“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is”

Bird Droppings October 19, 2015
“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is”

For ten days I have been recovering from a virus. Today is the first day in some time I felt pretty good. Originally my wife and I were going to go to the beach but my illness has changed that to some day trips. Yesterday evening we had dinner with my son, daughter in-law and two of our grand babies. On a spur of the moment while grocery shopping I bought two pumpkins for grand kids to paint. That turned out to be a great success along with a herbed pork loin. With the chills setting in my days of getting flower pictures are numbered. I gathered in my plants that do not enjoy the cold and after a day of photos and reading turned in.

I am a member of the National Association of Educators and receive their weekly publication. An article caught my attention in a past issue. In Georgia we had Standards that drive the curriculum throughout the state in line with federal and state mandates. Essentially the article addressed teaching to the test.

“Preferring concrete guidance, teachers make what is tested their de facto focus. The unfortunate result is that tests become the curriculum. And because tests are filled with multiply choice items that do not adequately reflect important higher levels of cognitive demand, instruction becomes less rich that it should be.” Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard, Standards are not enough

As I thought I recalled a quote I have used many times before and how it applies to education.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

It was last night as I was working on pulling some files together and books for my ideas that this Wayne Gretzky quote popped up again. Considering that I had played ice hockey in college and most my life it was sort of cool. Gretzky is a hero to hockey kids just like Michael Jordan is to basketball players. Gretzky’s records cover several pages of HHL record books, he holds or shares 61 NHL records. As an example a recent ESPN top twenty five sports records that will never be broken had Gretzky’s feat of 2857 points (goals and assists) right near the top since number three player, Gordie Howe at 1850 holds the longevity record as well and number two is 1887 points. But what does this have to do with the price of beans or with education?

“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their own learning and in democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of Children. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College

Proactive is a good word. “Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty” is how Dictionary.com explains the word proactive. A good friend has the Gretzky quote up on his wall, I gave him a copy nearly nine years ago and it still is in use. I first used this quote over nine years ago when my friend was principal at our high school. He has moved on but Gretzky’s words ring true, be it in Ice Hockey, teaching or in life. I have expectation as a key element though in this quote, be where the puck is going to be not just where it is. Be thinking ahead rather than thinking in stagnation.

“For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much – if he lives and uses that in hand day by day — shall be full to running over.” Edgar Cayce

“Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” Richard M. DeVoe

Much of Cayce’s reading can be a bit much but these are good words and our daily outlook does mold where and how our day will be.

“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” Orison Swett Marden

Marden was the founder of Success magazine and is considered to be the founder of the modern Success movement.

“We lift ourselves by our thought, we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere – your ideal of what you long to attain – the ideal of health, efficiency, success.” Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924)

I am always amazed at teachers who will have few expectations for students. Research has shown time and time again that students live up to the expectations of the teachers. Teachers literally set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little that is what you will get and conversely expect much and you will receive. A bit of a paraphrase of Gretsky.

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is” Frank Bird

As I thought this morning teaching is much like any other activity you plan you implement and you have expectations. If we only teach to where learning is soon you find you are truly going nowhere. For years I will at times use words far beyond operational vocabulary of students, my response is always “look it up and learn a new word”.

“By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible.” Giovanni Niccolini

“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” Ben Sweetland

I really liked this concept so often we teach the use of a teaspoon, I do it too, and thinking that this kid will never learn that or this kids reading level is too low. Sweetland writes about expectations and offers this.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” Ben Sweetland

When that difficult student succeeds you as a teacher succeed and your path is brighter . Years ago I worked with severely disabled students and a simple movement often would warrant a celebration. So often I use the quote from Aerosmith’s song, Amazing.

“Life is a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler

As I was reading this morning Ben Sweetland either listens to Aerosmith or Steven Tyler reds Ben Sweetland’s books.

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland

After looking up publishing dates Steven Tyler read Ben Sweetland’s book. Many of which were published in the 1960’s. If we as teachers impose parameters on learning, if we set goals far to low and or do not teach to lofty goals we set, we in effect are the issue not the student. Maybe every teacher needs to tack over there door as my dear friend, the now Georgia Principal of the year at Osborne High School has.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

Let us set some records now, records of learning of successful students and children in our communities. As I went out into the chill of the morning a bit earlier to walk my dog as I looked to the southeast the constellation Orion was clear as a bell over me. I could not help but notice that today was the first day in months it was silent in the morning. No tree frogs, crickets, cicadas absolute silence. I have often wondered as to the abient temperature for silence in the morning. I was reading in a small book written between 1953 and 1954 by a Trappist monk, Thoughts in solitude and a passage struck a chord in the silence.

“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.” Thomas Merton

Perhaps I was not listening close enough as I went out just a few minutes ago when I said it was silent. I stepped out again with my other dog and a great horned owl was calling there is always more always new if we constantly adjust thoughts and perceptions. Merton was a prolific writer and his works have stood the test of time he died in a small hotel in Southeast Asia in an electrical accident protesting the war in Vietnam back in the late 1960’s and as I ponder this morning please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts namaste.

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

Looking at a cloud in the darkness

Bird Droppings October 16, 2015
Looking at a cloud in the darkness

As I do most everyday first thing is look at my phone for new posts and memories on Facebook. One of my memories from three years back was a video of my oldest granddaughter playing with some plastic animals. I watched it a couple of times and noticed her tiny toddler steps. So often I life we want to jump to an answer a solution and not take the small steps needed to actually be successful in finding a valid answer.

I am still warming my hands as this was the coldest morning of the fall to date. I went out to after waking up for a minute and off in the pines a great horned owl called. I stood listening for several minutes focusing on the sound and wondering how many others heard this call. I read an email from a friend rather a post to class reunion web page last night. It was a sincere heart felt recollection of one friend for another. The series of notes were related to Veterans Day and were remembering our class mates who had fallen in battle, a wonderful tribute to our warriors.

What could I offer that had not been said. The call of an owl and passing of a cloud were only symbols and meaningful to me. I too thought back and it has been some time since I lay on a blanket at the Valley Forge National Park in Pennsylvania watching clouds float by overhead. Earlier as I walked outside the clouds were moving by in the darkness which always is inspiring to me seeing the lace of clouds with the half of a moon behind. Why Valley Forge popped in my mind I am not sure it has been some time since I was there. Last night I saw the first shooting star in many months as I was driving home from teaching a college class. It has been some time since we would lay out in the bed of a truck or sitting in chairs waiting on falling stars. Back in the day as my youngest son would say it was easy to drive out into a pasture away from house lights and see the true sky at night.

I spent a good bit of the day yesterday thinking about my grandchildren, getting ready for lasts night class, and reading. Reading for me provides an escape. Many the times, when visiting my in-laws in Warner Robins, I would take along a new book and go to where my father in-law had set up a chair outside in his back yard under an ancient cherry tree. It just so happened to be a perfect foot rest on a picnic table and just the right back angle to read. With the sun at a good angle it is a perfect spot and when the breeze is just so and not enough to turn a page but enough to be peaceful well a nap often will entail.

Occasionally I would take a digital picture of something that caught my eye as I read a piece of bark or knot in the tree trunk of that old cherry tree. Once while I read several small colorful spiders dropped by and ran across my book enjoying the warmth of the sun as much as I was. Always high overhead squirrels are busy with running along the power lines back and forth to a pecan tree stocking up on nuts for the coming winter.

“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.” Henry David Thoreau

It has been a few years back one spring a red tailed hawk came to my yard to die. Why it chose my small piece of earth I will never know. I carefully buried it near some flowers in one of our flower beds.

“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, Blackfoot warrior and orator

So many years ago as I would walk across the pastures in the wee hours of the morning and listen for the buffalo waking up snorting and shaking off the dew from the night. Now I listen to tree frogs and crickets when the temperature allows a very occasional car will break the mood but early in the morning most normal people are still asleep and I do have a semblance of solitude. Perhaps I am simply pondering too hard today thinking back to bits and pieces of my own life when I was learning about all around me.

I still recall the day I learned what name was given to the constellation making a W across the night sky. A good friend had learned from his father and shared Cassiopeia with me. Today I share bits and pieces with my sons and it will not be too long till I share with my grandchildren. Last night as I spoke with my son he and his wife were out shopping for decorations for my granddaughters upcoming birthday party a tear or two crossed my eye. I can recall as we drove home so many times from my wife’s parent’s home watching my father in law and mother in law standing waving as we drove away. They would wave till we were out of sight and I would wonder what it was like and now I know. Of course in our car the main excitement all the way home was over a bag full of grandma’s rice crispy treats. But then occasionally something would catch an eye and coincidence would kick in and we would seriously talk about the event, a crimson sky or hawk gliding to roost for the night, doves along a wire or a deer jumping back into the forest. I gave thanks this morning for the cold. I gave thanks for a clear head and all that would transpire in the day ahead. I gave thanks for my friend’s tribute to a fallen warrior. I look forward to a beautiful day and always give thanks for my family and friends. 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

Teaching today is tying a knot with only one end

Bird Droppings October 15, 2015
Teaching today is tying a knot with only one end

It was a Saturday morning a few weeks back and no one else up but me and I was about to go out and wander in the darkness for a bit. I have over the years enjoyed greeting the morning. I have found my solace in the wee hours of the day being able to think more clearly uninfluenced by an encumbrance of the day. Over the years I have watched many sunrises and none have been equal to the last and no one had been more brilliant than the others each has been an uplifting moment for me. I try and share through images captured with my camera but never do justice to the moment.

I went to my favorite spot to take photos of sunrises and it was still relatively dark so I played with aperture settings and exposures and ended up with some interesting effects. I proceeded to the reservoir nearby and took a few more two ducks popped in but before I could get a shot flew off and in the dark I missed them. I returned to my spot again for a few more and a Great Horned Owl flew from the fence to a nearby tree. In front of me a few feet two deer walked across my path. So in my morning of meditation and sunrise pictures a good start to the day.

“Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.” Charles Swindoll

It is the responses that the world sees this is how we are judged and how we are thought of. Each day I see hundreds of people coming through my room at the high school and their attitude about their life is perhaps the one thing that can make or break them in any given day. How we respond to what people see is what drives all things around us. If we bring an attitude for example a poor attitude to a given place and respond to seemingly inconsequential stimulus in an overt way because of that inherent bad attitude we will be perceived as being that which we possible really are not nor do we choose to be. Unfortunately our attitude at the moment drives the reality of others in their perceiving of us.

“The more unintelligent a man is, the less mysterious existence seems to him.” Arthur Schopenhauer

I think intelligence provides color and shades of gray to a black and white world. However it can be manipulated both positively and negatively. Look at a color blind test for example, a swirl of colors and yet some can see and others not. My students think I am joking when I say I cannot see numbers on color blind charts but can tell colors as well as any of them. Intelligence has nothing to do with it other than creating the test that is being seen. Conversely, perception, how we see that image is then how we interpret that image and or do not interpret it.

“Change is certain. Peace is followed by disturbances; departure of evil men by their return. Such recurrences should not constitute occasions for sadness but realities for awareness, so that one may be happy in the interim.” Percy Bysshe Shelley

Several issues at hand, first it is how we respond to a given event. Secondly how we perceive a given event and then determine that in fact that the event is happening. I have always enjoyed reading Shelly’s work and yet very seldom have I used a piece in my daily wanderings. Today was a day that had minor delays and changes in routine offering an imbalance to a morning. I am a creature of habit and change is difficult for me taking a week off from teaching due to a fall break last week and my mother being in the hospital alter the flow of the day. As we read Shelly’s line we know change is inevitable. If we plan and think and strategize change can be less significant and in effect can become more evolution than really a change. Is it a development of sorts, a gradually shifting from point A to point B and on to point C.

I was observing several students a few days back and change is what affects them more so than any other aspect of school. Offering choice can totally bewilder them. I have worked with several autistic teenagers and often choice is a difficult venue. Should I go to the rest room and or the bus since the bell rang. An either or situation and it is seemingly a difficult one for this one fellow as he stood in my door asking me what he should do. While afterwards it was humorous at the time it was a life altering event until he remembered he was on third load and had plenty of time. Still for each of us we live in a society of choice. Years ago I had a student who could not choose. He literally needed to be told what to wear by his mother and what to do during the day by his teachers. On his own he would always get into trouble by responding inappropriately to stimuli. Eventually he ended in jail serving three life sentences when all external restrictions were gone after his mother passed away.

I watch students who have similar tendencies and wonder what happens when we take away answering questions and offering help. What happens when a world designed by people who enjoy control and power chose to make you the scape goat. I once read a headline about enormous profits of oil companies and I look at price of gas. Any fool can see if you charge twice as much for an item profits will go up. Costs go up as fuel prices rise and I recall in a speech one of our previous national leaders stated it is ok for oil companies to reap record profits on high gas costs, because it is market driven. Interesting as I sit and think about those comments and whose side was he on. I now understand why we are having such difficult times with educational policies and other issues on a national level. If you can make a profit it is ok, it is market driven. Much of our educational policy is profit driven and market oriented in items like standardized tests and textbooks. Literally there are hundreds of billions of dollars in sales of educational materials.

Certain industries are at record levels while former main stays of our economy have been driven overseas. I seriously wonder how we did it, pushing jobs to China or where ever. I wonder, if I was an oilman or drug company president or oil construction company owner I think would be a happy camper right now. I got into a discussion with two former military now teachers earlier in the week. We were discussing World War II and current warfare. Literally thousands died in battles in World War II and today with our highly mechanized military handfuls die. But what was interesting was that in days gone by industry boomed during war time. We are in wars where for the first time during a major war we are hurting in jobs and in financial areas. We have no industry left it is all in other countries. We have to buy hardware and military equipment from heavy industries in other countries. Even in a one of last presidential campaign speech’s a politician bragged about saving billions on a fuel tanker airplane in a contract bid. The part left out was that instead of manufacturing in the US it would be built in France and 6000 jobs would be in another country. How much was that worth?

“All is focused on a bell shaped curve. Approximately twelve point five percent know something is fishy, twelve point five percent are being left behind and seventy five percent do not care because the response they see is feasible at the time and that is all that matters.” High School teacher, Frank Bird in regards to standardized testing

Looking back on the Iraq war sort of ok there are no weapons of mass destruction, but when we made the choice we were sure there were. It is ok to pay twice what we should for gas because others are and therefore it is market driven. What if we as consumers could determine the price of gas and profitability of those companies? What if medications were within reach of people instead of pricing to a point where lifesaving and threatening medications were unattainable for some? The new drug plans are so cumbersome most cannot use or holes in plans leave some stranded. What if we could have a utopia and everything was perfect and a bell shaped curve was now a flat line? Funny thing is you would be called a socialist. Most of the recent political jargon would say that is socialism. Ever wonder why when you are dead monitors show a flat line, it seems there are some who want people to flat line and eliminate the curve. Some who want to get everyone on the same wave length equal and no complaints at all? In education it is a big one. It is the legislation of No Child Left Behind, NCLB, where all children are the same by law at least by 2014. I think they offered stays on that one. When I see that I nearly laugh having worked always in special education.

“If we were not all so interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it.” Arthur Schopenhauer

As I sat and thought about all of this it is sort of like trying to tie a knot with only one end. Does it really do any good to have a knot if the other end is somewhere else? Well as I keep wondering I could use that knot in the end of a rope to knock some of the politicians in the head. It has been a chilly, windy, and supposedly snowy fall morning and I am still trying to gather up plants needing to come in for the warmth. It will be a good day and one filled with conversation and communication. I look forward to more. Please my dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

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