A wondering of the moment

Bird Droppings January 20, 2016
A wondering of the moment

Nearly eleven years ago I received this email from a dear friend. I met Frances Friedman when I was a new staff member at Loganville High School in 2001. Frances had been teaching English and had worked with our then principal at the time at a previous school and did teacher and student workshops. Over the years we have continued communication and occasionally have had a spot of lunch. But as I read headlines today and news commentary Frances came to mind and an email from my files so many years ago. I had written a Bird Droppings using several illusions and references to circles as I do often just like the other day.

“Dear Bird, The circle may have more to do with the philosophy of letting the river flow. I think our culture is more involved with the spiral in the up direction. We have a hard time revisiting, editing, honing, or learning from experience – all involve the circle.” Frances Friedman

Frances and I have a dialogue of sorts ongoing with thoughts and as I read this I recalled a bowl of objects in my room, and a Shel Silverstein book, The Missing Piece meets the Big O. Most of us are familiar with river stones, pebbles and rocks worn smooth with the flow of the river or stream. In Africa some of the hardwood trees have wood so dense it sinks to the bottom of the stream. As chunks are chopped or cut off the resulting pieces of these trees will fall into the river or stream and much like river stones tumble and spin and soon have a round smooth look like a river stone. I have a bowl of river stone wooden rocks in my room.

The story of Shel Silverstein’s is of a missing pie shape piece is sitting waiting for the right piece, someone who might be missing also a piece to come by. The piece sits and sits finally after many seasons and many pieces a BIG O tells him you are your own you can do what you want and the piece begins to flip flop and such and soon as the edges wear down begins to roll. It is its own piece a simple child’s story but maybe in a world where we all search for identity a more accurate description of who we should be like.

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

So often we wait, wanting only to be that which we are not. We are not willing to learn to change to grow. A piece of wood lying on the bottom of a stream in many parts of the world would float away and simply be gone. But as my pieces sitting on my desk attest to some will roll and tumble smooth the edges round off and soon be as the river stones. Just as the missing piece learned sometimes you have to move, adjust, and begin to roll and sometimes even change or you can simply sit and wait. As Thomas Carlyle states what will you miss.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Frances mentioned how so often we forget to learn from experience so often in our hurries we are not watching, looking, and seeing. A few days back I was driving from Macon Georgia and thinking about memory. On my drive I was seeing in front of me and forgetting so to see everything behind. How often do we actually do this as we pass through life? As I prepare for my classes I have been working on the concept of SUCCESS. Many of the people I know and students can relate to failure but not success, it is a new concept. Come to think of it this was mentioned in the last State of the Union Address by President Obama in relationship to schools. It is a new experience but hopefully they will learn through and of experience and move beyond failure.

“When I hear somebody sigh that ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” Sydney J. Harris

Contrast and compare, Harris is a thinker that many may not know. He was writing from 1944 through his death in 1982. A teacher friend nearly fourteen years ago shared several of his articles with me and his columns are intriguing reading, Strictly Personal is a site containing many of his articles, essays and thoughts and some good reading. As I look back in my own life and times and see where and when corners were round and I learned and succeeded and failed many times I also see other people who were affected by that moment and hopefully they have affected positively and grown as well. Yesterday I was in the guidance office and a little boy was sitting on the floor his dad is still overseas and I was forced to think a moment please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Are you at the center of your universe?

Bird Droppings January 19, 2016
Are you at the center of your universe?

“Tung-shan was asked, ‘The normal mind is the way; what is the normal mind?’ He replied, ’Not picking things up along the road.’” From Teachings of Zen, edited by Thomas Cleary, © 1998

One aspect of the Zen teachings is the process of thinking that often is involved in sorting out the statement to begin with. Many times a day I am faced with defining what is normal versus what is not. It may be working with children and or adults who in some situations who often skirt around what many normal people consider the parameters of normalcy. Sometimes I sit back and wonder who is really normal. Who is out there that can truly define normal. When I read this approach earlier I was thinking about High School students and towards teachers. How easy to define simply those persons who pick up trash alongside the road are they normal if you saw them waking along bag in hand cleaning up after others. Conversely obviously if you throw trash out alongside the road you are definitely not normal. I am amused as I think to how so many just treat their surroundings as disposable maybe that is the point of this statement treating the earth well. It is not just dumping but picking up after others is what should be normal, concern for others.

“To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.” Confucius

“Human history is the sad result of each one looking out for himself.” Julie Cortazar

Several friends are teachers, who also coach cheerleading, which more often than not is predominately girls. Several years back I placed on my door to my room a sign stating as a parent I have only boys. I had been joking with the coaches at how girls can be so difficult at times. There once was a civil war over a boy going on within the ranks of the cheerleaders, accusations back and forth, parents involved to a point of a restraining order. Yesterday in Yahoo news an article about Lovesickness is physiological as well to add to the fray.

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

“An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own existence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead.” Carl Jung

I often wonder working with kids with disabilities if at times ego is not a factor as so many are depressed. Some children have a poor self-image and for example many ADHD and more overt children have inflated views of themselves. One in particular as I think when talking is totally absorbed in herself. Sitting here thinking many high school students tend to be this way even those without recognized disabilities. I would say a vast majority sadly are self-focused, self-involved and easily could say self-centered. Alas the majority would not pick up alongside the road conversely then normal is in retrospect not the majority as so often thought.

“Egotism is the art of seeing in yourself what others cannot see.” George V. Higgins

“The nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people.” Lucille S. Harper

“Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.” Frank Leahy

We all tend to become self-absorbed. The past few weeks I have been fighting with a cold, when you are ill you tend to become more self-involved, it is so much easier to ask for a drink or blanket when you cannot breathe or have a running nose. But even with a cold I would still pick up from the side of the road and do my best to avoid saying something bad about my neighbor.

“Loving is the only sure road out of darkness, the only serum known that cures self-centeredness.” Roger M’Ckuen

“The one who overcomes egotism rids themselves of the most stubborn obstacle that blocks the way to all true greatness and all true happiness.” Coltvos

Often I will search the internet when I find a quote or saying to use to see who this person was and why they said what they said. Both of these authors have wonderful words in their quote yet neither is to be found outside their statement. As I sit here this morning wondering at this phenomenon of self-centeredness of egotism, I wonder could we train students to be more aware of others to be less self-centered, to pick up alongside the road.

Years ago I remember a family moving across country and we were driving south to Naples Florida to visit relatives. This was long before interstates and all roads to Florida were two lane and periodically crossed rail road tracks. This family evidently had been pulling a trailer and it was hit by the train and scattered everything along the road for what seemed like miles. I am sitting in the car my dad was concerned about anyone being hurt he was the first aid guy back home. I just remember seeing all the debris and the road was a litterer’s paradise and out of the wood work came people walking up picking up a piece here and there and as we watched the road was being picked up, sadly for today’s quote most were gathering for their own use literally stealing away this family’s belongings as they sorted through the pieces.

Perhaps I recall the scene as this was about the time of Lady Bird Johnson’s plea for cleaning up the roads. It used to be you had a coke bottle and were done you threw it out the window no thinking involved. As I think to the first statement of the morning perhaps that is the tie in, normal is picking up no thinking involved, no Lady Bird Johnson to plea and no reminders just it is what we should be doing. So a new morning a new day and which direction will we take. Please keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind and to always give thanks namaste.

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

We are neither wolf nor dog

Bird Droppings January 18, 2016
We are neither wolf nor dog

It has been some time since I first read a book by this name written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. In much of his writing Kent Nerburn addresses the spiritual significance and depth of life of our Native Peoples. While to some this is never an issue for others it is very much so and perhaps equally we as a nation have reelected a nontraditional president who happens to be of a different color than what many so called Americans would prefer and are afraid to say they are. So easy for some to say “I am not racist but his church affiliation cannot be over looked.” Many who put aside color will go for religion, or birthplace, and or who his friends are as reasons to dislike yet underlying the rhetoric is race. I was listening to several of my students discuss politics and always the other reason our president is not liked somehow gets mentioned. Listening to polls and news similar rationales seem to prevail although cloaked in political dribble be it Republican or Democrat. While shrouded in history and idealistic notions racism towards native and or nonwhites has been a large portion of our culture.

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, (Tatanka Iyotake), Lakota Medicine man and chief

This great warrior and holy man died in 1890 shot by his own people as fore told in a vision he had many years before. At the time the federal government was concerned with his affiliation with the ghost dance cult, which was sweeping the reservations. Armed Sioux officers were sent to bring him in and as legend goes he was reaching for his grandson’s toy and the officers perceived a gun and shot him multiple times. Sadly most of the officers themselves were killed in mysterious ways the next year or so. Some will say karma but to the Sioux killing a holy man is a death sentence in and of itself. Perhaps the officer’s deaths were retaliation for the killing of a great leader from the Sioux nation. Perhaps it is the paradox of the Indian wars.

It always seems interesting to me how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians and yet the statement “I would die for my people and country,” is a very patriotic statement we still hear from American patriots continually down through history. Today around the world we are witnessing similar events in many countries. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and who is the enemy.
“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of wilderness to conquer as I watch world events. Even the underlying rumor mill is word that Haiti now is a possible new territory for the US. Do we need another General Custer and another battle of the little Big Horn? I was thinking back in my own time and war, Viet Nam, and to the Malai massacre but those folks had no weapons and were only standing around not fighting back. I am always amazed that Custer was a hero and yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle outnumbered and was slaughtered. Perhaps it was the fact the Native Americans had the newest weaponry, repeating rifles and Custer’s men still had breech loading single shot rifles. Interestingly enough word had it the unit was offered the new weapons but felt the old ones were good enough for what they were doing. There is a petition going around the internet to recall the twenty medals of honors awarded to some of Custer’s men. Wounded Knee was only a few months before, Custer’s men only days before killed women and children and by chance came into confrontation with the large army assembled under Crazy Horse and directed by Sitting Bull at Little Bighorn.

“What white man can say I never stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet they say that I am a thief. What white woman, however lonely, was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet they say I am a bad Indian.” Sitting Bull

I went to school for a semester in Texas in 1968 and experienced racism I had never seen before to that degree. Hatred for Native Americans nearly one hundred years after the wars were over. Geronimo and Chief Joseph were both refused on their death beds by sitting presidents to return to their sacred lands for fear of up risings. Nearly six years ago on Monday a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch Texas.

In 1973 I met the contingency of Creeks who were working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends and I was honored to be invited to partake of medicine at the Green Corn dance. Nearly 150 years earlier under Andrew Jackson’s orders the Creeks were taken from Georgia to Oklahoma, the now infamous Trail of tears. With the Creeks gone all the land became available. I found searching for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother an article about my great, great grandfather George Niper who lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old and was the last living person to have voted for Andrew Jackson. I found it interesting Jackson was a Democrat. The Trail of Tears was not a liberal act by any means.

“Now that we are poor, we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die, we die defending our rights.” Sitting Bull

I wonder what slogans were used in the 1880’s in presidential elections, Grant wanted a third term and Garfield supported Grant interesting how Garfield’s speech for Grant got him the nomination over Grant and elected. Tariffs was the main issue, high tariffs was what Garfield backed and possibly that which he was assassinated for. The plight of the Native American was a small issue during the years recovering from the governmental corruption of Grants time. Government seems to be by nature corrupt. We watch as senators and congressmen argue over health care and yet they have universal health care for life. Maybe if on equal footing legislation would be different and maybe if the threat of you could lose yours was on the table things would be different.

“A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. I was hostile to the white man…we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.” Crazy Horse, Tashunwitko

Interesting how an invaded people fought back yet we condemned them and how history changes the views. I have been reading a book that I titled today’s wandering about entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn, an interesting book about an old man’s effort to explain who his people really are. Nerburn was invited to bring the words of an elderly Native American, a member of the Sioux nation, to the world and to explain why and how. One day maybe someone will offer explanations for the issues of today that go beyond the political views of warring parties and ideologies as we wander today 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

Looking in the direction to start the morning

Bird Droppings January 15, 2016
Looking in the direction to start the morning

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

I was outside much earlier this morning and driving to school had a flat tire. It would not have been too bad if it had not started raining. Before I Left for school I was listening to the sounds of morning in a spot I where I have been sitting now for nearly seven years in our backyard facing an open field. Many sounds are just beginning to awaken as the sunrises each morning. The stillness and solitude of early morning on some occasions is sometimes off in a distance broken by a rooster calling or generally more likely starters for the morning are crows and mockingbirds. Today it was a mockingbird that came to visit as I sat listening and watching the sun come up. It has been some time since I have heard a rooster crow from my door step maybe twelve years now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps ending with a Steven Tyler quote is a good one since he is now one of the judges on American Idol. Maybe he will exemplify his song and provide direction for some young people on their journeys in life. So please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

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

We should not allow teasing?

Bird Droppings January 14, 2016
We should not allow teasing?

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

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

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

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

With another Superbowl around the corner for those of you old enough to recall I wonder if Janet Jackson would take her ten seconds back from that Superbowl slip up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trying to find a way back to normal

Bird Droppings January 13, 2016
Trying to find a way back to normal

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio. Gotta get down to it soldiers are cutting us down should have been done long ago. What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground how can you run when you know?” Neil Young

Perhaps it was just a wandering thought but while I was sitting thinking and pondering now a few days back one afternoon listening to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, the song Ohio played and stuck with me. I am involved in the Georgia Educators Association and in a meeting last year a print out of the bills presented in the first two days of state legislator were handed out. One was for a campus carry law, where students at college can carry concealed weapons. The second that caught my attention was one to allow administrators to carry concealed weapons. In a group of educators the consensus was one hundred percent against both. Somehow I got thinking to 1970 when the Kent State massacre occurred which is what inspired Neil Young to write this song the shootings were essentially an accident. Young National Guardsmen in fear for their lives shot first asked questions later and several unarmed students died. It was in a protest against a war students were shot and died deemed an accident but death is a terminal project.

It has been a traumatic start to the week for some with the new congress trying to undo the past seven years in a week knowing it will all get vetoed surprised no laws dealing with guns supplanted by an executive action. I find it interesting how flames are fanned and profits roll through the roof around gun control controversy. Ever notice how every time something like this occurs gun sales and ammo sales go sky high? There is no morality or constitutional amendment for that it is greed fan the flames drive the sales up. It saddens me watching the people I know fanning flames that only lead to more Kent States or Columbines. I did not stay up for the State of the Union last night but read reports this morning. According to Donald Trump it was boring he almost fell asleep yet nationwide it was most popular ever.

It was a little over a two years ago today my wife could drive to work on her own until the doctor gave her clearance to drive after recovery from a broken foot. Today I just started her car since it was cold out. I am slowly getting back in a routine at school after a holiday which is sort of odd. Some days I am getting to school later than normal. I am literally trying to find my way back to normal and it will take a few days or so. As lunch time at school rolls around, I keep wondering what is on the table for today. Adding to my new routine for the second time in fourteen years I have planning second block which is so odd. I feel as if I am just getting started and stop, then start again. I need to get my butt in gear and use my planning time more wisely several IEP’s to work on.

Anyhow back to my original thought I was listening to “Ohio” by Neil young and the song sort of stuck with me and as I pondered how do you ever get to normal after an event like that. Incidentally one of the shooting victims from Arizona was at Kent State and lost a friend. I went looking for a few notes on the song and borrowed from Wiki-pedia the following:

“’Ohio’ is a protest song written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’ ‘Find the Cost of Freedom,’ peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although a live version of the song was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation album Decade, released in 1977. It also appears on Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.” Wiki-pedia

As I thought back with the song in my head to that day so long ago and where I was at the time finishing up spring semester at Eastern Baptist College in St. David’s Pennsylvania and starting to volunteer at a program in Paoli, actually getting my feet wet in teaching, where my brother was a student. There are so many memories coming back all around a song. At Eastern Baptist we all started to wonder if the antiwar groups on campus that were relatively radical at the time were next for the National Guard. There was a tension that is hard to explain especially if you are a nineteen year who has seen and heard so many horror stories about the war in Viet Nam and at that time violence on campuses in the US. We all wondered then if our country could ever get back to normal.

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things: for the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order and only lukewarm defenders from all those who would profit by the new order. This Luke warmness arises partly from the fear of their adversaries who have the law in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind who do not just believe in anything new, until they have actual experience of it.” Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)

My mother sent this Machiavelli quote to me back in the day and today so many similarities in our public awareness on both sides of the fence. I skip back to this past holiday season and for us as teachers in our county with a another break coming up and with a shortened calendar year and longer days to save money and now hopefully no more furlough days. I find I am seriously a creature of habit and being out of routine for so long it is very hard to get back to normal. As I look at the national scene in politics and legislation I often wonder if we ever will actually do things for the people of the country and no longer for sponsors of politicians. On a passing thought maybe politicians should be required to wear stickers like in NASCAR of sponsors.

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

It has been some time since I came back to Thoreau. I recall reading about him and Walden back in high school but it was just an assignment at that time. I as a student was living this quote. I was a victim of Alfie Kohn’s, decontextualization. I was going through the motions of a being student but never quite really understood what it was I was doing there or why. Somewhere in Macon Georgia at Mercer it clicked and I became a student and found that being a student and learning were two completely different things. This is sort of like realizing how engrained our routines actually are in our daily lives. I come into school clean my room each morning and get ready for the day sit and write read a bit feed my various room critters and get ready for students. Sadly my after school time for errands is confined to a narrow window in the afternoon and then home to cook dinner and play with my grand babies.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. “ Henry David Thoreau

I took a picture on January fourth of this year at sunrise and posted on Facebook like so many images I post. I wanted to use a Thoreau quote on my “Wall of Fame”, at school and in looking through my images this sunrise was so intense it just seemed right and so it became a poster for my photo wall at school. As I read over several times this quote from Thoreau started to sink in. I need to think over and over those deep thoughts that I want to attain and accomplish and rather than procrastinate go about following my path way to completion. So I am slowly getting back to normal and just emailed a friend after a long change in routine it takes four or five days to get back in the groove. We have as a nation, state, county, school and family so many things ahead of us we need to begin working through and around and over so we can get back to normal. Then of course I really don’t think normal is where I probably ever will be according to many. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

PS. “Don’t judge each day by the harvest but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

We have to try and care

Bird Droppings January 12, 2016
We have to try and care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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