Trying to find a way back to normal

Bird Droppings January 15, 2015
Trying to find a way back to normal

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio. Gotta get down to it soldiers are cutting us down should have been done long ago. What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground how can you run when you know?” Neil Young

Perhaps it was just a wandering thought but while I was sitting thinking and pondering now a few days back one afternoon listening to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, the song Ohio played and stuck with me. I am involved in the Georgia Educators Association and in a meeting last year a print out of the bills presented in the first two days of state legislator were handed out. One was for a campus carry law, where students at college can carry concealed weapons. The second that caught my attention was one to allow administrators to carry concealed weapons. In a group of educators the consensus was one hundred percent against both. Somehow I got thinking to 1970 when the Kent State massacre occurred which is what inspired Neil Young to write this song the shootings were essentially an accident. Young National Guardsmen in fear for their lives shot first asked questions later and several unarmed students died. It was in a protest against a war students were shot and died deemed an accident but death is a terminal project.

It has been a traumatic start to the week for some with the new congress trying to undo the past six years in a week knowing it will all get vetoed surprised no laws dealing with guns. I find it interesting how flames are fanned and profits roll through the roof around gun control controversy. Ever notice how every time something like this occurs gun sales and ammo sales go sky high? There is no morality or constitutional amendment to that, it is greed fan the flames drive the sales up. It saddens me watching the people I know fanning flames that only lead to more Kent States or Columbines.

It was a little over a two years ago today my wife could drive to work on her own the doctor gave her clearance to drive after recovery from a broken foot. Today I just started her car with ice on the windshield, and I am slowly getting back in a routine at school after a holiday which is sort of odd but I am getting to school later than normal. I am literally trying to find my way back to normal and it will take a few days or so. As lunch time at school rolls around, I keep wondering what is on the table for today. Adding to my new routine for the second time in fourteen years I have planning first block which is so odd. I feel as if I am just getting started and stop, then start again. I need to get my butt in gear and use my planning time more wisely several IEP’s to work on.

Anyhow back to my original thought I was listening to “Ohio” by Neil young and the song sort of stuck with me and as I pondered how do you ever get to normal after an event like that. Incidentally one of the shooting victims from Arizona was at Kent State and lost a friend. I went looking for a few notes on the song and borrowed from Wiki-pedia the following:

“’Ohio’ is a protest song written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’ ‘Find the Cost of Freedom,’ peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although a live version of the song was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation album Decade, released in 1977. It also appears on Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.” Wiki-pedia

As I thought back with the song in my head to that day so long ago and where I was at the time finishing up spring semester at Eastern Baptist College in St. David’s Pennsylvania and starting to volunteer at a program in Paoli, actually getting my feet wet in teaching, where my brother was a student. There are so many memories coming back all around a song. At Eastern Baptist we all started to wonder if the antiwar groups on campus that were relatively radical at the time were next for the National Guard. There was a tension that is hard to explain especially if you are a nineteen year who has seen and heard so many horror stories about the war in Viet Nam and at that time violence on campuses in the US. We all wondered then if our country could ever get back to normal.

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things: for the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order and only lukewarm defenders from all those who would profit by the new order. This Luke warmness arises partly from the fear of their adversaries who have the law in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind who do not just believe in anything new, until they have actual experience of it.” Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)

My mother sent this Machiavelli quote to me back in the day and today so many similarities in our public awareness on both sides of the fence. I skip back to this past holiday season and for us as teachers in our county with a another break coming up and with a shortened calendar year and longer days to save money and now hopefully no more furlough days. I find I am seriously a creature of habit and being out of routine for so long it is very hard to get back to normal. As I look at the national scene in politics and legislation I often wonder if we ever will actually do things for the people of the country and no longer for sponsors of politicians. On a passing thought maybe politicians should be required to wear stickers like in NASCAR of sponsors.

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

It has been some time since I came back to Thoreau. I recall reading about him and Walden back in high school but it was just an assignment at that time. I as a student was living this quote. I was a victim of Alfie Kohn’s, decontextualization. I was going through the motions of a being student but never quite really understood what it was I was doing there or why. Somewhere in Macon Georgia at Mercer it clicked and I became a student and found that being a student and learning were two completely different things. This is sort of like realizing how engrained our routines actually are in our daily lives. I come into school clean my room each morning and get ready for the day sit and write read a bit feed my various room critters and get ready for students. Sadly my after school time for errands is confined to a narrow window in the afternoon and then home to cook dinner and play with my grand babies.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. “ Henry David Thoreau

I took a picture on January fourth of this year at sunrise and posted on Facebook like so many images I post. I wanted to use a Thoreau quote on my “Wall of Fame”, at school and in looking through my images this sunrise was so intense it just seemed right and so it became a poster for my photo wall at school. As I read over several times this quote from Thoreau started to sink in. I need to think over and over those deep thoughts that I want to attain and accomplish and rather than procrastinate go about following my path way to completion. So I am slowly getting back to normal and just emailed a friend after a long change in routine it takes four or five days to get back in the groove. We have as a nation, state, county, school and family so many things ahead of us we need to begin working through and around and over so we can get back to normal. Then of course I really don’t think normal is where I probably ever will be according to many. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

3 thoughts on “Trying to find a way back to normal

  1. HELLO–

    I am wondering if you might have time some time to give me some advice . . . I have been working for an agency called “Lincoln Literacy” in Lincoln Nebraska, and I love it. I started out mostly working with refugees and immigrants helping them advance their English skills. I took the job when I was two years into a Masters Degree program. Unfortunately in Nebraska you can’t have just an ELL certificate, you need to get endorsed in a subject area first, so I was trying to polish up my very rough Spanish skills . . . anyhow, I have found that I absolutely love working with adult learners, and now, in my third year at Lincoln Literacy I find myself more and more involved in working with what we call the “Basic English” classes. These are students/adults who, for one reason or another, even though they are lifelong English speakers, have difficulties with reading and writing. I want to do the best job I can for them, but I don’t know what resources might be helpful, beyond my personal instincts of treating them kindly and respectfully, and keeping the atmosphere of the classroom friendly and supportive. It can be difficult to feel that I’m doing anything particularly helpful when I’m in charge of developing 8 to 10 separate lesson plans for our once weekly hour and a half meeting. (My students range from a fifty year old woman who still cannot reliably connect the letters of the alphabet to their sounds/names, several men who are from mid twenties to mid fifties who, in theory graduated from high school, but I’d be hard pressed to believe they read beyond the second grade level, and a couple students who probably read at the sixth grade level but need help with comprehension and with recall, and writing.) Most weeks, I do have two to four volunteers who come to assist, but they usually join the class at the last minute and take whatever lesson I’ve been working on and help the students as close to one to one as we can get. To me, the camaraderie of the classroom, which does involve several students who like to tease me, but I usually tease them back, is a plus, but this week I had a new tutor helping and she was very offended by one student calling her “Granny”. She then scolded him, and he responded not kindly, and suddenly the whole situation was escalating out of my control. And she was also offended that I explained to my student (a 25 year old man who reads below second grade level) that while some behaviors are ok between me and him, i.e. we know each other well enough to joke back and forth, this lady was new to our classroom and it was unwise to tease her, or to make jokes, until he got to know her better. She felt that I should completely disallow the teasing banter. But I also tried to explain to the new teacher, that this young man does have some self-control issues and a lot of times, ignoring borderline behavior is a more productive solution. She was then unhappy with me and told me that I should not allow the students to act out. I know that I have pretty tolerant boundaries, but my main goal is to keep the students happy (within reason of course!) so they continue to attend classes.

    But actually, in short, I am wondering if you have any ideas of resources that I could access that would help me to develop more effective learning activities for my students? I suspect every one of them has a learning disability of some sort, but I also can see in them a whole lot of potential, and I want to help them reach it//1

    If you have any time of course.

    If not, I completely understand and want to say one more time how much I enjoy reading your blog posts.

    Wishing you well,


    Carrie Knapp

    • I started a reply and lost it. I will be working on my computer this weekend and will respond further. You to me are on the right track caring, building relationships, seeking answers, learning yourself these are signs of a great teacher. My aunt used a philosophy of each one teach one years ago in adult literacy programs. Now we call that a piece of differentiation. John Dewey always discussed experience giving context to learning. Use examples to show how reading is so significant to them. Newspapers, magazines, contracts, etc. I actually used magazines of interest to a group of LD kids one time and improved reading levels. As I tell the story now I include Playboy but in reality car, wrestling and my one female student liked Teen magazine. I will come back to this Carrie thank you for the note made my day.

      • Wow!

        I just found your reply!

        I am still working with the students. Although right now I’m on a quick break before the summer session starts again.

        Thank you for your response . .


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