having multiply strands of thread all together in a bundle was significantly stronger each time you cut a piece it weakened Exponentially .

“In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” Booker T. Washington

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

Each day as I sit outside my door at school I witness differences in attitude and differences in brotherhood. Many are similar and in a high school that old cliché of school spirit is generally a good indicator of a semblance of brotherhood, a joining force in a body of humanity. But still there are strands of thread dangling outside weakening the whole.

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” Virginia Burden, The Process of Intuition

I will never say everyone has to be identical. I like Booker T. Washington’s statement of each of being a finger yet still being able to be a hand. I use to think it was cool when I would see a six fingered person and in my old stomping grounds of Lancaster and Chester counties often you would see an Amish fellow with an extra finger. There was a recent ad where everyone was upset with Joe who had extra fingers because he could type so much faster and then do so much more, the ad showed him typing away and multi-tasking with his extra fingers. But the ad was also about change and new equipment equalized the office space. So often we cannot accept the differences.

“I have often noticed that when chickens quit quarreling over their food they often find that there is enough for all of them. I wonder if it might not be the same with the human race.” Don Marquis

In life far too often we spend our time fretting over differences and not looking for similarities. How can we work as a group a team? I was watching college football Saturday for a few minutes along with a jubilant football throng at the Washington Oregon football game. In the end teamwork makes all the difference in a win or loss. The winner is not always the better team. Always better teamwork will win and it can be only a minute difference, a single strand could change a game and or a life.

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” Kenyan Proverb
Interesting while I was writing about unity and I still believe in individuality and it is a difficult task. I come back to Booker T. Washington’s quote; I can be a thumb and still work as a hand when needed. It is in believing and in trusting we gain that unity and that brotherhood. Watching the rally yesterday one thing kept coming up why all the negative why not work together the problems are here and solutions can be had if there were teamwork. 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

Words not spoken are some of the most profound wisdom

Bird Droppings October 10, 2014
Words not spoken are some of the most profound wisdom

I am sitting at least thinking about writing my reinstatement papers for grad school and words is what is on my mind right now. I just commented on a Facebook post about learning languages and how I know enough in several languages to survive and order chicken and rice. Within the past several weeks I have watched comments from politicians made and the rebutted by often the same person which I find most interesting. Native Americans survived this trend back in the day as treaties were made and broken all in a few years only to be told that sorry we got the wording wrong or you misunderstood what we were saying. When we said we were going to kill off the buffalo we meant all the buffalo not just those slowing the train down.

“He believes profoundly in silence – the sign of a perfect equilibrium. Silence is the absolute poise or balance of body, mind, and spirit.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, Santee Sioux

Trained as a physician Dr. Eastman was also a profound and eloquent speaker for the Sioux nation. So often when we speak, it is words spilling out of a bucket filled to over flowing with politically correct jargon. A barrage of often meaningless dribble that just is there waiting to explode. Such plain and nice platitudes as hello how are you, how’s the family the job and numerous other familiar little blips we tend to throw at people we meet.

“Silence is the mother of truth, for the silent man was ever to be trusted, while the man ever ready with speech was never taken seriously.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

“In my opinion it was chiefly owing to their deep contemplation in their silent retreats in the days of youth that the old Indian orators acquired the habit of carefully arranging their thoughts.” Blackbird, Ottawa

So often in our haste we blurt out words that become meaningless simply because we feel we should be talking. As I look at the words of these great Native American orators often it was in their silence and reflection that wisdom has shown through. Sadly we will never see the silence. There was not a hasty response that was spontaneous and not thought through each word was carefully chosen so as to impact and bring the point to the listener. For many words were sacred and a privilege to use and to speak. I was thinking wouldn’t that be great if every ADHD child thought before they spoke. We would not need medications, in school suspensions, and behavior modification anymore. There would be fewer bars of soap sold as parents would not have to wash any mouths out, thinking back to my wife’s favorite movie “the Christmas Story” as Ralphie gets his mouth washed out.

“You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts” Cochise, Chiricahaua Apache

Known as a great warrior as well as spokesman for the Apache, Cochise was feared and revered by many. So often listening to the fabrications of teenagers as a teacher you do enjoy silence and or truth. So many times exaggerations flow like water each telling of a story embellishes on the next and so forth till somewhere perhaps reality really did occur.

“Good words do not last long unless they amount to something.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Growing up I recall stories of Chief Joseph and how his people avoided the army and won numerous skirmishes in there attempted flight to freedom in Canada. After being rejected by the Canadian Government they had no alternative but to surrender and Joseph’s speech has been quoted by many ever since.

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who had no right to talk.” Chief Joseph

In recent weeks I have watched our politicians talk out one side of the mouth and down the other. It is like going to a used car lot and watching used car sales folks at work. What do you believe? Watching news today is not really watching news it is ok what do I believe and what is fantasy. I find friends posting stories that have been shown to be false and literally lies numerous times over and still showing up as true. On many shelves popular newspapers on the racks at grocery stores, scandal sheets with altered photos grab the attention and we are lead to believe what the story supposedly implies. Investigators are trying to blame someone with the misinformation on Iraq that led to the war for example was a recent heading. We now know most of what we were told were lies, yet we are told the people lying were only misinformed.

It becomes confusing as I am sure years ago when soldiers would explain peace treaties with numerous lines of fine print. One famous line read, “As long as the buffalo roam” to a plains tribe who lived off the vast herds of migratory buffalo numbering over fifty million on one count that would be was forever. However a new Sharps rifle accurate to over a thousand yards and a healthy trade in buffalo hides quickly reduced the herds to a handful and we said as long as the buffalo roam and they are gone. We do this today in politics, in schools and in life getting commitment based on something we already know.

“I would have been better pleased if you had never made promises, than that you should have made them and not performed them.” Shinguaconse

We so often tell little stories to a point it becomes habit and soon we are caught up in our stories with no return.

“Always tell the truth – it’s the easiest to remember.” David Mamet

Thinking as I ponder this simple statement by Mamet if we only took our own advice and just tell the truth and there would be no need to have anything to remember. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Why are we losing creativity in schools?

Bird Droppings October 9, 2014
Why are we losing creativity in schools?

This was another quiet morning as I wandered out although a bit too chilly for crickets and frogs yesterday later in the day however several tree frogs visited around the house. The air was still, not a breeze as I sat in my old wicker sofa on the front porch. I was listening to the stillness and quiet, something about the lack of the annoying hum of air conditioners just before we all turn on our heating systems. I enjoy my morning chorus yet today perhaps with numerous ideas running through my head quiet was good for a change. I was thinking about students and how to deal with issues that are confronting several. I was thinking of my own children growing up and all that encompasses. I was thinking selfishly about directions for life and future, so many thoughts and so little time.

I have always been amazed at creativity and often the lack thereof in some student’s maybe we strip it away in favor of repetition and memorizing of bits and pieces and then say someone is so creative for repeating exactly what was plugged in during class.

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done — men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

I have always considered the idea perpetuated by Piaget of stages of development in children as they learn as a basis for many aspects of human life and the development of creativity is a crucial one.

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” Edward De Bono

A number of years ago my youngest son was recommended for the gifted program in his elementary school. The various pieces of testing consisted of achieving beyond a certain point in three out of four areas and one was creativity. After he was tested, the person testing my son commented he went off the charts in creativity. It is so easy to stifle creativity throughout our lives we are trained to conform often in ways we never really understand.

“The creative person wants to be a know -it -all. He wants to know about all kinds of things: ancient history, nineteenth -century mathematics, current manufacturing techniques, flower arranging, and hog futures. It is because he never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later or six months, or six years down the road. But he has faith that it will happen.” Carl Ally

Years ago I would read encyclopedias cover to cover and always I wondered why. Why things were as they were and so much more. As I look at my thinking on Piaget, often time’s children are held back in thinking by a parent or teacher and miss a stage, so to say, in their development. It could be it intellectually, spiritually or even physically and often not intentionally.

“First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” Robert Cecil Day-Lewis

“Creativity is essentially a lonely art. An even lonelier struggle. To some a blessing. To others a curse. It is in reality the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.” Lou Dorfman

I see every day, students that have been limited in their ability to achieve. A teacher here did not look beyond a failing grade, due to a reading issue, and labeled that student. A parent perhaps, never home never provided emotional guidance to their child. A pastor’s words perhaps, far too critical pushed a child away from faith. It may have happened in stages, or steps in development process and so pushed away or torn away in some cases, leaving blanks, hollows, which are difficult to fill.

“The legs are the wheels of creativity.” Albert Einstein

“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.” Anna Freud

I agree to a point with Ms. Freud eventually a creative mind will push through but when we so diligently hold them back irreparable damage can occur. I watched a young man working on a project in my class room he had been labeled by many as incorrigible and a slow learner. He was working in a project that required much hands on creativity, no other student measured pieces quite to the extent he has on this project. As he was setting up templates and measuring guides as he worked and he was several days behind others not because he is slow but in deliberation and perfection.

“Most people die before they are fully born. Creativeness means to be born before one dies.” Erich Fromm

“Because of their courage, their lack of fear, they (creative people) are willing to make silly mistakes. The truly creative person is one who can think crazy; such a person knows full well that many of his great ideas will prove to be worthless. The creative person is flexible — he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are.” Frank Goble

Maybe that is the difference and that might be flexibility, a creative person is flexible.

“The desire to create continually is vulgar and betrays jealousy, envy, ambition. If one is something one really does not need to make anything –and one nonetheless does very much. There exists above the “productive” man a yet higher species.” Fredrick Nietzsche

“The person who can combine frames of reference and draw connections between ostensibly unrelated points of view is likely to be the one who makes the creative breakthrough.” Denise Sherarjian

Many days ago as I was reading in Yahoo news, a story came across and as it is in Yahoo news the story was only there a brief second or two and a new story more important came over the internet. The movie Rain Man was based on this man from Utah, a magna savant, which is a person whose memory and intelligence is increasing as he grows older. NASA had been studying his development. He had read over 9000 books and could pull from them any passage instantly and precisely. He is fluent in and on a genius level in 15 subjects yet cannot dress himself or find his way home. For this person memory is all and yet there is little or no potential for creativity quite a paradox.

“Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” Robert Wieder

If only we could always encourage creativity. If we only we were not afraid so many times of creative people. If only we would lift up ideas and thoughts and try not to stifle new thinking. I wonder would we progress as humans perhaps but it sure would be interesting trying. As I think back in history so often those in power have stifled creativity wanting to keep to the status quo. It has been a number of years since I received an invitation to a solo art show unfortunately in New York City from a friend. Creativity has kept her soul growing and expanding some will love her style and art and others will walk away. I was thinking back to impressionists who many distained in their life times and now bring literally hundreds of millions for paintings. Another friend writes and her writing has changed as she is changing. She went into teaching and this opened windows for her ideas and flow of thoughts. Working with children tends to make us creative just to keep up. A new week and new season upon us as the cool weather brings color to the trees and stillness to the mornings. I wonder what this world would be like if we taught creativity in all grades. What if we looked for rainbows rather than simply black and white? What if we tried in see in a kaleidoscopic view rather than in a microscopic? I wonder but for now please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thank namaste.

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

All of life is connected and intertwined

Bird Droppings October 7, 2014
All of life is connected and intertwined

As I thought about the Sydney J. Harris passage below I recall a walk Saturday morning out to a quiet spot where I meditate and something hit me. As I faced east towards the rising sun the gossamer threads of life interconnected with everything. They were iridescent and softly moving with the wind. Occasionally one thread would disconnect and float effortlessly upwards sparkling and dancing as it went ever so slow. Each twig, each plant and leave seemed to be connected. Each rock and branch a tiny thread weaving through the entire visage before me.

Most people would read this and scoff yet in the early morning as the sun rises and begins to move across the skies spiders have been at work all night moving between plants and rocks trees and leaves leaving threads of silk. If you were standing in the midst of them they would be invisible yet with the sun behind sparkling in the light a beautiful scene. Occasionally one thread disconnects and floats off sparkling along the way. As I sat pondering as to an old man sitting looking towards the east in the early morning many years ago and coming in to tell his grandchildren as I started the passage. On the back of my t-shirt it reads all things are connected and rightly so by a thin gossamer strand of silk.

“Our task is to make our children into disciples of the good life, by our own actions toward them and toward other people. This is the only effective discipline in the long run. But it is more arduous, and takes longer, than simply “laying down the law.” Before a child (or a nation) can accept the law, it has to learn why the law has been created for its own welfare.” Sydney J. Harris

Today I am faced with dealing with how to accomplish all that needs to be finished by Thursday of this coming week. Midterms on Wednesday and or projects due and I have several students who have continually found their way into trouble that need to be dealt with. Often in special education we use the term manifestation, is it a manifestation of their disability or are they choosing to do whatever it is they are doing that got them in trouble.
“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle

“Self-command is the main discipline.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many years ago I spent six months involved in counseling on a psychiatric unit in a state mental facility. There was never a question about why something happened being that they were considered combative psychotic adolescents which was the term used to describe the unit. When someone got upset it was solitary confinement and rather large doses of drugs and a few strait jackets were employed. Little was occurring to change the behavior and or rationalize those behaviors and or find why that behavior even occurred simply deal with the moment.

“Anybody who gets away with something will come back to get away with a little bit more.” Harold Schoenberg

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” John Trapp
Often as I find a quote the person behind those words has more to offer as if the situation with Schoenberg who is a scholar of music. He is also a very prolific writer about great musicians and their music. John Trapp was a bible scholar with several biblical commentaries to his credit both men were writers who themselves were very self-disciplined.

“THE STUDY OF WORDS is useless unless it leads to the study of the ideas that the words stand for. When I am concerned about the proper use of words it is not because of snobbism or superiority, but because their improper use leads to poor ways of thinking. Take the word ‘discipline’ that we hear so much about nowadays in connection with the rearing of children. If know something about word derivations, you know that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same Latin root discipulus, which means ‘to learn, to follow.’” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly speaking

Sitting here looking up references and quotes related to discipline and ending up with the example, to learn and to follow this is semantics as we go. In order to operate a public school we have to have standards to operate by so we have rules. Looking at this from a behaviorist standpoint it is easy to say ABC, Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. First you have an antecedent that stimulus is what causes the behavior. Then you have the behavior which is the event or action that we see, feel or hear about. Finally we have consequence which can be what we do in response or what the students or person issuing the behavior receives for eliciting that behavior.

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” George W. Crane

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

It is always about what we do. Over the past few days I have with several teachers and friends been discussing perception that is how we see events and happenings. One of the categories in writing a behavioral plan for a student is planned ignoring that is often simply tuning out a behavior. Often with no stimulus to keep it going a behavior will disappear. So often it is getting attention that is the desired consequence.

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” B. F. Skinner

These lines from a football hall of fame quarterback and the father of behaviorism are intriguing as these two men from distinctly different arenas yet have come to very similar conclusions in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It has to make a difference to the person for them to change. Skinner sees we can manipulate the subject matters we as we can offer alternative consequences to hopefully change the behaviors to ones we can accept. A Sydney J. Harris line caught my attention this morning as I started on discipline as I prepare for several IEP’s later this week some related to behavior.

“…by our own actions toward them and toward other people.” Sydney J. Harris

So often it is not the consequences that deter or change a behavior but our actions towards the person and those around them. It is the example we set and not what we say that matters. Please today as we venture out 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

There may be side roads in life

Bird Droppings October 6, 2014
There may be side roads in life

I wandered about a bit this morning, running errands trying to get caught up on a few things. As I went from one errand to the next it seemed as if ideas were coming a bit quick could be I am operating on little sleep getting home late from homecoming activities Friday and Saturday nights. Some of these ideas could be the focus of a weekend droppings as I get into them. My droppings yesterday brought a response from a friend who teaches gifted sixth and seventh graders and also has been a part time college professor. I mentioned how professors of education should have taught first. I consider the doctor would you want a brand new out of school doctor working on you with no experience and yet in teaching we see a new teacher the same as an experienced one, both are expected to do essentially the same tasks and job. I actually started in teaching as a sophomore in college. I was side tracked for a bit along the way in my studies. You might say I took a few side roads but in doing so I became a much better teacher.

“We may pass violets looking for roses. We may pass contentment looking for victory.” Bern Williams

I was reminded recently as we searched the area several springs ago for flowering plants; the object was the plant had to be flowering at the time of collection. This was my son’s botany project when he was in college. It was as interesting as we found plants that contained flowers far more beautiful than many commercial flowers but tiny literally microscopic as we searched. As I look at the statement above, what is it really that Williams is referring to? Is it the times we over look something when we are so intent on a specific goal. So often in education we only see the pass or fail score of the standardized test not that the child made great strides in learning.

“You are not likely to get anywhere in particular if you don’t know where you want to go.” Percy H. Johnson

Sometimes as we search, as we wander in life, along the way there is still so much to see and to learn, one goal will lead to another. But having a goal, keeps us motivated to attain. So many people do not even have a goal and stumble around, floundering.
“Set your goals high and don’t stop until you get there.” Bo Jackson
Just a reminder to Georgia football fans there is always next year and the possibility of a national championship well maybe the year after that.

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.” Greg Anderson

“The person with a fixed goal, a clear picture of his desire, or an ideal always before him, causes it, through repetition, to be buried deeply in his subconscious mind and is thus enabled, thanks to its generative and sustaining power, to realize his goal in a minimum of time and with a minimum of physical effort. Just pursue the thought unceasingly. Step by step you will achieve realization, for all your faculties and powers become directed to that end.” Claude M. Bristol

As often as I have experienced for myself, I recall several years ago on a Saturday a good example as I went out feeling some driving purpose to the day beyond rather than simply driving to Florence South Carolina, nearly three hundred miles away. Not truly knowing what it was that was on my mind and anticipating each moment and each contact as I went about the day. I had a goal to get my son an apartment and hopefully see as much of Florence as I could and yet under that was a search a constant looking for more meaning to the day. In my looking I found so much, I completed my goal and we looked at several apartments but all were older and somewhat not what we hoped to find.

As we headed back to the property rental office to return the keys I noticed a flyer on the counter for a new property. A quick question and we were on our way to look at and eventually get that apartment. We were so focused at first on what we had been told and our own goal of finding something Saturday we nearly missed the new apartments. In the process of the day we each had so many encounters and pieces to our puzzles in life. It might have been locking the keys in the car, seeing my sons chemical plant, seeing Florence and Lake City where he will be working, and spending many hours together.

“There are those who travel and those who are going somewhere. They are different and yet they are the same. The success has this over his rivals: He knows where he is going.” Mark Caine

“We aim above the mark to hit the mark.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently I read an article while morbid in a way; it is also very true when speaking of goals and how so many people lead their lives. As we became more technologically advanced many human skills gave way to technology. In Viet Nam marksmanship gave way to weaponry that could fire numerous rounds per second and kill ratios were one kill per thousand rounds of ammunition and marksmanship was lost. Recently in an article on the National Sniper championships, snipers have been attaining kill ratios of 1.3 rounds per kill in theory; I do not think they use live targets in championships. While a morbid comparison so true in our society that rather than focus we scatter our dreams our goals and hope for the best or that common word used far too often creeps in “whatever”.

“Concentrate on finding your goal, then concentrate on reaching it.” Michael Friedman

“The goal you set must be challenging. At the same time, it should be realistic and attainable, not impossible to reach. It should be challenging enough to make you stretch, but not so far that you break.” Rick Hansen

In a few weeks we will give out transcripts and new schedules for a new semester coming up. Some students will be fine and others will complain and as I plan ahead some will continue to complain even after the semester starts. I was looking at attendance the other day and one student said no way that had he missed so many days. I explained, four teachers had the same information and his response was “whatever”, they are still wrong. Then he began whining, “How am I going to get into college?” I sat there looking at a transcript of a second year ninth grader who was failing because of attendance and not due to ability and being asked “how was I going to get into college?”
I sat back and said first simply passing as you strive to do, will not get you into college I knew this student would get a good SAT score but that alone will not get a college acceptance. A high school transcript of seventies and failures just doesn’t look so good. As we talked I wrote of a piece of paper 70% and 100% and asked “you go to find a doctor since you are talking of medical school, and you have in front of you two doctors, one learned 70% and one learned 100%, who do you want as your doctor?”. Guess who he picked? I hope his eyes were opened.

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

A few years ago Hillary passed away but last Saturday in my crazy search for purpose I was driving. It so happened that Saturday morning as I was gazing east there was a glorious sunrise. I actually was thinking what it might have been like for Hillary to be standing atop Mt. Everest that first time looking over a world not just looking down Interstate 20. He attained the highest point on earth yet considered himself a common chap.

“Goals are dreams with deadlines.” Diana Scharf Hunt

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” H. L. Hunt

“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideal, but it is a disaster to have no ideal to capture. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim is a sin” Benjamin E. Mayes

Every day I talk with students whose only goal is now this minute, trying to guide them is difficult for in that self-centered world there is no direction, no plan, and no pathway. I can show them a road map and point them in the right direction but sooner or later they will have to take the first step. All of us have been there and may be again so watch for travelers who need help and always offer a hand. Trying myself to get back up to speed and back in a routine after several days of being lazy, I still end today with 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

The confines or infinity of a circle

Bird Droppings October 5, 2014
The confines or infinity of a circle

As I am sitting here this morning wondering does a circle have a beginning and or an end? As learning begins often with a question so today a start and a beginning to my writing and thinking with a question. Many of the philosophies of life use comparisons to circles as a visual tool to simplify what is being said. Within Native American thought and philosophy truth is often found centered and focused on a circle. When I taught summer school or resource Biology I use Disney’s Lion King as a base for the circle of life. The movie even has a theme song to that name. Many years ago the great holy man Black Elk told his visions to a biographer who wrote down the words and from that a book was written, Black Elk Speaks.

“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Sioux Holy man

I started another book recently again for the tenth time at least, “The Tao of teaching” based on the eastern philosophy of the Tao, which is itself a circle essentially. I bought the book nearly ten years ago and have returned to it numerous times for thoughts. As I stood talking with students in the hall ways yesterday just before school let out I was watching the circle move. Something that most of the thinking leaves out is that a circle is fluid there is movement. While described within a confined space of a circle as Black Elk speaks of seasons changing in a circular motion, people move in a pattern, a circle in life perhaps confined yet fluid always moving, continuing, changing, yet staying the same.

“It seemed that each time we would become proficient at a given task there would be a change made for no apparent reason. It sometimes appeared that changes were made simply because sufficient time had elapsed since the last change. And then our efforts would begin again from the beginning.” General Adolphus

In learning is it change or simply movement, the fluidness of life as we step from a basic knowledge to a complex thinking beyond instead of within is that a circular motion which then raises another question. I do think it is funny; recently it is the questions that provide the learning as we ask a question we generate more, in sort of a Socratian method. Just as the great teacher and philosopher used questions, we in our answers produce questions from the original question.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

“We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

It is the seeking of answers that is learning and that is the change that occurs in man. That which raises us up and provides what we need to be more than we were yesterday is how we can knowledge. I sat and discussed Ansell Adams with a student and watched as I do responses among other students one or two had a clue what was going on some were not aware a discussion was taking place and one was yawning bored. As I watched and observed even in the context of a discussion the child who was bored was not bored from knowing about what was being said but because they did not even hear or try to hear what was being said. They had set limits themselves on their world boundaries had been put them in place to avoid change or to lessen the chance a question will or could be asked shy of can I go to the bathroom?

“Life has got a habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it like you find it. You got to change with it. If a day goes by that don’t change some of your old notions for new ones that are just about like trying to milk a dead cow.” Woody Guthrie

In a recent seminar on teaching the comparison to trying to ride a dead horse was used. Trying to milk a dead cow I like better. You can actually sit on a dead horse at least for a while till it falls over, but no matter how hard you try a dead cow won’t give milk. For those of you who are folk music buffs, Woody Guthrie is considered one of the founding fathers of folk music in the US. He traveled the country hobo style writing songs of the depression and dust bowl looking for answers and asking questions.

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that; it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.” Washington Irving

Look for questions in your answers as we start into a new week and for me a new day and only four days of school left till fall break. In reading the news this morning it seems little is positive in this crazy world. So as I have for quite a few years now please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Why we are not succeeding?

Bird Droppings October 3, 2014
Why we are not succeeding?

Very early this morning I walked out into the chill although not quite as cold as yesterday a few crickets and tree frogs greeted me as I walked to my car. The sky was clear as a bell stars blazing away over my head. Orion was the major force as I peered skyward. Never have quite figured out how someone came up with each of the constellations although perception perhaps is a key. My wife reminded me that our middle son’s birthday is coming up on the seventh even though my outlook account has it on the fourth. That is a simple error I need to fix since you get what you put in.

It has been nearly five years since I went to a Georgia Tech football game and as I often do I took a camera. I adjusted the settings for the light. I set the film speed. I actually used film and not a digital camera so I had to be sure everything was set as I could not see photos till they were processed. I took pictures actually many pictures as I so often do. Not to brag but they did turn out super one or two are floating around in Georgia Tech websites. My experience in using this camera and lens paid off. I knew what settings and what exposures would give me the best pictures and my reflecting begins.

In graduate school we discussed the history of education and how history is so often has been tainted or subjected to the views of the historian and or politics of the time of that event and then the perspective of the historian, a double whammy. I began pushing this idea further and to how and what we learn. So often it is what we are told to learn not what we want to learn and or need to learn. It is but various pieces of reality in a perception of that we are told to learn and I wonder for whose gain.

“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know — and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know — even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction — than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.” Isaac Asimov

I have Neil Young blaring away on my stereo it is early and being alone at school has its advantages I can crank up my tunes. “Old man take a look at your life I am a lot like you are”, lyrics from Neil Young circa 1971 when he bought a ranch and an elderly foremen came with it. On another thought it amazes me to listen to students say I am passing I have a seventy percent and that’s good enough. I sometimes wonder if students really learn anything from day one till day seven hundred or eight hundred or do they simply regurgitate data and information to pass tests. It has been a few years since my son commenting as he took the SAT’s several times the more he was in math classes the better his scores and conversely one semester he did not have an advanced or AP English he dropped a few points on language section. So even for a good student is school simply a memorizing forum.

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

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

I found when I began looking for answers that learning became easier. When answers were being given to me in a mandatory sort of way in the process of going to school I learned less. Even in college for many years learning was considered mandatory. I have observed many students and what they learn. If they want to learn a topic they read about it, they look up information about it, and there is a desire to learn more about that topic.

“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

For many years previously I have tacked this quote on the end of my morning Droppings. I continue to ponder how can we make our teaching so potent? How do we get the information we teach to be what students want to learn?

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of face within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity” Calvin Coolidge

“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 have not always been an Emerson fan sadly I wish I had begun reading his words sooner or I should say paying attention to the fact I was reading his words. In high school I do not recall even considering reading Emerson and know I did sort of see the page and it went by and I read Emerson. Now in my infinite wisdom do I see the folly of my high school days? Hindsight is only good if you build from it however. As we look back it is so easy to say I wasted time or I should have done this or that. Start today and take advantage of the daylight pack as much in as you can for tomorrow there will be just as much if not more coming your way in the next.

As I think back a few days ago to reading about the concept of a democratic school where students pick and choose topics for discussion and learning each week and in some ways learning is up to them. It would be difficult to plan for a standardized test, especially thinking did we cover that for example (in Georgia we had QCC’s (Quality Core Curriculum) and now we have advanced a bit with GPS (Georgia Performance Standards) and soon the National Common Core which will cover all curriculum that is to be taught. Being so we might have that section II item number 123a is the classification of segmented worms which is to be covered. Somewhere someone determined in Biology that that item was crucial. It may be a history item about the urban myth of were George Washington’s false teeth made from wood, hippo ivory and or ceramics.
“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” St. Francis of Assisi

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.” Sophocles

How would we know what it is we need to know and how would teachers know what it is we need to know in order to teach us? That is a significant question. Using standardized tests provides the vehicle to measure, but then do we teach to that particular test or do we not teach to it and is that measure truly of what a child knows? If most teachers know what students need to know to take a particular test before I start the class then I will gear the class to that understanding before the test. So in effect we teach to the test. We teach what someone somewhere has deemed necessary for a student in that grade and time and that may or may not be what that teacher or student wants to learn. This brings me back to students tend to learn best when it is something that they want to know and realistically teachers teach far more better something they want to teach.

It would be a sad world if parents were told they had to teach their kids so and so today and tomorrow it would be this and that. Now that I think about it maybe that is not so bad in some cases. Except that then someone somewhere will be saying this is what children will be taught and when it will be taught. That system just closed down in Russia a few years back. So if our goal is to train socially acceptable consumers and workers to fill the factories as Karl Marx once indicated the goal of education was we will have accomplished that. Somehow we need to bring back creativity and critical thinking.

“If you wish to know the road up the mountain, ask the man who goes back and forth on it.” Zenrim

I can set my lenses and camera on manual adjustment and or on program mode. I could fine tune and make adjustments and or set on program mode and allow the camera’s computer to do adjusting for me. I started to think about the P words, program, perception and politics although maybe there is a connection as I think a bit more. So often in life politics determines how we perceive by providing the program setting and far too many people choose to use that since it is easier and simpler. It requires little effort and you always get the same results no matter who uses it. Could it be that in learning the same material the results on a test is the same no matter who takes it. They all conveniently know just the right stuff and just the right answers and just who to vote for and to keep in power. So on a day when war and conflict are part of our vernacular and those in power struggle to keep their seats please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

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

Teaching should be about surmounting learning difficulties

Bird Droppings October 2, 2014
Teaching should be about surmounting learning difficulties

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

“There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them.” Phyllis Bottome

An interesting start to a morning thought process after a wonderful experience last night. I was working on some statistics and had an epiphany sitting looking at columns of numbers manipulating data. This can be whatever I want depending on wording and what variables I apply. I have often come to this conclusion when looking at research. Ever since I was told a reading program was data based and I called asking for the demographics of the research. The sample was so small and biased the data was in no way viable. But schools were buying the program in leaps and bounds. As for my thoughts and opening quotes, one from Dr. Seuss and the other a British novelist with over thirty four books to her credit. Working with at risk kids so often in life I find in general we tend to avoid difficulties, we walk away, we steer clear, and we postpone and or we argue.

“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.” Isak Dinesen

I was watching a student working on what for some was a quick assignment merging several different graphics and or creating graphics into a calendar during a project. Each student went in totally different directions. One in a matter of minutes had created a Mario brothers calendar based on old Mario Brothers clips each significant to him. One was on deer hunting there was even a Care Bears focus. However one fellow was taking each frame and altering photos in a photo program eliminating back grounds and only using specific aspects of each image. Each day he would accomplish only a small portion of what others were doing yet he was totally immersed in his task. In the end he will have a really nice artistic piece but many hours are involved.

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

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather
There are times when a student procrastinates and I have had several who are world class procrastinators but watching this student work at his project meticulously detailing each image is not procrastination.

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

What intrigued me with this project was that this student was normally lazy but this project became of interest to him. Each photo that he had taken in that past semester was being edited and formatted in minute detail and had literally become an obsession. He got in trouble in another class and asked if I would get him out of ISS so he could work on his project. As I looked at the Dan Rather quote I wondered if when he started that he knew he would lose two days’ work when he tried to download to a floppy more than it would hold and crashed. Or that editing a photo pixel by pixel takes time.

“It is surmounting difficulties that make heroes.” Louis Kossuth

“Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.” Carl Gustav Jung
What amazes me is that this student has begun to grow. In many ways he still is very lazy and often will start an assignment in great zeal only to stop before it is completed and be content with a 70%. His attitude is one of I am passing and so what.

“You can’t fly a kite unless you go against the wind and have a weight to keep it from turning a somersault. The same with man. No man will succeed unless he is ready to face and overcome difficulties and is prepared to assume responsibilities.” William J. H. Boetcker

“For every difficulty that supposedly stops a person from succeeding there are thousands who have had it a lot worse and have succeeded anyway. So can you.” Brian Tracy

As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark, that trick, that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an n email story the other day that was a tear jerker. Granted it probably does not pass the fact check and such but still a good story. Let me share this story with you whether you are a teacher, parent, student and or just a friend.

“There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her fifth grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.” His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’ laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. And she paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class, and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.” A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you for much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” A boy named Teddy, Author Unknown

I would like to hope I can be like Mrs. Thompson and sometimes all it takes is a teacher or a friend that cares.

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

I am sitting here finalizing my thoughts to teach an existential lesson, as I joke about so often being an existentialist. Yesterday as I walked down my hall with another teacher we were commenting on how many teachers had been here six or more years and it was more than half. Last night I ran into a teacher who no longer teaches at our school from our hall. The teachers who are gone had learned those that remain are learners interesting as I think back and forward reading Hoffer’s thought. Hoffer was a self-educated man, a philosopher coming from the docks of New York City his first book True Believer was written in the early 1950’s in his middle age and he never slowed down till his death in 1982.

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

So today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not be simply learned. 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

Can we find learning in the Kalahari Desert?

Bird Droppings October 1, 2014
Can we find learning in the Kalahari Desert?

I was walking about the yard and along the side of our nearby dirt road taking pictures of wildflowers and grasshoppers among other things that I find as ponder. I spent several minutes trying to photograph a seed from a broom sage plant floating along in the afternoon breeze. A bit of down just going where the breeze would take it. It is very hard to focus on a moving piece of down and as I pondered it is much like walking into a class room and trying to teach kids who really do not want to be there. Sadly their thoughts and ideas floating about wandering where ever the breeze of the day is blowing. I was listening as I drew near the back field and the sound of crickets and frogs was nearly deafening. An author I found in my later years Laurens Von der Post came to mind as I imagined the sounds and images before me. Most of Von der Post’s early learning years were spent on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa being raised by a Bushmen nanny.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness. Both these processes are profoundly and mysteriously interdependent and doomed to failure without a continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation.” Laurens Van der Post

It was in the remembering of a very poignant childhood event Laurens Von der Post was witness to that he recalls the last days of man, at least to the Bushmen or Sans. It has been several months maybe even a year since I last picked up a Von der post book. Somehow in an email last evening I went looking for this author and prolific writer. As I researched last night and went to Amazon.com 61 pages of his books and variations and edited versions and translations are available. He died in 1996 at the age of 90 and, he had been everywhere and done everything. He was Prince William’s of Great Britain’s God father, the only non-royal ever to be so honored. He had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth many years ago. His writings while covering his adventures and travels worldwide, he is best known for his stories of the African bush. A Far Away Place, was made into a family movie of children and their trek in the African wilds. But as I read permeating all of his writing is a fascination and deep understanding of a nearly lost people, the African Bushman, or Sans as they call themselves.

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

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us–and those around us — more effectively. Look for the learning.” Eric Allemburgh

Yesterday I was thinking in several directions, on one hand I was discussing education in the US with several friends and pros and cons of public education somehow came into that discussion. I interjected a comment about indigenous peoples of South America and how Amazonian Native peoples will often want to experience civilization. I mentioned a unique program in Brazil as well, of protecting indigenous peoples from civilization where land is kept intact and rain forest left alone when a new tribe is found, literally keeping civilization out. Often armed guards patrol to prevent missionaries and civilizers from coming in contact with these primitive peoples. I started thinking in terms of learning environment and for the indigenous peoples of the jungle it is the jungle where the optimal learning environment is for them to survive. Far too often we interject our modern societal values and say they should learn this or that. This led me to a statement by John Holt from the other day and one that has been in my pondering now several days.

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

In that course of thought I went the direction of the Bushman and Von der Post. Last night I stood in the dark a bit longer than I usually do even with graduate studies and writing as well as my own college and high school lessons to prepare for when I took the dog out. The sky was streaked with clouds and a smiling moon was trying to peek through. I was standing on the porch listening to the night, almost silent. I went back out another time a bit later into the morning and by now all the clouds were nearly gone and stars permeating the entire sky. My shoulder has been bothering me and I laid back down putting my writing off till a bit later in the day. So often in my days a student who has an issue or a friend or teacher will find a Bird Dropping and then a series of events, I often use the term coincidence and it will have been just what they needed that day. For whatever reason I am compelled to build on a thought passing by as I am thinking never quite sure why.

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” Mary Kay Ash

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

Several days ago I received an email from a person to be added to my morning meanderings. I added this person to my list and yesterday received another email here in my rushing to get a Bird Droppings out I had written exactly what this person needed. When talking with my son yesterday he mentioned his former boss admitted she never read my meanderings and one day she had been searching and by chance opened my daily thought and again it was what she needed. I am wandering a bit from my learning idea but it is the contextual framework that we seem to build that provides us with those learning activities and experiences.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Taylor Benson

“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.” Soren Kierkegaard

As I sit thinking about the drawing together of thoughts the past few days and ideas I come back to my involvement in Foxfire teaching techniques which is the basis for my one day to be finished dissertation. As I thought while reading several passages this morning, in a Von der Post’s book, The Lost world of the Kalahari. There is a comment about witnessing the last of the Bushmen painters. It seems there was a point in time when the Bushmen stopped their primitive art which was painted on the rocks in caves of the Kalahari. The last painter had been killed in an attack literally of genocide and no one knew how to take over the art. Laurens Von der Post writes how he heard those gunshots as a child.
As I looked at students walking the halls at my school and the discussions we have had over the past months on the internet it really dawned on me I was where I was to be, and doing what I was to do, offering at least a little piece of more than what is normally available. That could be hope, or it could be wisdom, It could be that talking about a bushmen ostrich egg with red neck kids in Georgia and interestingly enough preserving pieces of old Georgia in essays and photos and PowerPoint projects as we go. Von der Post in his book went in search of the last of the Bushman and found himself.

“Coincidences have never been idle for me, instinctively, but as meaningful as I was to find they were to Jung. I have always had a hunch that they are a manifestation of a law of life of which we are inadequately aware and which in terms of our short life are unfortunately incapable of total definition, and yet however partial the meaning we can extract from them, we ignore it, I believe, at our peril. For as well as promoting some cosmic law, coincidences, I suspect, are some sort of indication to what extent the evolution of our lives is obedient or not obedient to the symmetry of the universe.” Laurens van der Post reflecting on Carl Jung’s work

For many years now I have read and pondered Jung’s words and ideas. Back fourteen or so years ago an author James Redfield, wrote about coincidence in a fictional story of a lost manuscript The Celestine Prophecy. Redfield was trying to explain what he saw happening in his own life. Carl Jung in the early 1900’s coined the word synchronicity. I simplify and say I am at the right place at the right moment. What is amazing is when you look at life that way and you begin to see events unfold before you rather than just seeing through hindsight. I was reading a friends note earlier about how ever thing happens for a reason. I responded jokingly that it only gains reason if we learn from it. As I sit hear pondering this morning it is in looking that we truly see and in listening that we truly hear.

“A continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation” Laurens Von der Post

I went in the internet, to borrow from the Foxfire website the following:
“In the Foxfire Approach, learning environments are characterized by student involvement and action, by thoughtful reflection and rigorous assessment, by imagination and problem solving, by applications beyond the classroom for what is learned, and by meaningful connections to the community. In these classrooms, students build the ability to work collaboratively and assume responsibility for their own learning processes.” Foxfire Fund
Where and how does the Kalahari Desert and Bushmen and Learning and coincidence all tie in. An easy explanation can be seen borrowing from a core practice in the Foxfire teaching process

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to revisions and refinements.” Foxfire

We build through reflection and we grow through reflection.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness.” Laurens Von der Post

I think reflection could be inserted just as easy into Von der Posts quote; we all need to take time to see where we are and then participate actively as we go in life. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind in 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