Now my past studies are making sense

Bird Droppings August 31, 2015
Now my past studies are making sense

My head feels like a sponge from even with taking sinus meds. We have cool weather and high humidity and my head always feels it. Perhaps why I was sitting thinking back to a day we as teachers in Walton County were not paid as it was one of our furlough days imposed by our governor and of students were not in school. It had been a teacher’s workday to finalize grades for mid-semester and for training. I did not sit idle but used time to work on research and papers for my graduate school studies. I am sitting here this morning trying to sort through piles of what needs to go first. School work for which school and when is it due kind of morning. Teaching high school and college and in graduate school and juggling due dates and names and folders. Maybe that is why my head hurts this morning. In less than a month I will be sixty six and that thought has passed through my pondering lately more than once and who knows maybe my brain is getting old and tired.

“The more sand that has escaped the hourglass of life, the clearer we should see through it.” Jean Paul Sartre

As I was looking for thoughts and ideas to start I actually was going a different direction when by accident or should I say coincidence found this quote? As we get older we have experienced more and if we have learned from our experiences the hour glass does clear. However if those grains have been abrasive and scoured the glass as they went through the glass will be scratched and foggy. It is life’s lessons that determine through previous experiences how we have responded and or would respond.

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing it’s not the fish they are after.” W. Whitman

I am not a big fan of fishing as a sport and often draw strange looks when my students hear me say I do not fish. I enjoy the solitude and quiet but not the sitting and waiting. Although once or twice I do have fish stories I could pull out both by chance with my cousin from Florida. One took place in Wisconsin when my father took my cousin and me fishing for Muskie and one in Florida with my family when we came upon a group of mating sharks. But they are food for thought another time and writing.

“No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings” W. Blake

“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” Albert Einstein

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake” Thoreau

Choosing to look, to see, to listen and to hear these are all choices we make as we go through life. It is far easier to take ideas and thoughts from others to be subjugated by others. It is so much easier to be what another wants us to be. It is only in hearing and seeing for ourselves we can as Thoreau says wake up to the dawn. We must be awake. As I was reading last night this thought came up and it intrigued me since I started in about using your own eyes and ears.

“An anthropologist asked a Hopi Indian why so many of his native songs seemed to be about the subject of rain… he replied: ‘because rain is scarce in our land… is that the reason so many of your songs are about love?’” from a Hopi elder

As I thought is that the problem in our society so easily recognized by a Hopi Indian in New Mexico who had never really been to a big city or “civilized” area of the United States, could it be a lack of love? In many of my readings for graduate school we are looking at whose eyes and whose voice perceives what is occurring in life. So much of history has been interpreted by a limited number of people and in a very select and often biased view. So often it is only the winner’s view of the world we see from history.

“Mankind often stumbles upon the truth….but usually picks itself up & goes along.” Winston Churchill

We so often know the answer and choose not to listen or simply disregard due to politics or popular opinion or majority rules sort of thing. Much of history has been written this way. Many indigenous peoples have been eradicated and literally been the bad guys in history. Their land was taken away and we make them the bad guys. Listening to politicians and power brokers today this is still evident. Calling such endeavors such as bilingual education not in a nice way and or even one of my favorites “voting ghetto” this adds to a couple of the most ignorant statements of recent political gibberish.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Albert Einstein

The more I read of his ideas and philosophy the more I like his thoughts. I think it is funny how what we remember him for is more military oriented work on the atomic bomb than his philosophy of life which was pacifistic and antiwar. He loathed the fact that he was instrumental in developing weapons of mass destruction and even at one point said he would give up all if he could take that back. So where am I going today perhaps the following thought will offer some aid.

“Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favor of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes men to seek a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position… It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education… The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at passive awareness of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that our affords are to create.” Bertrand Russell

The sad thing is so often we fall victim to 19th century thought and this while applying to education is very much prevalent through all ideas among the “normal” folks.

“Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening…The average American should be content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role.” William Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889

It is so sad to think that we actually allowed this type of mentality to lead our nation at one time. There are many times I wonder if anything has changed as you read headlines and newspaper clippings. We do not want to over educate children they might think for themselves then what do we do. The paradox is that in schools the kids who are allowed to think for themselves excel and often are the pride of the schools. Yet all through their education an effort has been made to suppress them. We cannot seem to understand that the ten year trend of standardized testing has done nothing to improve teacher quality and or student’s abilities other than to take tests. I saw this quote from the late John Holt yesterday in passing on another person’s Facebook page and it made me think.

“The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any school of education I ever heard of, can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

Holt and I disagree on many points I am sure as he was one of the first major advocates for home schooling however it was not based on religion but on learning. I agree with him that traditional schooling is ineffective. I try and function within and try to provide a slight as much as I can alternative to traditional teaching. I have been a fan of John Dewey and experienced based learning for some time and schools using his philosophy in many ways are not schools but learning environments. I watch current “reformers” trying to even more cubby hole and categorize and traumatize teaching and in theory learning. I am sorry teaching to a test is not anything but rote memory practice. A concerted effort is being made by corporate America to strip away individuality, soul from our youth and make a profit at it.

I have used this example before but since it is a good one I will again. My son in eighth grade was told his methodology in a math problem was wrong and he had to do it right, the teachers way. Later in high school during his second semester of calculus he found his methodology was absolutely right and more so interesting what was wrong in eighth grade is so correct in twelfth grade and again in four calculus courses at Georgia Tech. His math teacher in eighth grade did not have an understanding of calculus and therefore could not respond other than to say he was wrong. Sometimes we force children to our terms and we are the ones who are wrong. We need to listen to the children learn from them and before I go too far a last quote to end this Monday morning meanderings. This is from ancient Israel.

“A child’s wisdom is also wisdom” Jewish Proverb

Well I got a bit carried away but several ideas to mull over ponder and reflect on so be safe this glorious week ahead with projected rain and all, and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

I wonder if there is such a thing as Essential Education?

Bird Droppings August 28, 2015
I wonder if there is such a thing as Essential Education?
It has been almost five years since I was discussing various educational philosophies and pedagogies with my son the then education student. One happened to be essential education which per his text is only a slight step from perennial education which basically is reading, writing and arithmetic period. There is little if any art or music what so ever. As I looked through my files an author popped up who dabbled in or wrote the book on essential education, Ted Sizer.

“Pedagogy logically is a subject for which schools of education are – or should be – responsible. It all depends; of course, on how those schools define pedagogical skill. Is pedagogy merely the training necessary to contribute to a penny-bank system of schooling? Is teaching more a science than an art? Is sophisticated teaching the instruction of ideas and skills, matters of speaking and telling? That is, can we describe the steps a teacher must make, ultimately as a matter of habit, in enough detail to allow careful testing to determine whether the work has succeeded? To my eye, teaching – pedagogy – is an art … a demanding art. There is science to it (just as with painting) but also style, the quality of a person’s actions whether that person is fifteen or fifty. Getting others to learn, which includes helping them acquire skills, is a subtle, complex business… Pedagogy depends on a teacher’s character, his experience, his willingness to examine what is going on in his classes and to test his judgments against those of others. It requires self-confidence and a willingness to listen to the view of others. Those of us in education must accept this inevitable fuzziness and learn how to live with it as artists do.” Ted Sizer
A friend posted a link to a blog that happened to have this quote yesterday and attached to my Facebook page that is synchronistic. As I looked further in my various articles and readings this version of essential education is a bit more than what my son’s text from two years ago implied. There are several very good ideas in terms of education and learning in the programing at the Tara Redwood School.
Essential Education Pedagogy
The pedagogy developed by Tara Redwood School and Essential Education includes the following:
• Knowledge of the inner world of thoughts, feelings and emotions is as important as knowledge of the outer world
• An integrated and interdisciplinary approach to learning is preferable to one that fragments and divides knowledge
• Individuals often have dramatically different learning styles; all learning styles are valid and must be both acknowledged and nurtured.
• Learning rooted in direct experience far surpasses in depth and endurance learning by indirect methods
• Generally accepted subject matter can be enhanced by integrating a Essential Education approach and accompanying methods and techniques
• The intuitive wisdom of the individual can be developed by dialectical discussion and debate exploring philosophical, spiritual and moral themes.
Tara Redwood School. 5810 Prescott Road. Soquel, CA
Sitting here thinking about a specific definitive pedagogy and I am one who seldom uses the word many thoughts. Over the past few years I have been exploring my own ideas of what is pedagogy and how I see my teaching and instructional methods. I have borrowed extensively from Carl Rogers who was controversial in 1968 and his ideas still are considered perhaps utopian to borrow a few words from a friend. It is difficult to piece together I have found as so many aspects of how I view teaching are themselves controversial as well. I have borrowed over the last several days from John Dewey, Elliot Wiggington, Foxfire and today the Tara Redwood School. So much of our world view also reflects through our ideas and interactions each day and is directly influencing upon our pedagogical conceptualizations. Having for most of my life being involved directly or indirectly with in working with and teaching exceptional children and adults I am always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas. I tend to stick with things that work well and always are tuning those ideas that I do use.
I mentioned my use of the Foxfire Core Practices and tools such as a trust scale I developed back in 2003. Numerous times I have brought up my use of animals in my classroom and addressed the impact that being involved with snakes for example has on attitudes and especially on developing trust with students. I do believe relationships are a key to teaching building and maintaining positive relationships with students can open doors to learning.
“Schools have been captured by the concept of accountability, which has been transformed from a notion that schools need to be responsive and responsible to community concerns to one in which numbers are used to demonstrate that schools have met their minimal requirement.” David Purpel, 1989, Department of Curriculum and Educational Foundations, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
In our world of accountability in education test scores rule. With the factory oriented mentality leading the way in teaching many do not allow time for relationships and or care to have that as an aspect of who they are as a teacher. John Dewey over and over again emphasizes community as a key in building an effective learning situation.
“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice one
“The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.” Foxfire Core
Practice two
“The work teachers and students do together enable learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.” Foxfire Core Practice three
Foxfire is based on working together and involving the community of the school it is about building and establishing relationships and I have found in my research long lasting relationships between students and teachers. Part of my own approach has been using Facebook as an extension of my class room. Many photos from school events are posted as well as my own daily journaling. Occasionally a former student will send a note thank you for the thoughts or just what I needed today. Recently one of those notes was from a student from eleven years ago when I first came back to teaching. I was last night night accused of being the best teacher a student never had and teaches us all his ways whether we are his students or not. Got to thinking hope that is for the better.
“Critical pedagogy considers how education can provide individuals with the tools to better themselves and strengthen democracy, to create a more egalitarian and just society, and thus to deploy education in a process of progressive social change. “ 21st Century Schools
As I was reading various articles and papers this morning John Dewey again is continually through the pages of critical pedagogy, experiential learning and Foxfire. Much like in so many other theorists and practitioners works Dewey seems to crop up. When I read this short note from 21st Century Schools about Critical Pedagogy several key elements caught my attention. Education strengthening democracy and social change almost directly parallels John Dewey.
“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey
“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” John Dewey
As I wonder about how should we really be teaching children I keep coming back to providing context for the content. With accelerated lesson plans and curriculum maps and everybody trying to attain a one hundred percent pass rate on the various tests that we are mandated to give to students in Georgia and across the nation little time is left for context. We are leaving the most valuable learning by the wayside in order to get the quick score on a test. I end each day with please lets us keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts. As I am pondering maybe we should include children subjected to a battery of standardized tests that do little more than provide the numbers David Purpel writes about but within all of this still remember to give thanks namaste.

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

What do teachers really know?

Bird Droppings August 27, 2015
What do teachers really know?

“Teachers are one of the most important resources a nation has for providing the skills, values and knowledge that prepare young people for productive citizenship – but more than this, to give sanctuary to their dreams and aspirations for a future of hope, dignity and justice. It is indeed ironic, in the unfolding nightmare in Newtown, that only in the midst of such a shocking tragedy are teachers celebrated in ways that justly acknowledge – albeit briefly and inadequately – the vital role they play every day in both protecting and educating our children.” Henry Giroux, The War against teachers as public intellectuals in dark times, 12-17-12, Truthout

Over the past year I have read so many articles and blogs glorifying concealed weapons and toting how a single armed teacher could have saved the day in Newton Ct. I find it so very interesting that the largest lobby for guns and gun ownership is silent and only yesterday offered they will sit down and help come up with a solution. I read an article or post where someone compared making a bomb at home, that was done on a huge scale with easily purchased fertilizer and diesel fuel not enough years ago in Oklahoma City or have we forgotten the children who died there. A concealed weapon would not have mattered in that situation. As a psychology back grounded person and having spent several years working with severely disturbed students in years gone by I continue to look towards more support to mental health where funding has been stripped to the bone and many situations are in private corporations hands that while taking care of their needs for those who need help they do very little actual caring for. So many issues and so many answers flying about that seldom get addressed.

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

Yesterday I received an email containing a letter from a well-known professor of education at the University of Georgia. The letter was about the emphasis on testing “what we know”, and how this is not a reflection of education, simply teaching students to take a test or borrowing from Sydney J. Harris “stuffing sausages.” The issue then becomes how we measure what a person does learn. One of the best methods of measuring learning is a portfolio system. Most elected officials want data in terms of their stay in office not a portfolio twenty years in the making which makes this method a hard sell.

“I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life. It conceives the school as a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be learned, or where certain habits are to be formed. The value of these is conceived as lying largely in the remote future; the child must do these things for the sake of something else he is to do; they are mere preparation. As a result they do not become a part of the life experience of the child and so are not truly educative.” John Dewey

I just went back and reread UGA professor Dr. Glickman’s letter and have formatted it and saved it on my computer. John Dewey knew cramming knowledge was not the answer. Modern educators argue as I mentioned several days ago we cannot simply fill a bottle with knowledge. In life not just in education we want to be able to determine our successes and failures. Over my years many of which have been in industry, indirectly in developing materials for training. Specifically in industry we developed and used a term, an acronym, ISMEC.

In industry there is a goal a rather simple one and that is profit. In order to increase profit you have to decrease losses. ISMEC was a tool to do this. There were underlying humanitarian issues in heavy industry, where loss also means loss of life as well. But loss time is amount of time without a loss and in some industries this is measured between deaths or injuries. For example in deep rock mining which is one of those industries where how many man hours between deaths is calculated. The equation becomes how many deaths per million man hours of work. ISMEC came to industry in the early 1960’s and revolutionized industry. A simple acronym, Identify, Set standards, Measure, Evaluate, Correct and or Commend.

In industry to find and identify you look at the maintenance department and find where issues are and build from there. In a community currently we use test scores what if we looked at the maintenance department, the jails, rehab facilities, counseling services, doctors and such to see where we needed support and modifications rather than standardized tests scores. It might cost too much or confidentiality could be an issue and we would have a difficult time accomplishing within elected officials time in office is a crucial one. What if we went a step closer to home and checked on in school and out of school suspensions and detentions as a marker for problems.

“Our students are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in American history and unparalleled anywhere in the world. Politicians and businesspeople, determined to get tough with students and teachers, have increased the pressure to raise standardized test scores. Unfortunately, the effort to do so typically comes at the expense of more meaningful forms of learning” Alfie Kohn

Today and the past few days we are involved in end of course tests in our high school. As I think about this four teachers had four distinctly differing percentages of pass rates. County, State, and Federal officials look at pass rates only. My first question is, are these classes the same in makeup? How many included special educations students since new state laws allow up to ten and more if approved. How many at risk students and remedial students that have not tested well in previous grades. After looking at specifics say in the biology test. The highest pass rate was in an advanced class of biology with a one hundred percent pass rate. As we went through the scoring the numbers of special education students and at risk increased to a teacher whose class had a seventy seven percent pass rate had sixty three percent either special ed and or at risk. What was also amazing was looking at top scores a higher percentage of non-special ed and non at risk students exceeded ninety percent than in advanced class.
So what do we do as parents, teachers, friends and families do? How do we change the directions and aspirations of those who set the precedent? We live in a democracy and we hold that power in voting. Many Presidents of our United States have argued the merits of removing or not removing various taxes, wars, health care reform, and our economy and yet I have heard little about education. I went into my room at school to write today thinking people are buying this dribble, yet whoever is elected seems to do whatever is needed to stay elected and not about what should or could truly turn our country and the world around. We have stabilized gas prices recently and panic from the general population is sedated versus running around just a few short months ago trying to save twenty cents a gallon at a cheaper store. We seem to forget that our children are the future and how they view the world will impact that future. How they understand their world will impact their future.

As I close this morning we gain knowledge and we learn and we try and through our voting during elections we can hopefully change society, borrowing from a recent election, yes we can. So many years ago a movie ended with an elderly man offering a bit of wisdom, “use it wisely” as the old knight in the Indiana Jones movie says. Today use it wisely and 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

Finding the right spot for the puzzle pieces

Bird Droppings August 26, 2015
Finding the right spot for the puzzle pieces

“In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.” Genjo Koan

There are times when we in looking we miss what it is we are trying to find. Contained within a drop of water there is an entire universe. Sometimes we want to have things to be simply round or square and yet infinity abounds. Yesterday I was speaking with several teachers discussing why students acted as they did and behaved as they do. In a recent presentation on a chapter from a book on behavior management and treatments the last paragraph of the chapter summed up quite a bit and so often we look everywhere else and the answer is right beneath our feet.

“The absence of evidence to support medication as a viable alternative should lead future researchers and clinicians to further explore parenting strategies that facilitate the development of better sleep habits.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards

As we do so often we look for excuses we look for medical, physical, emotional reasons for sleep disorders in children. Yet with behaviors at school we blame class room activity, we blame teachers, planning, books, and or administration. What always amazes me is that the sixteen hour syndrome is never discussed; we never tend to see where the issue really lays, that of parenting strategies and all the overt issues that children contend with as they leave school. I often wonder why we cannot accept the blame as parents or why we want an excuse in any aspect of life.

“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do –or don’t do.” Simone De Beauvoir, French Existentialist, Writer, and Social Essayist 1908-1986

I was ready to write down how the great Simone was a heroic figure in Bolivia, a crucial part of South American history and yet really this person was a philosopher from France and under study to Sartre.

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” Frank A. Clark

“Parents are not quite interested in justice, they are interested in quiet.” Bill Cosby

It is so funny thing how in the United States we have most of the world’s ADHD children. It is a funny thing that as we became so mobile and our family structure somewhat altered that number increases as well. Another interesting point is that during the 1980-90’s ADHD increased so rapidly, almost in epidemic proportions, over nine hundred percent. It is so funny how we began seeing this issue when it got on our nerves as parents and or teachers and took up our time. As an old person I was thinking to my own history and where was ADHD when I was a child.

“The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow

We try and look at the whole and miss pieces or sometimes we look so intently at a piece we miss the whole. This is a paradox of sorts. I hate jig saw puzzles yet am fascinated by them and often I use the comparison to those same jig saw puzzles for life in general. Life is very much like a myriad puzzle, millions of intricate pieces all falling into place one at a time, each more intricate then the next. Sometimes we see a piece and for days focus on each minute detail, each little facet and each little color speck of white or red and the details over whelm us. We so easily lose sight of the whole picture the vast array of life in front of us forming over a minute tiny aspect.

“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence then this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Amazing as I pulled Emerson in amazing how a hundred years ago a poet has pieces for today. We as parents, and or teachers try so valiantly to cast our being into a child to see ourselves living again. Maybe that is why we focus on a piece for so long.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop former Surgeon General of the United States Famous

As I think of Dr. Koop it is so much more so for the adding of the warning on cigarettes than his philosophy most people remember him. As I think I recall my dad’s story of how he also prayed by the bedside of my younger brother many years ago in Philadelphia Children’s Hospital where he was Chief Surgeon. He is an interesting man and great doctor.

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Dr. Michael Levine, professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology at The University of California

More so as I write today I find who these people are as I am looking at parenting as it is interesting as to what they say. Dr. Koop told my father as he sat with him one evening discussing my brother how parents of critically ill children were so different than so many others. They talked about how faith was so much an aspect of their lives and trust a critical piece of their puzzle as that dealt with their children’s issues.

“The word no carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say yes.” Joyce Maynard

“Do not educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they know the value of things not the price. “ Santosh Kumar

On many mornings I am really not sure where I am going with a thought and I know I wander about here and there. I wonder as well what I am trying to say as I start and many times midway I still am wondering. Joyce Maynard’s statement may be where I was going in the last page or two looking and building to this. Whether a parent or teacher or friend this applies as I look back to my starting quote from nearly 1000 years ago written by Dogen, a Zen master and told to his student. Back in those days, a koan was a question put out to answer a puzzle piece in a person’s life. A Genjo Koan, is an essential question, a question that entails and involves life itself. Only a few moments ago a former student posted a status update with the line from Santosh Kumar. In trying to track down the unnamed quote I found Santosh Kumar. On Facebook a huge following for a young philosopher, and then I found the name is much like John Smith with thousands of internet hits. So perhaps this young fellow did not spout these words but they are good ones and worth repeating.

“When fish go through water, there is no end to the water no matter how far they go. When birds fly in the sky, there is no end to the sky no matter how far they fly. But neither fish nor birds have been separated from the water or sky – from the very beginning. It is only this: when a great need arises, a great use arises; when there is little need, there is little use. Therefore, they realize full function in each thing and free ability according to each place. “ Dogan, 1243

As I sat this morning, thinking and writing so many ideas flowed listening to teachers yesterday express concern and question hearing parents gathered round their SUV’s trying to solve world issues and who was wearing what and what was the latest gossip. It is so easy to be sarcastic. Children are our greatest future commodity we should not waste them. As Dogan said about fish when parenting there is no end as long as you are a parent when a teacher there is no end as you are teaching. When as I say you are placing pieces in the puzzle it is not a whole as you focus and look at a piece in your hand. We all have work to do as parents, teachers, friends, as a child, or student. In all of this please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

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

What is the Holy Grail solution/answer in education?

Bird Droppings August 25, 2015
What is the Holy Grail solution/answer in education?

“Obsessive search for the holy grail through only that which can be measured and documented effectively diminishes the sacred and leaves us standing empty without souls.” Dr. Grant Bennett

A day or two ago I got a bit carried away and wandered into about two thousand words on what is it about great teachers and why can’t we teach that. Well in my discourse I did not really solve the dilemma but a response from a dear friend, a former professor in my graduate studies and who is a middle school gifted teacher got me thinking. I recalled a scene from an Indiana Jones movie where the old knight who has guarded the Holy Grail for thousands of years has an evil Nazi officer trying to pick the Grail from hundreds of cups.

He chooses a gaudy and elaborate chalice and soon feels the pain of his error and he disintegrates before our eyes. (Movie special effects of course) Shortly thereafter Indiana Jones has the same situation and chooses a simple plain cup to dip from the water of life in order to save his father. For hundreds of years we held an idea of a fancy embellished chalice as the epitome of the Grail and yet it was a simple cup that so often was not even seen. Looking back at Dr. Bennett’s thought in education we have sought the Holy Grail in testing, in curriculum, in various new-fangled gimmickry full of trappings and programs and maybe we truly missed the secret of good or great teaching and education.

I had to sit back ponder and think about my response a bit to Dr. Bennett’s follow up to my note of the other day. Seldom do I skip a day in my meanderings as I think about the coming weekend and driving over seven hundred miles and us old folks will be worn out. We will be going all different directions, North Carolina to for a first birthday for our granddaughter and to Thomaston Georgia for a third birthday for another granddaughter. Nearly three years ago on a drive to Florida for our first granddaughter’s birth my daughter in law gave me a book by Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher.

“It’s a humbling experience but I think that it is a good one too, for someone who writes books on education to come back into the classroom and stand up there as the teacher dues day after day and be reminded in this way be reminded what it is like in the real world. I sometimes think every education writer, every would be education expert and every politician who pontificates as many do so condescendingly, about the failings of the teachers in the front lines of our nation’s public schools ought to be obliged to come in a classroom at least once a year and find out what it is like. It might at least impart some moderation to the disrespectful tone which so many politicians speak of teachers.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young teacher

As I started this book by Kozol one of the first letters discusses that first day of teaching we all went through. I over the years have had several as I moved from Pennsylvania and my first teaching job to a program I stated in Macon Georgia and then to a school in Warner Robins. But the day I recall most vividly and actually forgot about was when I started back after nearly twenty three years away from teaching. I started on a Tuesday in September of 2001. Just by chance it was September 11th. For most of the year had you asked me what day I started teaching I would have responded the weekend after Labor Day. However my principal one day came in and said what day did you start and I pulled out a calendar and sure enough my first day was spent in lock down. I was replacing a teacher who had a nervous breakdown dealing with the EBD kids that I was thrust into.

So here I was I had not taught a day in twenty plus years and stuck in a room I should say locked in a room with ten kids who all had been in jail or were on probation still. What do you do? Curriculum was out the door and over a few minutes we had our windows covered and all outside contact severed. Here I was with ten kids who were actually some of the worst in discipline referrals in the school in a tiny room for about five hours. I winged it and we got to know each other. It wasn’t long till those kids were coming to my class and not going to others which of course did not sit well with some of the other teachers whose classes they were missing. I thought about this and still at times wonder why was I being successful with them and another teacher had a nervous breakdown. I come back to perhaps it is not something we can actually put a label on but an easy word to use is relationships.

Teaching is about relationships it is about building and maintaining them. I went out of my way to know these kids beyond the fact they were all jailbirds or into things most kids in high school would have never thought of. After my long dropping of the other day another note from a high school friend who taught Literature in high school in Pennsylvania for thirty six years loving every minute of it. I was asked the other day who was my favorite high school teacher and I could at the time only recall one. A former class mate from high school sent this email.

“Anyway…your point is well-taken. What makes a great teacher? I can honestly say that many teachers at Scott influenced me: Joey Inners, John Kerrigan, Dave DeFroscia, Joan Tuckloff, and, of course, Miss Cristoforo. They made classes come alive; they went the extra mile; they touched my spirit and made me realize what I could do if I worked hard and applied the talents I had. I think Mark Twain said: Teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theater. I think he was right. If the students like a teacher, they will walk through fire for them. One of my favorite activities asked students to write a quick note to a teacher who made an impression on them, thanking them for what they did. It was the best assignment ever. Here’s a salute to all of the teachers who have influenced me.” Beckie Backstetter Chiodo

My father once told me that teaching was entertainment as well as imparting knowledge I am sure he had read Twains comment as much like me he had a vast quote library saved up which is sitting on my book shelf and I do borrow from occasionally. My father taught about industrial Safety and Loss Control and was in his day considered the leading authority in the field. He lectured in most parts of the world and often spent months teaching for example in South Africa to mine safety folks or in the Philippines or Australia. I went into a lecture many years back when we had an affiliation with Georgia State University and held many of his courses on campus or nearby. This course was in I think the Down Town Ramada Inn and I stepped in to watch the master at work.
He was lecturing about a topic and to make a point he got down in a football three point stance and said hike and charged up the next yard or so of carpet. My father was a lineman in college and even in his sixties was pretty imposing. He lowered and raised his booming voice. He used many learning tricks we teachers still use to help his classes remember ideas. A famous one in safety is ISMEC. Identify, set standards, measure, evaluate and correct or commend a simple acronym and it became a mainstay of Loss Control management.

I recall another idea from my father when he visited a plant the first place he went was the maintenance shop. He would talk to the supervisor and ask where they saw issues. I was always amused at how many safety guys would question my father about this tactic. His response was this was ground zero for knowing where potential major loss will occur. In the maintenance shop doing repairs for example repeatedly for a specific shift or piece of equipment will indicate a potential problem waiting to hit.

I started thinking that this could apply in a school. Several possibilities what teacher writes most referrals for seemingly inconsequential reasons? You cannot teach by referral. Look at remedial classes are there similarities with kids who are there? Did they have the same teacher? Did they come from the same school? What is their life at home? Far too often in education we start at the top and go down. I have found the gifted kids even without a teacher will do great. I am being somewhat sarcastic.

As I am reading Kozol’s book and now interested in looking at others of his I am sure I will be borrowing ideas but I would like to leave today with this idea should we start at the bottom or the top in trying to solve educational problems? I am no closer to finding the solution to how do we tell a great teacher but maybe some food for thought. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Can we find answers outside our windows?

Bird Droppings August 24, 2015

Can we find answers outside our windows?

As I read and pondered a world engrossed with money and how we can spend money. I wonder if perhaps some of the thinking that is bringing so many American Indians back to their more traditional world views has merit. I was trying to look at a book written by the creators of Waiting for Superman, a movie about public education. I first when reading a book look at the index to see who does the author borrow from and quote. This for me is often a precursor for my continued reading of that book. I first caught notice of John Dewey and went to the page that mentioned John Dewey. All that was written was that John Dewey taught that experienced based education was the way to go. Jean Piaget had six words while Arne Duncan had ten or so pages and even Bill Gates had more than that. I did not see one innovative educator in reference anywhere. Most were advocates of the privatization of education or people who were foundation heads and provided money. Sadly nowhere was really innovative education being considered.

“Black Elk saw the earth becoming sick. The animals, the winged ones, and the four legged ones grew frightened. All living things became gaunt and poor. The air and the waters dirtied and smelled foul.” Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Mother Earth Spirituality

Black Elk was a teenager during the battle later known as the battle of the Little Bighorn, in which Custer lead his four hundred or so troops to battle against the combined forces of Sioux and Cheyenne numbering over two thousand. Black Elk had a vision as a young man that would be later translated by his son and recorded by John Neihardt in the book, Black Elk Speaks. This quote is based on Eagles Mans thoughts on a piece of the vision and yet how prophetic are the words. Looking back in recent history we have polluted rivers till they smell before we do anything. In Ohio a river caught fire from the pollution. Most recently we had the great oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and today an article on the massive dead areas on the bottom of the Gulf. Dead coral and other normally alive areas are devoid of life. We issue smog warnings in most major cities on a regular basis. Acid rain strips paint from cars and kills frogs.

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

It has been nearly three years since I was walking on the beach in Panama City Beach Florida. As the sun rose I was alone with the water, wind and pelicans flying along the edge of the water. There was a silence even as the waves rolled in and wind blew. There was calmness amongst the surroundings that put me at ease. As I gazed out into the Gulf with my back to the civilized world I could imagine this place before the tourism took over and high rises and condos sprang up.

“Although we can expect great progress from the greening of technology and the inventiveness of the human spirit, we should not allow ourselves to be beguiled that information and technological advance will be sufficient.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

Perhaps I think too much and ponder too much as I sit here writing. I do believe we can accomplish a new world and a new way of seeing our reality. It will take each of us perceiving life differently than we choose to now. I wonder if that is even possible.

“The more knowledge we acquire, the more mystery we find…. A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. The delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a person nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to see this completely, but the striving for such an achievement is in itself a part of our liberation and a foundation for inner serenity.” Albert Einstein

In this world of ever changing technology and innovations what is new today will be antiquated tomorrow. Albert Einstein knew this as he offered the statement above. Einstein was a man of vision and thinking beyond what most of us will ever comprehend.

“Because the world at large does not get enough exposure to feminine principles such as acceptance, emotional expression, and peacefulness, we have moved to far from center and are therefore contrary to Nature’s plan. Humanities patriarchal track record is dismal at best. We need to remind ourselves as individuals as a culture, that aggression and intimidation are not our only options when something does not go our way.” Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

In my life time I have not known a true time of peace in the world. When I was a tiny child the Korean War was being fought as a teenager and young man Viet Nam and in more recent years we have been fighting in the Middle East for nearly twenty years. In my studies of history I have found that all wars have an inherent base cause of money. Stories go that Lyndon Johnson continued Viet Nam to provide business for US companies. Historians will write about our effort in Iraq as a war for oil. Greed has been a driving force in literally everything we do.

“It is not only important to walk down the path that creator has set before us; but we must walk in the way. The way is all the little things one does along the path. What kind of product is being produced? Is there a large pile of money? Is there a pile of accumulated physical things, such as cars, houses, property? Are there many degrees and awards on the wall? All of these things can be used in a positive way. Possibly, when one accumulates them as a means to a positive end, they can be certainly good. However if one accumulates them as an end; this may be not so good!” Susan Thomas Underwood, Walk With Spirit

I am often reminded of a line from a song by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. “Life is about the journey not the destination.” So often I forget and start seeking that destination and forget that so much is along the pathway. Opening my eyes and listening a bit more carefully there is much to see and hear. Here in Georgia we are in the grip of a winter freeze and temperatures have dropped below freezing. This morning I will bundle up as I head to school and try and educate a few children. Last night I watched Braveheart the story of William Wallace of Scotland in the late thirteenth century. An interesting tale while part fiction it has some truth. A man believed in freedom and fought for it dying betrayed by his own countryman. A bit away from my journeying and writing but as I think and ponder. Another day and as I have for so long 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

As I read and pondered a world engrossed with money and how we can spend money. I wonder if perhaps some of the thinking that is bringing so many American Indians back to their more traditional world views has merit. I was trying to look at a book written by the creators of Waiting for Superman, a movie about public education. I first when reading a book look at the index to see who does the author borrow from and quote. This for me is often a precursor for my continued reading of that book. I first caught notice of John Dewey and went to the page that mentioned John Dewey. All that was written was that John Dewey taught that experienced based education was the way to go. Jean Piaget had six words while Arne Duncan had ten or so pages and even Bill Gates had more than that. I did not see one innovative educator in reference anywhere. Most were advocates of the privatization of education or people who were foundation heads and provided money. Sadly nowhere was really innovative education being considered.

“Black Elk saw the earth becoming sick. The animals, the winged ones, and the four legged ones grew frightened. All living things became gaunt and poor. The air and the waters dirtied and smelled foul.” Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Mother Earth Spirituality

Black Elk was a teenager during the battle later known as the battle of the Little Bighorn, in which Custer lead his four hundred or so troops to battle against the combined forces of Sioux and Cheyenne numbering over two thousand. Black Elk had a vision as a young man that would be later translated by his son and recorded by John Neihardt in the book, Black Elk Speaks. This quote is based on Eagles Mans thoughts on a piece of the vision and yet how prophetic are the words. Looking back in recent history we have polluted rivers till they smell before we do anything. In Ohio a river caught fire from the pollution. Most recently we had the great oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and today an article on the massive dead areas on the bottom of the Gulf. Dead coral and other normally alive areas are devoid of life. We issue smog warnings in most major cities on a regular basis. Acid rain strips paint from cars and kills frogs.

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

It has been nearly three years since I was walking on the beach in Panama City Beach Florida. As the sun rose I was alone with the water, wind and pelicans flying along the edge of the water. There was a silence even as the waves rolled in and wind blew. There was calmness amongst the surroundings that put me at ease. As I gazed out into the Gulf with my back to the civilized world I could imagine this place before the tourism took over and high rises and condos sprang up.

“Although we can expect great progress from the greening of technology and the inventiveness of the human spirit, we should not allow ourselves to be beguiled that information and technological advance will be sufficient.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

Perhaps I think too much and ponder too much as I sit here writing. I do believe we can accomplish a new world and a new way of seeing our reality. It will take each of us perceiving life differently than we choose to now. I wonder if that is even possible.

“The more knowledge we acquire, the more mystery we find…. A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. The delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a person nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to see this completely, but the striving for such an achievement is in itself a part of our liberation and a foundation for inner serenity.” Albert Einstein

In this world of ever changing technology and innovations what is new today will be antiquated tomorrow. Albert Einstein knew this as he offered the statement above. Einstein was a man of vision and thinking beyond what most of us will ever comprehend.

“Because the world at large does not get enough exposure to feminine principles such as acceptance, emotional expression, and peacefulness, we have moved to far from center and are therefore contrary to Nature’s plan. Humanities patriarchal track record is dismal at best. We need to remind ourselves as individuals as a culture, that aggression and intimidation are not our only options when something does not go our way.” Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

In my life time I have not known a true time of peace in the world. When I was a tiny child the Korean War was being fought as a teenager and young man Viet Nam and in more recent years we have been fighting in the Middle East for nearly twenty years. In my studies of history I have found that all wars have an inherent base cause of money. Stories go that Lyndon Johnson continued Viet Nam to provide business for US companies. Historians will write about our effort in Iraq as a war for oil. Greed has been a driving force in literally everything we do.

“It is not only important to walk down the path that creator has set before us; but we must walk in the way. The way is all the little things one does along the path. What kind of product is being produced? Is there a large pile of money? Is there a pile of accumulated physical things, such as cars, houses, property? Are there many degrees and awards on the wall? All of these things can be used in a positive way. Possibly, when one accumulates them as a means to a positive end, they can be certainly good. However if one accumulates them as an end; this may be not so good!” Susan Thomas Underwood, Walk With Spirit

I am often reminded of a line from a song by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. “Life is about the journey not the destination.” So often I forget and start seeking that destination and forget that so much is along the pathway. Opening my eyes and listening a bit more carefully there is much to see and hear. Here in Georgia we are in the grip of a winter freeze and temperatures have dropped below freezing. This morning I will bundle up as I head to school and try and educate a few children. Last night I watched Braveheart the story of William Wallace of Scotland in the late thirteenth century. An interesting tale while part fiction it has some truth. A man believed in freedom and fought for it dying betrayed by his own countryman. A bit away from my journeying and writing but as I think and ponder. Another day and as I have for so long 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

Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

Bird Droppings August 21, 2015
Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

In a roundabout way several earlier readings on the internet got me thinking and pondering as I do. So often we take our technology for granted. It has been about eight years since we moved into this house and a new dishwasher. About a year ago the drain pump went out and it decided to die on us. In thirty seven years of marriage we have had only four dish washers not counting rental houses along the way you might say they become a part of the family. We waited on Frigidaire to send a repairman, we need our dishwasher and you now have to make appointments usually several weeks in advance. I recall my trips to various supply and parts places and new numbers of more places to call they were always eventful even synchronistic so to say. I find interesting people every time I go anywhere for that matter. After a week or two we did go get a new dish washer and after six months it decided to breakdown which was covered by warranty. It too nearly six months of wrangling to get a repairman out to inform us there was water damage in switchboard. It seems in a dishwasher that uses steam heat as a component a vapor barrier was not initially installed. While it was fixed and did not cost a penny you become quickly aware of how we depend on simple technology.

Thinking back to that first repair and the fellow after a brief computer check of circuits and such and a screen and using his manuals it seemed to be showing the culprit was a main drive motor. After calculating labor and parts we would have to spend nearly three hundred dollars to fix our dishwasher but if we choose to get a new one, we get this visit off our purchase. Essentially it cost sixty five dollars to tell us our washer is broke. Of course if we buy from Frigidaire essentially we would get a rebate. I need to get my mind off of spending money on dish washers and write.

“Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other.” Carl G. Jung

It is often easy for me to pull out Jung thoughts and ideas and get motivated for the writing ahead. As I went out to sit and think earlier, this all rolled through my mind. I am amazed at how carefully planned and developed our technology is. No matter how good you take care of or do not take care of machines last a certain amount of time regardless. The term planned obsolescence is often bantered about. We are a throwaway society.
In an issue of National Geographic a few months back they were on one of the far flung Hawaiian Islands cleaning up. Sadly literally tons of debris wash in ranging from fishing nets, trash, TV’s, all sorts of stuff and sadly tons of it. Animals get caught up in the muck and often perish. One photo was of the contents of a baby albatross that had starved to death with a full stomach. The baby’s parents fishing in the currents had picked up numerous bits of trash either mixed in with the tiny fish they catch or that had been eaten by the fish and the babies stomach was full of plastic pieces that did not pass through literally full of trash that kept its stomach full and it would not or could not eat enough to live.

It was nearly fifty years ago Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady at the time started a cleanup campaign on our roads and highways. There were signs against littering and signs posted showing the fines for littering which were imposed and slowly we started cleaning up. But still we trash our environment.

But as I thought about it there is another side, as I look at this in a spiritual manner. People who live off the land hold their lands sacred honoring and revering the world about them do not seem to have this issue. Often using each aspect of a given animal or plant harvested for use while we discard so much. I have seen dumpsters in Georgia with deer carcasses all but the head thrown in. A few months back a deer was dumped at the high school antlers sawn off. There is a scene in the beginning of the movie “Last of the Mohicans” where Uncus, Nathaniel (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook shoot a deer. They honor the deer with prayers and ask forgiveness for killing the deer and say it will sustain them in the days ahead; there were no reality cameras filming and no bragging about eating what they kill. (Granted it was in a movie)

I watch churches locally in a similar manner. A situation I am very familiar with goes like this. Years ago members of a particular church were major donors to the growth and support of that church and were visited often by the pastors. As the days went by and illness befell these members and new pastor came to be the money was not flowing as it was previously and the family was never even visited. Where the money was, not where the need was, became the calling card of the church. I look a few lines up to Jung’s words of how different love and power are. Who do we look to as great so often in society any more sadly it is those with wealth and power? Wisdom, love and honor seldom play a part any more.

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.”Dietrich Bonheoffer

As a people we have lost so much. We take as we need from each other and from others. So often we subsist only in that world immediately around us. WE ARE focusing only on that which we can see feel and touch, even in this world of instantaneous news and views. We have made ourselves disposable. How many times have you heard the phrase at work or in a workplace “no one is indispensable” essentially we are all disposable. As I ponder it used to be we learned a craft through apprenticeship and years of experience and you became a master craftsman.

Yesterday I was looking on the internet at Native American art. A plains survival kit made by Black Eagle an Osage medicine man eighty years old was selling for $2,200.00 it consisted of several pieces of bone and sinew. Essentially it was a primitive kit for a hunter in the prairies of ancient North America. The various pieces included several scrappers, needles and sinew and they were stored in a fringed elk skin bag. Back in the day Black Eagle would have given it to you if you needed it. Now it is a collector’s item being sold by an art store. I am wandering today perhaps caught still in the fifty percent off and buy one get one free and the throwaway society we live in. It is so sad we have become spiritually and physically disposable.

One of my favorite disposable sayings is “once saved always saved” regardless of what you do after that point you are ok. Searching for words and meaning in a world so intent on camouflage. I have kids who wear it to school daily and you can even get camo underwear. Although I haven’t quite figured that one out yet wearing camo underwear that is. When you go to the store is it oak tree or standard or tree bark and that depends on your quarry. We have grown so much in so many ways yet our capacity for others seems to lag behind.

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.” Mark Twain

Over the years I have read many quotes books and papers. There is a passage from a website on Native American quotes and stories I have thought about many times and it is so true.

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children. “Ancient Indian Proverb

I happened by a Barnes and Nobles bookstore yesterday and as I do often when there have certain shelves I check and found a small book in the Native American section. It was a book written in 1984 to work with rekindling the spiritual side of Native youth. I read the book as I sat in the bookstore and this one passage stuck with me. I was looking for a book to read to my grandchildren and this little red book was sort of sticking out. I did take it home with and so I share a passage from The Sacred Tree.

Respect:
Respect means “to feel or show esteem for someone or something; to consider the well-being of, or to treat someone or something with deference or courtesy”. Showing respect is a basic law of life.

• Treat every person, from the tiniest child to the oldest elder with respect at all times.
• Special respect should be given to elders, parents, teachers and community leader.
• No person should be made to feel “put down” by you; avoid hurting others hearts as you would avoid a deadly poison.
• Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially sacred objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.
• Respect the privacy of every person. Never intrude on a person’s quiet moments or personal space.
• Never walk between people who are conversing.
• Never interrupt people who are conversing.
• Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of elders, strangers or others whom special respect is due.
• Do not speak unless invited to do so at gathering where elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).
• Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.
• Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, plant world and animal world. Do nothing to pollute the air or soil. If others destroy our other, rise up with wisdom to defend her.
• Show deep respect for the beliefs and religions of others.
• Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they say is worthless. Listen with your heart.

The Sacred Tree
Produced by Judith Bopp, Michael Bopp, Lee Brown and Phil Lane Jr.
Four Worlds International Institute
1984

I wish we could live each of these honestly and openly and remember there will be leave a place for those after us why not leave the world and people better than we found them. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and peace my friends and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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

Being patient takes practice

Bird Droppings August 20, 2015
Being patient takes practice

For thirty seven years I have shared my life with my wife Pat. We have had hills and valleys and children and grandchildren and each day seems better than the last. So today I salute my wife Pat thank you so much for your patience with me.

I find the a new semester both exciting and sad at the same time. There are students who I will see every day coming by my room and others possibly never again as in a large high school it is easy to remain hidden away if you try. We are looking forward to family gatherings coming up next week. Now that we have three grandbabies Christmas stiil a ways off is being discussed and is very special. We are not sure of who will be around for Christmas Eve so my wife suggested we get movies and do something fun. I was thinking about just being alone and reflecting which is hard to do with grandbabies in the house. Although I savor every minute they are there and that we interact. I am looking forward to taking pictures again as my time has been limited the past few months. I did manage to get out this morning and sit and think meditate a bit before everyone else was up and moving however. It has been a hectic few days and this week ahead as well for me starting a new class of college teaching and running to Florida for two days.

Watching children this time of year and even adults allows you to see various degrees of patience running rampant and or in a total lacking thereof. A few days ago I was standing in line at a store where I knew the owner and she was helping a customer with a purchase without even thinking she asked me to help a customer, even though I was a customer as well. Trying to help a young man decide between a bearded dragon and a leopard gecko actually something I knew about as we have kept both species. Patience is a virtue many people say they lay claim too yet we seem in life to avoid it when at all possible. We gear our existence to being done now as soon as possible ASAP as we use in internet abbreviations.

So how do we learn to be patient? How do we learn to wait? How do we learn to know when is right and when it is time simply to listen or watch? Often I have a tendency when concerned with myself to want to get on with things yet in dealing with others I can often allow life to jell to come together as it is intended. Perhaps it is in my experiences with dealing with people throughout my life. Although my mother and father were patient people perhaps there is a genetic component to patience. That would definitely make a good topic for a Doctoral dissertation. But other times I see patience as an art form one that is perfected as we practice the art. I truly think it is one concept or behavior that is learned and literally acquired over time. I see a lack of patience as one of the causes of many of our societal ills.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I go out each morning and watch the moon change from full to a smile over the days and to see the stars and wonder at the millions of years of distance between us and billions of years to come to where we are patience is an aspect of nature. I have often used river pebbles in discussion with each pebble as it started as a chip of rock somehow ending in the stream, tumbled and turned until the edges are smoothed and rounded eventually finding its way to your hand. It took time, effort and much patience. On my shelf at school is a wooden bowl containing several pieces of rounded wood? In Africa and in other rain forest areas some of the trees wood is so dense it sinks in the water and chips of wood tumble much like river pebbles and eventually you will find river wood chips rounded and smooth almost polished much like river pebbles. They tend to be an interesting conversation piece and one that comes up daily as students find my bowl of round wood pebbles.

I mentioned a young man in my droppings a few years ago. I met him several years back. He is a high school student at a nearby school and is autistic. An aspect of autism often is the ability to obsess over an object or a task and he will sit and do puzzles for hours his mother said often through the night till the puzzle is completed. During his life he has never spoken as he communicates with an Etch a sketch and or hand signs. His mother speaks in code at times using certain words which have directions to them. Obsession however is not patience but almost on the opposite spectrum.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” St. Augustine

There is thought in patience while in obsessing literally no thought and yet how do we tell them apart?

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?” Paul Sweeney

These are questions to answer to ponder this wonderful day as the rain ceases to fall for a few days in Georgia. How do we learn patience and how do we teach patience?

“Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” Epictetus

I recall seeing a famous pear brandy with the pear in the bottle. You have to literally grow the fruit inside the bottle attaching to the flower as it grows and changes and the fruit itself grows in the bottle. Patience is a similar task starting as a bud and a flower and growing as we learn to accept more and understand more. There is a correlation to thinking and patience or wisdom as St. Augustine states and in that perhaps the difference between patience and obsession. A bright mark as the lead news headline states negotiations continue on the fiscal cliff perhaps there is some sort of common ground if we are patient. However for now on this holiday for so many people please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

It is about telling our grand children

Bird Droppings August 19, 2015
It is about telling our grand children
A busy weekend of snakes, lizards and turtles ahead for my son and I. I will miss playing with talking to and enjoying the company of my grandchildren this weekend. It was about a year ago my grandson and I learned to crawl upstairs of course that is where the play room is and he quickly learned the intricacies of stair climbing. He settled in on several toys that seem to be his favorites and was occupied for thirty minutes or so and then made his way to me. We talk not of the specifics of philosophy or spirituality but of which piece is the best for Mr. Potato head. There will be time as he gets older to share stories and wisdom.
“I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed. In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be life-long. In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat. In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers. In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed– the link to creation. In my eyes sparkled love and the song floated on the sun’s rays from tree to tree. When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf’s reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out. All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.” Chief Dan George, Salish
I look forward to the day I can tell all my grandchildren tales told to me by my father and his father. Recently my oldest son and I were standing in the dark listening to a chorus of coyotes call only hundreds of yards away through the dense pines of the nearby forest. Perhaps they had caught a deer or found a carcass left from some wayward hunter and were celebrating their find. The echoes and calls bounced off the trees and literally filled the air unlike anything I have heard this side of the Mississippi river. I am sure when I retell this story it will be embellished a bit but it was awesome just the same to hear personally. As I am sitting here this morning reading again this short passage from Chief Dan George I am saddened by the ending. We are on the verge as we continue to focus on the now of losing our past. We dominant society who have ravaged the landscape, stripped away what we need, technologically impaired our children, and left little possibility that our grandchildren will be able to hear and see what we have even in our life-times.
Many will scoff at my feeble words. However as a teacher I see the children of today struggle with imagination and creativity. I see today’s children so entangled in gadgetry that they have little need any more for a stick horse or sock stuffed animal. Few children are building forts and tree houses when they can have virtual worlds to play with. Some of us will recall what it is like to play Robin Hood in a patch of forest. Some will remember days prior to TV and video. Some of us can remember having to ask an operator to connect you to your phone call party. Some will remember dialing with a rotary dial phone other than comedians in skits. I am as much a victim using my smart phone to communicate instantly photos and images and getting directions or weather reports instantly. However it caught me by surprise when a clerk at one of my favorite stores asked me what I did with my herb garden during the winter. It set me back from the fast pace world into one of growing plants and herbs. One of digging in the dirt and growing what we need instead of asking just the price. Several times I had brought bags of mint and stevia by their store and this clerk remembered me. So what will I tell my granddaughter one day when she is sitting on my knee. I might start with a passage I used at her parents wedding ceremony.
“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950
It is easy to wonder sitting in my kitchen typing away on my laptop of days ahead and what lessons and what stories I will share. I will walk through the fields and forest and point out leaves and twigs, I will pick up a insect and tell of what it is and why, I will teach her how a great horned owl calls in the evening and the difference between a spring peeper and a grey tree frog, I will show her to avoid poison oak and ivy and look for wild straw berries, but I will also show her how to create images on a computer and how to use words wisely and powerfully and to share with others.
“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear
So in the midst of a holiday season I am wondering what lesson should I first impart. There is a lesson that sadly many forget as they go into the world. It has been many years since I first saw these words. It is that lesson of example. Dr. Nolte, nearly fifty years ago gave us a poem of sorts “Children learn what they live”, that critical lesson is one of example providing a life that is a lesson rather than a disaster. So this morning as we start a new week please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

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

Why do we have public education? To educate all of our Children.

Bird Droppings August 18, 2015
Why do we have public education?
To educate all of our Children.

For teachers today is a day of action. Standup for what you believe in. I shared an article that references children as others yesterday. Our children to corporate entities are simply others, consumers and I have seen the world capital used in state documents. In a short note yesterday I actually wrote sarcastically I was about to retire and homeschool my grandchildren over the craziness in education brought about by corporate profiteers. However I chose to fight this insanity any way I can. We as teachers need to stand up. First be a great teacher not just an average teacher. It is amazing the difference between a teacher and a great teacher to kids. When kids engage in a class they learn.

“Instead of seeing these children for the blessings that they are, we are measuring them only by the standard of whether they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs.” Jonathan Kozol

On the front page of our main local paper recently several articles all related to education and all discussing the impact of cuts to funding and how we are now adding to costs through constant increased evaluations but not providing finds. One is based on a popular scholarship program funded through Georgia State Lottery funds which the scholarship committee is chaired by a Represenitive who opposed the lottery to begin with back in the beginning how ironic is that. More ironic is that this representative just resigned amid investigations into his former employer. Our governor who hit the ground with education in his sights for funding cuts and in same article proposed cutting corporate taxes. Somewhere in this ridiculous thinking logic seems lost.

As I read the article it is interesting how the arguments of college tuition rising and costs of education increasing for college students seemed to be in a way misrepresented. The state cut funding to state colleges over the past eight years which forced state colleges to raise tuition which lead to increases in Hope scholarship funding which was set up to cover cost of tuition for state colleges. Funny I recall a similar pattern in Florida where the lottery was billed as a saving grace to education in the beginning and as the years went on state funding to education was cut and eventually lottery funding was cut and many fantastic educational programs once lauded nationwide were gone.

While a staunch supporter of public education there are times when I raise the question should we even have it? Why not be a nation of an educated elite and a subservient uneducated mass who can then run the industrial complex which we no longer have and or work at minimum wage in what service industry jobs are available. So quickly we forget there is little industry left in US, interestingly Wal-Mart is the leading employers in the nation so everyone can now work in service and retail taking care of the educated elite. I am being caustic about our educational situation and so many others attitudes towards it. I personally believe in the public education system in the US it might need some tweaking but it has produced many great individuals and it is still one of the greatest in the world contrary to popular thinking and test results.

“Many of the productivity and numbers specialists who have rigidified and codified school policy in recent years do not seem to recognize much preexisting value in the young mentalities of children and, in particular in children of the poor. Few of these people seem to be acquainted closely with the lives of children and, to be blunt as possible about this, many would be dreadful teachers because, in my own experience at least, they tend to be rather grim-natured people who do not have lovable or interesting personalities and, frankly would not be much fun for kids to be with.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher

I think where I am having difficulty is we so often grasp at very thin straws and the loudest brightest new idea that comes down the pike at least this is how it seems in education. Talk to any teacher with experience and they will joke about the cycles in education. We have a new math curriculum in Georgia that is wreaking havoc on students. One of the previous texts we were using had no explanations in it only problems. So when a student goes home to do for homework say fifty problems and if the student does not know how to do problems and asks a parent unless the parent knows how there is no way to help the student.

“I am more and more convinced that we in the schooling game have no idea what real learning is about. It is no wonder that we embrace every so-called new idea that comes down the pike, and yet nothing really changes. We are the proverbial dog chasing its tail.” Dr. Grant Bennett

I thank Dr. Bennett, a former professor and friend again for a morning quote that I could use. I started on an idea the other day as I finished up my Bird Dropping about perhaps looking at the bottom end of the spectrum rather than always looking at the top in education. How do we help those who always seem to fail or not succeed in school? Within our own school we have added graduation coaches and other supplemental staff to work with high risk students. But still we are working to attain a goal based on best students and not on potential or rationale that has mired this or that student in the bottom end of the educational barrel. We never look at the bottom outliers of the bell shaped curve.

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” John F. Kennedy

I think there are issues with semantics and understanding as to what we deem success in education or in politics, battle, or the gaining and or lack of wealth. At our state level we continue to talk about raising the bar even though many are still failing. Raising the bar does nothing to improve those who cannot attain the bar to begin with let alone those who will self-defeat as standards and challenges get more strenuous. So often the test scores of various countries are compared and we are somewhere not near the top and politicians want to be at the top.

A point made in an extensive article yesterday was in international testing poverty is not considered. When you equate poverty into the mix and separate scores the USA is on top in every category. Take out children in poverty from test scores and the USA is on top. Look at comparable countries with similar poverty and USA education is the highest scoring. We are being successful when you look at test scores in light of what and who are being tested.

In many countries of the industrialized world education is number one and somewhere around twelve years of age in those countries children going into trades and those going into secondary education part ways. Effectively we are testing all children in the US while many other countries are only testing those who are going into college. I had a friend who taught in Korea for a year in an exchange program. She made the comment that Koreans children planned on three hours of homework each night. There was not time for TV or video games or phone calls and texting it was serious and all about education.

“We are the children of this beautiful planet that we have seen photographed from the moon. We were not delivered into it by some god, but have come forth from it. And the earth, together with the sun, this light around which it flies like a moth, came forth from a nebula….and that nebula, in turn, from space. So we are the mind, ultimately, of space, each in his own way at one with all…..and with no horizons…” Joseph Campbell

Over the past three years I have spent a few mornings in other states attending and participating in weddings and births of grandchildren. I am still a bit tired from the driving and nonstop pace of the past three years. I went looking for quotes to use today and found this statement by Campbell. As I thought of Dr. Bennett’s words and those of Jonathan Kozol it seemed to filter through Campbell’s thought. Education is not a static closed ended entity but vast and limitless and individually unique to each person and student.

“Life’s a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler, Amazing

For a number of years I have used this simple quote by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. The song it comes from is one of addiction and pain and in many ways this is Steven Tyler’s journey back from addiction. I keep thinking to education and our continued effort trying to get to the destination without the journey. It is always simply a quick fix.

“You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk” Steven Tyler

Who would have thought Steven Tyler took Human Development. Sort of reminds me of Piaget and I have always been a big fan of human development with each aspect of our lives passing through stages one stage after the other. I keep thinking back to my original thought of education and should we even have public education. Many people want education to be clean and neat all children learn the same and no child will be left behind yet each child is totally unique and then problems arise. Publishers cannot cost effectively produce books for each student needs and curriculum people cannot provide the multiple disseminations of a subject in a way that teachers can efficiently teach.

We coined a great word in education diversification. In classes we are to diversify and teach to every level of student. Technically that is nearly thirty different levels if we have thirty kids in class. I was pondering a program we have for mentally impaired students entitled The Georgia Alternative Assessment. Basically the State standards are taken and tasks that sort of meet that standard are employed to evaluate a student’s capabilities meeting that standard. So in effect a student on GAA might have two standards to have tasks applied to in biology and is checked at various points during the year to see if there is progression and a portfolio is compiled and then graded. Several millions of dollars are spent evaluating these portfolios and then if standards are accepted by evaluator student can receive a high school diploma. Sadly a student who does not meet MI qualifications has to meet the same standards as a college track student. Quite a bit of differentiation I would say and having been involved in GAA formatting rather ridiculous.

“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.” Dag Hammarskjold

Sent as a delegate to The United Nations in 1949 he was elected Secretary of the UN in 1951 by a near unanimous vote he presided over the UN in its early years and many world tribulations. During his time in office we had the founding of Israel, the Korean War, and the independence of countries worldwide along with the spread of communism in Europe. As I read Hammarskjöld’s words this morning I found this as well.

“Tomorrow we shall meet, Death and I and he shall thrust his sword into one who is wide awake.” Dag Hammarskjöld

He lived each step on his journey to the fullest and it was these words that he wrote as a young man that embellish his tombstone.

“No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.” Henry Miller

So often in life we come to a place where do we walk across the field or do we follow the edge of the field safely. Some will choose to go the shortest distance between two lines and walk abruptly across never looking at the newly planted field and seedlings sprouting leaving trampled crops beneath their feet. Others fearful of being in the open choose immediately to walk the edge staying close to the woods for safety. It is a choice and we make them daily. The direction of your own journey is based on your choices each day.

“It’s not what’s happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it’s your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you’re going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny.” Anthony Robbins

“Nature is at work… Character and destiny are her handiwork. She gives us love and hate, jealousy and reverence. All that is ours is the power to choose which impulse we shall follow.” David Seabury

As a teacher and learner I travel the pathway always looking trying to see all I can in my travels. I am constantly reading on how to improve my own teaching and that of others. I am always trying to understand who and what I see and why. I try to instill that curiosity in my students as they travel their own journeys and for me it is always about the journey.

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I will have to continue another day looking further at should we have public education. Please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

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