Can teachers use learning as their pallet?

Bird Droppings December 29, 2016

Can teachers use learning as their pallet?

 

I wrote the basics of this article nearly twelve years ago and at the time was thinking of an artist friend who was trying to define her art as well as searching for her own meaning in life. My friend often reflects her political views and emotions through her art. Just the other night my family that was in town had a family game night at the request of one of my nephews and his wife, inviting us all over to play various board games, computer games and eat of course. It seems in all family gatherings eating is an integral part and perhaps a socializing aspect that gets overlooked far too often. Perhaps one day I will write on the socializing aspects of a family get together and the intertwining of food. But a Trivial Pursuit question I did not know the answer to caught my attention. “What Impressionist painter started an art community just prior to committing suicide?”

 

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others” Vincent Van Gogh

 

By chance the answer was Van Gogh. When I first read this I started to think about an ear coming in a box, and how unromantic that is. Perhaps sending body parts while you are alive is an art form. But trying not to be sarcastic, many aspects of our lives could be construed as an art form, such as love, teaching, and caring. Each goes beyond a simple definition. Within each are pieces that you do not learn in class. I am sure if Vincent Van Gogh showed a picture he drew or painted during one of his manic spells, the art teacher would have told him to take art lessons. Today those same paintings are considered classics of impressionism. I am sure Picasso was laughed at, somewhere along the line for drawing women in cube form or simply as a splash of color upon his canvas.
What defines an art form versus simply reality? I would not pay millions to have a Picasso or Van Gogh even if I had the money lying around. Perhaps for me I would prefer to see and experience rather than to own. It seems those who pay millions are often more about the publicity than the art.

 

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.” William Faulkner

 

Defining the moment in words, paint or sculpture, perhaps even a bit of broken glass is art. I saw a in a tiny chapel outside Atlanta stained glass windows many years ago created by a renowned artist, an elderly Trappist monk from Conyers. This was his last work at the age of ninety two. The brilliant abstracts in the windows were in reds and purple depicting the Christian sacraments. The windows were literally alive as you sat in the chapel bathed in the brilliant light from the windows.

“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.” Henry James

 

I was thinking about Faulkner’s idea of art. How we can take a piece of life and preserve it. Artists are in many ways taxidermists each working within their own medium so to speak. Is love simply that special moment carried further as a reminder of what once was? Could teaching simply be a passing of pieces of reality to another who will have those pieces at some point in time? Even in the painting of Van Gogh is his art just the capturing of an image. Interesting how we do so easily now with digital cameras, scanners and computers. Even in my own photography playing with color and movement as I capture images.

 

“Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.” James Joyce

 

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” John F. Kennedy

“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” Henri Matisse

 

Nearly four years ago last night Mel Brooks was honored at the Kennedy Art Center for his contributions. I found myself drawn to these writers’ quotes today especially as I read this statement by Henry Matisse. There is a secret hidden within Matisse’s words, for all forms of art. We are so often limited by our history and previous experiences, be it love or an art form, for Matisse then each love, each new piece of art should be new. Each should be special. It is in trying to categorize and synthesize that we lose the true essence and aspect of love, and of art. When we try to define and label the box of love do we lose pieces as we can in art? Teaching is in a very similar situation. Far too often teachers try and teach each lesson as they taught the last. First you have to forget all the classes that were ever taught, a difficult task for any teacher.

 

“If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.” Grandma Moses

 

“Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colors.” Pablo Picasso

 

It has been nearly ten years ago that a student brought in several dozen photos she and her sister had taken of each other. One of the photos caught my eye. Neither of the girls saw any significance as do very few others when I see things in photos. But for me that one photo caught the personality of the student and I put it on my wall in my class room. That is art for me. Recently one of the sisters came by to visit and noticed the picture was still there and how much that meant to her. Where and how does it become art for everyone? How does teaching become energized to a point that it is art?
It has been some time since I wrote a rather long email to a dear friend who is a pastor in Pennsylvania. I used the word empathy several times. An artist in whatever medium they choose has to have empathy. A pastor is an artist dealing with the spirituality of parishioners and so much more. As I researched art many paradoxes seemed to crop up even within the definition.

 

“A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.” “A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer. “ Dictionaery.com

 

Art is nonscientific yet it is also very specific in other ways. I find art perhaps more scientific than science. It is interesting in art we attach theory to reality and in science we try to attach reality to theory. Teaching in and of itself is taking reality and attaching theory to it. We have a block of information that by various means we have to interpret to a student and hopefully they will come close to what we are actually trying to teach. For several days I have been discussing or mentioning symbols and recognition of symbols as how we understand our reality. It is through symbols we convey information about reality.

 

“To impart knowledge” Dictionary.com

 

“Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. An artist recreates those aspects of reality which represent his fundamental view of man’s nature.” Ayn Rand

 

I was thinking back several years to a teacher searching the closet for teacher’s manuals and transparencies to teach a subject they had taught for forty years. I was a bit taken back. How do you teach a subject for forty years and now get stressed over a manual and transparencies. You should know the material and it should not be the exact same for every class. The delivering of the material is the key issue here. I was curious as I watched and observed the mounting stress for this teacher as no teacher’s manual and transparencies could be found. Fortunately for the students their regular teacher made it back in time.

 

“There has to be one how did anyone teach this class before me.” A former teacher

 

That same week I watched a teacher take the same subject and walk into class dressed as a knight, maybe it was a goat herder, with literally a virtual reality game. This was in a history class and it came alive. The teacher divided the room and each team was given various attributes such as being near water, having fertile soil, possessing seeds or goats etc. One group was given a gold mine and nothing else. There was a bit of reflection and a bit of thinking for the students. Then the essential question was asked, how are you going to develop your civilization? I am curious which group learned more about the start of world civilization, from the forty year experienced teacher or the lowly goat herder. Art is an interpretation. In teaching we often interpret ideas and events. It is also providing the opportunity for the student to interpret and learn from that thinking process.

 

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Augusto Rodin

 

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about. He’s not interested in how things look different in moonlight.” Jahal-Uddin Rumi

 

“Not even the visionary or mystical experience ever lasts very long. It is for art to capture that experience, to offer it to, in the case of literature, its readers; to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.” Salman Rushdie

 

We each can be artists in our own field, and perhaps empathy is the key. It is being able to reach that inner spark in others so they can feel what you feel what you see and hear and understand what it was that inspired you.

 

“Great art is never produced for its own sake. It is too difficult to be worth the effort.” George Bernard Shaw

 

“What distinguishes a great artist from a weak one is first their sensibility and tenderness; second, their imagination, and third, their industry.” John Ruskin

 

Ruskin has perhaps defined what constitutes a great artist, be it in whatever medium used, or whatever pallet you choose. I wish we could as easily declare peace throughout the world. I wonder if we can bottle and sell empathy then maybe peace could be a reality. I worked a bit in my herb garden yesterday trimming dead branches and stems. I had been watching the sky and the afternoon sun setting. I was listening to the quiet of my back yard walking about this was very soothing. I wonder can growing herbs be considered an art form? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.
 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Should children be left behind?

Bird Droppings December 23, 2016

Should children be left behind?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1 • From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.

2 • The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.

3 • The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.

4 • The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.

5 • Active learning characterizes classroom activities.

6 • The learning process entails imagination and creativity.

7 • Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.

8 • The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.

9 • The work teachers and learners do together includes rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.

10 • Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.

Foxfire fund Inc.

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

It is the small pieces that seriously matter

Bird Droppings December 21, 2016

It is the small pieces that seriously matter the most

 

“Until you can clearly see each piece of the puzzle you will never be able to understand the whole.” Frank Bird, grandfather, teacher and ponderer

 

I am sitting here on the last day of school before the Christmas holiday 2016 in Loganville Georgia a long way from my birth place and even where I spent my youth in Pennsylvania. I have traveled many pathways, spiritually, educationally, emotionally and physically as I journeyed. It has been many years since a vision of a jig saw puzzle woke me from my sleep. Over the years I have used that image of puzzle pieces and a while puzzle in explaining life and its intricacies. My son added to my collection of ideas along the way nearly eleven years ago with a line from an Aerosmith song. “Life is about the journey not the destination.” Steven Tyler and Aerosmith I went outside to get a few shots of the sunrise and battling a sinus cold may have been moving slow and thinking slower but got at least one or two good images to post later.

 

As I drove about for a few minutes several ideas kept hitting me in the head and with my sinus cold right now that hurts. Literally every day I hear from a person could be a former student, a total stranger who read something I have written, a friend I have not seen in fifty years, maybe a member of a group I am in on Facebook, a cohort member from graduate school offering a thank you for a thought I shared or idea given. It is not about major successes but the small one at a time pieces that often float by unnoticed. I shared a little book with a friend who is retiring today. The Sacred Tree, written by a group of indigenous educators who wanted to help native youth regain the spiritual essence of their culture.

 

I find as I listed my somewhat ambiguous titles with the quote above grandfather first and at first that seemed just the right thing to do. As I sat back and pondered as I tend to do often it became the not only right thing but job one. It is we elders who provide wisdom and understanding even if in small ways to those who come after. In today’s hectic and helter skelter world moments get lost just like pieces to the puzzle.

 

So today as I do every day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and all give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

Frank Bird, grandfather, teacher and ponderer

Why do we fail?

Bird Droppings December 20, 2016

Why do we fail?

 

Many the times, I have wondered why people stop learning. I see it in high school students, in college and in graduate students. Almost as if a switch is thrown and poof no more learning I have reached my limit. I had a teacher approach before school started the other day about a student who scored a seventeen on a quiz. The student’s parents were asking for a retake and study guide which the teacher was complaining about doing. The student got a seventeen he deserved a seventeen period. Where is the learning curve giving a failing grade is not a motivator for many students who by high school are used to that and could care less. Achieving a passing grade by learning what is on the quiz and then retaking and passing is what school should be about.

 

“One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.” John W. Gardner

 

I began the morning looking through several articles written by William Edelen, a former pastor and fighter pilot, as well as several by Arthur Schopenhauer, an 19th century philosopher, and Joseph Campbell, a leading writer on mythology. Somehow in my reading earlier I ended up back on articles by John Gardner.  I have been struggling with the idea of why students quit learning. On a recent excursion to Wal-Mart I ran into several former students who had all quit school. One of the former students shook my hand and said he was working on his GED and working hard. The other student said he was working hard doing foundations for houses and raising his new baby. Still another was arguing with her boyfriend across the aisles at Wal-Mart.

I thought back in each of their lives. All failed in part or all of graduation tests in high school, one of the students had failed one a portion three times by a total of eight points as a result she did not graduate and she opted to get a GED. She was tired of failing or risking failing again.

 

“I have always felt that although someone may defeat me, and I strike out in a ball game, the pitcher on the particular day was the best player. But I know when I see him again; I’m going to be ready for his curve ball. Failure is a part of success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.” Hank Aaron

 

For so many of us we take defeat failure in stride and move on, but for some students failure is a daily event and eventually they succumb and lose whatever desire to succeed they may have had.

 

“You win only if you aren’t afraid to lose.” Rocky Aoki

 

“No one ever won a chess game by betting on each move. Sometimes you have to move backward to get a step forward.” Amar Gopal Bose

 

Amazing how this is so similar as I think back on life to my own experiences in fourth grade. I had a teacher who was grading me harder than those around me. I think she thought I wouldn’t notice. My friend next to me had two wrong and an A. I had two wrong and a C. My mother asked and the teacher stated I wasn’t working up to my ability so she was grading harder than other students. I quit trying in school for some time, until about two years into college.

 

“Failure does not count. If you accept this, you’ll be successful. What causes most people to fail is that after one failure, they’ll stop trying.” Frank Burford

 

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver

 

We set in motion at young ages the ability to succeed and or the ability to make excuses. Watching kids grow up and looking at where they learn. Example is the best teacher and they watch parents. If we make excuses and choose to not succeed what are the odds our children will succeed

 

“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed — I well know. For it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself.” Georges Clemenceau

 

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” Edwin Louis Cole

 

I think back to walking through the Edison museum in Fort Myers Florida and one particular exhibit, it is a barrel of light bulbs all failures and the plague reads it took over 10,000 failures to succeed but it did work. As I went further and read Coles thought about drowning and was applying it to students. Many have given up because the school and society has given up. As soon as you take statistics in college you gather data and sort and develop graphs and charts about who will succeed and who will fail and soon students know your thoughts and soon students live up to their graphs and charts.

 

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high- stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.” Sen. Paul Wellstone (1944-2002)

 

Alfie Kohn’s starts his website with:

 

“Rescuing our schools from tougher standards”. The statement of “Learning by doing”, which is a common shorthand for the idea that active participation helps students to understand ideas or acquire skills, is an established principle of progressive education. Much less attention, however, has been paid to the complementary possibility that teachers are most effective when they show rather than just tell. In fact, this idea doesn’t even seem to have a name so let’s call it “teaching by doing” (TBD).”

 

“We need to learn from— and, fittingly, to challenge — one another’s ideas. But most important is a basic commitment to make sure that our students — future teachers, parents, and citizens — are able and willing to take a stand.” Alfie Kohn, Challenging Students . . . And How to Have More of Them

 

Alfie Kohn has been writing about issues in public school for the past few years, he is a major proponent of public schools. It is how we teach he is trying to address, and instilling a desire to learn rather than taking away that aspect. It is about promoting success rather than failure that we need to strive for in our endeavors as teachers and parents. Hopefully one day when I go to Wal-Mart the students approaching me will be all talking of success and their futures. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

 

For all my relations

Wa de (Skee)

bird

There are always possibilities

Bird Droppings December 19, 2016
There are always possibilities

“Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” Les Brown

I was sitting talking with one of my sons yesterday remembering when I was their age. I should say trying to remember when I was their age that would be more appropriate. I was thinking back to a day when my son and I had lunch with my mother. It has been a few days since my sons and I have been to lunch with my mother and as they would; they got picking on each other and she always would enjoy the show. Back then my oldest had recently completed his first full semester of graduate school and I recall one of his last semesters he was having some difficulty getting registered because his student loans had been electronically fouled up. I was trying to tell him take each moment as it comes, deal with it and move to next. He was upset and as the day progressed the lesson was learned it seems the wording in the college catalog allowed him a “loop” hole so he could register and get started in school that semester while the paper work of his student loan was resolved.

“It is necessary; therefore, it is possible.” G. A. Borghese

Perhaps as I get older I find nothing is impossible when we set our minds to it. Somewhere along the line I took a picture of my son crossing a stream stepping rock to rock he had fallen in playing several times but even soggy and wet he was still trying to maneuver across, stepping rock to rock. I have used this illustration so many times and even have a picture of the stream hanging in my room at school as he does in his bedroom. So often life is like crossing a stream, a stone at a time and we do fall in quite a bit. The ones who are successful in life climb right back up soggy and wet and keep going.

“Oh man! There is no planet sun or star could hold you, if you but knew what you are.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have really come to like Emerson over the years almost as if he wrote some lines specifically for me to use those many years ago and they have been sitting and waiting.
I altered slightly Emerson’s words, “If we but know what we are”, and what a powerful statement. We go through life trying to understand where and who we are and many of us spend the better part of a lifetime searching. Some will find themselves at a young age and the rest of us it seems like eternity trying to know.

“Never measure the height of a mountain, until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.” Dag Hammarskjold

While not a household, Dag Hammarskjöld is the name of the former United Nations Secretary General during some of the world’s craziest times. The Cold War was one of the biggest historical events of our time between Russia and The United States. His statement of waiting till you attain your goal before you stop to measure is so crucial. So many of us when we stop to look and see where we are going become frustrated and slow down or stop completely.

“Of course we all have our limits, but how can you possibly find your boundaries unless you explore as far and as wide as you possibly can? I would rather fail in an attempt at something new and uncharted than safely succeed in a repeat of something I have done.” A.E. Hotchner

Each day at school I post on my door a new quote something to offer a challenge to students, to open doors, to expand wisdom, to stick their neck out, and to go beyond where they are now. Each day many hundreds of people go by my door and some will crane their neck to peek inside the door, some will stop and talk as I sit in my office outside my room between classes at my door. What is that thing, what do you teach, and r whose room is this are my favorites that students come up with. Each day is an effort of trying to open boxes and pry the lids off sealed containers of minds and thoughts.

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!” Soren Kierkegaard

It has been many years since I heard Dr. Norman Vincent Peale speak in Macon Georgia in 1973 when he recognized a small church my brother attended, The Church of the Exceptional, as the National church of the year. That was over thirty five years ago yet his ideas are as relevant today now at this moment as I write this cold morning in Georgia.

“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities — always see them, for they’re always there.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

A possibilitarian is someone who always see possibilities, what an interesting thought in a day and time when so often we are subjected to negative and belittling concepts and ideas. So many students quit long before they ever get a chance to succeed. At this time of year we see many seniors leave high school or at least our school due to graduation tests. They have tried numerous times and while they will have enough credits and may even have been a B student or better cannot pass one of the five Georgia High School Graduation Tests. Many will seek enrollment in a small private school that does not adhere to same standards and does not require GHSGT’s and will graduate in May on time only they graduate from that school.

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” Song from, The California Special Olympics

Sometime ago I followed UCLA’s basketball program more closely that I do now and on the team was a red haired fellow who just happened to be 6 foot ten inches tall. He becomes a premier professional player and in retirement one of the great commentators of sports Mr. Bill Walton. It was only last night that University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team toed the eighty eight game win streak of Coach Wooden and Bill Walton’s team.

“No matter how good you get, there’s always something further out there.” Bill Walton

There is to all lessons more than one aspect, and more than one possibility. It is seeking, understanding and achieving those numerous other possibilities by never simply stopping because you made your initial goal. Now set higher goals achieve more and better grow further and farther, always lifting up continually. I was reading several small pieces this morning as I started writing. We all are givers and takers at one time or another as our lives balance out, try and balance to the giving versus the taking. You will never run out giving, but when you take soon doors will close. 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

 

 

Understanding the symbols of life

Bird Droppings December 16, 2016
Understanding the symbols of life

“Symbols express and represent meaning. Meaning helps provide purpose and understanding in the lives of human beings. Indeed to live without symbols is to experience existence far short of its full meaning. Ways of expressing and representing meaning include the symbol systems of mathematics, spoke and writing language and the arts.” The Sacred Tree
For several days I have been pondering this simple paragraph. It has bothered me in more than a spiritual way. What if a human being does not understand symbols sitting thinking in terms of education the inability to move through existence without understanding? I see this as a significant issue in education. We tend to facilitate achievement in a given subject not based on understanding but based on acknowledge of symbols not understood. I recall a comment from a math teacher as I questioned a certain problem. We do not need them to know why simply know this equation creates this graph. That was several years ago. Math curriculum and testing has become a joke in many parts of the country. Numbers of failures have increased. I started thinking especially in math if at an early age we simply want the correct answer and not why it is correct when the math becomes more difficult how will a student solve the problem without someone showing an answer. We are teaching math wrong was my corresponding thought. We need to go back and teach the symbols.
I more often than not find my discussion on a spiritual level more so than on an educational curriculum subject although the bulk of my education has been in curriculum and education. Understanding the symbols is a key component of understanding our existence and place in the world. This applies to reading to art, and to written language. Teach the symbols first when children can understand the symbols they can piece together the parts of the whole. Without the pieces the whole is insignificant. I watch students graduate frustrates because they know little of what has been taught. They have simply been doing the minimum to get to next level and the next and out of school. They are missing the pieces along the way and can never truly see the whole puzzle presented.
So today just a thought for more thought how do we really teach the symbols. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts as you proceed through this weed and weekend ahead and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

 

Is there topsoil left midst an erosion of soul?

Bird Droppings December 15, 2016
Is there topsoil left midst an erosion of soul?

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil

“The need for roots,” I saw this idea earlier as I web surfed thinking and pondering this morning or perhaps as I was scrolling through thoughts I had saved over the years along with all of my young herb plants sitting beside me near the window and the concept caught me, to be rooted. Out in the garage I have root stock from several medicinal plants I ordered that I need to get into soil soon along with seeds. In a world where family ties are eroding away faster than we can reconnect we find our roots need topsoil.

“There is a longing among the young of my nation to secure for themselves and their people the skills that will provide them with a sense of purpose and worth. They will be our new warriors.” Chief Dan George

I have been intrigued with students recently have had little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma if that. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp. I am doing a substantial amount of work with The Foxfire concept and so much of that in its origin is based on roots on history and family. After several years of looking I found a copy of the Red Lake Chronicles, a history of the Red Lake Ojibwa reservation, edited by Dr. Kent Nerburn an author I do enjoy reading and whose focus has been Native Indian Spirituality.

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots, your past or your history but traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep these people going. In a discussion with a young man recently talking about a brother in jail again and sister in trouble maybe separating from roots is necessary at times. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence while nearly polar opposites. I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to their heritage and to traditions; they are not grounded or anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be to escape, to wanting to be away from or distant from as Lawrence advocates.

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead, noted anthropologist

Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have been stripped away by our constant boxing up and categorizing. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society. If we go back to talking about society and people and using the analogy I have of plants most plants without roots are parasitic. As I look out at how we have set up our world is this not maybe a good comparison we have set up for parasitism among people.

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

Many years ago in a tenth grade literature class that would be about 1965, we read at that time a very controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”. You were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried to destroy family and traditions and roots. They have been always stripping away the top soil, laying bare to the hardpan of a man’s soul. But within it all still with some people persistence, vigor, and desire was still there.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

This is not just a modern day issue, Confucius raised questions over two thousand years ago and used a simple word to explain, integrity. For Confucius it was the integrity of the home and perhaps this is the key to roots. Solid roots can be found in the integrity of a family and home. Is it possible to look at people and judge there character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family, or by their genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow. Back in the day we used EPD’s to judge the quality or potential quality of a breeding animal. I used to know what that meant but specifically in cattle it is the performance data that has been gathered for generations many times and potential for that animal based on that gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given traits you are looking for.

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I find there are answers. EPD’s work because someone cared enough to check to save the information and data. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of on a daily basis I see in real life. I walked into a local convenience store and noticed a lady standing at the counter I had seen her at the high school arguing to a point of being removed from the school. She was giving the store attendant a hard time and I felt immediately she is not a happy camper. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately I have found. So where do I go in this round about effort especially on as we head into so many various holidays for many.
We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding and often with little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today maybe even a happy holiday greeting. It may be a hug or kind word or ear to listen. But take some time to share to care and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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