Today should always be a first day

Bird Droppings April 18, 2016
Today should always be a first day

“I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.” Lone Man (Isna-la-wica)Teton Sioux

So often in life we think we are the one. We can do it all on our own with absolutely no help from others. A few years back I was working in my room when a former student came by to see me. What amuses me is this student could not wait to get out of school to go to work with his dad. I asked how things were going and he had quit already. He didn’t like it but he had enough gas for four hundred miles of driving a full tank and that was all that mattered. He came by with a fellow I had not seen before and he was a pretty rough scruffy looking fellow. Both guys were not all that clean sort of like they had slept in the car for several days. I was amused at how while in school he did everything he could to get out and here he was visiting. His last bit of our school was physically getting kicked out and finished in Alternative school. I can add since that time he has been employed in the paving industry for four years with the same employer.

I recall how he told me he did not need to know how to read and yet he was telling me how he failed the online exam at Wal-Mart while trying to get a job. He was joking about how he Christmas treed Wal-Mart test just like he would at school. I asked if he got hired yet and he said no but they were letting him take test again his mother works at Wal-Mart. I had this quote from many years back finding this website of Native American quotes and one I use frequently. We cannot be monastic in our lives we are in effect herding animals and need the support of a group. On a brighter note he did after several jobs find one he can be successful in. He is working for a paving company and has been for nearly four years now.

“Man is never alone. Acknowledged or unacknowledged, that which dreams through him is always there to support him from within.” Laurence Van der Post

Laurence Van der Post lived some might say in another time. Growing up at the edge of the wilderness along the Kalahari Desert he was raised by a Bushmen nanny and later named as the first non-royal Godfather, in history to Prince William of England. Von der Post often wrote of the bush and life among the Bushmen as well as numerous articles and books of his travels around the world. While a very solitary and reclusive people in part due to encroachment and government pressures the Bushmen were still devoted to their land, tribe and people and to them community was life itself. I started thinking back to my paper I was writing yesterday and the Foxfire Core Practices. Foxfire Core Practice eight: “The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.”

“Having someone wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night is a very old human need.” Margaret Mead

I was standing outside listening earlier to a world around me I was alone yet knew at any moment I could step back in doors. I searched the sky looking for familiar constellations and stars. The overcast of the sky hid most but the crescent moon sort of peeking through. The black edge of the tree tops surrounded my view. I enjoy this time of the day especially here in my back yard a world away from civilization yet only a foot or to step back into it as well. Encircling my dreams in black lace the tree tops form a circle around my view. Listening to my friends seemingly all in chorus, crickets, tree frogs chirping and barking and an occasional whippoorwill and the off in the distance a drone of the main highway waking up. But I know my family is there in the house if I need. I started thinking back to the young man who came to visit me a few weeks back. I wondered how he thought about his family and I know his comment of having enough gas was self-centered and strictly an extrinsic motivation of the moment.

I doubt he had supplies stashed about as the Bushmen tribes would in case of drought and need. We tend to be more self-serving thinking only of the moment and immediate. Perhaps our society has done this too us and in so limited us. As I look back primitive man was interdependent on each other for survival and success. In today’s world we stress independence and self-sufficiency.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl Jung

I find myself wandering, searching and pondering a bit today thinking of Bushmen, Foxfire and a former student. I wonder what if I had known this student say fifteen years ago and not just for the few years I was involved with him. I wonder what if I had read Von der Post years ago and had not just found this great author and human being more recently. I wonder often what if I had done something differently would a former student be in prison now serving three life sentences in the Jackson Georgia Psychiatric Prison Facility. I recall as the day gets near each tiny shred of influence we have is noticed and perceived and each idea carried away by those around us many times we do not even know. As a teacher often we never see how we influence a student and often as with my former student we cannot be there every moment and assist with every choice made. We can only provide pieces to the puzzle and offer directions and strategies for solving each puzzle as it is presented.

Recently when a friend began a new direction and her daily wandering and philosophizing was ceased on the internet and a piece of me was left wondering. Perhaps it is the teacher in me that finds changes while a necessity still difficult. I commented to my wife over the weekend while very independent I am still a creature of routine. I have a hard time with change. In less than three months new students will enter my room for the first time exposed to perhaps a different type of teacher and I wonder how it will be taken. It will be fun and hopefully enlightening so peace my friends for today and 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

How difficult is it finding ourselves within the fog of education?

Bird Droppings April 15, 2016
How difficult is it finding ourselves within the fog of education?

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

As I was looking for thoughts and ideas to start, I actually was going a different direction when by accident or should I say coincidence found this quote. As we get older we have experienced more and if we have learned from our experience the hour glass does clear however if those grains have been abrasive and scoured the glass as they went through the glass will be scratched and foggy. It is life’s lessons that determine this process and how we have responded that provide the fodder for our endeavor. I am sitting here in the morning hours after responding for nearly an hour to various posts on blogs and a copy of John Dewey’s Experience and Education to my left. In a few weeks I will be heading to North Georgia a few miles from the North Carolina line to take my family to visit the Foxfire Museum a facility based on experience, learning and John Dewey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I thought is that the problem in our society to be so easily recognized by a Hopi Indian in New Mexico who had never really been to a big city or “civilized” area of The United States, could it be a lack of love that is why our society stumbles. I was involved in a discussion of sorts on another’s Facebook page over holistic healing and herbals cures. This discussion was modern versus ancient methodology and granted many new age supposed “cures” are a bit of a stretch there is wisdom in the elders.

“Mankind often stumbles upon the truth….but usually picks itself up & goes along.” Winston Churchill
We so often know the answer and choose not to listen or simply disregard due to the current politics, popular opinion or majority rules sort of thing that media and mentality of the masses seem to operate on.

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

The more I read of Albert’s ideas and philosophy the more I like his thoughts. It is funny how what we remember him for his more science oriented views than his philosophy and that he loathed the fact that he was instrumental in developing weapons of mass destruction. At one point said he would give up all if he could take that back. So where am I going today perhaps the following thought will offer some aid.

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

The sad thing is so often we fall victim to this 19th century thinking and all of this while applying to education is very much prevalent through all ideas among the “normal” folks in our world today borrowing loosely a term applied to current folks wanting to change education “reformers”. It seems these reformers are more bent on profit than working with the students.

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

It is so sad to think that we actually allowed this type of mentality to lead our nation and continue to use this approach while in a more appealing packaging NCLB legislation and many of the packages offered by publishers and reformers. Many times I wonder if anything has changed as you read headlines and newspaper clippings. We do not want to over educate children they might think for themselves then what do we do and who would they elect? The paradox is that in schools the kids who are allowed to think for themselves excel and often are the pride of the schools yet all through their education an effort has been made to suppress that thinking. One of my sons in eighth grade was told his methodology in a math problem was wrong and he had to do it “right”, the teachers way.
Yet in his second semester of calculus his methodology he found was absolutely right and more so interesting what was wrong in eighth grade is so correct in twelfth grade and in college calculus at Georgia Tech and now as an environmental engineer. Sadly that same teacher demanding him to do it right and gave him his only B in school is on our Board of Education. Sometimes we force children to our terms and we are the ones who are wrong. We need to listen to the children, we need to be learners as well as teachers, learn from the children and before I go too far a last quote to end this morning meanderings from ancient Israel.

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

Well I got a bit carried away but several good ideas to mold over ponder on and reflect about as I get ready to recharge over the next couple of weeks in North Georgia. So for today be safe for the remainder if this glorious week ahead and keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind and to always give thanks namaste.
For all my relations

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

Reading a friend’s book a sixth time

Bird Droppings April 14, 2016
Reading a friend’s book a sixth time

I was so tired when I laid down last night after driving around doing errands, working in the yard, working in my gardens, and attempting to get into my reading and writing. My youngest son in now a nurse at Athens Regional Hospital, my son’s wife a nursing assistant and going into a nursing program in the fall, my niece a Pediatric ICU nurse in Savannah, my cousin wife a nurse practitioner and my wife’s best friend and my wife is a nurse practitioner. There is a community among nurses. About a year ago five student nurses at Georgia Southern were killed in a severe car accident on their way to a final clinical. As a former graduate student from Georgia Southern it impacted me. One of girls injured in the accident is from our high school. As the evening wound down my son called trying to find his wife she was late from work. About a two years ago my son fell asleep on his way home from a long day at work and was involved in a serious accident. All of these made for an intense evening and troubled sleep.

My oldest and I have been working on some outdoor ponds summer homes for several turtles and to various water plants. Hopefully the rain will let us get some serious work done this weekend. Physical labor and getting old seem to not be compatible. Our dog did not wake me up a few times to see the moon and hear the whippoorwills which were nice even though I was so tired. I have finished my last IEP for the year a young man who has been in five schools in four years. So as I prepare to finish an IEP I got thinking about Dr. Sutton’s book today.

Dr. James Sutton sent me a copy of one of his books nearly nine years ago, What parents need to know about ODD. Dr. Sutton is one of the leading writers and authorities on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the country. One of these days when, Bird Droppings a teacher journal, comes out the forward is by Dr. James Sutton. I have been reading academic books lately with numerous big words, long words, often times useless in normal setting words like post-structuralism, phenomenology; semiotics and hermeneutics are a few good ones. It seems many academics want to use words and pages to bolster their endeavors and then question why common folk don’t understand.

I responded to Dr. Sutton with the following sentence or two in response to his book. My first experience with Dr. James Sutton was going to a conference in 2003 in Macon Ga. and listening to his ideas on working with some of the hardest kids to deal with in education in Emotional Behavior Disorders. His ideas hit the nail on the head and this latest book, What Parents need to Know About ODD, is an easy to read, understand and to use tool for parents and teachers who daily have to deal with the trials and tribulations of kids who are ODD. I recommend this book to my student’s parents and educational associates almost daily. This was not a sales pitch but when combined with another issue our former federally mandated NCLB, the law requires teachers to use evidence based practice, EBP when dealing with exceptional children. This becomes a problem in special education because there is not that much to work with and as I thought today a good teacher with a good idea could be hindered by a packaged program that is an EBP and not as effective and there have been many cases where teachers have been criticized for not using a recommended program.

Every year we lose good teachers who are hindered by administration and packaged programs of which many were researched by the company publishing the program. I had a situation myself a few years back and was told this program was what I was to teach to a specific group of teenagers and it was research based. I called the publisher to verify what research was done. It was never done with a population anywhere near what it was being recommended for and the one study that was done was with kids ten years younger and 20 IQ points higher but it did work with them.

A Harvard study posted June 14, 2006 states “…the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over academic competitiveness.” from the The New York Times referring to NCLB. Funny how we keep trying to make schools better or I should say politicians keep trying. I often wonder when teachers will be asked.

“I will stake my reputation and over thirty years of experience on this: Real change occurs when relationships improve.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

I have watched wheels spun testing kids at the end of semesters and courses and at the end of high school and all because laws say we have to that are established by politicians. Yet all you are truly testing is what someone knows at that moment and not what they learned in any given time frame or how well a teacher taught. My son who recently graduated as biology major could take an end of course biology test without the course and pass it does that measure how much he learned or simply what he knows. Sadly teachers and administrators are losing jobs and schools are being threatened by these tests.

Recently in a discussion in an online class I raised a question about NCLB and how kids were being left behind and a teacher an advanced degree teacher offered “well some children want to be left behind”

“The power paradox is a simple concept. It suggests that the more force we put into controlling an ODD child, the less effective those efforts become. Golf pros will tell you that, when you try to muscle that ball down the fairway, looking for distance alone, there’s no telling where it’s going to go. When you focus on form rather than force, however, the distance takes care of itself. It’s much the same idea in managing an ODD child.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

So often when I read Dr. Sutton’s ideas they apply elsewhere in life. The power paradox is in education all the time it is in relationships between people, in government and definitely in the working of a school.

Far too often we go for power not form as I recall many years ago the TV show Kung Fu in which David Carridine was a Shaolin priest who had escaped to America for killing someone in self-defense with his martial arts. It was not about power but form the swan or deer almost ballet movements yet lethal as well. It is so easy to get caught up in just words. I read numerous writers words each day in blogs, books and articles and a thought I have been having keeps coming up the reader has to be able to understand the writer for communication to occur.

The experiences and perceptions have to be there so what is written is understood? One excellent writer I read daily uses riddles and word puzzles and play on words and many have not a clue what is being said and or why. That is part of her mystic and then all of a sudden it hits you.

“Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centered society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.” Nelson Mandela, speech at the opening of the South African Congress

It has been nearly twenty years since South Africa truly became democratic and how long will it be till we here in the United States can say democracy is back and not rule of the dollar and lobbyist. Much of what I have been reading lately addresses the issue of education and how it is that today’s education is to make good consumers. Customer’s, one author calls college students and on many campuses that is the word used by the administration very much a corporate world. Historians have said over and over wars are always fought for money and if we look back at any war in history always money was a key factor. I questioned Viet Nam and Johnson wanted the war effort to continue as industry was getting a shot in the arm and the economy turned around. The power paradox in Iraq and most of the Middle East is a very interesting thought. I wonder have we ever focused on the form, for example the individual in Iraq. Maybe we need to ask for Nelson Mandela’s help in Iraq. 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

Wondering about the song lyrics of an old friend

Bird Droppings April 13, 2016
Wondering about the song lyrics of an old friend

I first started listening to Neil Young’s music in 1967 or even earlier if you count Buffalo Springfield, a short lived band. Then there was of course 1968 with Crosby Stills and Nash at Woodstock and Deja vu, their first album which I am sitting here listening too. While I did not make it to Woodstock I can say my old sleeping bag was there, a good friend at the time borrowed it. When I made my way south into the land of The Allman Brothers band, in the fall of 1971, the flower petals were still in the streets from Dwayne Allman’s funeral a month past, music and lyrics had become a part of who I was.

I was reading on line last night, a friend on line lists the songs of Neil Young on her website. I responded to her with a note that I did not think anyone under fifty had ever heard of Neil Young. Several years ago Neil Young had a medical crisis and a sort of mid-life crisis all about the same time. After finding he had an aneurysm in his brain, decided he needed to record so in a few days he turned out what he was afraid might be his last CD. He took it upon himself from being warned he needed surgery and postponing the actual surgery for a week to write and produce an entire CD, Prairie Wind. A few days after leaving the hospital from successful surgery on the brain aneurism, the spot on his leg where the catheter had been inserted broke open and he collapsed outside his hotel, nearly dying from blood loss.

The words to this song caught my attention this morning, a questioning of who and why we are. Several of my friends and I have been discussing free choice and feel will in our blogs and on line discussions which perhaps led me to this today. The title of the song is, When God made me, by Neil Young.

“Was he thinkin’ about my country or the color of my skin? Was he thinkin’ ’bout my religion and the way I worshipped him? Did he create just me in his image or every living thing? Was he planning only for believers or for those who just have faith? Did he envision all the wars that were fought in his name? Did he say there was only one way to be close to him? Did he give me the gift of love to say who I could choose? Did he give me the gift of voice so some could silence me? Did he give me the gift of vision not knowing what I might see? Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil young, When God made me, Prairie Wind

I walked out into the stillness of the morning earlier today. There was a lone bird I think had gotten mixed up on its timing (I wonder does anyone give the daylight savings time to nature). Maybe the bird was still adjusting or maybe migrating in from another time zone, but here nearby singing all alone deep in the woods. I like days when even with the overcast the moon cast light through the spring trees, a hint of green and the lace work of twigs and opening buds provide a background for thought, everything smells and sounds so new in spring.

Thinking ahead to coming back to school after a summer break it always amazes me. More than half the students will have T-shirts from Panama City Florida air brushed with a boyfriend’s name and or girlfriend’s name and various partying information and or connotations maybe parents should not know about, and of course tan. There will be a lot of shell jewelry and then there is the other half still asleep from staying in bed till one or two and having a hard time readjusting to school hours, with their puffy eyes and dozing off during the day. It is so difficult to get started the week or so day after summer break. I offered to an administrator why not start back on a Tuesday instead of Monday and we both agreed we could all use that one extra day.

“Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil Young

Funny, how a line sticks with you in a song or poem or book. I keep thinking about this line yesterday. Between oil spills, getting tough on North Korea and as always the breaking news today Benghazi is fizzling out, IRS was actually doing their job, and a leak from a Washington reporter in 2009 all seem insignificant. Some want to attack Iran after we try diplomacy again. I wonder if the word compassion ever made it into Washington. I was walking through a Wal-Mart sort of the entire world at a glance; everyone ends up in Wal-Mart. One of students came in he was all excited he had just gotten a job there. But as I walked through a Wal-Mart employee near the pharmacy was explaining the new Medicare drug plan to an elderly person. They actually had a booth set up with a fulltime staff person. They are to be helping elderly folks and they need to have people telling them what is going on since most people including myself haven’t a clue. Ironic and they wonder why so many people haven’t joined up yet the line is too long at the explanation booth.

Compassion is such a simple word. It has been several years since I did work with indigents work finding housing and food for families. I recall several bits of wisdom coming from Washington, for example cutting off welfare if a person was not looking for a job. A favorite is if you fail a drug test no more welfare. If you are homeless by choice you are off of welfare, that one sort of floored me. It had to do with issues of not paying taxes by one person somewhere in Texas who found he could save money being homeless. Another was if income was too high cut out Medicaid.

Cutting health care was always one that intrigued me. I worked with a fellow who had worked all his life till a massive heart attack disabled him and he was limited to drawing disability. His wife due to illnesses all of her life had never worked enough combined quarters to draw anything more than a minimum disability check. I find it so interesting that anyone can even consider we do not need health care reform. Unfortunately between them their medical bills exceeded their monthly government disability checks and because their income exceeded federal standards they did not get Medicaid. In a compromise they took turns each month on which medicines to not get. They were getting help from one agency but doctors had to fill in paper work literally volumes each month for them to receive free medicines. Sadly eventually the doctor’s office stopped filling in the paperwork for them. Compassion is such a powerful word.

What of a disabled man I worked with for several years who lived on about 350.00 per week. He is a severe diabetic and has numerous other health and psychological related issues and virtually spends a week in the hospital a month. However his monthly disability income keeps him from Medicaid and so he moves periodically to avoid harassment and bill collectors from hospitals. Having a quality of life is that compassion? Are we helping our fellow man? As I watch what we do worldwide as a nation I seriously wonder sometimes. 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

We need both the Rock and the Smoke

Bird Droppings April 12, 2015
We need both the Rock and the Smoke

“If people find no room in their lives to pray or to meditate, to reflect deeply on why they have been created and what they must do with their lives, and to listen with all of their being to the guidance of the universe, then these people are like birds who have not yet learned to fly. All the parts of the bird are present, but something is still missing. To be a whole person is to be alive in a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual way.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

I started reading this short book several days ago, only absorbing a page or two a day not trying to force my read as I do so often and get through it in a matter of minutes. There is an under lying theme with the tree of life so often depicted in primitive traditions. In Native American thought the tree intertwines spiritually and physically with all. Many times in ceremonies a specific tree would be selected after much thought by a medicine man or woman for the occasion. It would be carefully taken down and then “replanted” at the site of the ritual. Sundance ceremonies always would center round a tree as the main focal point of the entire ceremony. I could not help but think of the latest James Cameron movie Avatar and the depiction of the tree that is connected to all on the planet. In my own life my early mornings are to sit read and write for me a mediation of sorts. When I can if time allows although that does not sound good I will wander out into the darkness to think and reflect. Listening and watching as around me life unfolds. For many being alone in the dark is not a comfortable event but as I have now for some time embraced the solitude and quiet.

“A sign that much work is needed in the area of personal spiritual growth is when a person dislikes being alone, and especially dislikes being alone in silence. Many people use television and or recorded music to fill the silence so do not have to experience themselves as they are.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

Years ago I would walk out into the early morning’s darkness all about me wandering a blanket wrapped about me, thinking and reflecting on things at hand. I found as I was searching I found peace in the solitude and quiet of the early hours. As we moved over the years and my ability to walk around became hindered I started to write and read and reflect as I would sit and ponder. I started writing down my ideas and thoughts and sharing with others. I found in each of my mornings notes; an idea was there for someone. Today as we near a full moon and the night is bright with the moons reflection of the sun perhaps speaking of darkness at night is a bit odd but always I have found within darkness there is light when we seek it. So in effect in my solitude I have found community. It has been a few years since a dear friend shared with me and helped me remember a poet and philosopher of life that I had forgotten so many years ago.

“Walk easy on the earth each life has its own fragile rhythm, to be aware of it is to understand, to ignore is to abandon oneself to sadness. It is to search vainly for the wholeness that only comes in surrender to what is.” James Kavanaugh, Quiet Water, 1991
James Kavanaugh passed away a few years back and his works will continue to inspire and awaken emotions in people for many years ahead. There is a spiritual aspect to his writing as he reflects on his own former priesthood in many of his writings. But he also separates from religion that spiritual context that is within each of us. It is that individuality and uniqueness that gives us the essence of who we are and provides us with a desire to continue existence.

“Existing is one thing, but making a purpose for your existence is another.” Kendall Gomez, neighbor, former LHS student, friend, and often philosophy genius

Kendall is one of the few who is up when I get up each morning when she wrote this. Many the day Kendall would come by my room at school and talk and even visited a few times after she graduated. She moved into our neighborhood several years ago and it was interesting neither of us knew we were neighbors for nearly a year. Granted she is a half mile away from our house if that would still be a neighbor. As I read her post this morning and one of her responses, that her purpose was to come up with riddles for others to solve, it sort of hit me. Perhaps it is “more better” stated that we find our purpose through our existence and may even find ourselves in that effort.

“Another sign that warns the traveler that his heart is empty of the gifts of the west is when a person does not feel respect for the elders or for the spiritual activities and struggles of other people.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

We live in a world so interconnected to each other and yet so disjunctive as well. So many of our interactions that fail and go by the wayside are due to inadvertent differences of opinions, distrust and differences of beliefs than to any other rationales. I recall sitting down so many years ago with a man who was very much a man of faith. He was devout in his beliefs and staunch in his moral codes and ethics. We sat down in a small restaurant in town to discuss a program I had envisioned working with indigent families and people. As a prop knowing this fellow I had brought a bible along. Several verses were marked dealing with helping others and providing for those in need. I did not indicate to this man another religious connection of any sort and almost immediately as we talked he mentioned that Catholics were not Christian. My hand rested atop a Catholic bible. I found it interesting that within his desire to do good and help people was still this animosity for another person he had no idea of any connection to any church or religious affiliation for me other than a Methodist Church I was previously involved with working with high school students. He knew I attended a Methodist Seminary along the way. So already we in some ways were opposed semantically because he found one denomination was wrong and one was right yet both evolved from the same traditions and history. We started a program Shepherd Staff Ministries and up until I left that program over ten years ago we never disagreed on anything and he is still involved on the board of directors. People were served in our community with food lodging and counseling.

“Poverty is not merely a matter of not having ‘things’. It is an attitude which leads us to renounce some of the advantages which come from the use of things. A man can possess nothing, but attach great importance to the personal satisfaction and enjoyment he wants to get out of things which are common to all.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, 1956

As I was selecting passages today I was drawn to both Kavanaugh and Merton were Catholic clergy at one time or another in their lives. Kavanaugh had a falling out as he wrote about an outdated church and left the priesthood. Thomas Merton wrote out against war in a time when such things were not often politically correct and died suspiciously in Southeast Asia electrocuted in a bath tub protesting the War in Viet Nam. Merton was a Trappist monk till his death. When you read these two authors there ideas do flow and interconnect with those of the Native American concept of a world interconnected I started with. Merton often wrote about and was well versed in Eastern thought seeing a connection between all that was. Kavanaugh in his poetry wrote of the world almost as if he were a piece in a vast puzzle a part of the whole.

“Thus I am certain that somehow life will never end, because the assemblage of my friends and all the beauty of the world I have known, assures me that in some state, I must have a life of love to say what I feared to say on earth. To give what I tried to give and couldn’t and to thank you with all of me, when gratitude never seemed sufficient. I long to release all hurts and manipulations, any selfish expectation when pain and suffering got in the way of love and forgiveness, when age and self-pity interfered, or when my ignorance and arrogance prevented what I longed to reveal and share. When I realized I’d done the best I could with what I had from the past, when it was apparent that for one as good and fine and loving as you are: A lifetime isn’t long enough to love you.” James Kavanaugh, A lifetime isn’t long enough to love you, 1996

We of this modern era somehow get lost in all that is. We want to categorize and sanitize and package seemingly undefinable ideas and thoughts. We want to be able to research and develop vaccines to cure and control all that is around us. We lose our connections. I was talking with a fellow teacher yesterday a very good friend who has served for nearly twenty five years active and in the reserves with our military. He has been in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in most areas of conflict in the past twenty years. He has seen death and destruction at the hands and minds of men. We often talk about life in general and while he knows my own believes and perhaps his might differ we often find common ground. I bumped into him on my way to check on a student and we talked. I had an article I had been meaning to bring to him as he teachers history. It is a National Geographic article about a tribe in Africa that is one of the last known hunter gatherer societies left on the earth. What is amazing to anthropologists is that there is no strive, stress, animosity within these people. There are not items of desire or to covet. If you need a bow and arrows you make one. If you need meat you hunt and fruit you gather. As we talked I recalled another friend’s virtual game in history of having students develop society from nothing and how it is not until as humans we begin to own things that strive and turmoil appears.

“We live in a whirl of images and noises, sounds, lights, desires, frustrations, pleasures, sufferings. Our lives are a cacophony; insulated from wind and rain and sun, from heat and cold, we are ensphered in our own catacombs of concrete and plastic. Living in such a world is it any wonder we turn to drugs, to more sensational means of stimulation, to entertainment that renders us catatonic? Insulated from nature, ungrounded, why should we be surprised at our own brutality? Where in such a world is there room for gratitude and for what should we be grateful?” Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth, the spiritual landscape of Native America

I am getting carried away this morning but so often an idea starts and perhaps today I need to draw to a close and continue another day. My dog is barking calling to go out and now back in the moon has set and gone behind the pines and only the stars remain to light the sky. To my right as I walked out our drive way and cars and to the left pines and darkness a seemingly distant world untouched and real. I will use another line from Versluis as he discusses primitive people’s ideas and views.

“There is, however a mysterious unity between people and their landscape, between people and the creatures around them. This unity is of a subtle kind not easily explained. But understanding it is essential if we are to enter into a different awareness of our world” Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth, the spiritual landscape of Native America

Another day is near dawning and another day heading to school for finals and to finish up the school year. For all of my students and teacher friends may peace be with you and yours and may we as a nation find some point of reference to draw us together. For ten years now I have ended my morning sojourns with this line, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.

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

PS: While sitting in my quiet place among the trees in our backyard a wisp of smoke came from my bowl of white sage, cedar, red willow bark, ursa leaves, and sweet grass and I thought. There is a time for the Rock and a time for the Smoke. Both are essential to the balance of life. The rock holds steady and firm while the smoke ethereal and flowing lifts upward. We need both in our lives.

Why not just imagine?

Bird Droppings April 11, 2016
Why not just imagine?

Some days I wonder if adults I know have ever imagined even considered imagination. For example have you ever lain on your back watching clouds trying to determine if this one is a dragon or a whale? Years back I was driving home from Georgia Tech with my son and his roommate. They were planning on going to the premiere of the new Star Wars movie. As we drove my son mentioned an article he read about video games and creativity. It was probably the exact opposite of what many of us would say, evidently this particular report indicated video games and their realism and such increase brain capacity for imagination. I won’t vouch for that one however. But I do know I do not see the creativity and imagination perhaps as much as I would like.

So many adults have chosen a rigid world of exactness and parameters tight little boxes of comfort and calmness. They are often limiting themselves only to a few inches of space in this vast universe, stodgily staying within the lines and forcing others to do so as well. By dictionary terms creativity is “the ability to create”, that is a simple version of a complex idea.

“Some people will only love you as long as you fit in their box. Don’t be afraid to disappoint them” Lecrae Moore

“The creative process is the emergence in action of a novel relational product, growing out of the uniqueness of the individual on the one hand, and the materials, events, people, or circumstances of his life on the other.” Carl Rogers

A synthesis of things people have and hold on one hand and what the available materials might be on the other.

“One sees from this that genius: 1) is a talent to produce that to which no specific rules can be applied, not that to which learned and practiced skills can be applied; therefore, that originality is its primary characteristic. 2) Since there can also be original non-sense, its products are at the same time examples, i.e., that they must be exemplary; in fact, though themselves not products of imitation, they must serve as such for other products, that is, as measures or rules of judgment. 3) It cannot describe or scientifically establish how it brings its product about; rather, as an expression of nature simply provides the measure. Therefore, the creator of such a product does not know himself how the ideas come about, and does not have the ability to come up with these ideas at will or according to a plan, and cannot communicate a set of rules by which one could bring about similar products. (Presumably for this reason one uses the word “genius,” which also means a spirit who accompanies a human at birth, protects and guides him.) 4) Nature prescribes to art rather than science through genius; and this only insofar as art desires to be an art form.” W. Miller, Duke University

A long winded definition that actually raises more questions than it defines. Creativity is a most difficult word to clearly define. Years ago my youngest son was being tested for “the gifted class”; his second grade teacher saw glimpses of something a bit more than average children his age. His IQ test bolstered her thoughts and his achievement tests were ok nothing that would knock you down and his grades well in some areas one hundred percent plus in some areas and in others that he was not interested in well he was passing. However in Georgia at that time gifted labeling required a battery of tests and three out of four tests the child should exceed in to be considered gifted. This little kid had two out of four and indicator of grades was a loss so he had to ace creativity test. So on the given day the school psychologist took him aside and tested. The test was given and scored and given again several more times since the first one was obviously flawed and finally by the third time and similar results she decided it was a real score. It seems he was off the charts in creativity and the tester had never scored a second grade student so high.

I immediately pointed to genetics as a factor standing tall and puffing my chest out a bit. It was with that he ended up in gifted class. Since that time I have been impressed with teachers and parents who encourage their children to imagine, to ponder and think beyond the required tasks assigned. After the testing the teacher who tested my son asked if we did anything out of the ordinary. His spontaneous answers were what floored her in testing. Since he was four or so every day as I drove him to school we would make up stories taking turns adding to the plot or even to what we were making up a story about. My father’s grandpa Niper (my great grandfather) stories were embellished and expanded often for days.

Some days the stories would be of imaginary creatures and often it was a contest to stump me with a creature I could not make up a story about and only once was I stumped. I do not recall the request and or what monster he had come up. But my son initiated the process and would offer twists and turns as we built the story. My kids grew up in the middle of 183 acres of farm land and they would often find their way to Paradise a pile of rocks and stones sitting on a slab of granite in amongst several trees. They would build tiny villages and forts with pebbles and small stones and take match box cars along to add to their game. Even today the word Paradise conjures up vivid memories for my kids and imagination and every once in a while I will get asked to retell a Grandpa Niper story especially now that grandbabies are getting to storytelling age. We need to encourage each other teachers and parents not to hinder imagination. We need to stop infringing our limitations and our boxes and parameters on children’s minds and souls. We need to imagine as well and live each moment. So on my official first day of summer break I am sitting at school writing pondering and as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to give thanks always namaste.

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

It is said dreams do not stand alone

Bird Droppings April 9, 2016
It is said dreams do not stand alone

“You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.” Richard Bach

It has been so many years since I first experienced the whimsical book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, this was Bach’s tale of a seagull who dreams of more than simply eating fish entrails at the pier. I was going through my files on my computer and the only book I have had for more than five years is this one. Occasionally when in a quiet place and not too tired so my eyes work I will pull up JLSG and read a few lines thinking back so many years to when I first read the book.

I hear each day and listen to the dreams as student’s talk of where and when, there are some who say whatever and that is hard for me to understand. Having experienced so much in my lifetime good and bad to hear a young person with no concept of tomorrow often because today was dashed it takes me back. I recall several years back on a first day in a class when a student answered a simple goal sheet. Question one: Where will you be in a year? Probably still in school, Question two; where will you be in five years? Probably in jail, and Third Question; where will you be in ten years? Dead was his answer. Gladly that is not the case as I still have contact almost thirteen years later and he is a motorcycle racer and mechanic in Texas although jail part he got right. I have been keeping touch indirectly with him since he has spent the better part of four years in jail and currently is out so he did attain his five year goal. He saw no future and when I talked with him about his answers he really did not want a future because of the present he was experiencing.

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you are alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach

“I have heard it said that the first ingredient of success — the earliest spark in the dreaming youth — if this; dream a great dream.” John A. Appleman

So often when I meet people and or students who have little thought of a future there is significant past holding them back, I recently wrote a paper on an idea I had of funneling. Our past is a significant part of the antecedents that drive our behaviors. The fellow above in my questions and answers was in this situation. Years ago as I did research for a graduate school paper I found in looking at twenty eight Emotionally Disturbed children in my study only two were still with biological parents only two had not had trouble with law enforcement and not been adjudicated. Only four were not currently at that time on probation.

“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” John Barrymore

“If there were dreams to sell, what would you buy?” Thomas Lovell Beddoes

I had not thought of this but what a question to ask young people what if dreams were for sale what would you buy. Often those that do not want to think ahead only see more of the same, for my young man above death was actually something he was looking forward too at that time.

“The moment of enlightenment is when a person’s dreams of possibilities become images of probabilities.” Vic Braden

“You’ve got to create a dream. You’ve got to uphold the dream. If you can’t, go back to the factory or go back to the desk.” Eric Burdon

For some of you the name Eric Burdon is insignificant but for a few of us, back in the sixties three British bands came across and stormed the United States, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Animals. Eric Burdon was the lead singer for The Animals. He is still around although now living in California and performing often solo or with his new band The Eric Burdon, I Band; he has gone back to his roots, blues. But as I read Eric’s quote and look at Bach’s quote coming from a fictional character the idea of dreaming and possibilities all tie into you have to do something. You have to work to attain the dream. Here is a possibility, the dream and here are the opportunities, life in general. Just Do it as it is scribbled on your shoes.

“When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” Leo Burnett

“There couldn’t be a society of people who didn’t dream. They’d be dead in two weeks.” William Burroughs

William Burroughs name in literary circles often falls with Allen Ginsberg as part of The Beat generation spawned in New York’s coffee houses and universities. But he also is often associated with Timmy Leary and Andy Warhol and in the early nineties before killing himself, Kurt Cobian recorded an album with the then nearly 80 year old Burroughs reading his own words over Cobain’s guitar chords. A drug addict for most of his life Burroughs’s tried to write himself out of where he was and many of his greatest efforts are reflections of his own addictions and reflections on the addictions and limitation others impose on themselves.

“Follow your bliss.” Joseph Campbell

“If your dream is a big dream, and if you want your life to work on the high level that you say you do, there’s no way around doing the work it takes to get you there.” Joyce Chapman

Trying to get teenagers to accept getting from point A to point B requires more than simply saying so, it can be a tough sale. Several weeks ago I was sitting talking with two students both who had dreams of college. One of the fellows said he was going to college and get a scholarship to play football. I thought for a moment and said you have never played in high school how will you get a scholarship? He thought for a minute and said he would go out for the team. He thought because of his size and make he could be a football player. Ok but you would still have to go to class and study and read. His dreams were dashed for him college was simply a football scholarship and playing football sort of the Forest Gump approach. I tried also to explain playing football meant practice four or five hours a day, no TV, no video games, and no four or five honey buns and a coke for snacks. Very quickly he decided to change his goal, too much work, and no fun. He wanted the glory of the football player but did not want the work.

“When your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme.” Jiminy Cricket

I have always thought it interesting that a cartoon insect could possibly go down as one of the world’s great philosophers. When you believe you can you can I have always been told?

“We’ve removed the ceiling above our dreams. There are no more impossible dreams.” Jesse Jackson

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Robert F. Kennedy

So often I find myself drawn back to an idea or quote, Kennedy’s quote is one of those as is dreaming. Each time I find something new, a new piece to the puzzle, a new thought as I am rambling through my day, pondering on those moments of new ideas and direction. Today reading about William Burroughs and Kurt Cobain who both achieved the immortality of fame and genius, one lived to barely 30 and one to almost ninety only slight differences kept the parameters of their lives from being identical. I often speak of following a path, we do at times, have choices to make, and how far can we veer off the path? How many times can we make a new path without getting lost?

Mathematicians hold the shortest distance between two points is a straight line however by expanding that thought if point A and B if they are next to each other that line makes a circle which has no end or beginning.

“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: — we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Perhaps this is a great point to end on this morning. Over the years well past forty now I have heard this phrase in my head. My father had a worn out a tape recording of the entire speech. Maybe a sermon would be a better word, for it was a sermon to mankind not just the United States. I am subscribed to Russell Means website entitled “it is a good day to die”, which is not one of pessimism but one of approaching life without fear and knowing you believe in that which you are striving for. I believe Dr. King would have embraced the Lakota statement as well as he approached life that every day was a good day to die. Sadly his life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet as were many great men over the years. Dr. King, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull all did not fear death for they knew in their hearts they were right.

We less brave in this reality can fulfill our dreams but we have to do the work we have to strive to make that dream a reality be it small or monumental. It is our choice where we place point A and point B and whether our path’s become simply a line or a circle. So this morning please keep all in harm’s way, for one of my dreams is a world in peace. So 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

Reflecting in my search for wisdom

Bird Droppings April 8, 2016
Reflecting in my search for wisdom

Within the past few weeks on the front page of the Atlanta paper the lead story is the sentencing of the Atlanta teachers found guilty of cheating on state standardized tests. Another article is related to high school graduates are not ready for college and right next to it was an article on an assistant principal who is being investigated in Atlanta’s school system cheating scandal claiming she did not know they were cheating only cleaning up eraser marks so testing machines would not err. One comment was essentially in Georgia twenty five percent of the graduates have to take remedial courses in college. As I thought about this pondering as I do I recalled I too took a remedial language arts course my freshmen year in college. Actually took it twice since the first time I did not go to class very often. How valid is taking a remedial class in terms of success in school?

Why did I have to take a remedial college course and yet I was accepted into all three colleges I applied too. My SAT was a few points too low for the one school I applied too on the verbal portion and yet today it would be more than enough to get into any college without remedial classes. As I think to my days in High School Literature with the exception of maybe one or two years I hated it and could not understand why we needed to listen to a teachers opinion on why Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. As I think back I really did not like Math classes, Spanish classes and all but one science class. Considering we had math, literature and science all four years of High School I really did not like high school and perhaps my GPA reflected this. Even though my SAT scores were what got me into college and conversely in a remedial class, my saving grace in education was standardized tests which I seemed to always do well on. My first set of SAT scores were in today’s terms over 1300 for verbal and Math combined which really would get me into most undergraduate schools shy of Ivy League today. The second time I took SAT I decided I would see how fast I could actually take the test and in twenty three minutes had completed the SAT and scored only a few points lower than my previous testing.

So where am I wandering today. My conclusion that I came to after reflecting on my own High School experience and many kids I talk with in High School today is that we are teaching subjects that many consider irrelevant to them, even kids going to college. Some students will strive and get high grades acquiring the content that is provided so they take End of Course Tests and do great. But as I look at High school subject matter and even the photo used in explaining how deficient students today are in Math I looked at the problem on the board behind the teacher being interviewed and in real life shy of being in physics or math as a job you will never see that material. Learning is what is missing from education today. It is about that desire to learn and making it relevant to students who more than likely do not even want to be in that class. So how do we get teachers on board that have been brought up in the same system? We have taken the passion out of learning. We have stripped learning of imagination and creativity.

“The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results; all his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge. The wise, ever satisfied, have abandoned all external supports. Their security is unaffected by the results of their action; even while acting, they really do nothing at all. Free from expectations and from all sense of possession, with mind and body firmly controlled by the Self, they do not incur sin by the performance of physical action.” Bhagavad Gita 4:19-21

I can easily substitute learning and wisdom as I read through this ancient passage from a Hindu holy text. It is a matter of who you are with and when and how you have been told is this learning? But as I read this passage that is many years old, a person is wise when what you do is done without anxiety about results. You are not concerned about your grade or what college or who has the highest GPA. We sadly live in a competitive world where being number one is even a marketing tool for advertisers. I often wonder if politicians get stressed out, other than around elections over what they do. I always thought of my grandmother as wise for her understanding of life. As a small child perhaps I saw only that her knowledge was what she needed to know to raise her children justly and correctly and how to make really good Grandma Seitz chocolate chip cookies. As I grew up there was a different understanding on my part of her deep faith and wisdom maybe one day I can possible come close too?

“This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety….It becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” The Dalai Lama

As a society we seem to encourage anxiety and stress often at the expense of our children and grandchildren. Our previous elected government pushed to spread democracy through numerous wars and our current government has continued and added a war or two to the pot which has caused a tension and insecurity in our children according to Progressive Curriculum Theorist Henry Giroux. Is it turning to a deeper meaning a spiritual center as
“the only firm base” as The Dalai Lama states.

“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate well, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.” Alex Noble

How many of us take this approach to life I use often the term of being a searcher in that I am always searching. When walking in the forest I have the urge to check under rocks could be the unrelenting herpetologist in me searching for a snake or lizard. As I sit or stand in the hallway at school observing, searching faces, listening, empathizing and trying to understand.

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

I used a statement several weeks back about seeing the bubble in a thousand clear oceans. Bonheoffer addresses that same issue here. In education it is about context not content, that is being able to apply what knowledge we have and that can be more significant than an encyclopedia of information.

“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” Helen Keller

Many the times, I will sit and think about people I would like to meet. My biological grandfather on my mother’s side is one, Gandhi another and Ralph Waldo Emerson but if I was allowed another it would be Helen Keller. There are few people who have overcome such insurmountable odds and then accomplish what she did. The title to the book about her life does not do justice to the real life situation, The Miracle Worker.

“It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Henry David Thoreau

I need to be more cautious as I write, the other day Thoreau was searching for clam rather than calm, spell check does not read minds as of yet. But Thoreau eludes back to that thousand plus year old statement from the Bhagavad Gita,” when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results”. Being wise is being in tune so to say with all around and to borrow another word perhaps harmony could be used.

“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” Immanuel Kant

In education there are in The Common Core Standards points of reference in each subject to attain or to have knowledge of. We in Georgia had a system in place of Performance Standards and previously to that Quality Core Curriculum which literally was each and every aspect of what the educational committee thought was important in that subject. Teachers were teaching to QCC’s and it was almost purely content. There was excitement as new standards came out and the school administrations “curriculum” people got hold of them and unpacked and now we have curriculum maps and curriculum pacing and what was to be wonderful has become a monster. The heart and soul has been stripped out and in its place organizational overload.

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” Lin Yutang

I have several times used my example of a liter bottle and having three gallons to put in it, how do we do it? A funnel still only fills to a liter and the rest spills out. I use this illustration in educating special needs kids and I believe it applies to all children and adults. It has been a few months since my last trip to Mountain City and the Foxfire property. I am heading up in a week or so. If you are in Mountain City Georgia take a look it is well worth the drive up the mountain. The museum will provide a guide to take you around. I recall the late Robert Murray and numerous walks with him around the property, here and there he would pick a plant leave or three or four telling about what they could do and what they can be used for.

As he would go building to building explaining mountain life he eventually gets to a shed with a large copper coil sort of device and asks “So what is it” and answers run the gambit? Finally laughing he explains it is a condenser for making moonshine. If you have watched the miniseries Hatfield and McCoy’s you will know. So how do we fill a liter bottle? We condense and we synthesize and much like making cane syrup we boil the cane juice down to get the good stuff. Wisdom is knowing what is the good stuff and being able to transcend the frills and extras.

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

Make that number five on my list of people who I would like to meet somehow Mark Twain could always have the right words and thoughts. As I meander about today searching for books and ideas, tilling in my garden and planting plants I will end with a line from a founding father and one maybe our current in power folks should read.

“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” Thomas Jefferson

I hope we will listen to Jefferson please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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

What about adding to reality TV, The great teachers of America?

Bird Droppings April 7, 2016
What about adding to reality TV,
The great teachers of America?

I hope to get back to grad school here shortly and finish my ten year long doctorate. I am set up to teach several new college classes when I get back on track which had me started on a new syllabus and lesson plans and that got me thinking. Last night when I got home I was sitting mesmerized by the night sounds when the kitchen door opened and our dog poked his head out I am sure wondering what I was doing. I was not in the mood for TV and the sounds of darkness seem to calm me after a seriously crazy week of Spring Break and too much involvement in the medical field. Off in the distance a whippoorwill was calling to one near the house and crickets tree frogs and an occasional owl chimed in. It was an exceptionally human free intrusion on a quiet night since few people influenced noises were present. I found myself thinking to the idea of; I wonder if this is what it sounded like hundreds of years ago just the various birds, crickets, frogs and owls. A heavy dew and rainwater were dripping from pine needles nearby adding to the ambiance. I gave thanks and headed to bed.

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our former federal education program No Child Left behind was about lifting standards higher to make the United States number one in education. In the news literally daily the idea of raising the bar in our educational process was suggested over and over again. We need more students to succeed so we will raise the standards and graduation rates. So to say raise the bar educationally. The theory is that more students will succeed with higher standards for teachers and students. However changing of teaching methods, changing delivery, and even changing standards does not raise the ability or desire of a given student.

I can’t help but think of high jumping when the idea of raising the bar came up. Let us use as acceptable a height of currently thirty six inches and tomorrow we will raise the bar to sixty inches and you will succeed because we have a new way of telling you how to jump. We will use a megaphone now, and just as you jump we will yell “NOW JUMP”. As silly as this sounds this little exercise which is akin to many educational programs is more how not to succeed than before. Before raising the standard did we look at why the students could not clear thirty six inches. Was it the teaching method, or the physical ability of the student, was it the shoes they are wearing, perhaps the surface of the run way to the jump pit is too soft or slippery, is there a wind that knocks the bar off as they approach. In education time after time the mention of zip codes and test scores comes up and in today’s jargon that’s why we need these charter schools run by businesses who know what to do. So in my naiveté, I wonder how does a real estate mogul or software genius know how to teach or seemingly increase knowledge and cognition over say a teacher? Even more interesting is many of so called experts have not succeeded in school and or did not go through college. But they know what it takes to help poor kids or failing kids how to raise the bar.

Basically in any type of medium if a person cannot jump thirty six inches moving to sixty inches will only assure failure. However with practice and time sixty inches is possible but several factors have to be in place and a key one is the desire and attitude of the person doing the jumping. The coach can be the greatest in the world but if the student is content on failure they will fail. A few years back I watched the induction of John Madden into the NFL hall of fame. Madden has been one of my favorite commentators and coaches of all time.

“Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” John Madden

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” Ara Parasheghan

Coaching and teaching the terms are often synonymous in many ways. It was a number of years ago I raised and showed horses. I had a very good Appaloosa gelding we affectionately called “Spot” and with me riding Spot would be third or fourth but always place. Funny thing was with my trainer on board Spot would win. I once asked about this phenomenon and was told the following.

“You put a ten horse, and by ten I mean on a scale from 1-10 out with a 1 rider again on a scale of 1-10 and you have a 5 ride, however you put a 10 horse and 10 rider out and what are your odds” Earl Burchett, trainer and judge of Appaloosa and Quarter horses

As I thought of my horse days quote, teaching and coaching are similar. A good teacher can get more out of a poor functioning group of students and a poor teacher will get something out of great students. For thirty five years I have asked how do we distinguish who are the good teachers and or coaches are from a mediocre ones.

“Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.” Don Shula

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Vince Lombardi

Commitment is a key word in selecting a great teacher and or coach and the ability of instilling that commitment in their students and players. Over the years few coaches have been compared to the great Vince Lombardi who is perhaps the greatest of all coaches.

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.” Vince Lombardi

The ability to succeed is based on hard work desire and determination these are skills that great teachers and great coaches can instill in students and players.

“The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else” John Madden

Far too often we only see the champion and how many folks can remember who finished second or third in the national championship game. This may be a fault in our society that we settle for only the greatest only the best. We live on a bell shape curve and only a few will ever be the best but it is in the trying and it is motivating students into trying that as a teacher is to excel. It is so easy to succumb to the down side of that curve. Fifty percent will not succeed and that mentality is often so powerful that so why should I try harder.

“One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.” Knute Rockne

A slight paraphrase of this great quote from the great Notre Dame Coach, “One teacher teaching is better than fifty saying they do”. This is what it is about; it is about truly teaching, motivating, instilling determination, and desire. It is about coaching and succeeding rather than failure. I hear every day, but I have a seventy percent I am passing that really makes me upset that a child concedes to a seventy percent. Who gave out seventy percent passes but we do it all the time. Can a thirty six inch jumper clear sixty inches? Many years ago a so-so high jumper changed his form. He was also a student of physics and as such and he noticed jumpers were leading with their foot and the body following. He changed his form and lead with his head and torso and high jumping changed forever. Shortly thereafter a world record and Olympic gold went to Dick Fossberry and the Fossberry flop as it was called is now the jumping style of all record holding high jumpers. Funny thing is, today all high jumpers lead with their head a matter of physics getting the heaviest part over first and those muscles pushing it over last which takes less effort and the world record keeps going up. It is about ideas, determination and commitment and any goal can be accomplished.

Can this apply to teaching and learning? Most assuredly we can, but we have to make an effort and we have to look for the means of accomplishing our goal. Federal standards called for research based programs in educational settings yet there are only a few the field is narrow and the difficultly is doing new research which requires guinea pigs and too many teachers and programs do not want to fail. Teacher’s jobs are at stake as well as administrators and so we in trying to improve may actually have boxed ourselves in by limiting improvement to a narrow window of research proven programs, which in reality may or may not work. Are they researched n the same demographics as the students you teach or will be teaching is always a question? Has this program truly been tested on a large enough group? Is there room for improvement and progress within the program?

From personal experience I have watched administrators then limit programs due to their own limitations in imagination and creativity. One of my favorites is the notorious word wall. A teacher must have six inch letters of vocabulary words on the wall and that is it. So an electronic version that is available at home anywhere on computer is not a word wall or a well-designed graphic as a lead in for a students working notebook in class is not a word wall, a set of personal flash cards is not a word wall, t-shirts with vocabulary, sky writing vocabulary words these are not word walls it has to be six inch red letters not yellow or blue. Teaching gets defeated by limits, impositions and parameters imposed by lesser imaginative administrators and legislators.

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I went out walking to my quiet spot before posting today sitting at home. I sat in my quiet spot giving thanks for all that has transpired in the past week for each element good and bad makes all involved a better person. I shared with a friend last night how each person we interact with gives us a piece of our life’s puzzle and shared my business card which is covered in puzzle pieces and they smiled and said it makes sense now. The pieces are all falling in place. So I end my writing for today and get back to the grind of educating the masses and getting phone calls made and computer forms filled in but still the hard part is keeping all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and always giving thanks namaste.

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

It seems to be a new day?

Bird Droppings April 6, 2016
It seems to be a new day?

Last night I cooked dinner all healthy and watched American Idol with my wife Pat. My son is out of town and we both had nothing better to do. It is always good to have time together. When I had checked on our Huskie who had been waiting outside to come in the sounds of the evening were stilled from the chill all the humming, whistling, chirping and barking that should have been going on was still. Living in the country we are used to quiet but this was still other than a slight breeze which occasionally would rustle the pine needles. I seriously miss the cicadas, tree frogs, crickets and every other creature that normally would be out. It could be the temperature of forty eight degrees on a April evening, silences all. Through the silence this a lone owl hooted two or three times and then it too was quiet.

At the high school today I will check my tanks and critters and get ready for school to start back next week. We start into our testing cycle in a few weeks and I wonder often about the usefulness of such endeavors are we truly assessing students or simply going through hoops. Sadly it is a state and federal requirement. I have a book on my shelf that I found at Barnes and Nobles, “Teachers Little book of Wisdom”. I found it on one of excursions into the vastness of our local Barnes and Noble bookstore. Seldom do I come out without reading material or at least an idea. Bob Alogozzine is the author/editor of this little tome. Bob is someone who ended up in teaching sort of by accident and fell in love with his job. With an economics degree and few jobs in his field, there was a need for Special Education teachers so he ended up by chance teaching. This little book is 365 statements about teaching.

“Teach them the difference between things that need doing better than they have been done before, things that just need doing, and things that don’t need to be done at all.” Bob Alogozzine

It is not just about math or science there is an aspect of life in each day we walk into a room or see another person. Teaching is not simply a job done by a teacher it is a piece of everyone’s existence. Parents teach from day one. Friends teach or they are truly not friends and some of us who choose to be in a class room teach. As I read this little thought I realize how wonderful of an idea it truly is. It is not about learning calculus for the big test but about doing better than has been done before. If each of us could look at life that way and do today just a bit better than any other day before I wonder what kind of world we could make.

I was looking at my blue berries yesterday the ones not destroyed by bucks thrashing their antlers and those still alive are full of flowers and potential berries, made me think of picking blueberries at a friend’s house a few years back. It was hot out we nearly stopped several times but we kept on and you know when I finish writing today I will throw some big blueberries on my cereal and milk from the freezer. Blueberries really freeze great. Life is moving in so many directions as I read the news today and maybe one day soon I can stop ending my emails with this. 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