Mountains offer a more clear view

Bird Droppings December 31, 2014
Mountains offer a more clear view

“I have a pretty fair education, but I would hate to be turned loose in these mountains right now and be told to put food in my belly, clothing on my body, shelter over my head, and provide protection from my enemies, both two footed and four footed ad all that without having a beast of burden or the wheel and axle. And yet they did it for thousands of years. So I think they were pretty smart.” Dr. Tom Lumsden, M.D., Resident of the Nacoochee valley and author of Nacoochee Valley, It’s Times and Its Places

I was in Demorest Georgia about three years ago and up to Cleveland Georgia the following day at the foot of Mount Yonah. Demorest was a trip to get my youngest son enrolled in the Piedmont College Nursing program which went along great with a snafu here and there on getting classes at differing times. The Cleveland trip was to pick up food for the critters, frozen and live mice and rats at the largest mouse breeder in the US. It is always a fun trip and great scenery. While at Piedmont College I went to the book store and found a book, Distant Voices by Emory M. Jones, it is a history and collection of stories about the Nacoochee Indian Mounds located in the Nacoochee Valley of Georgia just a few miles from where I was yesterday. Dr. Tom Lumsden is a local physician and a historian by hobby of the Nacoochee Valley and is recognized by the author for his work in this regard.

But close home, we come under the influence
Of the Great Bear, Yonah Mountain,
Circumference as where creeks,
Branches, ground waters from their
Deep springs tumble to join.
So we were given two related manifestations.
One man-built artifact,
The other the longing nature of man.
A few lines from the poem, Confluences, by Mildred Greear, a renowned local poet and wife of Professor Emeritus at Shorter College Dr. Phillip F. C. Greear.

I always take pictures where ever I am be it at home of my granddaughter and family, my herb garden and sunrises and sunsets from my porch or back yard. I will drive around and find a stump from a clearing of power lines of an old cedar tree and then proceed to watch a male cardinal sit there waiting for me to take a photo of his brilliant red feathers and the deep red heart of the cedar tree. As I walked about the farm where we went to get mice yesterday and around Piedmont College on Wednesday I found images that were significant to me and who knows might impress someone down the line. Standing at the base of Yonah Mountain looking out over the Nacoochee Valley with great patches of clouds interspersed in the mountains surrounding the valley I was in awe of the beauty and took literally dozens of shots. I find it so hard to sympathize with people who simply want to tear down wilderness for profit. Once it is gone it can not be the way it was. My own philosophical meanderings to an Indian understanding of the world about us perhaps is leading me to this.
“A wakan (holy) man is one who is wise…. He can talk with animals and with trees and with stones. He can talk with everything on earth.” Little Wound, Oglala Sioux

I by no means claim the title of wakan but I have been known to talk while sitting meditating to the trees and animals that show up around me. Many the day, I will sit watching a sunrise whispering to the wind or breeze lifting a bit of smoke from some white sage or sweet grass through the pine needles.

“As a Nez Perce man passed through the forest the moving trees whispered to him and his heart swelled with the song of the swaying pine. He looked through the green branches and saw white clouds drifting across the blue dome, and felt the songs of the clouds. Each bird twittering in the branches, each water fowl among the reeds or on the surface of the lake, spoke his intelligible message to his heart; as he looked into the sky and saw the high flying birds of passage, he knew their flight was made strong by the uplifted voices of ten thousand birds of meadow, forest and lake, and his heart fairly in tune with all of this vibrated with the songs of its fullness.” Chief Joseph, Rolling Thunder, Nez Perce, from Indian Spirit edited by Michael and Judith Fitzgerald

In a recent article in the current National Geographic arguments for the pros and cons of mining gold in Alaska wilderness water shed and head waters for some major salmon spawning streams are made. Conservationists and indigenous peoples want to leave well enough alone. A consortium of mines wants to open pit mine an area and use impoundment ponds to contain water tainted by gold and copper mining processes. Both sides present numbers of people employed and income. The gold mine would add nearly two thousand jobs to the area which does need jobs. The gold mine would generate upwards of five hundred billion dollars over twenty five years. The salmon fishery supports eleven thousand jobs and over one hundred and fifty million dollars a year in income as well as subsistent fishing providing food for many tribes in the area.

There are what ifs in terms of gold mining. What happens if any of to the tainted water spills into or leaches into the spawning waters would it destroy the salmon fishery. The main area of mining would take place in the headwaters of many of the streams in this watershed which would potentially impact the entire area. Two thousand jobs would be created and some of that five hundred billion would stay locally how much since neither of mining companies involved is based in Canada is uncertain. However if the mine does go through and does destroy the fishing eleven thousand jobs are gone as well as a traditional way of life and food source for many more thousands. So do we go for profit or for listening to the trees and wildlife?

“The Lakota loved the earth and with all things of the earth, the attachment growing with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power.” Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux
It has been some time since gold mining was a mainstay in north Georgia. Now it is primarily a tourist attraction. I have seen pictures of the mining process back in the day. Huge water cannons would blast the dirt away from the sides of mountains causing severe erosion and pollution of streams and creeks. It was all for a profit. We do live in a time where it is hard to be self-sufficient and we do need to purchase food and services. Perhaps my concern is that point where we humans tend to get greedy and go beyond what we need and hoard and accumulate so we can have more than anyone else. I am bad in terms of books as I sit here looking at my nearly surrounding shelves of texts, articles, books, and magazines.

But I wonder if we could break away from that human desire to be more than and perhaps slow the process down if only for a while to be able to hear the trees again and listen to the streams and birds. It has been nearly twenty years since I first went to the grave of Geronimo located in Lawton Oklahoma on the Fort Sill Army Base. I was standing looking at Geronimo’s grave a pyramid of river rocks topped by a now cement eagle. The original eagle was gold covered and was stolen. Almost out of nowhere a breeze picked up and along the river a faint whisper of by gone days as I gazed across the prairie facing beyond Geronimo’s grave. I was mesmerized as I listened to the rustling of the cotton wood trees and rolling of the creek. I seemed to stand transfixed for hours till a car load of boy scouts jumped out hollering and running about and broke my silence. So I finish up my droppings and continue to ask to please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

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

Naughty or Nice

Bird Droppings December 30, 2014
Naughty or Nice

“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.” William Wordsworth

One day when you look back and try and remember what was that act I did or when did I do it, you may not remember but the person to whom that small act of kindness was paid will. I recall a certain visit from Santa Claus as he does every year visiting the family gathering for Christmas Eve. Coincidently a he had with him a letter of sorts more of a naughty and nice list. At the top of the naughty list of course was Uncle Frank along with several other Uncles and my grand niece’s daddy. At the top of the Really Nice list was my granddaughter of course and several grandnieces and a brand new niece in law. Several years back we had our oldest niece come over and with Santa they looked at all the names as I read them to her. She was so excited about two of them. Of course she ran around the room showing everyone. What was so funny was it was her daddy’s name on the naughty list that intrigued her. She knew why exactly, her daddy scolded her a few days before. It is funny the list was a total after thought yet my niece took it home that year. As I sit here thinking back just a day or two and my granddaughter was mad at her daddy and told him he would be on the naughty list.

Every once in a while I will run into to someone in person or on line who had met my father over the years. It has been a number of years since he last spoke publicly, back in the day as my youngest son says. He taught numerous Red Cross courses along with his actually teaching, as a profession in the field of Industrial Safety and Loss Control. Many people mentioned how his Red Cross first aid class saved a life here and there or some interaction with another where he did this or that changed their life. Occasionally when I would mention to him he would remember the event but often it was simply his way of living how he went about the day.

A favorite story I recall is one from South Africa about thirty years ago. He was there teaching and lecturing for the Chamber of Mines and one of the senior officers of The Chamber lent his personal driver and car to Dad while he was there. A young black South African, a member of one of South Africa’s many distinct tribes; this young man had come into the city to earn enough money so he could go home and marry. Many young men would leave their homes some for as long as twenty years to earn enough money to go back to their villages and marry. Dad spent eight weeks in South Africa on every trip and on this trip much like others traveling to many of the mines around Johannesburg and in the back country. This young man was always ready always on time and kept Dad on time many times getting him to numerous meetings and functions in this foreign country all in a day.

When it was time to head home Dad had really come to like this young man and as he dropped him off at the airport Dad tipped him the remaining South African money he had, about five hundred equivalent US dollars in their currency. He came later to find out that was equivalent to three years of work or so.
Dad got a telegram as soon as he got home from his good friend in South Africa asking what my father did to his driver. As soon as he got back from the airport he quit his job and went back to his tribe. It seems Dad had given him enough money to go home and be married; a seemingly small act of kindness, a tip to this young man changed his life.

“Once in a century a man may be ruined or made insufferable by praise. But surely once in a minute something generous dies for want of it.” John Masefeild

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

Scattered about in our lives are the bits and pieces events we often do not remember but that person to whom we responded kindly or in a way that helped them will remember forever.

“The flower of kindness will grow. Maybe not now, but it will someday. And in kind that kindness will flow, for kindness grows in this way.” Robert Allan

“Is there any one maxim which ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life? Surely the maxim of loving kindness is such: Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.” Confucius, from the Analects

Interesting this statement sounds so familiar it was first written nearly 500 BCE by Confucius in China in his Analects, a series of statements and stories, repeated many times then in other cultures and religions and even prior in words of others.

“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” Fredrick W. Faber

“If you were busy being kind, before you knew it, you would find you’d soon forget to think ’twas true that someone was unkind to you. If you were busy being glad, and cheering people who are sad, although your heart might ache a bit, you’d soon forget to notice it.” R. Foreman

There are far too few cheerleaders in the world although there are days I would say too many, especially with all the drama with the cheerleaders at our high school over the years. At school many times the cheerleaders come by my room, it seems I am the one taking photos at events and Mr. Bird’s wall of fame is a focal point for many students coming to see who has been added. One cheerleader in particular has never once had a frown; she is always excited and happy. She is always saying a good word to friends. I have never seen her gossip or speaking badly of another person and amazing I have never heard a bad word about her. So often in the morning as I observe the hallways her personality is contagious. When she is walking down the hallways with others soon all are laughing.

“A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.” Washington Irving

“He was so benevolent, so merciful a man that, in his mistaken passion, he would have held an umbrella over a duck in a shower of rain.” Douglas WilliamJerrod

“To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.” Samuel Johnson

It is seldom that someone will complain about another person being nice to them. Maybe Dr. Seuss’s character the Grinch, but even he fell sway to the little Who, Cindy Loo Who. Kindness can win battles. Kindness can win a war, or prevent a war. Random acts of kindness can provide the catalyst for world change.

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.” Mother Theresa

“If someone were to pay you $.10 for every kind word you ever spoke and collect $.05 for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?” Nonpareil

Many times as I sit and write each morning I wonder if anyone is reading or hearing what is said. Daily I get notes and emails; I know today this word or that word touched someone. How many words need to be spoken or need to be emailed to have world peace? If it is a hundred million let’s start now if it is a hundred billion then again let’s start now. We all know there is a number and we all know one day we will attain that goal. One day maybe I will never have to end Bird Droppings ever again this way but with a Georgia State Patrolmen shot in the line of duty last night after a car chase not today, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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

Can teachers use learning as their pallet?

Bird Droppings December 29, 2014
Can teachers use learning as their pallet?

I wrote the basics of this article nearly ten years ago and at the time was thinking of an artist friend who was trying to define her art as well as searching for her own meaning in life. My friend often reflects her political views and emotions through her art. It has been some time since my whole family was in town we had a family game night at the request of one of my nephews and his wife, inviting us all over to play various board games, computer games and eat of course. It seems in all family gatherings eating is an integral part and perhaps a socializing aspect that gets overlooked far too often. Perhaps one day I will write on the socializing aspects of a family get together and the intertwining of food. But a Trivial Pursuit question I did not know the answer to caught my attention. “What Impressionist painter started an art community just prior to committing suicide?”

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others” Vincent Van Gogh

By chance the answer was Van Gogh. When I first read this I started to think about an ear coming in a box, and how unromantic that is. Perhaps sending body parts while you are alive is an art form. But trying not to be sarcastic, many aspects of our lives could be construed as an art form, such as love, teaching, and caring. Each goes beyond a simple definition. Within each are pieces that you do not learn in class. I am sure if Vincent Van Gogh showed a picture he drew or painted during one of his manic spells, the art teacher would have told him to take art lessons. Today those same paintings are considered classics of impressionism. I am sure Picasso was laughed at, somewhere along the line for drawing women in cube form or simply as a splash of color upon his canvas.

What defines an art form versus simply reality? I would not pay millions to have a Picasso or Van Gogh even if I had the money lying around. Perhaps for me I would prefer to see and experience rather than to own. It seems those who pay millions are often more about the publicity than the art.

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.” William Faulkner

Defining the moment in words, paint or sculpture, perhaps even a bit of broken glass is art. I saw a in a tiny chapel outside Atlanta stained glass windows many years ago created by a renowned artist, an elderly Trappist monk from Conyers. This was his last work at the age of ninety two. The brilliant abstracts in the windows were in reds and purple depicting the Christian sacraments. The windows were literally alive as you sat in the chapel bathed in the brilliant light from the windows.
“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.” Henry James

I was thinking about Faulkner’s idea of art. How we can take a piece of life and preserve it. Artists are in many ways taxidermists each working within their own medium so to speak. Is love simply that special moment carried further as a reminder of what once was? Could teaching simply be a passing of pieces of reality to another who will have those pieces at some point in time? Even in the painting of Van Gogh is his art just the capturing of an image. Interesting how we do so easily now with digital cameras, scanners and computers. Even in my own photography playing with color and movement as I capture images.

“Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.” James Joyce

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” John F. Kennedy

“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” Henri Matisse

Nearly four years ago last night Mel Brooks was honored at the Kennedy Art Center for his contributions. I found myself drawn to these writers’ quotes today especially as I read this statement by Henry Matisse. There is a secret hidden within Matisse’s words, for all forms of art. We are so often limited by our history and previous experiences, be it love or an art form, for Matisse then each love, each new piece of art should be new. Each should be special. It is in trying to categorize and synthesize that we lose the true essence and aspect of love, and of art. When we try to define and label the box of love do we lose pieces as we can in art? Teaching is in a very similar situation. Far too often teachers try and teach each lesson as they taught the last. First you have to forget all the classes that were ever taught, a difficult task for any teacher.

“If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.” Grandma Moses

“Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colors.” Pablo Picasso

It has been nearly ten years ago that a student brought in several dozen photos she and her sister had taken of each other. One of the photos caught my eye. Neither of the girls saw any significance as do very few others when I see things in photos. But for me that one photo caught the personality of the student and I put it on my wall in my class room. That is art for me. Recently one of the sisters came by to visit and noticed the picture was still there and how much that meant to her. Where and how does it become art for everyone? How does teaching become energized to a point that it is art?

It has been some time since I wrote a rather long email to a dear friend who is a pastor in Pennsylvania. I used the word empathy several times. An artist in whatever medium they choose has to have empathy. A pastor is an artist dealing with the spirituality of parishioners and so much more. As I researched art many paradoxes seemed to crop up even within the definition.

“A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.” “A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer. “ Dictionaery.com

Art is nonscientific yet it is also very specific in other ways. I find art perhaps more scientific than science. It is interesting in art we attach theory to reality and in science we try to attach reality to theory. Teaching in and of itself is taking reality and attaching theory to it. We have a block of information that by various means we have to interpret to a student and hopefully they will come close to what we are actually trying to teach. For several days I have been discussing or mentioning symbols and recognition of symbols as how we understand our reality. It is through symbols we convey information about reality.

“To impart knowledge” Dictionary.com

“Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. An artist recreates those aspects of reality which represent his fundamental view of man’s nature.” Ayn Rand

I was thinking back several years to a teacher searching the closet for teacher’s manuals and transparencies to teach a subject they had taught for forty years. I was a bit taken back. How do you teach a subject for forty years and now get stressed over a manual and transparencies. You should know the material and it should not be the exact same for every class. The delivering of the material is the key issue here. I was curious as I watched and observed the mounting stress for this teacher as no teacher’s manual and transparencies could be found. Fortunately for the students their regular teacher made it back in time.

“There has to be one how did anyone teach this class before me.” A former teacher

That same week I watched a teacher take the same subject and walk into class dressed as a knight, maybe it was a goat herder, with literally a virtual reality game. This was in a history class and it came alive. The teacher divided the room and each team was given various attributes such as being near water, having fertile soil, possessing seeds or goats etc. One group was given a gold mine and nothing else. There was a bit of reflection and a bit of thinking for the students. Then the essential question was asked, how are you going to develop your civilization? I am curious which group learned more about the start of world civilization, from the forty year experienced teacher or the lowly goat herder. Art is an interpretation. In teaching we often interpret ideas and events. It is also providing the opportunity for the student to interpret and learn from that thinking process.

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Augusto Rodin

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about. He’s not interested in how things look different in moonlight.” Jahal-Uddin Rumi

“Not even the visionary or mystical experience ever lasts very long. It is for art to capture that experience, to offer it to, in the case of literature, its readers; to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.” Salman Rushdie

We each can be artists in our own field, and perhaps empathy is the key. It is being able to reach that inner spark in others so they can feel what you feel what you see and hear and understand what it was that inspired you.

“Great art is never produced for its own sake. It is too difficult to be worth the effort.” George Bernard Shaw

“What distinguishes a great artist from a weak one is first their sensibility and tenderness; second, their imagination, and third, their industry.” John Ruskin

Ruskin has perhaps defined what constitutes a great artist, be it in whatever medium used, or whatever pallet you choose. I wish we could as easily declare peace throughout the world. I wonder if we can bottle and sell empathy then maybe peace could be a reality. I worked a bit in my herb garden yesterday trimming dead branches and stems. I had been watching the sky and the afternoon sun setting. I was listening to the quiet of my back yard walking about this was very soothing. I wonder can growing herbs be considered an art form? 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

Sometimes there is Risk

Bird Droppings December 27, 2014
Sometimes there is Risk

It has been nearly a year since I drove my wife to work and while heading back caught sight of a glorious sunrise beginning. By the time I got to the house I had a few minutes to run in side and get a decent camera and shoot some more photos. What a great end to a year. On another thought how more appropriate to end the year especially in light of our politicians and their facing the edge of “the fiscal cliff”, than to look at risk and what is ahead for a new year. Risk is a driving force of who we are and why we are and what we do. How we take chances and avoid risk are defining pieces of our personality. Our willingness to take risk and avoid risk is what determines to what point in life we go and or attain.

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” Lou Holtz

I think you could possibly argue numbers but Coach Holtz has a good point. Life is a combination of pieces sort of a tossed salad of sorts thrown together and the end result well that is what we live with. One thing however that Coach Holtz left out is what makes you respond the way you do.

“In my own experience, the period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one’s life. …Through a difficult period, you can learn, you can develop inner strength, determination, and courage to face the problem.” Dalai Lama

We learn as we walk through life by experience how to respond to a given stimulus such as how to choose from choices presented. I often use the example of crossing a stream stepping rock to rock, as you step each time you see the stones, some are slick or wet, others covered in moss and slippery when you step on them. You learn to avoid certain situations in order to not fall in the stream. However it may be a warm day and the fall is worth it since a cool dip may be worth the risk of a shorter journey across the stream.
As I sit writing I recall a term from many years ago in my industry days, Risk Management. In Risk Management Training an acronym has been used for many years in industry and it could apply in life, the four T’s.

1. Terminate the risk – do not do it avoid and or eliminate the risk: you do not need to cross the stream
2. Tolerate the risk – in crossing the stream there is a chance you may get wet you are willing to risk it
3. Treat the risk – build a bridge across the stream true a mighty storm may wash it away but in one hundred years there have not been any
4. Transfer the risk – let someone else cross for you or buy stream crossing insurance – borrowed idea from my father Frank E Bird Jr. and his book Loss Control Management

But unless you actually are involved you may never really know which way to go in terms of which T you will pick.

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” Warren Buffett

Life is about experience and the roads we take it is ours to choose and to make a mistake or succeed with.

“It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strive valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat?” Theodore Roosevelt

Take the day by the horns as the cowboys among us would say and try to do your best, carpe diem, and stride across the stream believe it is summer and you will not succumb to hypothermia if you do fall in and as always especially in these days of increasing violence in the middle east keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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

Where is the passion?

Bird Droppings December 26, 2014
Where is the passion?

I was sitting facing a rising sun thankful for a new day earlier today. It was ironic as I was sitting on an overturned five gallon plastic bucket next to a small circle of smooth river rocks facing east, listening to mockingbird chattering away in the dawn light thinking about the day ahead and offering thanks prior to the day starting. Behind me to the west was a bit of a smiling moon was sneaking away. I could still imagine it as the sun rose and moon set behind a slight cover of clouds. For my amazement reds and oranges were streaking the gray lines of morning. The ambient temperature was too low and no crickets or tree frogs were chirping in the near freezing morning air. To my left a squirrel made its way through the hedge row of sumac, wild cherry trees and assorted brush always wary of the red-tailed hawk that hunts our backyard. My medicine circle of river stones is almost covered with pine needles. The sycamore trees leaves have all fallen and the white bark peeling offers interesting images in the morning faint light. Beside me to the right a young live oak is still green always it seems foregoing winter’s loss. As I watched in almost a trance the band of orange wanders into the day widening and stretching across the horizon. I often wonder how many others sit and watch the day being born. If only, my father used the term often in his teachings and I in mine. So I am being thankful to witness the wonder of this sunrise and to praise the day yet to come and in Cherokee Wa de (Skee).

As I begin to think about my writing today so many ideas and thoughts sitting beside in books and on the internet waiting to use ad expound on. Every day during school hours I hear the simple phrase from at least one student of, “I hate school” and matter of fact I usually hear it numerous times across the day. What I find amusing is that very seldom do you hear this in kindergarten or elementary school which is interesting. When and where does the attitude towards school change?

“How do preschool children, full of natural inquisitiveness and a passion for learning, turn into apathetic or angry teens with a profound dislike of school?” Robert L. Fried, The passionate Learner

I remember my own early grades although that is now nearly fifty six years ago. I remember a second grade teacher who inspired us. I recall a teacher who each day amazing and made it special and you wanted to be there tomorrow to see what was next. But I also recall teachers who presented an image of a different sort one where we did not want to be in school where it was more fun to stay home and be “sick”. Recent reading of Henry David Thoreau added to Dana’s statement as Henry David Thoreau quit teaching to be a learner and found he was a far better teacher then.

“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

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

For a number of years I had ended my emails with this thought from Einstein. Just the other day I mentioned to a fellow teacher Einstein was equally a philosopher as well a scientist and most never will take the time to see that side of him. So I come back to how can teachers bring the “passion” to their teaching as Robert Fried writes about? How can we make teaching so potent as Einstein states? I have come to find the past few weeks that teacher attitude is crucial to this process. It is not so much about approach as attitude. How a teacher interacts and responds to students in their class is far more important than the material taught. For if a teacher is not getting through to the students the material is inconsequential.

“The most important part of education,” once wrote William Ernest Hocking, the distinguished Harvard philosopher ‘is this instruction of a man in what he has inside of him.’” Sydney J. Harris

Artificially we draw out great schemes and plans and build a fabulous curriculum. In education classes teachers to be learn how to do lesson plans and study the ins and outs of lesson plans and learn various curriculum philosophical theories and rationales and get credits for this. This is a major portion of the structure of teaching teachers. State education departments have as an example in various Curriculum guidelines and standards which determines what content needs to be covered in this course or grade. Of course in Georgia we even have the notorious End of Course Tests. I have seen teachers agonize over not covering the standards in the time given daily to meet demands of the test.

“WHEN most people think of the word “education,” they think of a pupil as a sort of animate sausage casing. Into this empty casing, the teachers are supposed to stuff ‘education.’” Sydney J. Harris

It is the teacher that teaches by stuffing that adds to the dilemma we face when we encounter students who do not care and are disinterested in school. I remember a teacher a year or so ago so frustrated because they could not cover from page 1 through 546 in the time given. This teacher was near a nervous breakdown and really what if those students were not able to get through the material what if they were functionally having difficulty? How and why should we teach beyond what they already do not know?

“But genuine education, as Socrates knew more than two thousand years ago, is not inserting the stuffing’s of information into a person, but rather eliciting knowledge from him; it is the drawing out of what is in the mind” Sydney J, harries

How do we become the teacher who draws out rather than simply stuffs in?

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

“Those who know how to think need no teachers.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Teaching becomes more showing how to think and process than content. Education, to have any meaning beyond the purpose of creating well-informed dunces, must elicit from the pupil what is latent in every human being – the rules of reason, the inner knowledge of what is proper for men to be and do, the ability to sift evidence and come to conclusions that can generally be assented to by all open minds and warm hearts.” Sydney J. Harris

Over the past few years that I have come back to teaching I have found a hierarchy in teachers. There are three types of teachers it seems. There are parasites this is those who use such great statements as “this is my class room” and “you will respect me”. As we evolve if we do as teachers we become symbiotic this is where both the teacher and student are independent of each other yet need each other to coexist and teachers now say things like “How can I help you”. In any progression there is always room for growth for several years I thought this was where teaching’s endpoint was in a symbiotic relationship. However I was sitting in a class and another idea, an epiphany hit me. Osmosis is taking down walls and then learning becomes as it should fluid, it moves and reacts in that fluid manner and both the teacher and student are learning and teaching in a reciprocating way. John Dewey talked about this over a hundred years ago and was considered progressive interestingly enough I should say sadly enough he still is considered progressive.

“Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and then seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence.” Sydney J. Harris

It is difficult to get to this point few colleges for teachers teach in this manner. Those that do are few and far between. In my educational travels I have met several University professors who believe this and teach this. Hopefully as the future rolls around more teachers will rise up and take notice how many students hate school and maybe try and do something. Sitting here on a beautiful morning in Georgia wondering about the day I am excited as questions flow in and new teachers ask for guidance. Please as the day rolls on keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please always give thanks namaste.

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

It is the small pieces that seriously matter not how many presents

Bird Droppings December 25, 2014
It is the small pieces that seriously matter not how many presents

I was driving around and read a holiday post or two one caught my attention arguing the idea of Santa’s gifts. Santa is first a legend contrived over the years and developed sadly to be more of a marketing tool than anything resembling the original St. Nicolaus who would simply give gifts on Christmas. I have become callous in terms of the holiday shopping frenzy. As a scholar of theology the first Christian tradition Christmas gifts were symbolic representations of life, not that they weren’t precious or have value but the symbolism was more significant at the time of writing of the scriptures. I read about competition at Christmas time who can give the most sort of thing. I grew up in a household where every Christmas there was a pile not because we were wealthy and or well to do but because my parents would give freely. My dad would give literally all the time. In my teaching days many the time I will bring donuts or food in the morning which has led to a room full nearly every day. I try to give of myself every day.

“Until you can clearly see each piece of the puzzle you will never be able to understand the whole.” Frank Bird, grandfather, teacher and ponderer

So I am sitting here on Christmas morning 2014 in Between Georgia a long way from my birth place and even where I spent my youth in Pennsylvania. I have traveled many pathways, spiritually, educationally, emotionally and physically as I journeyed. It has been many years since a vision of a jig saw puzzle woke me from my sleep. Over the years I have used that image of puzzle pieces and a while puzzle in explaining life and its intricacies. My son added to my collection of ideas along the way nearly eleven years ago with a line from an Aerosmith song. “Life is about the journey not the destination.” Steven Tyler and Aerosmith I went outside to get a few shots of the sunrise and battling a sinus cold may have been moving slow and thinking slower but got at least one or two good images to post later.

As I drove about for a few minutes several ideas kept hitting me in the head and with my sinus cold right now that hurts. Literally every day I hear from a person could be a former student, a total stranger who read something I have written, a friend I have not seen in fifty years, maybe a member of a group I am in on Facebook, a cohort member from graduate school offering a thank you for a thought I shared or idea given. It is not about major successes but the small one at a time pieces that often float by unnoticed.

I find as I listed my somewhat ambiguous titles with the quote above grandfather first and at first that seemed just the right thing to do. As I sat back and pondered as I tend to do often it became the not only right thing but job one. It is we elders who provide wisdom and understanding even if in small ways to those who come after. In today’s hectic and helter skelter world moments get lost just like pieces to the puzzle.

So today as I do every day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and all give thanks Namaste.

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

Setting the example is such a simple lesson plan

Bird Droppings December 23, 2014
Setting the example is such a simple lesson plan

“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans

I have over the years looked to the wisdom contained in Kent Nerburn’s writings many times. In a recently completed graduate school project I used a similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words “children learn what they live”. They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them.

”One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl G Jung

I have been a Carl G. Jung fan for many years. As I was reading through several of his ideas earlier this morning I found that this thought stuck out. Perhaps it is being a grandpa and watching a little one absorb every element around her. Perhaps it is as a father watching my sons now all grown each choosing pathways in life and wondering at times if we at least gave decent directions along the way. I am finding as I grow older it is the example we set that is the most powerful educational tool available. Better than any curriculum or text series, better than the greatest speaker, and much better than anything that can be planned for. It is about the warmth of our souls and passing this to our children and grandchildren.

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear

“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan

As so often happens when several educators get together the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up and with me often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education the topic will become education and learning. Yesterday afternoon sitting in my mother in laws house we were talking about teaching and working with special needs children. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail sometimes we forget that simple things can aid in how to learn, how to study, and how to open our eyes to that which is around us.

“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller

There has been much research done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Developmentalists have written and been written about, numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.
“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

Sitting in a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Asking why is even more interesting.
“Whatever”
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”
These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

Several years ago in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention and as I read I realized I too have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries McJob has been described as a meaningless job, a job with no direction and very little in requirements and McDonald’s has sued to have it removed stating that jobs at McDonalds are meaningful and do have direction. I do know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in Business School now and owns his own Starbucks. Ray Kroc many years ago before he passed away got his start selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow in her will did leave, one and a half billion dollars to charity all based on working in McDonald’s.

Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with literally nothing but an idea and hard work. It was not apathy that built McDonalds and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self-empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.

“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was causal and commonplace. The Indian lived in every sense of the word from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some graduate schools and I had data showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat several who actually have difficulty reading the test I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However imagine the self-esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a master’s program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45.

I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people except some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.

SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East become more difficult with each moment it seems. With sunrise only hours away please always give thanks for what you have namaste.

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