Seeing puzzle pieces by being patient

Bird Droppings October 14, 2015
Seeing puzzle pieces by being patient

For nearly a week I have been dealing with a viral infection and basically sleeping or resting much of the day. Walking upstairs has even been a burden on some days. I have been poked and prodded to a point of bruises on both arms from blood being drawn. Sunday morning last week I decided to walk out to my quiet spot along an old stream bed by the house. As I ventured back a feather lay upon the path way. I picked up the feather and proceeded to my spot. I lit some sage and sweet grass and sat listening t the stillness of the morning. As I sat a twig moved and caught my attention. A squirrel was sitting beside me three feet away watching me. His mouth was full with a pecan. I did not move and after several moments he or she walked into the trees. I had a bit of sweet grass and laid the feather with the grass on a smooth stone. Over the past years I have learned patience and to listen more deeply to my surroundings and those people around me. Walking back to the house I found a bone from a turtle. As I ponder today about the idea of patience we all need to pay more attention to the details of our lifes. Each piece has significance and meaning.

“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How many times are we told “take your time”? So often in life we are anxious to get the job finished or to get to the top today. We often forget there are many steps along the way; many puzzle pieces needing to be placed in order to see the whole picture. For many months a student I work with has had issues with sleeping in class and at one point was suspended for three days. I have tried to get his family to get him to the doctor due to large doses of medication and combination of meds he is on. His sleeping is not typical teenager tiredness.

Walking through the meat section of Kroger I ran into his mother and his doctor had called back with blood work his level of one medication was three times what it should have been and the doctor was amazed he could even walk. One thing that so often happens in life is we want everything to be what we want now, placing a random puzzle piece on a table does not present where or how the puzzle will turn out. It takes numerous more pieces till we see a bit and we assume to know the whole far too many times.

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” Elizabeth Taylor, A Wreath of Roses

A good friend asked me the other day about a job opening at another school. It happened to be in EBD, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. He asked what or could he succeed and what was key to my success. Unfortunately he asked as one of my students was for first time this year making a scene. I emailed back that evening the following. If you can trust the untrustable and be patient with those who would drive you crazy, EBD is no big deal, they soon will do what you ask. Force them and you are in a fighting situation and ISS and OSS are not meaningful consequences. Building to intrinsic consequences is far more powerful, taking a kid off the computer and or me just being mad at some of kids bothers them more than ISS or OSS. Sometimes little pieces work better than big ones. Solving small issues will eventually accomplish big goals if there is plenty of time.

“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” Dutch Proverb

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you, so in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

“There will be a time when loud-mouthed, incompetent people seem to be getting the best of you. When that happens, you only have to be patient and wait for them to self destruct. It never fails.” Richard Rybolt

A simple word is patience. Often I wonder what might be one of my major attributes and in one word I would say patience. Yesterday a student was asking what would it take to get me mad, calling me names etc. I said it takes a good bit to get me mad and name calling wouldn’t do it. He proceeded to try and after a few choice words actually he wasn’t upset just wanting to prove me wrong. I said first I know the statement to be false and secondly I know the person saying this to be ignorant and or stupid for saying such things. He sat back and said, well I would be mad if somebody said that to me, and I told him that is your choice. Puzzle pieces forever falling in place is my motto. Patience has kept that kid in school versus an alternative setting and is taking a piece one at a time rather than trying to solve a puzzle in one fell swoop.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begins the task anew.” Saint Francis de Sales

So often a monk can address patience but they have to it’s their job. But monks too are alive and human and the frailties we face they too face or have faced. Breaking a task into manageable pieces often aids in completing the task.

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Victor Hugo

“How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.” William Shakespeare

Looking back on my own life it has been one of pieces falling in place slowly. One portion of my journey was twenty three years in the making. I left the teaching field directly for twenty three years all of that time in graphic arts and publishing for the industrial training industry still indirectly in education. Coincidently during that time having delivered training manuals to most of the buildings at Georgia Tech which is where my son is now graduated from what a small world.

It has been so long in coming and even now I know this is only a portion of the puzzle, more is yet to come. In life I have found you savor each moment each second enjoy the cool breeze if only for a moment. Pull off the road if you need to view a rainbow or sunset and truly bask in the magnificence but that is another day. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

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

Why are we deliberately trying to be wrong?

Bird Droppings October 11, 2015
Why are we deliberately trying to be wrong?

I will admit that on Saturday night with a Powerball jackpot of only about one hundred fifty million dollars I was pondering retiring if I won. I think I would be if I won retiring to devote time to education in a more positive way than what today’s teachers are allowed. Due to so many mandates, edicts, pontifications, justifications and whatever other way of impeding education our school, local, state and federal government has imposed it is honestly hard to teach. Generally over the years each semester there is a teacher with a hard class and they talk of changing careers or retiring. This year it is epidemic. Teachers I consider some of the best are dwindling and others tired of the constant imposing of near impossible attainments for students with no changes in the curriculum and or courses we are told to teach. As with so many issues education has been bastardized and taken over by those seeking to make more money.

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who have no right to talk. Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many misunderstandings have come between the white men about the Indians.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce January 14, 1879 addressing representatives of the President of The United States

I am saddened nothing has changed in the over hundred plus years since Chief Joseph surrendered. Today there are over three hundred thousand complaints against the Bureau of Indian Affairs that are unanswered and in courts throughout the country and the highest suicide rate of teenagers are on reservations. Around the country we are arguing about illegal immigrants. In Arizona and New Mexico many of the ancestors of these people were kicked off their land when we won the Spanish American war. Navahos, Apaches, and many other tribes were dispersed to the Indian Territories in Oklahoma never allowed to return to the ancestral homes. We are so self-centered that we can argue about illegal immigrant’s maybe it is we who are truly the illegal immigrants. An old Indian was approached by an anthropologist and asked what your people called this land before the white man came. He calmly said, “Ours”.

“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to grow and live.” Chief Joseph

So often my thoughts come random after a few hours’ sleep and rising to take the dog out and a point or idea will stick. Last night about two thirty, I got off the phone after talking with a good friend from many years ago. We talked nearly three hours and in heading to bed something came to mind. It seems the powers to be back in the day and now always want to mass produce. In the world of the late 1800’s as far as Native Peoples go it was coming up with a blanket policy and no pun intended to cover all tribes. There was no consideration of culture, family; of language and of history just this was it including education using the Carlisle School as an example.
Basically the white Christian way was the best and only way. No exceptions Indians should be farmers like white folk no more hunting and gathering, no more Sundance ceremonies which were banned in late 1800’s or rituals that might offend Christian folk. Treaties and promises were made almost with little or any attempt to truly fund and or implement that plan. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Corruption ruled what little funding did find its way to reservations and holding areas. As I thought it was very easy to coincidently tie this government outlook to education of today.

In 2004 a massive educational bill was passed entitled No Child Left Behind. A key point being that by 2014 all children would be on grade level in math and reading. Sadly funding was left by the wayside and for states to implement as best they could. However penalties were still in place for not meeting standards imposed. The idea of all children being to standard includes all socio-economic, cultural, children with disabilities, ethnic groups and any other sort of subtitle that might be thrown in. Children would be evaluated with standardized tests given in specific grades and to graduate. Dr. William Ayers, that same fellow accused during the previous presidential election of being too friendly with our now president has and is a nationally known educator and author.

“The root of the word evaluation is ‘value’ and authentic assessment includes understanding first what the student’s value and then building from there. Authentic assessment is inside-out rather than outside-in. It’s an attempt to get away from sorting a mass of students and closer to the teachers question: Given what I know, how should I teach this particular student.” Dr. William Ayers

One of our states efforts to get assessment in line with national standards and accountability has been a new math curriculum and of course subsequent testing. On the front page of a past Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Only 52% of the students who took the End of Course test for Math II in May passed.” This was across the state averages in high schools on this particular test. State department of education people are saying they will get it just will take time for students to get use to new curriculum. In special education we have been told to start telling parent’s in IEP’s that kids may be in high school for five or six years due to higher standards for graduation. Interesting by chance should you take more than four years to graduate you are considered a drop out up, until just recently when the graduation rules were again changed.

I question who is setting the bar up and why? As I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution it is due to mandated standards set in No Child Left Behind legislation. What about schools that are so far behind that no matter what bar level is set it will not happen. Many reservation schools and inner city schools have never hit AYP to date in nearly ten years of testing. Another sad point is it is common knowledge among administrators and educators that test scores and zip codes have strong correlation. How is that for a statistic? Borrowing a phrase now that is a Catch 22, yes most definitely. I had an idea last night after a brief discussion in a blog over what could be done. I asked for some time to think about solving this dilemma. By chance I went by Barnes and Nobles to get some back up material.

Great educators have known the answer for many years. John Dewey offered suggestions and thoughts well over a hundred years ago. Numerous other authors have expanded on and clarified Dewey’s thoughts and all seem to come to one conclusion the solution is not in one test fits all, one curriculum fits all, it is not about leaving children behind which is happening at an alarming rate currently. So here was walking my dog last night and a thought came to me. It’s about one child at a time.

“Teachers are explorers. As they explore the world and lives of their students, they cast lines to different ways of thinking. Teaching is often bridge building; beginning on one shore with the knowledge, experience, know-how, and interests of the student, the teacher moves toward broader horizons and deeper ways of knowing.” Dr. William Ayers, To teach the journey of a teacher, 2010

You might say where do we start? Step one we start asking students. After talking with many students of the Foxfire program who have graduated many years back I am seeing that there are commonalities in their opinion of what they learned. They learned about community more so than any other topic this has come up numerous times. It was not a measurable academic lesson or standardized test score it was the interactions with others in a useful and viable manor. It was being allowed to be an individual and to be creative. It was about one child at a time.

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice One

John Dewey emphasized the democratic classroom and giving students a voice and allowing their past experiences to be utilized not just those perceptions and experiences of the teacher. This idea of One Child at a Time may sound a bit farfetched but when you look at how we currently test and evaluate it is not truly an indicator of what a child knows or even cares about. It is what has been drilled in the past semester. So often you will hear the term life long learner and yet is cramming for a standardized test lifelong learning? Is 52% of students taking test failing lifelong learning? What if we could take a bit more time learn who the student is allow that students weakness and strengths to be incorporated into the learning process and developed. I would say wouldn’t it be great if we could do an individual IEP for all students instead of a blanket testing policy. Would it not be great if each student had a portfolio that accompanied them in each grade showing progress and showing their achievements? It is one child at a time that is the key to educational success and or failure. I will wander more another time so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Can we decide on our own?

Bird Droppings October 7, 2015
Can we decide on our own?

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

My wanderings are the expanse of several days of traveling and thinking and observing mankind. Last night my son and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature was only a few feet away in its wildest. I was thinking back this morning to a Sunday morning and being away from my quiet spot near my home in Between Georgia. I was on a foreign beach several years back alone in the panhandle of Florida and the quiet was over powering along with the lulling movement of wind and water as I walk on the beach. Around me birds dove occasionally into the shallows after fish most of the time without a sound. I was alone walking with the sand making its way into my open sandals. It was a wonderful experience being there as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.

Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. I recall several years back as I drove home from a quick trip into Florida to see my son and his wife and our soon to be born grandbaby due any day I noticed nearly fifty red tailed hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground.

“Clearly we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

We are in one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter election campaigns I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads were the vast majority of what we hear are within one party about each other. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with after the election and even then that was questionable. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”. I received a copy of a new book in the mail from a friend in New York. I have known the title for months but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today.

Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all experts liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the newly legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past years lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. A few days ago a news article or the appearance of a news article was circulating of a hand with a microchip inserted and how hundreds of thousands in Utah had been chipped. I should have responded more than likely not based on federal government but their church in Utah.

Having grown up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions and having a son in graduate school who was over twenty five without health insurance coverage I was reading fine print of our health care act and asking questions of my insurer. I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai’s who is a seven note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage before me was one of fog and shrouds of mist surrounding the trees. The visibility was less than a hundred feet. I had to stop listen to the music and see this silvery image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house. As I turned from observing I noticed a flat tire which brought me back to reality and the moment. To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Trying to find where community exists

Bird Droppings October 6, 2015
Trying to find where community exists

It was several months back in my doctorial course work I was in a class on educational communities which featured all total in the two courses fifteen texts. All of the texts have an under lying theme of caring and relationships as a key to education or I should say successful teaching. One of the books from a Georgia Southern course is entitled Dreamkeepers by Gloria Ladson-Billings, focuses on the notion of that a teacher should be giving back to the community. Over the past few years I have heard numerous teachers discuss not wanting to be seen by students outside of school and literally not being a part of the school community. Last week we got into a debate of sorts at school on this concept. Can a teacher be a successful teacher and not be a part of the school community?

On my last trip to Barnes and Noble bookstore a few weeks back I was looking for a book by J. Garrison, Dewey and Eros: Wisdom and desire in the art of teaching. This book focuses on ideas from John Dewey, considered to be by many one of the great minds in educational philosophy. As I went to the bookstore I ran into a student from my high school that had transferred to Georgia Southern University. It seems that where ever I go there are students, former students or parents of students showing up.

“In every integral experience there is form because there is dynamic organization. I call the organization dynamic ….. Because it has growth….William James aptly compared the course of a conscious experience to the alternate flights and perching of a bird…. Each resting place in experience is an undergoing in which it is absorbed and taken home the consequences of prior doing… If we move to rapidly, we get away from the base of supplies – of accrued meanings – the experience is flustered, thin and confused. If we dawdle too long after having extracted a net value, experience perishes of inanition.” John Dewey, Art as Experience, 1934

I thought back a few years and many conversations on synchronicity and a trip home from a class actually after a midterm in Advanced Behavioral Techniques; I was hungry since I had not really stopped since early in the morning. I knew one of my former swimmers from the high school team worked at Taco Bell and sure enough she was working and I said hi, coincidently the same student who I ran into at the bookstore this past weekend. As I pulled out of Taco Bell my sweet tooth struck and I ended up at Brewster’s, as close to homemade ice cream as you can get at fast food, sounded good and there were two of my former advisee’s also getting ice cream. We talked for a while about uptight teachers and who was not, an interesting subject. Why do teachers get so uptight or anybody for that matter?

As I talked several more students and former students pulled in I met girlfriends and boyfriends of each and such, coincidence perhaps but an average day for me it seems. So often I mention the word coincidence and try to explain it. Recently in a letter to a friend I used the term of we are where we need to be right now at this moment and when we realize that all of a sudden so much more becomes clear. James Redfield an author refers to coincidence frequently and the idea that when you begin noticing coincidence it happens more often as you become attuned to it. Essentially as you become aware of your place in the puzzle the pieces all seem to fit better and more clearly.

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

Carl Jung was of the nature there was purpose in all that happened and he and his former partner Sigmund Freud disagreed to an extent on the whys of this. Jung coined a word synchronicity to explain his thoughts in the early 1900’s. Events and things happening at a specific time, specific people seemingly appear by chance but obviously not.
“His (Jung) notion of synchronicity is that there is a causal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception.” http:// skepdic.com/jung.html

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

How does synchronicity tie into community? Somewhere in and among ideas and thoughts are answers. Some people seek answers through religion some seek answers through pure science others assume there are no answers and sit on a rock. Going back to my first thought I see teaching as a community and that in that community we are integral pieces and do interconnect many times and as for me today and yesterday in many differing places. I find throwing myself into that community as significant as walking into my class room on a school day. Each time I bump into a student it adds to their appreciation of my time and effort and gives me a piece of their puzzle too help deal with any issues that may come up when I have them in class. Just in a staff meeting yesterday we discussed connections.

Each of us can choose our direction and flow as humans, as friends, and as teachers if that is our chosen lot in life. The actual point I was making was when we are aware of our interactions with others that each moment we spend with a person affects not only that person but the next person they see or talk too as we too are affected. It is in this way community is built. I came away that night and yesterday, happy having talked with some folks that I had not seen in several weeks even several years and hopefully they too went away a bit happier. This is how life works and if we are aware of this imagine the effect and impact. If I know I will be affecting people beyond my contact with someone I will be more aware of how I affect them and so forth. I recall many years ago from I believe Dr. Glenn Doman, the old credence of leaving the person you are talking with smiling will affect ten others is true. If you involve the idea of coincidence, fact or fancy who knows but it sure happens a lot. So as I wander today through differing ideas please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Is the seat of the soul in the heart or mind?

Bird Droppings October 6, 2015
Is the seat of the soul in the heart or mind?

I believe I was prepared from childhood to discuss this topic. It has been many years since my first introduction to Native Peoples. I was three or four years old when I first remember my father’s stories of Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle. The term Native American was not argued and the term Indian was not officially becoming politically charged and so we were raised with Indian stories. My father’s stories came from his partly from his background in the Boy Scouts of America; he had been an Eagle Scout, a scout leader and summer camp program director. Indian lore was a major portion of Boy Scouting in those days. From a favorite book on Indian Crafts my father told us of counting coup. W. Ben Hunt explained the word and meaning.

“It was considered a great honor to count coup” W. Ben Hunt

My father worked his summers during college in New Hampshire at Camp Waunakee using Indian Lore as a base for camp activities and he was chief of the campfire. During his military service, as a medic on a navy LSM in World War II, I learned he had spent many hours talking with Navaho code talkers as his Navy ship delivered them to islands in the South Pacific. Through all of those years he would say he was part Indian but it was not until he was in his seventies that his sister uncovered my great grandmother’s lineage, Leni Lenape, a clan of the Delaware tribes and actually confirmed it. To me as a child Indians were special, my father instilled this in us but there was always a spiritual aspect I could not explain. As I was reading for this morning a thought I pulled out of another old book from my childhood days by William Tompkins. My father would use this book to teach us rudimentary sign language in case we ever needed to converse with Indians.

“The originators of the Indian signs thought that thinking or understanding was done with the heart, and made the sign “drawn from the heart” Deaf mutes place extended fingers of the right hand against the forehead to give the same meaning” William Tompkins

As I read this line that thinking and understanding comes from the heart in so much of Indian philosophy perhaps this was what drew me to this group of people. I grew up with feathers, drums, rattles and other Indian paraphernalia always around the house. In my own experiences the spirituality and acceptance of all things as sacred in Native people’s culture intrigued me. As I started into a graduate school program on curriculum theory, it had never occurred to me, how education had been so misused and so often deliberately so in history. Those in power avoided teaching some things; I use the term the fine print, in relation to our indigenous peoples.

The trust inherent in their culture and their understanding of life and nature was turned against them for profit and greed. Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a member of the Dakota tribe, a medical doctor and known in his tribe as Ohiyesa is quoted in Kent Nerburn’s, The Soul of an Indian as he addresses a major difference in white and Indian thought.

“Many of the white man ways are past our understanding …. They put a great store upon writing; there is always paper. The white people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand if a white man loses his papers, he is helpless” Dr. Charles Eastman, Ohiyesa

In reading and discussing in graduate school not much is different from the many innuendos in today’s education and curriculums of hidden agendas and political maneuvering. Looking back as I progressed in my own schooling I learned Columbus mistakenly called the indigenous people he encountered Indians thinking he had found a way to the Spice Islands of the West Indies. The name would stick until more recently as we became politically correct and use the term Native Americans. Columbus even wrote in his journal of presenting letters from the King and Queen to the Great Khan thinking he was in China or near according to noted historian Ronald Takaki.

As I became older and as I too sought out my own understanding of Native Peoples and my readings went deeper. During my undergraduate years I spent a semester in Texas and experienced firsthand a powerful hatred even then in 1968 for Indians. My own journey very much paralleled my spiritual and educational pathways as with each step my ties and understanding grew. I was looking for answers even back then.

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to a point of knowing (introduction).” Uncheedah, grandmother of Ohiyesa

I was searching for answers even in those days. As I finished up my undergraduate program at Mercer University I began to realize why Indians were never taught to read the fine print. In classes and from friends I received books and articles to read adding to my understanding. From one of our course texts, Author Joel Spring points out the concept of deculturalization.

“Deculturalization is one aspect of the strange mixture of democratic thought and intolerance that exists in some minds. The concept of deculuralization demonstrates how cultural prejudices and religious bigotry can be intertwined with democratic beliefs. It combines education for democracy and political equality with cultural genocide – the attempt to destroy cultures. Deculturalization is an educational process that aims to destroy a people’s culture and replace it with a new culture.” Joel Spring

From earlier on there was an effort to assimilate and dismantle the cultures of the Native peoples in America. In the early 1500’s Spanish colonists, were some of the first to deceive and destroy the native people? Several nights ago a recent History channel episode was based on Cortez and the conquering of the Aztecs. A statement was made by one of the historians on the show that in the course of less than two hundred years from that first encounter with Cortez, ninety percent of the indigenous people of the America’s were either killed or died from European based disease and a new world was enslaved by the Europeans.
So many times it was through deception. As the white man pushed into the new world treaties and agreements were signed often with little understanding on the part of the Native peoples. Land was not for sale yet the white man is offering us trinkets. How foolish is the white man? Vine Deloria Jr., states very clearly in his book Custer died for your sins:

“In the treaty of August 5, 1926, almost as if it were an afterthought, an article (III) stated: The Chippewa tribe grant to the government of the United States the right to search for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country. But this grant is not to effect title of the land, or existing jurisdiction over it. The Chippewa’s, in the dark as to the importance of their mineral wealth, signed the treaty. This was the first clear-cut case of fraudulent dealings on the part of Congress. Close examination of subsequent Congressional dealings shows a record of continued fraud covered over by pious statements of concern for their words.” Vine Deloria Jr

I wonder if the Indian agents held their hand over portions of the treaty or wrote in such small lettering that most people could not read. It may have been perhaps using Old English lettering and only having taught in Times Roman fonts, which would bewilder most educated people even today. This concerted effort by those in control throughout American History was even condemned by the US government who were themselves, orchestrating much of it as shown by Joel Spring in his book.

“The US Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare issued in 1969 the report Indian Education: A National Tragedy-A national Challenge. The report opened with a statement condemning previous educational policies of the federal government: “A careful review of the historical literature reveals that the dominant policy of the federal Government toward the American Indian has been one of forced assimilation…. Because of a desire to divest the Indian of his land” Joel Spring

In many ways it was a naivety that undermined the Indians in their dealings with the Europeans and eventually US Government. But it was also an inherent trust that bound the various tribes and peoples together. There was no fine print to an Indian, his word was bond. It would be many years and near extinction till Indians realized the treachery. Kent Nerburn writes extensively about Native Peoples Spirituality and offers;

“The rule of mutual legal compact, with its European roots, had no precedent among the individualistic native peoples of the continent. In addition, the idea of land as personnel property, a key principle on which the United States was basing its treaties was alien to the native people. How could one own the land?” Kent Nerburn

Our own current study of curriculum shows many over lapping and residual effects and it goes far beyond just Native Peoples. Those in power write fine print for one reason so that is not read and in doing so essentially control the overall outcome and direction of whatever is in question. My position is we have been as a people continually dealt agreements, contracts riffed with fine print in regards to education and curriculum to a point it has become what we expect.

Even as a teacher our contracts contains numerous areas of extremely fine print. Daily we are being handed fine print in the news and through the medias about Iraq, politics, religion, and many too numerous to mention including our own president elect. Maybe one day we can truly have a democracy in our democratic nation funny thing is educator John Dewey said and felt the best way to assure a democracy was through a democratic class room. So as I set my thoughts to paper and close for this morning please help others read the fine print and 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

Should children be left behind?

Bird Droppings October 2, 2015
Should children be left behind?

“I believe that our own experience instructs us that the secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained, and he only holds the key to his own secret. By your tampering and thwarting and too much governing he may be hindered from his end and kept out of his own. Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of nature. Nature loves analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude. But I hear the outcry which replies to this suggestion: – Would you verily throw up the reins of public and private discipline; would you leave the young child to the mad career of his own passions and whimsies, and call this anarchy a respect for the child’s nature? I answer, – Respect the child, and respect him to the end, but also respect yourself. Be the companion of his thought, the friend of his friendship, the lover of his virtue, – but no kinsman of his sin. Let him find you so true to yourself that you are the irreconcilable hater of his vice and the imperturbable slighter of his trifling.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke about his idea of education and fortunately for me wrote it down. Over the last fifteen years I have been directly involved in an educational program, Foxfire, which is based around John Dewey’s ideas on education. I was talking last Friday just before lunch with a fellow teacher and a local representative from PAGE, Professional Association of Georgia Educators, about education of all things. We discussed the idea of teaching top down as we in Georgia are being directed to do with new national common core standards. Here is where we are going and now how do we get there? That is more of real questions than why did you not get where you are supposed to be? Interestingly enough this first statement is what Emerson and Dewey were talking about. As we talked I mentioned Foxfire and how it was in effect how good teachers teach without even knowing. Really it is not something new and outlandish it is just putting a name on good teaching habits and providing a frame work of ten core practices to work with.

Coincidently my friend who was involved in the discussion had retrieved from the discard book cart some old Foxfire books. Periodically our media center discards old and or tattered books for teachers to get first crack at before throwing out. It seems that I have built a library on discarded books. My friend had salvaged four old Foxfire books from the cart earlier in the day.

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. I believe that the school must represent present life-life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground. I believe that education which does not occur through forms of life, or that are worth living for their own sake, is always a poor substitute for the genuine reality and tends to cramp and to deaden. I believe that the school, as an institution, should simplify existing social life; should reduce it, as it were, to an embryonic form. Existing life is so complex that the child cannot be brought into contact with it without either confusion or distraction; he is either overwhelmed by the multiplicity of activities which are going on, so that he loses his own power of orderly reaction, or he is so stimulated by these various activities that his powers are prematurely called into play and he becomes either unduly specialized or else disintegrated.” John Dewey

Learning is not a time limited, space limited, and or school building limited activity as many teachers think. It is not tied to a specific curriculum and text. Real learning is alive, ongoing, continuous, actively participatory and an integral part of societal involvement. As I looked at the Foxfire core practices it becomes apparent these are good teacher practices, these are good life practices, and this is where learning can truly occur.

1 • From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.
2 • The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.
3 • The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.
4 • The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.
5 • Active learning characterizes classroom activities.
6 • The learning process entails imagination and creativity.
7 • Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.
8 • The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.
9 • The work teachers and learners do together includes rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.
10 • Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.
From the Foxfire fund Inc.

What intrigued me from my first involvement with Foxfire was how even the approach to learning our school system is using which is called Learning Focused Schools is within these eleven principles. This past summer in my research I found most good and great educational ideas actually incorporate or parallel these simple practices. Literally hundreds of good teachers in actual practice helped develop this concept over a long period of time. Emerson and Dewey were thinking along the same lines long before most of us were born. This is not a new fad it is simply good teaching. It is interesting, I recall long before I read Dewey or Emerson and or anything about Foxfire which was little more than a mountain word for a glowing fungus on a hillside. I have been in graduate education classes learning from teachers who taught in this manner, and have watched students learning as they were involved in this approach to education. So why is it so hard to get across to teachers of today? Could it be because it takes more work from the teachers to implement? You will see the word rigorous in Foxfire quite a bit and it is. But good teaching is rigorous. It is dynamic not static.

As I am working on my dissertation and researching about The Foxfire Approach to teaching I find teachers telling me they prefer to teach in this manner but often are criticized by peers and administration for not following curriculum maps and guides. An article in NEA’s weekly newsletter pointed to how so many new teachers are coming into the ranks with little or no true training in education and often a point and click mentality is all they have. They are bodies filling a space and pushing kids through. I have met several great teachers who have come through alternative approaches to teacher training, myself sort of although I did have a minor and major in education along the way I just never student taught. I switched my major to psychology along the way at the last minute to avoid taking a foreign language which was required for education majors at Mercer University in 1974.

I would suggest we need to instead of more new curriculums instill more adrenaline in teachers. Perhaps we could install a super energy drink machine outside of each teacher’s classroom and just prior to starting class require every teacher to get a caffeine jolt. Energy can be a very powerful thing in so many ways especially when it involves the passion for teaching. I have wandered and pondered enough for one day and will get off of my soap box for today but please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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

Who should be determining what it is we should teach

Bird Droppings October 1, 2015
Who should be determining what it is we should teach

“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know — and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know — even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction — than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.” Isaac Asimov

It amazes me to listen to students say I am passing I have a seventy percent and that’s good enough. I sometimes wonder if students really learn anything from day one till day seven hundred twenty one or do they simply regurgitate data and information to pass tests. My son commenting as he took SAT’s several times the more he took math classes the better his scores and conversely one semester he did not have an English class and on his SAT score dropped a few points. So even for a good student is school simply a memorizing forum.

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

I found when I began looking for answers learning became easier. When answers were being given to me in a mandatory sort of way such as in going to high school I learned less. Even in college for many years learning was considered mandatory and it seemed a dulling experience. I have observed many students and what they learn if they want to learn a topic the read about it the look up information about it the desire to learn.

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

For some time I had tacked this quote on the end of my morning Droppings and have it posted on my room wall. How can we make our teaching so potent? How do we get information we teach to be what students want to learn?

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of face within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity” Calvin Coolidge

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I think back a few days to the concept of a democratic school where students pick and choose topics for discussion and learning each week I have been amazed as I talk with teachers around the country who use this method and are having success. It would be difficult to plan for a standardized test perhaps in that style of democratic class room. In Ashville North Carolina there is an elementary school using The Foxfire Approach to Teaching and they are scoring twenty to thirty points higher on State mandated tests than other schools in their district and even significantly higher compared to state averages.
In Georgia did I mention for example (we had the Quality Core Curriculum which has evolved to Georgia Performance Standards and now evolves to Common Core) where very specific determined material is taught in specific determined ways. For example item number 123 might be the classification of segmented worms and item 123.1 may be differentiation of segmented worms. Somewhere someone determined in Biology that that item was crucial.

It may be a history item about George Washington’s false teeth made from wood or which landing craft was first on Iwo Jima but someone determined it was critical to know in high school and must be taught. Talk about teaching to the test. Combine this with testing companies are textbook publishing companies and the drama and sage is never ending.

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” St. Francis of Assisi

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.” Sophocles

How would we know what it is we need to know and how would teachers know what it is we need to know in order to teach us?

Using standardized tests provides a vehicle to measure but then we teach to that particular test or do not teach to it. If I know what students need to know before I start the class then I will gear the class to learning what they need to know and even possibly understanding before the test. So in effect we teach to the test. We teach what someone somewhere has deemed necessary for a student in that grade and time and that may or may not be what that teacher or student wants to learn. This is where the issue is. Which then brings back to students tend to learn best when it is something that they want to know and realistically teachers teach far better something they want to teach.

It would be a sad world if parents were told they had to teach their kids so and so today and tomorrow it would be this and that. Now that I think about it maybe that is not so bad. Except that then someone somewhere will be saying what children will be taught and when and how. That system just closed down in Russia a few years back so if our goal is to train social animatrons to fill the factories as Karl Marx once indicated the goal of education was well guess what we are doing that again. Somehow we need to bring back creativity and critical thought and get away from this mass effort of everyone needs to know the same thing.

“If you wish to know the road up the mountain, ask the man who goes back and forth on it.”Zenrim

Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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