Sometimes history is a teacher and others only a memory

Bird Droppings September 16, 2015
Sometimes history is a teacher and others only a memory

On Facebook yesterday I shared a photo and article that briefly explained an event in our nation’s history. On September 15, 1963 an explosion tore through the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, it was a Sunday. People had gathered for church four young girls were killed twenty two others injured. FBI investigations led to four members of the Ku Klux Klan who had planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the front steps of the church. The event in days after was described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.”
Over the next ten years one of the suspects was tried and convicted and after forty years two others were tried and convicted the fourth individual died before a conviction occurred. I was teaching a college class on US History last night and mentioned this in class. By chance my class was entirely nonwhite. We were discussing the end of World War Two and Harry Truman’s decision to drop the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sitting there discussing with my class an event that I could not justify in my own philosophy of life, the shear destruction of life in one single event knowing what has come from that bomb in future years. History has a way of leading to wisdom yet on so many issues we tend to simply push aside what we could learn.
Recently I had the mother of three former students tell me how much her sons and daughter thought of me while I was going into my current favorite store, Kroger. So here I am sitting at my computer pondering in the stillness of early morning, we all need ego stroking at one time or another. I recalled back to when I had those particular students in class and how difficult a time it was and yet so often when we pay attention to a student or too a friend we do not realize how much we are truly affecting that person. Many times it is years later as is the case with this parent commenting to me a few nights ago as I walked in the store.

“I reach down and touch the delicate leaf of a plant. My friend’s words rise up in my heart. ‘Everything lives, everything dies, and everything leans to the light.’ If I only knew this it would be enough.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

When we show a bit of light to an individual they turn just as the plant will slowly turn to face the light in many ways that person will as well. I recall a few years ago one of my students requested to be in my resource class all day, I really did not want them all day, but he responded how I did things made sense to him. Friendship so often is like sunlight. I started replacing my overhead lights a few years ago with grow lights. Actually the color is so much easier to deal with and colors of things are more real than the sickening yellow of standard fluorescent bulbs.

“Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.” St. Thomas Aquinas

How do we support friends and throw sunlight their way, maybe simple things, quiet things, a touch, a smile, an email.

“Friendship is one of the most tangible things in a world which offers fewer and fewer supports.” Kenneth Branagh

“I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar.” Robert Brault

Yesterday I printed out several pictures but two were of owls that were in effect clay turned jug owls made by a folk potter from north Georgia. I met Grace Nell Hewell who was the matriarch of a family of potters in Gillsville Georgia. She was a sixth generation potter from a family at that location turning pots for a living. I dropped them off in my friend’s room, no reason really just for being a friend, she teaches art and talks about potters in her sculpture class; sometimes we just do simple things.

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend — or a meaningful day.” Dalai Lama

“I do then with my friends as I do with my books. I would have them where I can find them, but I seldom use them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I am speaking of friends often I will say I really do not have that many friends one or two and usually a name or two will scroll through my head. Yet when I am walking about in life there are few who I do not truly consider friends. I sit back in the in my chair at school typing away at my computer a row of books put together recently when a friend of my sons took interest in an area of thought I have been following for several years. Behind me shelves of books, theology, education, psychology, literature and poetry surround the walls and directly in front of me a quote.

“A very powerful axe in a master’s hand accomplishes much, that same in the hands of a child nothing.” Edited by A.J. Russell, from Gods Calling

Emerson would have to be one of my heroes and I always seem to have something from him at my fingertips often paraphrased a bit; friends are like books, you have them there on a shelf sort of waiting for the need or specific instance that you will have. I ran into a friend from school as I went shopping at the grocery store, she said she hates to go grocery shopping and will try and go once a month. I go daily, to see my friends I never know who I might meet, coincidences. Yesterday I went for a few items and a student who was absent was there riding his skate board we talked, another inside, a friend whom I have known for years was also shopping. So often my wife warns me as I walk in don’t stop and talk to all of your friends you will be all day.

“Give me work to do, Give me health, Give me joy in simple things, Give me an eye for beauty, A tongue for truth, A heart that loves, A mind that reasons, A sympathy that understands. Give me neither malice nor envy, But a true kindness and a noble common sense. At the close of each day give me a book and a friend with whom I can be silent.” S. M. Frazier

How do we as friends support each other midst the turmoil of life and tribulations of simply walking the face of the earth, how do we support each other as we struggle to cross the stream with the rocks slippery and wet.

“Friendship needs no words…” Dag Hammarskjold

“But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life; and thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine.” Thomas Jefferson

A seldom heard phrase, a seldom whispered thought, and a seldom thought idea is only seldom responded too, so then do it, as NIKE says and or be a friend.

“The real test of friendship is: Can you literally do nothing with the other person? Can you enjoy together those moments of life that are utterly simple? They are the moment’s people look back on at the end of life and number as their most sacred experiences.” Eugene Kennedy

As I finish up this morning and in the course of the last hour or so thoughts of friends not just one or two that I would attest to but ever so many that I see and talk too every day each moment and email. Some are in college and I will see once a year or two maybe some I have not seen in several years and simple correspond daily in email. Still others share my home and some I see each day as I walk the halls at school or sit in the hall way observing and listening as folks go by. Friendship is a cement to build a life on as we travel from here to there, friends are everywhere. Sitting back that sort of sounds like Dr. Seuss, so today justice to all and 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

Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

Bird Droppings September 15, 2015
Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

In all of my years of searching, pondering and wandering about it seems the pathway always continues ahead of me. Many times I am stepping from one stone to another to get across the stream placing one foot ahead of the next trying to stay out of the water. I think I have always tried to live life that way as I wander, getting a little better each day and always wondering how I got there. It does not always work out but I do believe I try. When I am walking down the hall ways at school I always trying to smile, joke with students, get others smiling and joking, and enjoying that precise moment of life. We equate time in seconds and that is only the blink of an eye and so easy to miss.

“None of us is promised tomorrow. Today in all its beauty and sadness and complexity, is all we have. This light we see may be the last such day we have on this earth. There is no certainty, beyond the fact that one day we will have no tomorrow, and that it is not ours to know when that day will be.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

Just before school was out last year I had to report an incident that was told to me by a student. It is difficult to when told in confidence yet the situation was severe enough to warrant reporting. In my same conversation with this student I was asked if my children ever got in trouble and I said no although tongue in cheek. The student responded, “They have never run away or sneaked out or …..” and again I said no. Immediately I asked instinctively if both parents lived at home. The response was hesitant but came, “no I live with my mom”, “but I don’t misbehave for my dad” and so forth. It comes to be the incident was not a onetime deal it is a regular occurrence and as I talk with parents and students I find my life is not “NORMAL”. It seems normal is having kids who are in trouble, causing problems yelling at their parents etc. It seems it is parents who are hitting their kids drinking with and such that is what society seems to deem as normal. Philosopher Michael Foucault would use the idea of looking at abnormal first to determine normal.

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

I woke up from a vivid dream while I was getting my hair cut a couple weeks back and I never fall asleep while getting my hair cut. Just as the hair was being brushed away from my neck and I looked up at a clock on the wall it was 2:30 and I had to get going. But as I am thinking back to my dream, my dreams are generally simple ones with complexities woven in and throughout. I thought back nearly fifteen years to my starting back to graduate school at Piedmont College. In preparing for my final presentation in my master’s program, my advisor was continually using the word “weave”. Our project was about weaving all the pieces together. I actually at one point of my thinking was going to produce two covers and weave them together in a symbolic gesture indicative of my professors thought. Life is a weaving in reality as I look at each aspect intertwined with the next. It could be that child growing up in the context of arguing and issues at home finds that is normal and yet asks what it would be like to live in my family where that doesn’t exist. I smile and joke and offer solace for the moment I have with that student not so much as to change the pattern of weaving but to offer stronger thread or a tighter warp to the pattern. I think of my grandkids as they each are traveling in life. How do they see events unfolding and changing around them?

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Nearly fourteen years back I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome for the first time and how as a teacher I had eight hours to undo the sixteen hours parents and family have to deal with a child. Mathematically it doesn’t work and logically it doesn’t work and some parents do not want it to work, they have chosen the direction for their children and that is that. Many times it seems futile as a teacher to even try and make a difference knowing what some children go home to. Jokingly two boys sitting in a physics class said to me they were waiting for antique farm equipment to move so they could do the lab. I was taken back a minute and said what? They looked over at lab counter and six black kids were working on lab. I responded as I do often sarcastically first it bothers me that you both have that kind of attitude but since I know the grades of all six and your using that as an excuse only proves how ignorant you really are. Neither responded and they know where I stand on the subject.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

Just before school let Friday last week out a particular student asked me about absolute truths. I responded and had a response from a dear friend and so forth a dialogue and the context was a positive one as we shared ideas and thoughts. Again just a few days before that I reported an incident that had happened to a student and was told that it was ok, it was discussed. Sadly that child went home thinking this is how life really is. It simply is ok. Normal parents and kids do yell at each other and hit each other and throw things at each other, it is ok.

“We dribble away our life, little by little, in small packages — we don’t throw it away all at once.” Robert A. Cook

“Life is a succession of lessons enforced by immediate reward, or, oftener, by immediate chastisement.” Ernest Dimnet

B.F. Skinner the man behind the concept of behavior modification once said he could change anything and anyone through behavior modification. Who knows maybe he is right, maybe if we continue picking away and smiling and joking and living life as un-normal as it may be to some others will catch on. Who knows maybe just maybe when tomorrow comes that child who was asking about have my children ever run away will be asking how much they study each night instead or what books they have read or what college are they going to.

“Every morning I wake up saying, I’m still alive; a miracle. And so I keep on pushing.” Jacques Cousteau

I have a friend at school a breast cancer survivor who said something very similar to me. For her “each day is a blessing to make the most of”. How profound and almost understated is amazingly her students love her. She honestly cares about them and they know it. A simple bit of attitude goes very far when wielded in honesty and good faith.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

Many years ago I raised buffalo and as I would walk out each morning into the dark I would hear an occasionally snort and blow of air from our bull as he checked the cows and calves walking about in the morning haze. I knew life then and even today as I walk out and greet the morning though different sounds living in a subdivision but still I can hear if I listen hard that faint echo of a buffalo snorting in the fog as it drifts in. Life is what we choose to make it and how we weave or how we step into the day it is our choice. In teaching I emphasize setting the example and I have hanging on my one of the walls in my room at school a poster from my hippie days 1971 or so. Of course it is a black light poster. The posters title is “Children learn, what they Live” and it goes on from there. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and set the example in your own life for others to see and follow 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

I have found that real forgiveness is difficult work

Bird Droppings September 14, 2015
I have found that real forgiveness is difficult work

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

I spent the morning just about two years ago on a field tip of sorts for a graduate school class. We visited the MLK Jr. Memorial Center on Auburn Street in Atlanta. 1968 seems so far away as I think back. I was in school at West Chester State college now University. A black man was shot by a white man in Memphis Tn. In the days after mourning, sadness, riots, laughter from some, pain, heart ache, jokes, and the range of emotions has continued. As you walk from the parking lot to the King Center a statue is in front of you. As I do on my many trips I stood taking a few pictures of a statue of a man who was shot in 1949 and was modeled in later years by the man shot in 1968 and a an elderly fellow started talking to his wife. “I think this was the guy who invented those sandals that are so comfortable.” I wondered how we as a society have survived to this point. The statue is of Mahatma Gandhi.

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As I thought about the inscription on Gandhi’s statue I wondered why we do not teach more about this man in schools. “Nonviolence to be a potent force (I found myself as I went from photo to paper writing weapon) must begin with the mind.” Even I and I have studied Gandhi evidently not enough used the term weapon thinking about a man who abhorred violence. A single man who died violently because he believed in peace to the marrow of his bones, and through his actions changed a nation. Watching our society today this line hit me hard.

“Many people are afraid to forgive because they feel they must remember the wrong or they will not learn from it. The opposite is true. Through forgiveness, the wrong is released from its emotional stranglehold on us so that we can learn from it. Through the power and intelligence of the heart, the release of forgiveness brings expanded intelligence to work with the situation more effectively.” David McArthur & Bruce McArthur

When I started early this morning I was going in one direction and as events transpire I end up shifting gears heading another direction. Forgiveness is psychologically sound as a remedy for traumas that befall mankind and yet so often we aggravate and sustain the issue through thoughts of or actual revenge. The McArthur’s hit on a key point as they address the emotional stranglehold we so often fall into when an event comes upon us that we deem wrong or evil in some cases. Starting this topic of forgiveness today came from a number of situations and occurrences that have played out over the past weeks. But the culmination was in the visiting of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center and Museum yesterday morning.

“I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note–torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.” Henry Ward Beecher

“Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregoes revenge, and dares forgive an injury.” E. H. Chapin

“We are all on a life long journey and the core of its meaning, the terrible demand of its centrality is forgiving and being forgiven.” Martha Kilpatrick

There are many differing views of forgiveness and this concept of varying aspects has always struck me as being somewhat interesting. From a religious standpoint Christianity uses forgiveness as a base for its religious activities yet over the years has somewhat confused the issue with such famous theological terms as once saved always saved which eludes to an initial salvation sealing forever your ability to do wrong and get away with it. However a famous biblical line from a stoning outside the city gates of Jerusalem back in the day when the leaders had convicted a woman of adultery and were getting ready to stone the woman. A young man was questioned about the act. He knew it was a political trap. He drew a bit in the sand a few words in ancient Aramaic and turned to the group and asked, “Who among you is without sin should cast the first stone. “ Slowly the group dissipated and the woman came to him asking what she should do and his response was “go and sin no more”. Too many people seem to forget that part of the biblical scriptures.

“When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, and we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.” Louis B. Smedes

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” Louis B. Smedes

“Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control… to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare.” Lance Morrow

I have watched all the gangster movies on TV and in every one the evil, murderous, and always scandalous leader on his death bed asks for forgiveness from the priest. I have always wanted to see the priest say sorry not good enough or tough beans and who knows what else. Forgiveness is an aspect of living not death. It is who we are and why we are on a daily basis. I sit today listening to words from a great man who gave his life for what he believed the introduction to Dr. Kings Nobel Peace prize written by Mahatma Gandhi read by Dr. King.

“We are all on a life long journey and the core of its meaning, the terrible demand of its centrality is forgiving and being forgiven.” Martha Kilpatrick

“Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.” George MacDonald

As I read earlier today forgiveness was discussed as an aspect of love. Forgiveness is the highest form of love both to be forgiven and to forgive. That is a hard idea to understand in our world of greed and corruption. It is hard to understand when everyone seems to be diametrically focused on them.

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Robert Quillen

“Forgiveness is the final form of love.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“One forgives to the degree that one loves.” Francois de La Rochefoucauld

“The most tender part of love, each other to forgive.” John Sheffield

I have always been a fan of Reinhold Niebuhr and his Serenity Prayer. This great theologian of the late 1950’s was on the far edge of theology in his time. He had a firm belief that faith had to visible as well as a matter of inner peace. Your life needed to reflect what you claimed in your heart. This concept has been controversial since the Middle Ages when some would simply do good works occasionally to gain forgiveness. Niebuhr was about setting the example showing that you could live as you said. While walking around the King Center I saw Niebuhr’s name as someone Dr. King studied.

“Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again.” Dag Hammarskjold

“Forgiveness is choosing to love. It is the first skill of self-giving love.” Mahatma Gandhi

“We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck . . . But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.” Ellen Goodman

So a day of pondering and wondering about various views of forgiveness and one last quote for today. I am sure I will ponder more with a new book on my Ipad and computer to read, Way of Wakan: Reflections on Lakota Spirituality and Grief by David J. Mathieu Ed.D.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Louis B. Smedes

A long day and a week ahead and to end as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Why can we not really get a handle on this day?

Bird Droppings September 11, 2015
Why can we not really get a handle on this day?

I start with a word I am sitting here making up ponderingerest. Perhaps a good definition is that there is far too much to ponder today, it is a ponderingerest day. In 1938 sixty six percent of the world’s oil reserves was found. Since that year there has not been a day of peace in the Middle East. I was thinking earlier today as I drove to the school what if oil had been discovered in Mongolia would it have been any different? Politicians argue it is not about oil. Look at the stock market and what companies stocks jumped as the President said we will destroy ISIS.

Today is an interesting and yet solemn day; a day marked by memories, thirteen years ago I started teaching again after a twenty three year layoff, nine years ago today I started as a part – time Instructor for Piedmont College. Twenty six years ago we brought a new baby home. I have so many memories associated with this day. One that has been elusive is peace. In my nearly sixty five years of existence I cannot recall a moment when we as a country were not fighting somewhere. After reading the President’s speech this morning I will assume my sixty sixth year will be more of the same.

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Charles A. Beard

I do recall that my first day of teaching fourteen years ago with much of spent in lock down and confused as to what was really going on. It was many days later I really thought about that day, the day I came back to teaching. I just sent a note to one of my first students in that class I was locked in with for several hours. Charles Beard was a historian and often a controversial one at that it is said he commented that Roosevelt brought the US into World War II for economic recovery. Interesting historically that has been the case several times over as to why we really go to war. When I first looked at his quote I was thinking about little children especially my grandkids being afraid of the dark and night time and several times when out with youth and trying to ease fears of darkness I have used stars as a focal point. It really does have to be dark to see the stars.

So often in life we lose sight of the stars until trials and tribulations show in contrast and we again can view our own stars. Folk’s they are there today with all that is going on news about Syria and another potential war, it is often hard to see and remember the shining stars but rest assured they are there and they will be shining when we need to see them. I have been writing and thinking about this day for some time. Yesterday in a response to my Bird dropping I would like to share from a dear friend who I used a thought from just a day or so ago.

“You know, Frank, Viet Nam doesn’t seem that long ago, but it was. I’m a Viet Nam combat vet; was Navy, but served for two temporary assignments with the First Radio Battalion, Third Marine Amphibious Force in I Corps (DaNang, the northern part). I was essentially a marine. It continues to be amazing to me how an experience of war is interpreted differently by different folks. I was running a security communications operation and was calling in the Arc Light Raids, precision bombing (for then) with the B-52s. I guess you could say I never saw the ones I was killing … I do believe my work saved the lives of many of our own troops. (They gave me a medal for it; can you believe that?) What’s right, and what’s wrong? When you lose a friend, you want to kill them all. Even today, the flag-folding at a casket just tears me up. All of this to say that, from the standpoint of being veterans who can still function a little, the Viet Nam guys are “old” vets now. I just want the world to know they’re NOT all drunks and drug addicts. You jarred some memories, my friend. A different place … a different time.” Jim, Dr. James D. Sutton, Clinical Psychologist and National recognized speaker and authority on Conduct Disorders

I have been writing for some time about my hatred of war and its destruction. As I grew up listening to my father’s stories of WWII and today looking at old photos he had, images of the attack on Iwo Jima where many thousands of American soldiers died and tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers perished as well makes me wonder about war. Many of my friends from high school are Viet Nam vets and often in communications comments are made and I have the utmost regard for these men and women who served in a time so many have forgotten.

Today however we look at a thirteen year anniversary of an attack on our country. Does this change my perception of war and revenge not at all there is still nothing solved in retaliation. True a great sigh of relief came when Osama Bin Laden was killed by Seal Team Six. I was at that moment more concerned about my nephew in law who serves in the teams than the fact Bin Laden was killed. Today rekindles many images from different people. Hope and fear both rise to the top of the barrel.

“The trouble with justifying your violence, your hate, your profitable destruction through your subjective sense of victimization is a)the chain of violence can go on forever b)everyone, since no one has a monopoly on suffering, can use victimization to then justify practically anything for an indefinite amount of time and violence and c)as vengeance only retaliates never returns, there will never be an end to the justification of your violence, and as such your violence itself.” Manny Jalonschi, Publisher at American Ex Pat Books

I have known and been reading Manny’s blogs for several years now and this one caught me in my pondering state. I posted the following response.

“When raised in Judeo-Christian understanding of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth it is hard to separate out the revenge aspect of the equation and throw in staunch capitalism which a long time ago gave up on the Koionia (community) of early Christianity in favor of greed and profit and ran rough shod over indigenous peoples worldwide. Seriously what is to be expected? Sadly how many kids are raised today with a neutral historical understanding of where they came from?” Frank Bird III, Ed. S. D.D.

Over the past few days several teachers have made comments to me about my choice of political party and or Represenitive. I find it interesting as while in many ways what they see as wrong they have no way other than saying it will take care of itself if we get rid of this or this program.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

I pondered most of the week listening to the rhetoric of war mongering, capitalism and the problems with government’s handouts and healthcare. I grief with and honor those who died in the heinous attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon ten years ago but I also say retaliation is never a solution. We have retaliated for twelve years and nearly destroyed our country.

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

I honestly wonder borrowing from Gandhi “An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind”, how long we can continue and not lift up and move ahead. I have worked with and taught numerous autistic children over the years. Dr. Temple Grandin is considered to be one of the leading authorities on animal and livestock handling in the world. She has designed and engineered seventy five percent of the commercial livestock handling facilities for commercial packers in the United States. She has been recognized by animal rights groups for her ethical treatment in design and development and has written college texts on animal science. She also is considered a world leader in autism, perhaps because Dr. Grandin is autistic herself.

“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream. I can remember this very clearly.” Dr. Temple Grandin

In recent years more and more children are being diagnosed as autistic. As I read her words which applied directly to herself as she grew up frustrated with a world that only heard her screaming and never her words I thought too of those often less fortunate than ourselves who have no voice. Through political maneuvering and redrawing lines and forgetting to advertise the new laws of needing a photo identification to vote we tend to silence many people. I watched several political debates and speeches this past week and Dr. Temple Grantin’s words again hit me.

“People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet. I was very lucky to receive very good early intervention with very good teachers, starting at age two and a half years. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher. A good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. Some teachers just have a knack for working with autistic children. Other teachers do not have it. If you find a good teacher, hang on to him or her tight.” Dr. Temple Grandin

Yesterday or the day before many days lately have run together I had an issue with my upstairs air conditioning. The thermostat was stuck at eighty five degrees. I poked at it, fiddled with it, no change. At one point even said call the air conditioning guy. But two nights ago I walked upstairs with a screw driver and popped the cover off and low and behold batteries. Two new Duracell triple A’s and the air is working again. On that same note an article on bacteria in the gut and autism caught my attention yesterday. How simple is that. Autistic children often have dietary issues and a study showed significantly different bacteria in the gut of autistic children actually less bacteria of a good kind. Granted it was only an article but how simple is that if a reality.

On a day of remembering I wish we never have to go through this again. I offer as a solution that if we keep our eyes and ears open we can find open minded great teachers, we can resolve issues before going to war, and all children can have the opportunity to succeed and learn and in learning never be silent again. Last night we received as staff an email that our board of education tabled a proposed by superintendent change to high schools scheduling going from four block to seven block all in the name of rigor. Ask any teacher about this and the answer is what? A newspaper article ran erroneous information about testing and four block and how math scores would improve. Nothing was said about ridiculous math curriculum and constant changes and a test that in trials fifty percent or more failed. But changing our schedules would cure it. No one mentioned fifteen to twenty percent of high school teachers would be let go and there would literally no electives for students. So I sit back ponder a moment more and as I have for so many years now asked 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

So much difference in people’s perceptions

Bird Droppings September 10, 2015
So much difference in people’s perceptions

For some people Friday the thirteenth is a day of foreboding and others it is simply another sunrise and sunset. European culture brought the foreboding element of this day to the Americas. Some argue it has metaphysical properties and is not just the day a Pope issued a plunder and kill order against the Templar Knights. I have looked in other traditions and eventually all goes back to the church turning on its own for money and land. In the middles ages and into our early history it was the European concept of land that caused many lasting issues. Tomorrow is another day this year on a Friday that always for me brings foreboding, September 11th. It was on this day in 2001 I started back teaching after being away for twenty plus years. The political twists and turns and wars and craziness that have ensued still shadow the actual day. It is just another day but our perception and our response is what makes the day.

“The delineation of the difference between modern (secular) society and traditional (Sacred) societies and their competing views of land and nature helps to explain the persistence of severe conflict between such societies. Unlike secular societies – where land signifies property, property signifies capital, and capital signifies wealth, status, and power – land in sacred societies signifies connection to family, tribe, and ancestors. Land is furthermore thought of in connection to sacred sites, burial grounds and medicinal plants.” Sandy Grande, Red Pedagogy

Sometime during each semester I get out the toilet tissue tubes and go about demonstrating how perception changes in how we look at things. I once did a poster actually took a picture through a toilet tissue tube and then the same picture with a wide angle lens. It was amazing to see the difference. We each come into the world with previous experiences and understandings. These tend to provide us with the information that we form our perceptions with. Sadly many are very limited in their views. I often wonder how some people walk around seeing so little of the world.

Having grown up in the secular society and spending most of my life following along the pathway that is so narrow within this point of view it is often hard to step off the trail and to see that even another perspective is out there. It has been many years since I walked along trails in North Georgia alone and listened to nothing but the sounds of nature. Today as I left my home this morning and walked to my car the silence was amazing as most air conditioners and other human contrivances were quiet. We had a cool night and above my head looking to the east was the constellation Orion. I listened for several minutes before running a few errands and driving to school. Crickets and tree frogs and an occasional coyote howl kept me company.

Commuting from home earlier this semester essentially has me planning twice. I go into my room at school early to get ready for students arriving and then have a planning period after my first block class getting ready for third and fourth blocks. By evening after being awake for nearly eighteen hours I am weary. Earlier this morning I released a small ground scorpion that had been captured in the school a few days ago. I took it to a safe place and let the little critter scamper into the rocks.

“Western civilization, unfortunately, does not link knowledge and morality but rather; it connects knowledge and power and makes them equivalent.” Vine Deloria Jr.

I wondered as I first read this statement by author Vine Deloria Jr. Looking back in history it has always been those in the know who held the control literally till the dawn of the printing press. As more information and understanding became available more people were able to ponder the wonders of reality. In my readings of various indigenous peoples a man of knowledge is always held in high regard and honor. In our society as we merge knowledge and power men of knowledge are often construed as bad men. Far too often those who unravel the wonders of the world get greedy and use their knowledge to their own gain rather than of mankind’s.

“Who will find peace with the lands? The future of humankind lies waiting for those who will come to understand their lives and take up their responsibilities to all living things. Who will listen to the trees, the animals and birds, the voices of the places of the land? As the long forgotten peoples of the respective continents rise and begin to reclaim their ancient heritage, they will discover the meaning of the lands of their ancestors. That is when the invaders of the North American continent will finally discover that for this land, God is red.” Vine Deloria, Jr

So often we get tangled in the day to day and lose track of and perhaps sight of where and how we are in the world. As I sit listening to the sounds of running water and cedar flute music sometimes it is easy to drift away in thought. Being tired from being up long before most normal folks even consider getting out of bed to try and get ready for the day. Although today perhaps it was a bit too much to stand and look at the sky above me in the darkness lit with stars. I was listening to the quiet of a cool morning. Crickets and tree frogs like it a bit warmer although a few secluded sounds could be heard. Each day I wonder have I done what I could to better this world.

“But the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature’s softening influence.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux

I listen to each student as they talk and ask questions. I try and am civil rather than look down upon often childish questions. I try to hold the words of the young ones as they seek to know. How simple is life if we allow the natural flow of all to travel through us and with us. A little friend of mine just came by to check on the animals. She goes around my room talking to each of the animals and checking if everybody is ok and right now talking to a rug made from the pelt of a timber wolf my father gave me many years ago. I always am amazed at how close small children are to nature. They have not grown weary of listening and ask questions unhesitating one after another until somewhere an adult forces them to stop. Then what was an open zeal for learning becomes in some cases a hatred of school and even reading. Today is a wet and cloudy day a cooler day than it has been and most of all a first day to walk a new road if I choose. For over fifteen years I have closed with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Checking the toes for mittens

Bird Droppings September 9, 2015
Checking the toes for mittens

It has been some time since one of my granddaughters was showing off her new hat and mittens. It was quite a sight clad in a t-shirt, diaper, mittens and ski cap that looked like a penguin she was showing off for us. Finally she realized crawling was a bit harder in mittens and did her best to get them off. Last weekend we spent a little time cleaning the garage and my eldest son found an old CD, Harry Chapin’s greatest hits. Jokingly he said it would end up in my CD changer in the car and sure enough it wasn’t twenty minutes till I had an excuse to listen to it. Harry Chapin has been gone for many years now but the lyrics of his songs live on.

“You can travel ten thousand miles and never leave where you are.” Harry Chapin

I was pondering this as I came into school today. I went out to sit and think late in the day yesterday and several Facebook posts later recalled another incident. About two years ago a tenth grader at the high school had been killed in a four wheeler accident. Within minutes Facebook was popping with notes of condolence and thoughts for the little girl and family as well as for another tenth grader severely injured in the accident. Just above my head is a photo from several years ago of a teenager who died in a car crash right after graduation. She and I had been good friends with her coming to my room to talk about her problems on many occasions. The night of graduation she led me around taking pictures with various friends. Each one specific and after fifty or so we parted ways for the festivities. I hugged her after the ceremony and did not see her again till a text while in graduate school in South Georgia caught me by surprise. She had died in a car accident and the funeral was two days away. Death seems to never take time off.

After last period yesterday a student whom I have never really had, walked in and I asked what was going on. He was complaining about a substitute teacher and how she did not get along with the class. She wanted them in assigned seats and took roll and wanted quiet. It got me thinking to perception and how in a recent observation by an Assistant Principal was so different than several we have had over the years. I do change how I do things quite often always looking for the best way. As I read through my evaluation from the AP’s observation I was very happy and what amused was how he saw so differently than did last year’s AP who was observing the same situations. One saw six kids each working on differing assignments as great and one saw nonconformity. All in all it was a great day even though my shoulder is killing me form some neck problem I am told.

I had several visits from teachers and staff that had never been in my room each was amazed and almost in wonderment sort of wide eyed as they walked around even had one person said they were coming back for an official tour. Some how many former students and often former student’s buddies’ end up coming by my sanctuary to talk often about nothing in particular. That was the case here a former student from four years ago and this fellow stopped by later in the day yesterday as well. It was a busy day. Currently my room was set up for a biology lab and is closer to my room of several years ago

“The ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” Gaylord Nelson

As the day ended yesterday students cleared the halls I headed over to chat with some friends. I stopped at several points that I normally do and a substitute teacher finds me and asks about a particular student that was very disrespectful to her and by chance the room where we meet is coincidental as it is that teacher has this student as well and similar thoughts. He is a very negative student, belligerent and very disrespectful to authority. I think back to how different my observations were from two different people and how different these two saw this student I see so different.

“To me every hour of the day and night is an unspeakable perfect miracle.” Walt Whitman

Perhaps a seemingly random thought as I look at this morning so far. I was cleaning up my email inbox and as I went various quotes and stories sent from friends and associates I was copying and pasting to a word document. So this is a random quote simply pulled from the thin air, or for whatever reason not deleted many days ago, or is it coincidence that each quote and story today really is applicable. As I look back at the teacher and substitute teacher and student, are they looking at life as Whitman suggests? Why is this student reacting the way that he is? My good friend Dr. James Sutton a psychologist in Texas addresses many of these types of teacher-student issues in his books. I just had a great idea for Dr. Sutton he could have for teachers a 900 number to call for help with difficult students.

But in reality there is a Mindset with the teacher and student often from day one. Something is there with that student that is blocking or keeping him at a distance. The result is turmoil between teacher and student. Every day I have other teachers come by can you do this for me? I emailed a friend, I need to put a sign out by my room you need testing, advice, short essays, whatever stop in. Then it dawned on me, many of these students will not do anything for some teachers. In order to fairly evaluate, try and get that essay written in an unbiased place with someone who is not fighting with or in a tension with that student. Actually that’s not a bad idea for today. I wish I thought of it I need to email that teacher or two or three and commend them.

“Never think that I believe I should set out a “system of teaching” to help people understand the way. Never cherish such a thought. What I proclaim is the truth as I have discovered it and “a system of teaching” has no meaning because the truth can’t be cut up into pieces and arranged in a system.” Diamond Sutra

Not a good rationale for curriculum, but I do think in terms of life and relationships this very definitely applies. Far too often we tend to look at life as it is this way period. If I go over here it is the same. If I go over here it is still the same. I remember a teaching job in Macon I took on substituting. I was expecting little nice 12 year olds and when I got there the average age was 15 and in those days EBD wasn’t sorted out they were just all in that class. I survived day one to plan for day two and all went well. It is so difficult to try and treat everything in education as neat and clean. Trying to understand a student that is different in terms of the “nice” perfect kids is not going to work. So what truths do we set down what principles can guide us in dealing with a kid who is disrespectful.

“If there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow human being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” William Penn

Sitting on my desk is a four inch by four inch board, one of those art projects decoupage on a board and with cute burnt edges is this quote from William Penn. It was given to me over thirty five years ago in Macon Georgia by a student from that first class of hooligans. We have all heard the saying about do not complain till you have walked a mile in my shoes. Howard Eubanks a teacher in North Georgia emailed me this story almost eight years ago.

“Did you hear about the Texas teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put on his cowboy boots? He asked for help and she could see why. Even with her pulling and him pushing, the little boots still didn’t want to go on. Finally, when the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost cried when the little boy said, ‘Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.’ She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on, this time on the right feet. He then announced, ‘These aren’t my boots.’ She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to, and once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet. No sooner than they got the boots off he said, ‘They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear ’em.’ Now she didn’t know if she should laugh or cry, but she mustered up the grace and courage she had left to wrestle the boots on his feet again. Helping him into his coat, she asked, ‘Now, where are your mittens?’ He said, ‘I stuffed ’em in the toes of my boots’”

How many times each day with students do we forget to check the toes for mittens? We want everything just so perfect little darlings all in rows and little cute name tags and all in cute little outfits and quiet and neat handwriting and so forth. We really are trying to pull boots on every day and every class with mittens in the toes.
In a high school class it is hard to walk in and poof all is well. It is hard for many teachers to check all the cowboy boots for mittens. When you think there is a problem try and build fail safes, have a core group of teachers you can check with. Maybe there is an issue with that kid maybe his mittens are really stuck in there deep. So many teachers would much more rather write a referral and teach by referral. If all my students are in, In School Suspension I will have a really great day. I will have to admit there are students when I see they are out I cheer but I do it under my breath and to myself. But I am finding many teachers just do not want that chance, they do not want to look for mittens they may soil their hands. School custodians will always provide paper towels I have found and for the squeamish use the gloves in your first aid kit. I am being literal in a symbolic thought. Thank goodness it is Friday, although when I woke up I thought it was Thursday, wait it is still Thursday. Many years ago a friend sent this email note.

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Champagne in one hand – strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO – What a Ride! ” not sure where or who said this but a slight alteration – “Teaching should NOT be a journey to the end of the day with the intention of arriving safely with perfect attendance and all A students all in order and lesson plans in an attractive and well preserved lesson plan book, but rather to skid in sideways, Ideas in one hand – Creativity in the other, energy thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO – What a Day! ”

I bumped into another teacher after school yesterday and they asked how was my day and I said “I had a blast” I really should have said I think I found about a dozen pairs of mittens. So I sit pondering a day after another almost over great week of remembering so many pieces along the way. Please my friends 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

Our perceptions vary greatly about life

Bird Droppings September 8, 2015
Our perceptions vary greatly about life

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” Irving Berlin

It was almost fifteen years ago I was waiting to go teach again after having spent nearly twenty three years in the publishing business. I was anxious to say the least. I had gone by the school and signed a few forms and talked with the principal for an hour or so. Then the next day came and within hours I was immersed in a day I will not forget. It was my first day back teaching. While I spent most of the day locked in a room in a school lock down because of the 9-11 bombing I still introduced myself to my charges and we did get to know each other.

“To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each moment, is for each of us different and as I use the word over and over our perceptions vary greatly about life. Emerson so eloquently states “the same world is a hell and a heaven” depending on how you take it. How we live life and our reactions can be construed much the same way.

“It’s how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success.” David Feherty

We live in a world of contrast black, white and a swirling of gray then somewhere there is a dividing line to separate the differences. Our adaptation and manipulation of crossing the line between the variations is our dealing with life.

“Nothing in life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” Thaddeus Golas

Many years ago I recall a story from Hindu lore of a water bearer who each morning would go to the stream and fill two great jugs with water. One was new and held every drop all the way from the river to the house. The other jug had a crack in it and a steady stream of water leaked out all the way from the river to the house. Often when arriving at the house the cracked jug would be literally empty. One day the new jug most boastful said to the cracked jug how can you be so happy you never complete your task each day all your water leaks out and you come home empty. The cracked jug said smiling and never once upset, “have you noticed the flowers all along the way from the stream lining the path where I water them each day.

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz

I find this so true in high school among students; some who are so capable simple choose to just pass. “I have a seventy I am passing that’s all I need”. Others who struggle to achieve try for an A and work each aspect of their endeavor. Every difficult sentence a chore but they persist and succeed. I got to know a young lady who took the science portion of the Graduation test five times each time she would be closer gaining points as she went, finally she passed by two points. I have read how the school board has again passed or stated they will uphold the graduation walking policy. Sadly within that are the girls and guys who do try and may take five tries to succeed not because of attitude but because of ability. Yet they are in jeopardy of not walking at graduation.

I have read numerous times how we need to uphold that standard but it is a faulty one there are exceptions and another young lady is one and her mother and she were ones that fought last year to walk. She received her fourth test score weeks before graduation and was one point off. She took testing classes studied hard and had been a good student all twelve years, she was an honor student. She wasn’t a person, who did not deserve to walk she tried more than many that did walk, but our view is of a failure and we punished her at graduation time. She quit school the last week and went on to get a GED.

“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.” Fredrick Langbridge

Sometimes it is only a matter of looking up versus looking down and perception is radically different.

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” Chrétien Malesherbes

So often we limit ourselves we set up the road blocks and stop dead in our tracks all possibility of success.

“Attitudes are more important than facts.” Karl A. Menninger

“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” Earl Nightingale

“We have unprecedented conditions to deal with and novel adjustments to make; there can be no doubt of that. We also have a great stock of scientific knowledge unknown to our grandfathers with which to operate. So novel are the conditions, so copious the knowledge, that we must undertake the arduous task of reconsidering a great part of the opinions about man and his relations to his fellow men which have been handed down to us by previous generations who lived in far other conditions and possessed far less information about the world and themselves. We have, however, first to create an unprecedented attitude of mind to cope with unprecedented conditions, and to utilize unprecedented knowledge.” James H. Robinson

It was only a few years ago in the history of man that TV became a reality. Last week as I was helping someone do a paper a question was asked “when did racism start was it during the civil war”. Racism and slavery are not new to man, some anthropologists look back even to Neanderthal man at signs of racism with Cro-Magnon man. But each generation has more to work with more information more knowledge more data to compile and their response is what had been looked at one way has become different.

“There are times when you just get down, you feel like nobody likes you. We’re in high school forever. It’s just what we do with it.” Rene Russo

Rene Russo is one of my favorite actresses and someone who was famous as a model and actually then made it bigger as an actress. She at one point as her modeling career started to dwindle thought all was over but interestingly enough now she models perhaps more now that she is famous as an actress.

“Don’t be against things so much as for things.” Col. Harland Sanders

Most of us have had Kentucky fried chicken at some point in life Col. Sanders literally changed fast food along with Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame and it was their attitude that did it. Both men took already used and tested ideas and with attitude made them work.

“Nothing will work unless you do.” John Wooden

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” Ray Kroc

Every day I hear a student blame a teacher for being a sorry teacher I have never yet heard a student say they were a sorry student. But I have heard many students except simply a seventy percent and be happy “its passing” and so where does the blame lie if in effect blame is appropriate. We choose and we choose to fail or succeed. We are the culprits not a teacher, not the book and not the class we choose. Please keep all in harm’s way in your thoughts and on your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

On a chilly morning it is hard to kiss a frog.

Bird Droppings August 4, 2015
On a chilly morning it is hard to kiss a frog.

It is was a bit chilly out in northeast Georgia with nighttime temperatures still hanging in the high fifties or low sixties but rumor of a nice weekend hanging out there. Many of us gardeners are bringing plants in. We have still a couple more weeks till we are off from school again for Thanksgiving and a fall break. I was watching TV last night and an historical show of sorts a movie about the Pilgrims coming over to the New World is coming back on soon. I find it funny how after that first Thanksgiving relationships between the native Indians and Pilgrims went downhill fast and it was not long till red skinned natives were the spawn of Satan and were to be eliminated by whatever means feasible. Pilgrims were not much different than today’s politicians when land was involved. I found it interesting how things changed so fast. Why is it we only have heart occasionally and some people never do? Maybe Thanksgiving is to remind us about heart?

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha, Sayings of the Buddha

It has been several months since I was working with students expressing a news article in visual form. Over the past few years as I interact with people and seeing how much of an impact that learning styles play on the actual learning of students it amazes me that such a simple thing gets overlooked so often. How we learn has been an issue I have looked at very seriously. Humans tend to learn basically in one of three ways visually, auditorally, and kinesthetically, in other words we see, hear or touch. I offer the idea of perception as well and how we hear see and touch along with how we interpret is a factor. The assignment entailed using one PowerPoint slide to explain one of the main news articles out currently. The sample I used was based on The Red Lake Shootings from 2006. In a few moments about 45 seconds images and a few words flashed over the screen and my interpretation of the news flashed before us.

Students then chose stories and interpreted visually what they saw and felt. Ideas varied and stories varied significantly. One went in a direction of an issue close to home teen suicide and several reiterated the Red Lake Shootings. One however focused only on himself. His visual experience while interesting was a whirl of his own image. For several months going on two years I have known this student and his focus so often is self-motivated as so many of us are. He derives his day from seeking attention to and through himself be it passing gas and letting everyone in the class room know or speaking out loud to draw attention from a teacher. The idea of disrespect is an understatement but it all is self-focused so to say here I am.

“A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.” Dictionary.com

For quickness I used dictionary.com and there is defined the word sympathy as an interaction between two people or things affecting both. As I thought back to my self-centered fellow I wondered as he focused all day on himself does he have sympathy? In the defining quote from Buddha sympathy is established as four aspects those being charity, kind speech, doing a good turn and treating all alike.

“The force of truth that a statement imparts, then, its prominence among the hordes of recorded observations that I may optionally apply to my own life, depends, in addition to the sense that it is argumentatively defensible, on the sense that someone like me, and someone I like, whose voice is audible and who is at least notionally in the same room with me, does or can possibly hold it to be compellingly true.” Nicholson Baker

There are many issues at hand that warrant attention and sympathy today locally and worldwide is needed often.

“All sympathy not consistent with acknowledged virtue is but disguised selfishness.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Sympathetic people often don’t communicate well; they back reflected images which hide their own depths.” George Eliot

As I searched this morning deeper I found often we tend to view sympathy with caution perhaps this person is being sympathetic for a reason. Perhaps it is for gain thinking back to the Pilgrims. Is it human nature to be so wary so distrustful of others.

“Is there anything more dangerous than sympathetic understanding?” Pablo Picasso

“The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity is not enough.” Simone Weil

Several semesters back I sent off a paper dealing with kissing frogs. It was a reflection on teaching in a way but really it was a reflection on life. My premise being we should all be frog kissers. Teachers and so often parents are to be the Frog Kissers: Many times I have used the inference to the fairy tales of child hood of kissing a frog. We are always trying to find that enchanted princess or prince hidden beneath the guise of a frog; one kiss and the prince or princess will appear. Being an avid herpetologist along with my son, kissing frogs can be a risky business. Many species secret toxins some so lethal they can kill a man with barely a touch let alone a passionate kiss. There are some that can induce psychosis and hallucinations when ingested. All these efforts by the amphibians are purely defense mechanisms evolved over millions of years to avoid turning into a human being perhaps.

But the symbolism of the fairy tale and teachers/parents is what struck me. Teaching is about kissing frogs. We as teachers need to be taking those risks trying to find the hidden princes and princesses among our students. In reality we are going beyond simply taking roll and letting that child slip through the cracks. We need to be risk takers we need to set the example for the students that we will make an effort to be there and give each child ample time and place. As I pondered it was obvious as to where and why teachers quit. I see John Dewey’s ideas and the example of Dewey in the classroom through The Foxfire Approach to Teaching and all these great idealistic thoughts and then they seem to disappear into educational lala land.

What were to be great teachers seem to be eventually lost midst the flow and ebb of educational bureaucracy and never get a chance to be who they are. For many years I have wondered are today’s students and teacher automations doing as all those others have done before. Turn to page 138 children and read, now answer the questions at the back of the chapter. Raise your hand when you wish to speak and do not get out of line. I recall a Harry Chapin song I use often about a little boy who comes in his first day and colors flowers in a rainbow of hues, until his teacher corrects him and flowers are red green leaves are green, soon the creative spark is gone and another student became a frog. Fortunately in the song a risk taking teacher saves the day and kisses the frog and the rainbow is back. We need to work towards being that which we should be teachers, not simply information stuffers. As a parent and teacher a hard row to follow.

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha

I keep thinking back to this idea of sympathy it is an active process not simply a feeling. I used loosely the illustration of kissing frogs but each aspect described by Buddha is an action. Charity is an activity although borrowing from a 1600 translation the Greek word agape is translated as charity. In Greek three words translate for love; Eros, Philos and Agape. Agape often is also translated as a supreme unlimited love or God’s love. In the Biblical translations of 1600 the Greek agape would translate to charity, an active love an ongoing love. Kind speech is an action and is a physical response. Doing a good turn not just charity but physically doing something and perhaps the most difficult treating all alike again actively involved.

When I started this morning sympathy was more an emotion. Having a heart as I thought was just a sentence structure used to elicit sympathy and or other emotions. But sympathy is an active word it is beyond and there for having a heart perhaps too is active engaging. For nearly six years now I have ended each Bird Dropping with keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind, originally I started with the attack September 11th and then war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it has grown in form keeping in your heart is an action it involves doing not simply mouthing words. I recall nearly eight years ago in the state of Vermont which still operates on a town meeting basis and several towns were voting to not send anymore national guards units from Vermont to the Middle East. Vermont had lost more soldiers per capita than any other state. Action some are sending cards reminders of home. For some it may be just a thank you as GI’s return. It is about active involvement, kissing frogs, having a heart, it is about voting and sympathy is action not just thinking about it. Please 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

Hey what about routines?

Bird Droppings September 3, 2015
Hey what about routines?

We are all creatures of habit and routines. It has been quite a few years ago that my wife called to me in the wee hours of the morning as I was starting to write, our youngest son was sick. A virus had struck hard but none the less he was definitely a sick fellow. I had written about an hour and was near finished when she called. After running her to the clinic for medicines and such and the store for fluids I went back to writing and in between I lost what I had written. However all was not lost I really wasn’t very happy with losing what I had written however in researching I found an interesting author Donald Schon.

“We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.” Donald Schon

It has been nearly ten years since we were audited and reviewed by SAC’s, the state high school accreditation committee. As I look at schools however I do not see as much perhaps of a change agent as Schon would demand. Yet schools constantly will follow whims and fancies. It might be this reading program or that one, or a new math system or science curriculum and many of us are very tired of “new” math curriculum state mandated. Interestingly enough writers make very large sums of money as do consultants coming up with these programs for schools. But in schools there is a comfort zone and many teachers will fall into that, habit and or routine. It is not about a continuing transformation as Schon outlines.

“A learning system… must be one in which dynamic conservatism operates at such a level and in such a way as to permit change of state without intolerable threat to the essential functions the system fulfills for the self. Our systems need to maintain their identity, and their ability to support the self-identity of those who belong to them, but they must at the same time be capable of transforming themselves.” Donald Scion, 1973

How do we keep a self-identity and still be able to change? How do we make our routines work for us?

“The need for public learning carries with it the need for a second kind of learning. If government is to learn to solve new public problems, it must also learn to create the systems for doing so and discard the structure and mechanisms grown up around old problems.” Donald Schon

I was thinking as I was writing about a former student who had OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Every day it would be a challenge to deal with this fellow when he went on a roll in his OCD. One particular morning he started in with, can I hold Stevie? And normally when not a serious matter I would let him ask and I answered, no not just yet. For those of you who do not know Stevie she is the wonder snake. I Had Stevie at school for nearly twelve years till this past summer when I took her home for breeding. Stevie is a ball python about 52 inches long and 22 years old. She had been at the school as long as I had. Anyhow each time he would ask I would answer. Finally a student who was talking with me and not in my class says Mr. Bird that was 50 times he has asked you. Another little girl tapped the young man on the shoulder and said, I loveeeeeeee you. It was as smoochy and little girlish as could possibly be done. My little OCD fellow took off across the room.
In some instances letting an OCD individual run their course is fine and I am in a world of my own on planned ignoring, but in most times with OCD it simply takes a change a sudden change of thought process and OCD stops abruptly. As I was reading Schon this popped in my mind sometimes it is the way the problem and or habit or routine is done is the issue and a new way is needed sometimes abruptly. Often as in this case it happens suddenly but many times we do have time and as I do every day often reflection can be a tool for change.

“In every case of reflective activity, a person finds himself confronted by a given, present situation from which he has arrived at, or conclude to, something which is not present. The process of arriving at an idea of what is absent on the basis of what is at hand is inference. What is present carries or bears the mind over to the idea and ultimately the acceptance of something else.” John Dewey

We can review and reflect on our days and using past and present knowledge build our next day and ideas from that and we can illicit change through careful and calculated refection.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”Albert Einstein

Every once in a while an Einstein quote really sounds good maybe even great to me. He was a smart man to say the least. Sometimes we need to change our direction our point of view in order to move on. Some might view the young man asking 52 times as stubborn and or myself for not stopping him and letting him go on. But I watch teachers and parents do this day in and day out and they are not being treated for OCD they are just caught in a rut. They continue day by day doing the same thing knowing there are better ideas and directions. Please take a few moments and think are you locked in or if provided with information could you make a change and most of all 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

Community in education doesn’t simply magically appear it takes work

Bird Droppings September 2, 2015
Community in education doesn’t simply magically appear it takes work

I walked out of my college class last night to a beautiful three quarter orange moon. I had left my good camera in my high school class room I knew exactly where on my table. I Have a small class in US History from Civil War to World War II. I had an epiphany two weeks ago in class as we looked at reconstruction after the Civil War. An amendment to the constitution was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States and provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”. My epiphany was what happened on December 7, 1865? The day after slavery was abolished was magic wand waved and everyone was happy and equal. It seriously hit me so often in education and essentially all politically motivated dees and events wisdom and thought often are put aside and immediate benefit often supersedes. One of my students last night posed a solution to the dilemma of day one of freedom. Perhaps they should have considered building a community adjusting attitudes and learning together.

We have become a world of self-centered egotists which I know is a generalization of perhaps a bit too much. However in education building an educational school community has consistently been shown to improve schools effectiveness yet we always seem to turn in other directions. Forced from above usually a new test or new curriculum for example is required versus the building of community. A bit down the lines I use a quote from Roy L. Smith, author and biblical scholar that gives emphasis to my first point.

“In this world, in order to enable society to develop, all its members have to assume responsibilities and make their contribution. If we do not make collective contributions then there will be no development.” The Dalai Lama, speaking to the Tibetan National Assembly in Dharamsala, May 1989

Each of us lives in a society, possibly a community and as much as we choose, so often it is to be individuals. We are members of and interact within that group that we chose to be within. It is the vitality of that group and the development and growth within that is so intertwined with contributions physically, mentally, and spiritually of the members, the society exists because of the interactions.

“Compare society to a boat. Her progress through the water will not depend upon the exertion of her crew, but upon the exertion devoted to propelling her. This will be lessened by any expenditure of force in fighting among themselves, or in pulling in different directions.” Henry George

We have to be working together moving forward and as humans do so often much time is wasted fighting, arguing, and bickering among ourselves and motion or growth is limited and stifled.

“The greatest difficulty with the world is not its ability to produce, but the unwillingness to share.” Roy L. Smith

Watching high school students form clicks, groups, and other circles of friends and adults join clubs, social groups, and again other circles they chose to join, we tend to be a selfish animals. We look so to ourselves and what benefits us even in limiting friends and such to a degree we box ourselves in. even sharing a simple task can be so often a distant one. Old TV humor even plays on this subject. In several episodes of old Seinfeld and Will and Grace sit coms, they represent giving as a chore, or a burden. The characters are literally parasitically instead of symbiotic. As I looked for quotes and thoughts the following idea was found and intrigued me.

“Societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do.” Ronald Wright

Wright was speaking literally. Yet interestingly enough we of modern society while we do not literally eat people we still devour, psychologically, spiritually, culturally and inadvertently often destroy them. As I look at how we respond to others so often it is how we see ourselves indirectly.

“The most difficult thing we do is to not deal in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.” Mark Twain

Just before school was out last year, in a project assignment several students simply, “completed it” they did not finish the task but answered what they thought was the question, they just wanted done. Whether it was right or wrong, good or bad, was not the issue it was over.

“Until you value yourself you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck

I read this quote and saw an answer, if you truly do not appreciate yourself; your time has little if any value even when you are self-absorbed in using it frivolously you simply is taking up time not using it. Guessing at answers to a test to simply get done or rushing through just to be over still you wait just as the rest do so is there any benefit. A favorite catch word “I don’t care” should read “I really do not care about myself”. As we enter the middle of a week, our worlds is troubled and sore please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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