Looking in the direction to start the morning

Bird Droppings January 18, 2015
Looking in the direction to start the morning

“Beginnings start in the east – from where the sun rises we begin a new dawn. Each day is a good new day with a fresh beginning, a new start. East is the direction of the physical body and newness including children and newborns. It is the time of change for all is a new beginning, new ideas and seeing the light. The color yellow is the path of Life, to begin the walk as a warrior, to shine in all that you do. The sun rising in the east empowers each of us. The energy to do and to begin the action of the mind and heart is there. Animals of wings and flight are from the east include the hummingbird, the owl, and the hawk. Our words are given to the east that the smoke in the air or the voices in the air may be carried to Spirit.” Tree Song

I was outside much earlier this morning and it was cold but the bitter freezing cold has been gone for several days now. I was listening to the sounds of morning in a spot I where I have been sitting now for nearly seven years in our backyard facing an open field. Many sounds are just beginning to awaken as the sunrises each morning. The stillness and solitude of early morning on some occasions is sometimes off in a distance broken by a rooster calling or generally more likely starters for the morning are crows and mockingbirds. Today it was a mockingbird that came to visit as I sat listening and watching the sun come up. It has been some time since I have heard a rooster crow from my door step maybe twelve years now.

“Sioux Morning prayer – Let your voice whisper righteousness in our ears through the East Wind at the break of day. Let us be blessed with love for all our brothers & sisters on Earth so we may truly live in peace. Let us have good health mentally & physically to solve our problems and accomplish something for future generations. Let us be sincere to ourselves and make the world a better place to live. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin” Unknown Author Traditional Sioux prayer

The Sioux end prayers and meditations with the phrase, Aho Mitakuye Oyasin, which means, All My Relations. Many will questioned or wonder why end with such a vague phrase? But to the Indian all about is part of who they are and it is to all that they offer this Morning Prayer or thought. I did not write the past two days as I got caught up playing and enjoying time with my granddaughter. Watching Finding Nemo a million times, searching for a very specific stuffed animal, making smoothies and basically just doing things a three year old enjoys wears an old man out and I succumbed to fatigue about nine last night. I went home sat and watched a downloaded movie for about an hour and fell asleep so I could get an earlier start today. While I did not write this past weekend till this afternoon I posted and shared several items. I kept in touch so to say.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau
The other day my mother gave a copy of her notes on my growing up childhood years. One is a story of how when very small around three years of age I ran away. I actually only went across the street into the woods. I will offer the entire story one day but since I was young I have enjoyed the solitude of the woods and nature. Most recently in another dream I was agin on that same path leading to a small cave where a medicine man was sitting. There have been many times in the various pathways of my life where I would find places to go and be alone with nature. Seldom have I been confined long in a place where I cannot escape to the calls of the wild and sunrise. Recently a friend posted photos of Cumberland Island which lies along the Georgia Coast and is protected. It is considered a wilderness area and off limits to most exploitation. Sunrise on Cumberland with no one for miles can be pretty spectacular. You have to camp on the island however to see a Cumberland sunrise. While I started with the east today it is about direction that I am writing.

“I am always doing things I can’t do; that’s how I get to do them.” Pablo Picasso

I raised the question of purpose recently with a student and in an email last night an idea had me thinking. A dear friend said four people had raised the issue of purpose in life recently and she is going through a time now seeking her purpose. Before I went out I wrote back to her, for me it is not what is my purpose, as much as I have purpose and knowing you are significant in each aspect of what you do, borrowing from the Sioux again, Aho Mitakuye Oyasin. Over the years I always thought I would one day open my eyes and see “My purpose” and I have come to understanding it is not a destination that is my purpose it is very much a journey.

It has been many years ago that I experienced a vision or a dream of a giant jig saw puzzle falling in place that sorted it out for me. I could not see the puzzle front every time I tried and look it would turn away revealing the gray backing. I had to be content to know it was falling in place piece by piece and each piece was more intricate than the last. As we seek direction on our journey as I thought and we have a powerful friend in our faith. Doors will open as they need to. I spent nearly two years sorting out where I was to go, working with indigent families and receiving enough barely to cover cell phone and mileage. A door opened in teaching and even then I was presented with tests. It was five times that my name was presented by a principal who wanted me teaching and four times I was turned down. On September 11, 2001 I was allowed to go back into teaching as a long term substitute.

I have used the illustration of a puzzle often over the years and throw the word purpose about every now and again. There is an aspect of our journey we are directly involved in and that is direction, which way are we facing as we take that next step.

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy; a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lays disaster. The other fork of the road, the one less traveled by offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” Rachel Carson
I was looking this morning for words dealing with direction each time I tried mapping and directions came up. My oldest son finished his certification in GPS many years ago. He was working with an Environmental Science class at the high school mapping trees and positioning using GPS devices for a project and it hit me how so focused and reliant we have become on technology. We are at a point in our technology where we can ascertain that Sumatra moved 20 centimeters in the huge earthquakes of years past. But so often we have a hard time determining where we are going today let alone in life.

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

I can always find a spot for a Dewey quote. Dewey is not the easiest read in the world, often his thoughts are in details we are not used too. Far too often teachers look for an easy fix to a complicated issue. In life far too many times we take the easy road.

“Instead of looking at life as a narrowing funnel, we can see it ever widening to choose the things we want to do, to take the wisdom we’ve learned and create something.” Liz Carpenter

“You don’t have to buy from anyone. You don’t have to work at any particular job. You don’t have to participate in any given relationship. You can choose” Harry Browne

For many they see life as a funnel, a narrowing down rather than a spreading out. It has been many years since I walked the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia. Often when walking up a mountain, there are switch backs that would be used rather than a direct ascent. A switch back is a path that cuts back and forth up the mountain rather than straight up, and with a heavy pack a direct route is often impossible. In physics displacement is the straight line distance between two points few could do that in the mountains.

“The way to activate the seeds of your creation is by making choices about the results you want to create. When you make a choice, you activate vast human energies and resources, which otherwise go untapped. All too often people fail to focus their choices upon results and therefore their choices are ineffective. If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz

So often in life it is the first step, or that opening of the door is so difficult. When I did go back to teaching, I could have stopped at first rejection. I applied at five or six schools. I was not certified, and in order to get provisional certification you have to be employed, an interesting paradox. For some reason a principal thought I might work out and kept pushing, and at the board meeting I was hired, then called back, my sister had been hired who I recommended and so I couldn’t work there. Then my name did not make a meeting and second effort was defeated and a third and fourth. Finally a teacher had a nervous breakdown and was out indefinitely and a long term sub was needed and eventually a teacher. The board made allowances for my sister and I started on September 11, 2001.
It was many months later when the principal was putting a list together that I was asked what day I started and I couldn’t remember, it was the week after labor day and a Tuesday because approval was needed on Monday. The first step is the roughest many times.

“You are the person who has to decide. Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; you are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind. Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar. Or just be contented to stay where you are.” Edgar A. Guest

“When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.” Dr. Scout Cloud Lee

Dr. Lee is a motivational speaker, author of twelve books, a singer, song writer, University professor and former cast member of the survivor series on CBS. She was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Oklahoma State University in 1980, and Oklahoma’s Outstanding Young Woman in American in 1980. In 2002, Lee was honored to carry the Olympic torch exemplifying the theme of “Light the Fire Within”. Perhaps this is a good place to stop today Guest states “you have to decide” and Dr. Lee offers “we participate in the creation of a new world”. I’ll end up with a line from an Aerosmith song

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler

Perhaps ending with a Steven Tyler quote is a good one since he is now one of the judges on American Idol. Maybe he will exemplify his song and provide direction for some young people on their journeys in life. So please my friends 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

Why we should not allow teasing

Bird Droppings January 17, 2015
Why we should not allow teasing

“Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, and is it true, does it improve on the silence?” Hindu proverb

So often I speak first and clean up afterwards many times simply walking away quiet generally leaving whoever I am conversing with confused and bewildered. Having a long weekend and hoping to get some serious writing in later today I was cleaning up my email when I found one from a dear friend from nearly ten years ago. It was the first one of that day and was about a subject we both were deeply involved with working with high school students.

My friend was a youth leader here in Atlanta area and an organic gardener as it goes several years back we discussed teasing and its effects on children. How what is said can often be more potent than any physical contact especially with teenagers. My friend Anna Evans offers this check on teasing and three things to look for.

“I have always said you recognize “teasing” if three things are present: There is a shred of truth to what is said, someone has their feelings hurt, you wind up saying …’I was only teasing’. We can’t take those moments back and they are often some of those life changing moments, often not for the “good” Yea, we humans need a 10 second delay like TV so we can adjust what we say…sure would make for a kinder world.” Anna Evans

With another Superbowl around the corner I wonder if Janet Jackson would take her ten seconds back from that Superbowl slip up.

“Jests that give pains are no jests.” Miguel de Cervantes

As I was wandering about the internet I came upon a website for The Center for Effective Parenting, they offer information for parents and often that same information can be totally applicable to teachers as well. We as teachers often see children for more hours awake than parents do sadly. The Center for Effective Parenting, offers a possible guide:

“Parents should try to find out from their children some specifics. For example, parents should try to find out what the teasing is about, who is doing the teasing, where the teasing is occurring, how their children have reacted to different episodes and what occurred afterwards. Parents should try to keep track of such information for a few days to find out what precipitates teasing, if there are things their children may be doing to encourage teasing, and if there seems to be some pattern to it.” TCEP, website

“ Teach appropriate responses, Ignore it, develop a quick tongue, Practice, Provide lots of love and encouragement, Discuss it with teacher or day care provider” Kristen Zolten, M.A. and Nicholas Long, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

As I look at the expert’s rationale it is a simple ABC’s, the Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence scenario which I have brought up many times in looking at behavior. As I was reading this morning and thinking about zero tolerance for bullying that is in effect for most schools I came upon an interesting website, author and ideas.

“Every minute spent in school handling interpersonal problems is a minute taken away from education. Students are all-too-eager to get away from academics. When they discover their teacher is willing to stop what he’s doing to deal with social problems, it is child’s play to fill up the school day with problems.” Izzy Kalman, Bullies to Buddies

As I think back to my own teaching style I redirect, ignore often and comeback. Very seldom do I slow down to let teasing take the fore front. Izzy Kalman borrows heavily from old adage of “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”. Kalman takes an opposite view to many educators in that aggression is not learned but genetic. It is an active part of the human condition and so should be dealt with in that manner. Many books and articles and doctorial theses have been written about bullying and teasing. The TABS, which is the Teasing and Bullying survey is produced by The Mental Research Institute and can be a good resource and tool for teachers and parents.

As I sit here pondering listening to the water running in my aquarium at school and R. Carlos Nakai on the seven note cedar flute hauntingly playing on my stereo system which on non-school days I can crank up a bit louder than normal this issue of bullying is real it is in us and maybe far too often we sidestep and look away as kids tease each other.
I look back to that first statement from so many thousands of years ago, “Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” We can choose what we say that is not genetic that is learned and an active ongoing behavior subject to ABC. We can set an example for children, and that too is learned and not genetic. So in effect if we sat an example can we change the world and maybe through natural selection down through time do away with teasing and bullying. Research is still out but I am still willing to put in an effort. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and regardless of your political followings there are people hurting and dying in Haiti who need our prayers and help and always give thanks namaste.

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

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)
bird

We have to try and care

Bird Droppings January 14, 2015
We have to try and care

So far for this year and the tail end of last year all the snow, sleet and ice predicted have never showed up just cold, fog, wet and nasty. It has been unseasonably colder than normal with scatterings of warm weather still only a few nights getting below freezing. I lost my phone yesterday briefly as I headed home from school and found it. Those few moments thinking it was lost however made me so aware of how dependent we have become on our smart phones. I did not know my sons or my wife’s numbers and had to look up my cellular accounts on the internet. Fortunately as I walked in my phone was sitting at my last stop as I headed home yesterday.

As I headed in to school today rain and drizzle with a chance of sunshine later and tonight was the weather forecast. A crescent moon is hiding out under the clouds I am sure after a night of rain and storm. I am sitting here in my classroom pondering my writing for today. Yesterday I was sitting talking with some students on war and faith and how human beings have such fickle and often conflicting views which create much of the tumult in the world. In a roundabout way the discussion ended up with Mother Teresa. I have always been impressed with the attitude and faith of Mother Teresa.

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

It is difficult for me to even imagine the ability to do what Mother Teresa did day after day as she was walking the streets of Calcutta India dealing with poverty and human suffering I can barely imagine. In the above thought she asks to light a light in the hearts of people and I try and compare and feel like a match stuck barely casting a spark.

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

“The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.” Ethel Percy Andrus

As I look at my day and my effort to try and emulate some of humanities great givers I realize I am here now in this moment and that other person was there at their moment and for now even if only a spark, a minimum of light, it is light and it is shining and what I can do now within the context of where I am is what is so important. My morning is spent before class in the hall literally talking to students often students who are walking down the hall simply being there. I interject questions, how are you and such and often more times than not make some smart remark “I wonder if they are still grouchy today?” Yesterday my friend who wasn’t speaking too me I followed down the hall directly behind her with comments like, some people just are annoying, they stop talking to other people for no apparent reason anyhow after about fifteen feet of annoying remarks she turned around cracking up and said ok I will talk to you. Later in the day I think a well of holding back spilled out have you ever tried to listen to a kid with ADHD try and explain why they were mad at you and all that has happened in a week in fifteen seconds or less it requires hypersonic listening.

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

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

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

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

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

It amazes me how people do not see how love and giving are really selfish. When you love and when you give it is returned the circle is complete. I know this is an understatement and love and giving are not selfish by any means but it is so true that this circular motion occurs it may be simply the feeling of doing good. Later today I am doing a poster for school about the relief fund one of the classes has started. It is a feeling of good will of love while these kids will never witness any effect that what they do here in our town collecting money for a relief fund actually does there is satisfaction and pride in the effort.

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

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

I have been a visitor in schools where teachers wall themselves up in their rooms’ They open the door for class and lecture close the door then open the door and maintain this assembly line routine through the day and never once have true contact with a student. They take roll I did that the other day started calling names and said we have been required to call roll and students must raise your hand and say present after about two or three students actually did it one pipes up, “Mr. Bird but you know we are here” and therein lays the difference. Some teachers are so engrossed in not knowing their students they never know they are there. Many choose not to give for a fear of caring.
I called a home yesterday and spoke to a dad if I can call him that. He was pleasant and polite. I asked about his daughter who is a ninth grader. She was with friends for the weekend and he had told her she was responsible for her ride to and from a town about thirty miles distant average car 10 miles per gallon that is 3 gallons either way a total of six gallons of gas and if careful we can get gas for $3.35 so maybe $20.00 in gas. It seems she could not get a ride back and he told her he could not afford to come get her. Perhaps my comprehension was a bit off. If one of my children went out of town for the weekend and was unable to get home I would have found twenty dollars in gas or found a way to get them home. My initial reason for calling was due to attendance.

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

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

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

I was looking through old photos from back in the day and found several of some friends from Auburn Alabama. These photos go back nearly twenty five years. The young man in the photos used to work for me when he was in college. I jokingly recalled as I talked to his wife after I spontaneously called after looking at the pictures. I remember meeting his wife’s father for the first time. It seems my friend was hiding in our stock trailer at a livestock show her daddy did not want her seeing him and he was looking for him amazing how time is and for a while they were business partners. But a small side note they lost a baby several years ago and now have two healthy boys and a girl. As I talked with my friends wife she offered that in her heart it was meant to be there was a reason and she may never know why they lost a child. It had took two years but they had another baby and you know every day I end with remembering those in harm’s way well in harm’s way is a big term keep the unborn babies in your thoughts these are special folks.

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

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

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

Today make an effort to know your students, your children, your friends, your family and those you meet so as I do every day please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Learning is a journey strewn with boulders

Bird Droppings January 13, 2015
Learning is a journey strewn with boulders

“In a word, learning is decontextualized. We break ideas down into tiny pieces that bear no relation to the whole. We give students a brick of information, followed by another brick, followed by another brick, until they are graduated, at which point we assume they have a house. What they have is a pile of bricks, and they don’t have it for long.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’S, Praise and Other Bribes

For nearly a week now I it has been either bitter cold and or wet in the mornings. It has been interesting early in the morning clear or semi-clear and then by the time I leave for school rain again. I am cursed to drive in the rain. Today we had a foggy sky and mist hiding the remnants of the moon. It has been many years since I first brought up that we need context to complement the content in education. I have been a fan of Alfie Kohn’s work for nearly fourteen years since I first read a book in a book club meeting held by our then principal. As I read this earlier today and used as a status for my Facebook page the idea of decontextualizing interests me. Real learning involves context and if we constantly are decontextualizing essentially we are unlearning what we are trying to teach.

“Who, then, shall conduct education so that humanity may improve?” John Dewey

A very deep and broad question, I was thinking back to my own community and associations. We elect school board members who hire teachers and principals, they decide on schools to build and a place to build them and rules to govern schools. In Georgia recently several school systems have lost and or been put on probation due to school boards inappropriate behavior and the politics of those school boards that took away from education. The new kid on the bock charter schools is impacting public education and private schools still thrive here in the Bible belt. In any situation where elected officials are running the show and especially where there are few requirements for the job and it pays little if anything what should we expect? So I turn to my hero, what and how does Dewey the great educator answer his own question?

“We must depend upon the efforts of enlightened men in their private capacity. ’All culture begins with private men and spreads outward from them. Simply through the efforts of persons of enlarged inclinations, who are capable of grasping the ideal of a future better condition, is the gradual approximation of human nature to its end possible…. Rulers are simply interested in such training as will make their subjects better tools for their own intentions.’ Even the subsidy by rulers of privately conducted schools must be carefully safeguarded. For the rulers’ interest in the welfare of their own nation instead of in what is best for humanity, will make them, if they give money for the schools, wish to draw their plans.” John Dewey

We are manipulated and educated as pawns in a society for the societies own perpetuation and many top educators across the country believe this. There are times when I believe as well, watching new teachers come and teach in a manner that has been that way for a hundred years, as we develop curriculums that are what was and will always be and or design a program simply to sell books much like the integrated math program curriculum in Georgia that is after about three years being done away with because test scores were significantly dropping and over eighty thousand students failed end of course tests it is always about tests. Occasionally a bright note a light on the horizon, a student of education or two sees a different view a different point and follows a different path. Here I am thinking and routine keeps popping up.

Today as I do every day I let out Timber our Husky puppy. It is funny back in the day we had Moose our yorkie, and Lil girl our westie and the two could not be in the same space together even though they were raised for several years together. We moved along the way and they could not decide who was boss after the move. Then I go to my computer and write trying to catch up on emails. What is of concern as I think is that this is a trivial item to be concerned about? We want things to be smooth to run efficiently and effectively and “OUR WAY”; the further up the chain of command the bigger the “OUR WAY” is.

“The new idea of the importance of education for human welfare and progress was captured by national interests and harnessed to do a work whose social aim was definitely narrow and exclusive. The social aim of education and its national aim were identified, and the result was a marked obscuring of the meaning of a social aim.” John Dewey

Teachers and administrators like routine, sameness I call it and easy to be canned and or bottled. Borrowing from Sydney J, Harris “easier to stuff a sausage than cultivate a pearl” The student effectively gets lost in the mandated and regulated manipulations of society.

“Is it possible for an educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted, constrained, and corrupted?” John Dewey

I find irony in the concept of a democratic classroom which I do believe can be successful. I find paradox in our efforts to be so democratic in our own country and yet we tend to bow to where majority wants even at the expense of free thought. We say individualism on one hand yet want the seemed majority to rule and to dictate. As I was watching the election process in Iraq previously these concepts seemed to be exemplified. One faction has won and another literally did not vote in protest.

As I look at education and our own country how often do we do this and then when that which we did not elect nor even cared about happens we whine. We complain and we are faced with a journey that has provisions we do not want nor need. We can be often on that journey in a wrong direction for several years till another change, or pathway appears. Far too often we dictate direction in a top down scenario. On the path the one on the journey is being told go this way and go that and should be the one directing the effort. It is so easy to raise an issue; following through with ideas is the more difficult aspect. Where in should the direction be set for example in education? I approach students in a manner that may be contradictory to some and way wrong to others. I offer here is where we need to go and ok class how do we get there. At first that is a difficult proposition, many want a map, a guide, a compass at least. The teacher can be that, facilitating in a guiding manner. But for learning to happen students have to be engaged and interactive in the journey each day.

“To get where they’re going, navigators first need to know where in the world they are.” Dragonfly web site

If we substitute educators and or students for navigators an interesting situation occurs. Any journey needs a starting point and how we find where that is often is the hard part in education. A journey starts at the beginning, where it is going is wherever and whenever but it does start somewhere. As a teacher helps students find a starting point and then provides tools to navigate the journey. 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

Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

Bird Droppings January 12, 2015
Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

I awoke very early to a vivid dream and walked outside as I do many mornings listening observing trying to understand this reality I am walking about in. The sky was covered in clouds and raining as I stood on my porch. Over the years I have spent many days in the mornings alone sitting observing in the wee hours sometimes even wrapped in a blanket for the cold. I would spend my time listening and watching as time went by. There were mornings when falling stars by the hundreds would pass by and I would feel as if I was the focus of their attention watching all in space aim towards me. I would sit and hours later write poetry or verses logging down emotions events and moments in my journal of sorts.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

One day recently I was told I had a great vocabulary. I came home and asked my wife; “Do I have a great vocabulary?” I was really hoping for an answer to boost my ego and she said “it really depends on who you are talking too.” You know at first I was hurt but then she said not that many people have seen or heard what you have in your life and sharing that expands their vocabulary as well. I instantly felt better. It is always great to pass on knowledge. Perhaps a reason why I enjoy teaching and sharing experiences I have had over my sixty plus years.

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper

In days gone by and even today I will pick up an encyclopedia and read the volume much like a book, ok tonight’s light reading is in the H, Britannica. In our Google it world of today few children have ever seen an encyclopedia let alone open one. Last week in class I was using my ancient Britannica’s to help a student with a Venn diagram on Achilles and Odysseus. Once he started with the book versus Wikipedia he was caught up and started looking through the pages. Even asked if he could take the volume home saying Mr. Bird this is pretty cool.

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

We have all grown up with the statement about how curiosity killed the cat but a lack thereof will also keep the world at a standstill and nothing will happen as well.

“Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” Peter F. Drucker

A great guru of business Peter Drucker has written many books helping people manage their businesses. If you look at our society and the pace of new information and technology we are living in a world where while you sleep things change. This statement is even truer today than when Drucker wrote it in the sixties.

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have come to enjoy Emerson and I use his sayings often. He was a rather grizzly looking old goat of a man. When I read this I realized several times recently this is how I described what a school should be like. It should be literally a teacher, as a door. With the teacher or door person simply opening the door at appropriate times allowing information to go in. As the student becomes more and more adept the doorman is needed less and less till soon only a receptionist is needed to assist in organizing thoughts.

“Knowledge, without common sense, says Lee, is folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, it is fanaticism; without religion, it is death. But with common sense, it is wisdom with method, it is power; with clarity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue, and life, and peace.” Austin Farrar

I sat and spoke at length over lunch a few days ago and walking back to class with a good friend who had served a several tours in Afghanistan, we were talking of cultural differences, to us sometimes these differences are ridiculous and yet to the people within that culture they are a part of life. I have been fascinated with a tiny group of people and have been reading several books lately dealing with the Sans or “Bushman” of the Kalahari in South Africa as well as several other indigenous peoples who have been stripped of their homes and culture for the sake of mankind at least that is what we are told.

It seems diamonds had been found in the Kalahari and the Sans who have lived there for tens of thousands of years, hunting and gathering now must leave and go learn to farm to be civilized. Perception was left out of many of the verses today for a hunter in the Kalahari may not know of Quantum physics but he or she does know where to find and how to find water and juicy grubs for dinner. What if the antelope has escaped during the hunt as a Bushmen you know the signs to track and finish the job. Knowledge is of when and where you are now is crucial to existence, going back to my wife’s comment to me this morning and my own vocabulary learned through so many experiences and books read.

“Gugama, the creator, made us. That was a long time ago – so long ago that I can’t know when it happened. That is the past, but our future comes from the lives of our children, our future is rooted in the hunt, and in the fruits which grow in this place. When we hunt, we are dancing. And when the rain comes it fills us with joy. This is our place, and here everything gives us life. “Mogetse Kaboikanyo

Mogetse Kabokikanyo was a Kgalagadi man who lived alongside the Gana and Gwi Bushmen in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In February 2002, he was forcibly relocated to a camp outside the reserve. He died just four months later. He was probably in his fifties; his friends said his heart stopped beating. After years of struggling to remain on his land, Mogetse was buried in the desolate relocation camp, far from his ancestors’ graves. We citizens of the United States talk of human rights and dignity but in a case closer to home, it is very similar.

In about 1909 or so Geronimo of the Apaches was told finally he would not be allowed to return to the mountains of New Mexico to die. He must remain at Fort Sill Oklahoma on the Apache reservation literally a prisoner of war where he died shortly thereafter. I have been to the grave site of Geronimo many times in my travels to Lawton Oklahoma. Driving out past military vehicles and such to a quiet spot along the river where no visible modern sights can be heard or seen. Immediately around you are only the rustling cottonwood trees, and the flow of water over the stones in the river alongside the grave yard provides a backdrop of peaceful sounds. A rolling landscape and meadow of grass go up from a small parking area into the plains of Oklahoma. Not many people come to this corner of Fort Sill.

Many times as I sat alone staring across the meadow listening to the stream and feeling a breeze brush lightly it seems as if time rearranged and it was so easy to slip back to days when people buried here had names and were not simply numbered markers. Knowledge is an elusive, ethereal, entity flitting about as a monarch butterfly travels many thousands of miles between hills in Mexico and Georgia. Knowledge is elusive in how it conveys power to some and solace to others. Knowledge is walking along the stream by a grave from a time long gone and knowing we can change mankind we can make a difference. It is the Geronimo’s and Mogetse Kaboikanyo’s, who are the real teachers of this world.

It may be one step one small tiny speck at a time but one day others will be able to stand among the cotton woods in Oklahoma or beneath a bush in the Kalahari and know tomorrow is a far better day. Hopefully mankind has learned more as we increase our abilities to convey understanding. One day, maybe not today, knowledge will truly be instilled in everyone. But till then please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and try to offer a hand to any slipping as they cross the stream on their own journey and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Can we say true heroism and humility are spelled the same?

Bird Droppings January 10, 2015
Can we say true heroism and humility are spelled the same?

Even though I am one of the worst spellers in this local area I know heroism and humility are technically spelled differently. I will concede to using words to come up with a perhaps catchy title for my daily morning wanderings. I sat and listened to our President after the shooting of Congresswomen Gilford’s nearly four years ago as he spoke to a group in Arizona at a memorial service for those killed in the shooting in Tuscan. I will admit I was moved by his words as I think most people in this nation were.

“Though I appreciate the sentiment, I must humbly reject the title of hero because I am not one of them,” “We must reject the title of hero and reserve it for those who deserve it.” Daniel Hernandez, twenty year old intern of Congresswomen Gilford credited with saving her life by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and President Barrack Obama

Daniel as he was interviewed went on to say the real heroes were the First responders’ and doctors and nurses that cared for the injured and prevented any additional loss of life. As I ponder this morning a young man jumping into the fray as he heard gunshots as do many of our service men and women and saying he is not the hero is a humbling moment for me.
I recall my father and stories of World War II and the battle of Iwo Jima in the South Pacific. For you non-history buffs the US military brass had come up with a plan to island hop through the South Pacific to Japan as a means to end the war. (By chance I am grading papers on Truman’s decision to drop the A bomb made me think of this)

This idea was formulated knowing we would lose many men as the Japanese were well fortified and dug in. Iwo Jima was a blood bath to say the least. US Marines were dropping as they left the land craft or pontoon bridges from the LSM’s. My father was a medic on an LSM. This was a boat with a drop open front to allow landing craft and tanks to roll out into shallow water or onto pontoon bridges along with the Marines who were on board as well. As my father tells the story a young Marine nineteen at the time had fallen between two pontoons. These structures are large enough to support a tank and chained together to make bridges from sea craft to shore.

My father heard the young man’s call for help and jump from his boat to the pontoons. As he looked over the scene it was not good the young man’s leg had been tangled in the chains connecting the pontoons. His right leg was in shambles and nearly sheared off from the chains movement with the waves. My father had to move quickly. The pontoons were being shoved together by tanks and waves as the moved. Dad jumped down between the pontoons explained he would need to amputate the young Marines leg in order to get him to safety. He offered a swig of whiskey that he carried in a flask for such ordeals in his back pocket. The young Marine said he did not drink. Using his Navy survival knife he poured some of the whiskey on the knife and proceeded to take off the Marines leg.

As the pontoons came together dad threw the young man up on to the nearest pontoon climbed up and cauterized and sutured his wound. Add to this machine gun fire and mortar rounds all around as well. Dad then lifted the young man and carried him down the beach front to the hospital outgoing landing craft.

Across my father’s Navy shirt was embroidered his nickname on board the LSM, DOC. The Navy and Marine corpsmen saw him and heard him barking medical orders about the injury and assumed he was an officer. The young man was given priority and made it to the hospital ship and did survive. Sounds simple yet during the several hundred yard walk down the beach the dug in Marines were yelling at my father to get down and bullets were whistling all around him. As he would say as he told the story a guardian angel was watching over him is all he could recall. He said he was in a daze as he carried the young Marine it was what he had to do in order to save his life. Another few minutes wasted and he would have died on the beach.

It was days later when questioned about the incident by his commander he was offered a heroism medal from the Navy but being a young college man himself he asked if he could get a raise instead of a medal. It was not until many years later when he was going for health care to the VA hospital he actually put in for a purple heart so he could get a better handicapped parking space he was in his eighties at the time.

Heroism and humility spelled differently perhaps, but there is a fine line connecting the two. It has not been that long ago that the first Medal of Honor was given to a living soldier in many years. We seem to have far too few heroes in today’s world. I look to a shooting in Arizona and see several. There was a nine year old girl who believed in her country and in her congresswomen enough to be there to see her. There is a congresswoman who chose to meet with her constituent’s one on one in public. While he claims he is not the hero a young man who did not hesitate when the shots rang out and did what he could. I also saw our President whose gray hair is more noticeable now standing before the families of those lost and grieving talking about healing. We do have a nation of heroes it seems if we so chose to look about. As I think back to that day and another comment by Daniel Hernandez.

“On Saturday, we all became Arizonans, and above all, we all became Americans,” Daniel Hernandez

It is difficult on some days to try and sort and reflect. Yet it is in our reflections we can find solutions, be it in government, family, friends, or in education that I tend to tie in loosely each day I write. Today let us all reflect on our heroes and also keep all of those in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Caring is a very precious commodity in life

Bird Droppings January 9, 2015
Caring is a very precious commodity in life

As I am pondering my early hours today before heading to the local Super Walmart all night everything store I read an article dealing with charter schools and how they exclude many students. The air temperature is chilly outside and we are under a slight blanket of clouds much like education is shrouded in this mist of uncertainty. We have been relieved of more budget cuts and furlough days and today I am looking at all aspects of my job in detail in order to be sure there are no stones unturned as evaluations are coming up. I am a bit disconcerted by discussions and newspaper articles recently across the nation regarding tachrs. I have thoroughly enjoyed my holidays between grandbabies and family it has been wonderful.

I have found as I read comments from teachers and administrators that have Facebook accounts there are differing degrees of involvement in this teaching profession. On one hand I find this medium a useful tool while some use solely with a few friends. Younger teachers have a large number of college peers and work related friends, some teachers have former students, and some have student’s teacher’s administrators and professors and numerous others. Reading statuses and updates coming from my psychology background I see many teachers who are concerned and caring people. After being back in teaching fourteen years I find caring is a very precious commodity in life and teaching and caring is difficult to teach.

“Teaching is to move people to choose differently.” Dr. Maxine Greene, educator, author and caring person

Working in what was once a rural county now not much more than an extension of Atlanta there are many who still adhere to the old ways, politically, religiously, culturally, socially and even educationally. I can write my name that is enough. We experienced an assassination attempt on a sitting Congress Women in Arizona only a few months back. There was a mass shooting in a school in New England and rhetoric is focusing on the heated debates and arguments from the media. People on both sides still are fanning the flames of violence. However it was not that many years ago in this county people would be lynched, moonshine was the main industry and killing someone and losing a body was part of doing business. Early in the week in my writings I issued a line or two about mental institutions closing and how there were many who twenty five years ago would be residents of said institutions are now in politics, religion, military, jail, homeless and or waiting on the right trigger to set them off. It has been made very clear the individuals involved in the numerous shootings were mentally ill which will play well in various congressional, court and civil meetings, hearings and trials. But how do we teacher’s help children choose differently borrowing from that great educator Maxine Greene.

“… Martin Buber had what he called a life of creativity in mind, and also a capacity for participation and partaking. He said that all human beings desire to make things, and what children desire most of all is their share in the becoming of things. Through their own intensively experienced actions, something arises that was not there before. This notion of participant experience- and sharing in the becoming of things- comes very close to what we mean by aesthetic education.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

Maybe I should post the Foxfire Core Practices that I have been writing about for several years. I like this idea of participant experience. We need to be actively involved in learning both as teacher and as students.

“Not only do we want to keep the aesthetic adventures into meaning visible and potent in the schools, along with the other ways there are of making or achieving or discovering meanings. We want to keep enhancing them with some understanding of contexts- movements, styles, traditions- and connections among diverse works at different modes of history. For one thing, we know very well that none of us comes to any work of art devoid of context or with what has been called a totally ‘innocent eye.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

I have watched a new math curriculum wreak havoc with students and teachers and not just in math as math dictates the entire school schedule now. The idea to simplify titles of courses to Math I, II, III, and IV does not do justice to the texts being used or curriculum proposed. Several years ago the test groups failed the first proto type test miserably and continually the curve has to be extreme to provide some passing numbers. The teachers are the same ones who were good and great teachers just a few months back but a simple change in state curriculum and we go backwards. The content needs context and it needs reasons.

“I hope you think about the wonder of multiple perspectives in your own experience. I hope you think about what happens to you- and, we would all hope, to our students- when it becomes possible to abandon one- dimensional viewing, to look from many vantage points and, in doing so, construct meanings scarcely suspected before.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

I am being hard on the math curriculum but the idea we are so far behind is not a valid one. In the US of all the major industrialized countries we are the only one that mandates education for all children. There is a significant demographic left out of scores which is children who live in poverty. On international testing we tend to be down the list in part because of the greater number of children of all makes and models being tested. There are ideas within Maxine Greene’s words from 2003 that could help a teacher or teachers improve how they respond to students. Changing perspective looking from a different vantage point rather than simply that podium in the front of the room can make a world of difference. A simple thought but world changing.

“Our object, where public schools children and young people are concerned is to provide increasing numbers of opportunities for tapping into long unheard frequencies, for opening new perspectives on a world increasingly shared. It seems to me that we can only do so with regard for the situated lives of diverse children and respect for the differences in their experience.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

Seeing the differences in children is a sign of a great teacher. For it is in being able to see each child as unique and then in turn being able to, pardon the word diversify the teaching enough to interest all children. That is in and of itself a huge task.

“It is sometimes said that ‘all teachers care.’ It is because they care that people go into teaching.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person

I honestly do think, no one goes into teaching not caring. Somewhere along the line maybe they forget and get too caught up in teaching to the test, making sure they cover every miniscule detail in the curriculum map or just trying to get a good appraisal. As I have watched good teachers and great teachers it is that caring aspect that sets them apart. They tend to build relationships with students. They try to understand why a student comes to school the way they do not just simply give a zero for a missed assignment.

“In a caring relation or encounter, the cared-for recognizes the caring and responds in some detectable manner. An infant smiles and wriggles in response to it mother’s care giving. A student may acknowledge her teacher’s caring directly, with verbal gratitude, or simply pursue her own project more confidently. The receptive teacher can see that her caring has been received by monitoring her students’ responses. Without an affirmative response from the cared-for, we cannot call an encounter or relation caring.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person

Teaching is so much more than a job and if only that were a teachable topic. For many years I have searched for what it is that sets apart the truly great teachers and simplified into one word it is caring. If only we could magnify and personify and spread that word through the world. For far too long I have ended my droppings each day with the same line. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Horses and Trains and learning

Bird Droppings January 8, 2015
Horses and Trains and learning

It has been many years since I last rode on a train. I mean a serious train going more than the distance between concourses at an airport. Years ago when I lived in the Philadelphia area, we all used mass transit to commute, to go “downtown,” to get around and to even travel a long distance, say to Florida. Trains are not quite what they used to be. Many of the true passenger trains are now extinct and the only other trains seem to be freight and rapid transit within big cities.

It has been nearly seventy years since diesel and electric engines replaced the giant steam locomotives that plied the tracks from Scranton, Pennsylvania and the rich anthracite coal regions to New Jersey and New York, hauling the fuel of the times on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. I have long been fascinated with the great trains of the past and perhaps because Mr. Frank E. Bird Sr., my namesake and grandfather was an engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western coal trains from 1900-1946.

I do not remember much of my late grandfather, even though we traveled from our home to see my grandparents as children many years ago but the images of his being an engineer have stayed with me. Sitting by my desk at home is his engineer’s watch a rather large pocket watch known for its remarkable ability to keep nearly exact time. I am told my grandfather was proud of his silver watch and its weight in my hand as I ponder makes me wonder at how much our world has changed.

“One returns to the past, to capture it as it was and as it hovers over the present” William Pinar

But the past is part of who we are and within us in the present in our imaginations and memories. We need to avoid making the past all we are for each minute we live we are creating a new past.

“Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods” James Hillman

As children we are fascinated with trains and even now in this day and age of digital everything and computers we still have trains at Christmas time. There are still electric train sets for sale it amazes me. I always wonder at the fascination so many people have with trains. What is it that intrigues us so about trains? When the giant steam locomotives pulled massive freight trains cross-country the enormity of the engines and power were drawing cards. In literature trains always are featured. In one of the literature classes we are reading, listening too, and have just watched the new movie of John Steinbeck’s classic
“Of Mice and Men”. In the movie the story starts and ends with George’s reflections as he rides a freight train to his next town. Blues musicians emulate trains in their music and words.

My early interest and fascination grew as a child and in 1954 I woke up to a Christmas morning and a circular track of a model Lionel O gauge steam engine and train set around our Christmas tree. It became a family tradition and that set was a family fixture for many years. When I had children of my own it was pulled out again and set up nearly thirty years later although this time it ran its circle around the dining room table trying to give a piece of my childhood to my children.

“Memory is an aspect of who we are” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

“Memory is the raw material of history, whether mental, oral or written, it is the living source from which historians draw” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

I was trying to share my past with my children as my father had passed down to me. When I was a child my father would often tell stories of my grandfather and the great steam locomotives he would pilot. Occasionally he would pull out an old engineer’s cap or lantern of my grandfathers to add some visual excitement to the stories. Still sitting on my mother house on the shelf is my grandfather’s kerosene lantern from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.

There is a surreal aspect to these massive metal machines, intertwined with our music and imagination trains are a fascinating piece of our being. Trains are an element of the industrial revolution yet linked metaphysically to us, it could be the size and power, the getting us from point A to point B.

I will wander a bit and take my morning thinking away from the subject of trains, and to another mode of transportation but still in line with my thoughts. It has been a few years since we sold our draft horses Rick and Blue, a team of dapple gray Perchron horses. Each horse stood over six feet at the shoulder and weighed in at well over a ton. Rick and Blue were big powerful animals. They could pull anything. I was asked to talk to a group of parents one night at a function and needed a visual aid to get my point across. An aspect of that discussion was narrow mindedness. I brought along the harnesses from Rick and Blue.
The massive leather harness’ weigh over 85 pounds each and include a set of blinders for the horses. The blinders kept the horses from being distracted and only allowed the horse to look forward. I used that example to show how so many people can be like the draft horse and get stuck only seeing one thing, one direction at a time and are unable to look to either side or to see anything new or different. Granted there are many ADHD students I wish I had blinders for.

So am I really wandering today or what does a set of horses and trains have to do with one another? They are both big and powerful and trains much like Rick and Blue go in a straight line down the track no side trips no going off the tracks. I was talking the other day with another teacher about taking a journey on a train and how that train goes from point A to point B. We then pick up what we need along the way. I ended up comparing the journey to education and to learning.

As I thought of the train tracks and how so many of us get stuck simply following the tracks I thought of all the knowledge waiting sitting along the way but off the tracks. This knowledge could be away from the tracks and or hidden from the straight and narrow. I wondered what it be like if tracks were flexible and we weren’t limited by that straight line. We could go where the best ideas were and the best methods and we could really load the train full instead of simply picking up what load we can along the tracks.

I put an Aerosmith CD in my car today as I left the house and track four or five is a song “Amazing” which contains a line that I hold dear. Several years ago my oldest son, the night after a very dear friend was killed in a car accident left a sticky note on my computer. It was a simple line actually a quote and yes I have used it for a quote of the day now many times. It is interesting how we also have this quote on the wall outside the cafeteria. The note was a line from an Aerosmith song, a Stephen Tyler original. “Life is about the journey not the destination”. We get so caught up in the destination, for example getting to the end of the tracks following the curriculum to a T or the “TEST” at the end of the semester that we lose sight of all around us, we lose sight of the journey. Our journey and our students is teaching them to think and if they think they will learn

So how do we get to point B and really still get there with as much as we can possible load on the train. We travel and we gather as we go but we are fortunate we can leave the tracks if we chose. We can go sideways. We can go back. We can go forward. One thing that is so crucial is we all need to remove our blinders and see all that is around us and live each moment of the journey.

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” Gerald Smith

Smith points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why. The illusions Smith points out, “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”. We get so caught up in what we are being told we are and why we soon fall on the straight track or go through life with blinders on. In order to dig deeper into we have to understand who we are as an individual and how we translate and comprehend our realities and how people see us.

“Freud, Jung and now Lang (among others) were digging underneath the surface of their lives, trying to uncover the roots of what is experienced on the surface” Gerald Smith

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the nobler one of laying down the outward things that enslaves us.” Carl Jung

I have wandered a bit today and maybe a bit too deep into ideas and thoughts that I find intriguing and puzzling. I once referred to the term of herding instinct that people tend to herd, want to be in groups. We so want to take the easiest route. I looked at apathy yesterday. We live in a time where we want things to be simple and easy. I want to simply get to point B not have extra sightseeing along the way. Sadly so many people live life that way. They live with blinders or follow a pre-laid out track and never get to know there is so much more. A student asked a question this morning dealing with biology. The question was about global warming and how some people say it is not occurring and yet so many are saying it is. There are folks who will never admit to and or even suggest some ideas have truth. They are caught up in there veil of ignorance. Watching the news and the impact our current war is having on veterans, the number of those in harm’s way is growing exponentially Please keep them all on your minds and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks namaste.

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

Intuitiveness and being there

Bird Droppings January 7, 2015
Intuitiveness and being there

I have always thought that teachers need to be two things intuitive and empathetic. Both require an element of compassion and caring. I wonder often how people teach without these capabilities. Over the last week with several other teachers we have been discussing this in detail.

I thought back nearly ten years ago to a night I was heading home from graduate school in Athens Georgia. As I came home from my class actually from a midterm in Advanced Behavioral Techniques, I was hungry since I had not really stopped since morning. I knew one of my former swimmers worked at Taco Bell and sure enough she was working and I said hello and headed home. Desert in the wee hours of the day always sounds good and I made a second stop. I went by our local Brewster’s ice cream shop and two of my former advisees were there we talked for a while about uptight teachers and who was not. Always that is an interesting subject as to why do teachers get so uptight or anybody for that matter. As I talked several more students and former students pulled in I met their girlfriends and boyfriends and such, coincidence as always. So often I mention the word coincidence and try to explain it much like I explain intuitive to many who say what.

Recently in a letter to a friend I used the term of we are where we need to be right now at this moment and when we realize that all of a sudden so much more becomes clear. James Redfield, a bestselling author refers to coincidence frequently and when you begin noticing coincidence it happens more often as you become attuned to it. I use intuition in a similar fashion. Essentially as you become aware of your place in the puzzle the pieces all seem to fit better and more clearly.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Gustav Jung

Jung was of the nature there was purpose in all that happened and he and his former partner Freud disagreed on that point. Jung coined a word synchronicity to explain his thoughts in the early 1900’s, things happening at a specific time with specific people seemingly chance but obviously not. Again I see intuitiveness and empathy playing a role.

“His notion of synchronicity is that there is a causal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception.” http:// skepdic.com/jung.html

“Some scientists see a theoretical grounding for synchronicity in quantum physics, fractal geometry, and chaos theory. They are finding that the isolation and separation of objects from each other is more apparent than real; at deeper levels, everything — atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, people — participates in a sensitive, flowing web of information. Physicists have shown, for example, that if two photons are separated, no matter by how far, a change in one creates a simultaneous change in the other. “ A Wink from the Cosmos, by Meg Lundstrom (Intuition Magazine, May 1996)

Somewhere in and among ideas and thoughts are answers. Some people seek answers through religion some seek answers through pure science and others assume there are no answers and sit on a rock. I wonder if I will be picked on and considered elitist for that statement. Each of us can choose our direction and flow. The actual point I was making was when we are aware of our interactions with others that each moment we spend with a person effects not only that person but the next person they see or talk too as we too are effected in a similar manner.

I came away from that night happy from talking with some folks that I had not seen in several weeks and hopefully they too went away a bit happier and this is how life works and if we are aware of this imagine the effect. If I know I will be affecting people beyond my contact with someone I will be more aware of how I affect them and so forth. The old credence of leaving the person you are talking with smiling is true again, is that coincidence, fact or fancy who knows but it sure happens a lot. 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