Using pronouns as a cover up

Bird Droppings March 10, 2017
Using pronouns as a cover up

 

My mornings generally consist of a trip to Quick Trip to get unsweet tea and fill my thermal cup with ice. Today was no different and as I drove toward QT I by chance caught a blur on the road, some movement in my lane ahead. A man in camouflage was staggering across the road. Between the rain and darkness I am surprised he did not get hit. It was one of those days yesterday and a word caught my attention as I was listening to a friend talk. The word was them. I never realized the extent of prejudice with this friend till a pronoun was used. Such words as they, them, or those people never are clearly many times terms used to delineate folks different from us. In this case who they was, became obvious within minutes. It was about then that “they” took over in the discussion or verbiage to that extent. In our recent campaign political speeches they, them, those people, and other applications permeated the talk. I wrote a whimsical tale of observation this morning to a friend about watching a leave floating along a stream. My premise was do we allow the leaf to pass or do we interfere lifting the floating leave from its journey to observe or interact.
I recall I had lunch with a dear friend back a few years ago a friend who reflects with me on many topics. This person does not use the word they or them unless referring to political parties or politicians. I recall my oldest son came along as he was helping me at that time at school move and such to my new abode on C hall. This was over fifteen years ago. We talked of education at lunch of why so many teachers have difficulty and of why some parents have a hard time and why some children end up the way they do. We discussed scholars and philosophers and we talked of my son’s journey in school and now he too is a teacher.
We reflected on my own life’s journey and directions and that of several mutual friends and the paths they had taken. We compared our observations, made notes and reflected on new directions and pathways ahead. I raised the question as I heard earlier in the day of them and we talked of them and is there a difference in teaching us or them, is there a difference in attitudes between us and them.
It is so funny when two people, three actually my son was there talking about life and attitudes and we were very positive, it is hard to use pronouns of us and them it changed to we continually. We should do this or this, not us and or them.

 

“There is a destiny that makes us brothers, No one goes his way alone; All that we send into the lives of others, Comes back into our own.” Edwin Markham

As I talk with people, email and other wise communicate, I find I am no longer simply an observer I am now interacting and altering by my words. It is at that moment of destiny and of the future, my choice to use or not use a word or even discuss a subject and respond positively or negatively affects the journey for myself and that other person.

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

We need to sometimes take a stand and try to alter destiny it really isn’t destiny till it happens anyway. We can change the direction of the leaf floating by, a slight movement a word and perhaps light can permeate even the darkest of corners and a person who sees only in black and white may be allowed to see color and realize in an instant what has been missing in their journey. A good friend who is professor at a nearby university and I were discussing the butterfly effect. The flap of a butterfly’s wing in the Andes of Peru could create enough turbulence to alter the path of a hurricane. As I thought deeper, never simply let a leaf float by if you know only a few feet away is a waterfalls. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and pull a few leaves from the current when you get a chance as I will and always give thanks

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Why should it be neither wolf nor dog in education?

Bird Droppings March 9, 2017
Why should it be neither wolf nor dog in education?

 

In light of watching current news and political turmoil I recalled a trip to the Atlanta Zoo. I was approached as I walked up the hill at the Zoo by an elderly man. I had never met this man previously and hope to never meet again. He saw my camera around my neck and asked if I saw the rare creature ahead. I asked him which one as several endangered animals are housed at the Atlanta Zoo. His next comment took me by surprise. It was a derogatory racially motivated jab at nonwhites. My first reaction was numbness. Why did this racist out of all the random people pick me to talk too. Synchronicity as I say. I watched him walk away down the hill thinking how in this modern world does a man like that even live? How can someone be so jaded and hate so much? Yet every time I sit down to my computer and read even a few social media posts there is a more virulent infectious racism countered with, “but I am not racist.” Over the years I have mentioned world peace and even offered up the passage of peace be with you, borrowing from the Eucharist. Wayne William Snellgrove , an artist from South Florida, started my morning right today with a line or two from Black Elk.

“Peace… comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells Wakan-Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa) OGLALA SIOUX

 

It has been sometime since I first read the book, Neither Wolf nor Dog, which happens to have been written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. Listening to political gibberish and sitting watching twitter comments through indigenous news casts the issue of the Native Peoples has never gone away and is perhaps equally as appropriate as we are in a situation as a nation with a current nontraditional president who happens to be of a different color than what many Americans would prefer and are afraid to say they are. So easy to say “I am not racist but his church affiliation cannot be over looked.” I was listening to several of my students discuss politics and always a little other reason somehow gets mentioned. Listening to polls and news similar rationales seem to prevail although cloaked in Republican or Democratic jargon. I saw a poster recently of an Indian woman stating something to the effect anyone not speaking Lakota, and listed numerous more dialects and languages needs to leave as you are trespassing illegally on Indian land.

 

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

 

This great warrior and holy man died in 1890 shot by his own people as fore told in a vision he had many years before. At the time the federal government was concerned with his affiliation with the ghost dance cult, which was sweeping the reservations. Armed Sioux officers were sent to bring him in and as legend goes he was reaching for his grandson’s toy and the officers perceived a gun and shot him multiple times. Sadly most of the officers themselves were killed in mysterious ways the next year or so. Perhaps the officer’s deaths were retaliation for the killing of a great leader from the Sioux nation. Perhaps it is the paradox of the Indian wars.
It always seems interesting to me how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians and yet the statement “I would die for my people and country,” is a very patriotic statement we still hear from all patriots down through history. Today around the world we are witnessing similar events in many countries and we are the invaders again. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and who is the enemy. I recall on a public broadcast a “former” rock star that is also an alleged draft dodger from the Viet Nam era and is very pro guns was blasting our former president and came awful close to threatening him. Many considered that tirade as patriotic, at least the NRA convention crowd applauded. I actually went to one of his concerts for thirty seconds back in 1970’s. It was so bad I left.

 

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

 

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

 

With each word spouted from some conservative’s lips about lowering gas prices and yet never do we ask oil companies to decrease their ever increasing profits. I have not quite figured this out how we as citizens will save if oil companies increase profits. Perhaps it is looking for new lands to subdue which is the credo of so many conservatives and their religious affiliations. Taking away lands from wilderness to own and subdue and to plunder. Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of wilderness to conquer as I watch world events. Even the rumor mill is involving Haiti now as a possible new territory for the US. Do we need another General Custer and another battle of the little Big Horn? I was thinking back in my own time and war, Viet Nam, and to the Malai massacre but those folks had no weapons and only were standing around not fighting back. I am always amazed that Custer was a hero and yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle outnumbered and was slaughtered. Perhaps it was the fact the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors had the newest weaponry, repeating rifles and Custer’s men still had breech loading single shot rifles. Interestingly enough word had it the unit was offered the new weapons but felt the old ones were good enough for what they were doing killing Indians.

 

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

 

I went to school for a semester in Texas in 1968 and experienced racism I had never seen before to that degree. Hatred for Indians nearly one hundred years after the wars were over. Geronimo and Chief Joseph were both refused on their death beds by sitting presidents to return to their sacred lands for fear of up risings. Nearly seven years ago on a Monday a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch Texas. More recently Arizona enacted even stricter laws that are currently in court and today before the US Supreme Court. Back in the day we were the illegal immigrants and we stole a land and destroyed culture after culture taking and subduing. In Georgia government and in several other states  today they want to forget that type of history in US History classes since it ruins our image (European white) as an elite people.
In 1973 I met the contingency of Creeks who were working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends and I was honored to be invited to take medicine at the Green Corn dance. Nearly 150 years earlier under Andrew Jackson’s orders the Creeks were taken from Georgia to Oklahoma, the now infamous Trail of Tears. With the Creeks gone all the land became available. I found searching for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother an article about my great great grandfather George Niper who lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old and was the last living person to have voted for Andrew Jackson. I found it interesting Jackson was a Democrat; I do not think he would be in today’s politics.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Interesting how an invaded people fought back yet we condemned them and how history changes the views. I have been reading a book that I entitled today’s wandering about, Neither Wolf nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn. It is an interesting book about an old man’s effort to explain who his people really are. Nerburn was asked to write the words of an elderly Indian, a member of the Sioux nation, to explain why and how. One day maybe someone will offer explanations for the issues of today that go beyond the political views of warring parties and ideologies as we wander today. I am sitting with the lingering aroma of sage and haunting flute music of Carlos Nakai in the background please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please always remember to give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Teaching can make a difference each day

Bird Droppings March 8, 2017
Teaching can make a difference each day

 

“Dialogue, is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world” Paulo Freire

 

A Brazilian educationalist and one of the most influential thinkers of the late twentieth century made famous the term dialogue in his writing. As I read a bit about Freire this morning a word in his vernacular that is interesting, praxis, for teacher’s praxis is that horrible battery of tests for certification. For Freire a meaning with import, “acts which shape and change the world”

 

“Man must prove the truth, i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice…. All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mystics, find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice…. The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” Karl Marx, 1845 Theses on Feurbach: II, VII, XI

 

It is through thinking that events change and draw meaning it is not simply thinking but applying these thoughts.

 

“It is not simply action based on reflection. It is action which embodies certain qualities. These include a commitment to human wellbeing and the search for truth, and respect for others. It is the action of people who are free, who are able to act for themselves. Moreover, praxis is always risky. It requires that a person ‘makes a wise and prudent practical judgment about how to act in this situation” Carr and Kemmis 1986

 

Wise and prudent are not often used terms in most human situations. It is infrequent that most people go about thinking in terms of world good even community good we live in this more self-oriented society, a society of hedonism.

 

“Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect. The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing.” Mark K. Smith, 1997

 

There are pieces here I started with a word dialogue and have moved rather rapidly through the concept of praxis but reading Mark Smith’s comments the idea of human flourishing impresses me. I find it is what we do that perpetuates the species and ideals and thoughts of the human kind. I did a questionnaire for the state department of education on Thursday last week. The questions were discussing standards and assessment and such combine that with teachers who are so uptight with only five weeks or so left two till end of course tests. This is now standard in most states but part of quantifying but I question are we making strides in education in this manner. It becomes all about cramming pieces of information into the minuscule brains of teenagers. I recall Sydney J. Harris’s comparison to stuffing sausages. In our great effort to quantify we have stripped quality.

“Educators have to teach. They have to transform transfers of information into a ‘real act of knowing” Paulo Freire

 

So in effect cramming and pouring vast quantities of information into students to take a test that had to be pushed up due to calendar and state parameters makes a lot of sense. How much water can be poured in a one liter bottle and how many state officials will it take to figure out that one. I recall a summer or two ago reading tests to students with learning disabilities almost a paradox in and of its self “reading graduation tests”. I looked across at my water bottle and that thought hit me can we put more than a liter of water in a liter bottle. Immediately I was thinking freeze it water expands when chilled then heat it again expansion and so how do we put a gallon of information in a one liter container or is it actually ten gallons of material?
It was back in the winter on a trip to the mountains and a walk through visit to the Foxfire museum that the reality of doing this hit it is possible to fit ten gallons of knowledge in a one liter container. The museum curator and guide held up a copper device and talked about the mainstay of mountain life years gone by, “moon shining” the device he held up was a condenser used in making white lightening, grain alcohol, or moon shine. In theory you can condense and distill those ten gallons to whatever capacity you want. You teach the necessary aspects borrowing from Freire, “transform transfers of information into a ‘real acts of knowing”. This is the key taking the content and applying context then it will be remembered and provide the latitude to advance thinking and that persons direction in life and to making a difference. 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

Potential is only that unless it is acted upon

Bird Droppings March 7, 2017
Potential is only that unless it is acted upon

 

“Love is a complex experience which seems to follow no rules but its own. Romantic love can have the power of a hurricane or the tenderness of a soft wet wind. I have known, too, a chance introduction which instantly and magically merged into a lifelong friendship. And I’ve known love that refused to blossom over decades despite close, frequent contact. Then suddenly, this same person I had not considered significant became a treasured friend.” James Kavanaugh, A Lifetime Isn’t Long Enough To Love you

 

It was nearly fifteen years ago I went for an interview to be accepted into a Master’s Degree program at Piedmont College. I failed my interview. I had already been in school for over a year in the program and somehow I had just failed the entrance interview.  Perhaps in my zeal for the program I had forgotten the interview process. I called my advisor and an appointment was made with the Dean. I was extremely fortunate to sit in with the Dean of the Education department and gain acceptance to the program officially. A few months later I faced the professor who failed me on the interview. Much like Kavanaugh’s thought we became good friends and in effect he reintroduced me to a long forgotten bit of my past in the poet James Kavanaugh. I have now many of his books in my library and this particular one caught my attention. The above is the first paragraph of the introduction to this book.

 

“Sometimes, indeed there is such discrepancy between the genius and his human qualities that one has to ask oneself whether A little less talent might not have been better… It is a fact that cannot be denied: the wickedness of others becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in our own hearts… Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.” Carl Jung (senior quote in 2003 LHS yearbook for Jamie Garr)
As I was thinking of potential it is so much on how we perceive and see the world and those around us. It is the acceptance and caring we share and that we allow others to participate in. Potential a simple word yet so often robbed from students from friends as we impose our own priorities and limitations on relationships on communication and on life itself.

 

“There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential.” Rusty Berkus

 

As parents, teachers and friends we need to be igniters for others and when needed be a self-igniter for us. Each day I watch teachers and other students limit the potential of others. Often indirectly and without thought we do this.

 

“Rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebbles.” Sir Thomas Browne

 

A number of years ago in 1905, a miner unearthed in South Africa a baseball size rock, pulled from the ground covered in mud. It may have been discarded but when an observant miner carefully washed and cleaned the stone it turned out to be the largest diamond ever found. The Cullian Diamond weighed in at over 3000 carats. When cut the diamond was made into several now famous cut stones most of which reside in the crown jewels of Great Britain including the golf ball size diamond in the scepter of the Queen.

 

“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential.” Liane Cardes

 

“The treacherous, unexplored areas of the world are not in continents or the seas; they are in the hearts and minds of men.” Allen E. Claxton

 

So often it is within us that we become limited. We ourselves become the stumbling blocks for our own potential. It takes perseverance and effort to many times over come our own fears and inadequacies. Often children are put down and carry that into later events and undertakings, a sense of inadequacy and potential is squashed.

 

“Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential. They experience synergy only in small, peripheral ways in their lives. But creative experiences can be produced regularly, consistently, almost daily in people’s lives. It requires enormous personal security and openness and a spirit of adventure.” Steven R. Covey

 

A virtual business empire has been built by Covey helping and inspiring people to become aware of their own potential unlocking what they hold inside. Great coaches in sports and life through understanding of people achieve success with teams that may not have the greatest athletes but have a concerted effort for achieving their potential. In a recent college football game, a seemingly invincible team was upset by a smaller college. It was that team’s effort to reach their true potential and another team thinking less of them because of who they thought they were.

 

“A pint can’t hold a quart — if it holds a pint it is doing all that can be expected of it.” Margaret Deland

 

“It’s the moment you think you can’t that you realize you can.” Celine Dion

 

“What you can become you are already.” Hebbel Friedrich

 

There are really no secrets to unlocking our own potential, it is there waiting. So many years ago I remember my father saying never say “I can’t”, “you can achieve anything you set your mind too”. .

 

“The cynic says, ‘One man can’t do anything.’ I say, ‘Only one man can do anything.’” John W. Garner

 

John Garner was the author of numerous books on a range of subjects including Leadership and motivation. Garner states it is there inside us “Only one man can do anything”.

 

“The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we could become.” Ben Herbster

 

“Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make very small use of their possible consciousness and of their soul’s resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.” William James

We so get into the habit of accepting limitations, of listening to those around us who keep us back. We should instead seek people and friends who uplift and raise the standards for us and those around us. Try and look for people who also want to reach their potential.

 

“It’s not what you’ve got; it’s what you use that makes a difference.” Zig Ziglar

 

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve obviously never been in bed with a mosquito.” Michelle Walker

 

We each can make a difference within ourselves and with others by not holding friends, family and or students back. Instead each of us should by helping them to reach their potential, by not having expectations that limit growth and achievement. We can accomplish anything by reaching for the sky. Today it is the near the end of the week let us all be more aware of those around us

 

“Normal day let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.” Mary Jean Iron

 

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

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Is there a difference between progressive and traditional teachers?

Bird Droppings March 6, 2017

Is there a difference between progressive and traditional teachers?

 

This is perhaps a loaded question in lieu of today’s educational climate. Watching the news and the major effort under way to dismantle public schools through vouchers, “school choice” and other means we need to look at what we want from education. In a ninth grade literature class that I happened to co-teach in, I was introduced to the book Freedom Writers Diary and the film based on the book. In some ways the story is similar to the story of Foxfire. Erin Gruell a first year brand new teacher in an inner city school circa 1992 is baffled as to how and approach literature with her classes. Elliot Wiggington n 1966 was just as baffled as a new teacher of literature in the mountains of Rabun County Georgia. I recall my own first time teaching verbal students I should add as I taught several years working with severe and profoundly disabled students who all were nonverbal. I will say my earliest teaching experiences with non-verbal students did instill in me an appreciation for empathy and intuitiveness. That first verbal student class picture is on my wall in my room today from 1976. Over forty years ago I saw the same issues Wiggington and Gruell faced walking into a class of students who did not want to be there. Lesson one is always the hardest.

 

“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.” Foxfire Core Practice three

 

I was given a class of thirteen I was told that they were learning disabled students. As day one progressed I found someone put down the wrong disability on most of these kids. My principal emphasized reading and I found very quickly the highest reading level in the entire class was three or four years behind. I was not privileged to see folders of students I was to only know they are learning disabled. Our readers were the Dick and Jane type books from first grade and my youngest student was twelve. I learned day one these books we were reading would not work period after having one nearly miss my head. At least my teacher’s podium was not set on fire as happened to Elliot Wiggington back in his first teaching job. When I went home that night I swore day two would be different.

 

“Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites. It is given to formulating its beliefs in terms of Either-Ors, between which it recognizes no intermediate possibilities. When forced to recognize that the extremes cannot be acted upon, it is still inclined to hold that they are all right in theory but that when it comes to practical matters circumstances compel us to compromise. Educational philosophy is no exception. The history of educational theory is marked by position between the idea that education is development from within and that it is formation from without; that it is based upon natural endowments and that education is a process of overcoming natural inclination and substituting in its place habits acquired under external pressure.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

So many college education programs across the country teach a classroom should be like this with a picture of rows of desks all neat in a row and board in front and so forth like so many classrooms we all have seen. Dewey labeled this traditional education and points to the industrial revolution as the basis for this. In current educational reform which in effect is not reform in terms of improving education for children but an effort to streamline and make more efficient the processes of education so as to be more profitable for corporations now buying into education through charter schools. In effect even a stronger sense of traditional education except now imagine the ideal reform classroom banks of computer carousels with students focused on screens room after room and somewhere a “teacher” monitoring programming of computers. No longer would certified teachers be needed only a programmer. Room after room all sitting in rows focused on the screen. Definitely not the classroom I would want for my kids or grandkids.

 

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

 

This is why perhaps I am drawn to John Dewey’s writing. In the turn of the century he knew education was the key to democracy and the key to the future. Dewey set a lab school at the University of Chicago that still is operating. It was after several years and a graduate school course that Elliot Wiggington realized he was using ideas from John Dewey.

 

“The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.” Foxfire Core Practice two

 

I found on my own it was about learner choice and interaction between students and teachers that learning occurred not in some magically programmed curriculum guide. I asked on day two what my students liked to read and nothing was the basic answer from all of them. So what do you like to do was question two. Now we started to get some answers. A rush of favorites started spilling out wrestling, cars, girls, fast cars, baseball, football and it grew quickly. So day three I brought magazines about cars, wrestling and I did leave playboy at my house but I was tempted. By the end of year reading levels soared and my principal was so excited she ordered next set of Dick and Jane books.
As I watched the film Freedom Writers my thoughts went back to why did this teacher succeed and why did Wiggington succeed. As I looked up information on the Freedom Writers I found in the references a list of teachers on the Wikipedia page. Listed in the references and for further information Ken Carter, education activist and former high school basketball coach portrayed in the 2005 film, Coach Carter, Joe Louis Clark, high school principal portrayed in Lean on Me (film), Ron Clark (teacher), portrayed in the 2006 film, The Ron Clark Story, Pierre Dulaine, dancer and dance educator, Jaime Escalante, high school teacher portrayed in the 1988 film, Stand and Deliver, Marilyn Gambrell, parole officer-turned high school teacher portrayed in the 2005 Lifetime movie, Fighting the Odds: The Marilyn Gambrell Story, and LouAnne Johnson, writer, teacher and former U.S. Marine featured in the 1995 film, Dangerous Minds. All of these teachers also were successful with their classes. Why were these teachers successful and others perhaps trying to emulate have not succeeded.

 

“As Foxfire grew and gained national recognition, beleaguered teachers all across the country looked at The Foxfire Magazine, and saw an opportunity to change things. They started producing their own magazines in an attempt to “do Foxfire.” Most of these teachers met with partial or little success because they had missed the very heart of why Foxfire succeeded—student choice.” Foxfire Fund website

 

After ten summers of Foxfire teacher’s courses I have found only a few teachers use the ideas and are successful and it comes back to allowing students to take some ownership.

 

“The success of the Foxfire program was due in large part to the fact the students chose to create a magazine. Since the magazine was their choice, the students were deeply invested in the work of creating it. The magazine product itself was not the solution to classroom woes that so many teachers thought it would be. Kaye Carver Collins, an early magazine student and later a Foxfire staff member for 13 years, explained the problem like this: ‘It seemed that people couldn’t understand the importance of the difference between the magazine, which was the choice we made, and the fact that we made a decision.’” Foxfire Fund website

 

After being in education and training for nearly forty five years I have found it is much easier to ask someone to do something than tell them. I have found it is easier if it is of interest to that person and if it applies to that person outside of educational setting even easier to teach.

 

“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.” Foxfire Core Practice eight

Hanging on my wall over my head in my classroom the Foxfire Core Practices and another poster of children learn what they live. One poster the Foxfire one shows me I am a learner as well as a teacher, more a facilitator. Dr. Laura Nolte’s poster shows me to set the example the children are watching. So progressive versus traditional where does this lead?
“The traditional scheme is, in essence, one of imposition from above and from outside. It imposes adult standards, subject-matter, and methods upon those who are only growing slowly toward maturity. The gap is so great that the required subject-matter, the methods of learning and of behaving are foreign to the existing capacities of the young. They are beyond the reach of the experience the young learners already possess. Consequently, they must be imposed; even though good teachers will use devices of art to cover up the imposition so as to relieve it of obviously brutal features.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

Teaching should not be simply a control issue. Education needs to be less of a prison and more oriented around creating an atmosphere of learning. Down through history developmentalists including Piaget and Erickson have shown children are learning different than adults and in effect are developing in their learning styles and means. Yet we assume they are operating on an adult level almost from day one. I have brought up several issues why some teachers, who are progressive are successful and others not and why is traditional education not succeeding but simply staying almost on a level progression even reformers ideas are not impacting just making someone somewhere wealthy. I have wandered a bit today and will clarify in days to come trying to raise some questions. As today progresses please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Teaching and life are simply feeding wolves

Bird Droppings March 3, 2017
Teaching and life are simply feeding wolves

 

I have heard and seen this in many forms. “’One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a debate that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.’” From Jodie Schmidt, 2005

 

Many years ago in my travels and in reading emails I read this story sent by a friend. Only a few days ago it was on Facebook. As I read over this short story and by chance I was thinking about how children respond to various situations. We adults then commend or condemn them, feed them. Those two words are so closely spelled yet so far apart in meaning and understanding. Yesterday morning a young lady came in and was visibly upset but more of a moping kind of upset. Seems her boyfriend and she were sort of at odds. I shared the Thomas Merton quote I have hanging on my wall and have used here so many times.

 

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we see in them.” Thomas Merton

 

I asked the young lady to look up Merton and see some of his other writings and who he was which she did before school and then she left with a copy and a Kent Nerburn book, Calm Surrender. As we talked I thought of this quote about the wolves inside of us and how we all are fighting as she told me of conflicts in her life and in her boyfriends.
Several days back my wife and I were discussing kids as we tend too and the topic of learned behavior came up. We teach kids through our actions and inactions and yet we then punish them for the same exact thing. An attorney was on TV saying parents who knew kids were drinking at a party at their house should not be held responsible for any actions of drunken teenagers. The discussion was on a point, counter point discussion and then the other side mentioned that the person who was involved in the accident had been arrested previously for DUI and the parents knew that so there was a history established.
So I sat listening to this back and forth, an underage drinking party led to a teenage driver killing a child. The underage drinker who was driving had left the party at that particular parent’s home with their knowledge he was drunk and had been drunk previously, both parties were found guilty. On the one hand the defense attorney was saying kids will be kids and on the other a dead child.
I look back at the story which wolf is being fed. We are responsible as teachers, parents and we and others need to be more actively involved in keeping such situations from happening. Whether it be teenage love or teenage drinking there is harm being done around the corner and often under our noses. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Puzzle’s always are missing a piece

Bird Droppings March 2, 2017
Puzzle’s always are missing a piece

 

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another!” Gail Sheehy, American journalist, author

 

It has been a most interesting couple of months, even weeks for me. I was sitting here thinking about time spent with my grandkids it is always exciting, enjoyable and a learning experience. We play, snuggle, play, go to the park, read books and each new thought process and hand gesture lends to excitement. I sat and watched a week or so ago as my wife and granddaughter talked at the park and then when we got home they were playing with some puzzles and one was a puzzle of letters and animals. She knew each letter and the only animals that threw her off were a skunk and quail. I was floored when she said iguana for the letter I. Then on Facebook my daughter in-law posted how our granddaughter in North Carolina was being the focus of everyone’s attention as they went shopping. Having been through as a parent so many years ago it is not about having forgotten but watching as a grandparent it is so much more meaningful and after the past few weeks realizing while understanding the circle of life there is much  more to do.
I walked out the door this morning to three deer grazing by the house. All in all it was really not a surprise as we have had deer around the house since we moved in nearly eight years ago. Just recently the pine trees once so thick you could not see ten feet into them were thinned and timbered. Now you can see a hundred feet into the forest and opened alley ways to allow for tree growth were cut along entire section of land. On Sunday as I went to watch a sunrise I saw my first coyote since living out here. I have heard them almost nightly but not seen one. So my fear of disturbing the wildlife from the timbering may be somewhat displaced. The only animal I had not seen many of was wild turkeys until this past year and they are back for sure.
It has been nearly six years since we were informed our principal was being promoted and going to the county office. This was a significant advancement for him and a great loss for us. As I looked around my room this morning and wonder what would it be like to move again to another room, another school and or even retire I think, many of us were going through this. As teachers in today’s crazy educational setting we are wondering who will be going here or there, why and when and with class size increases whose jobs are safe and whose are not. As it seems so far this year we may be gaining some positions due to student increases and we are getting our preferred classes and everything seems to be very stable.
As so many teachers do each year I am hoping I will be doing what I am this year and can stay in my room. I recall boxing up nearly nine years of photos and moving many gigs of data to a portable hard drive from computers around the room four summers ago. I had to move my eland head. It had been situated on a wall among former student’s photos. The eland is a head and shoulder mount and very big. I raised him from a two year old and when he died a good friend said he would be impressive mounted and well he looks pretty impressive, the largest African antelope. He was six foot at the shoulder and 1400 pounds when he was alive. My numerous aquariums and my pets had to be moved as well. A few I scattered about school a few in my smaller room and some came home.
It has been two years since I was home for two weeks on sick leave. I had gone nearly two weeks since had any students came my class room. Those mornings were strange lying in bed or in a recliner at home, doing a bit of work and then napping and each day realizing I need to change my way of living. I have since made a concerted effort to eat better. As I was coming into our driveway late yesterday a large hawk sailed over the house. At first I thought it was a buzzard but the movement was more hawk like and as I pulled in the hawk settled on a tree directly in front of me. A big red tailed hawk just sitting about eighty feet from me watching and gazing at me through my windshield. As I opened the door to the car he flew off.
I often wonder about such coincidences in life. What if I had been thirty minutes sooner no hawk or ten minutes later again no hawk. I by chance was in a window of time on the same wave length at least for a moment as the hawk. Maybe it was the fact I was thinking about so many Native American ideas and teaching about the sacred in life and was excited talking to several old friends who are teaching and or working at the University level in that area. Maybe it was simply coincidence the hawk sat and watched me. As I left the grocery store yesterday evening the sunrise was ok but nothing exciting. By chance I forgot a ream of paper for my son. Coming out the second time the sunset was intense synchronicity at its best.
As I write this morning I did manage a few moments outside watching the clouds move around the little dipper an interesting arrangement literally six lines of clouds in a circle around the constellation and quickly dissipated along with a faint smile of the moon again a few minutes later or earlier and I would have missed it. A few more moments and fog set in.

 

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours….Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man 1863-1950

 

I have used this quote many times borrowing from the wisdom of Black Elk including at my father’s funeral and my youngest son’s wedding. It has been many years since I described myself as a circle, alone unopened in a short poem I wrote one night sitting alone in my apartment in Pennsylvania. As I am sitting listening to the running water from my room’s tanks and native flute music of Carlos Nakai it is a peaceful feeling wandering through memories and thinking about where and when and how. Which path should I choose to walk today, tomorrow and the day after? What new trail or should I stay secure in the old.

 

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach the children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know, the earth does not belong to man, and man belongs to the earth.” Chief Seattle

 

I sat back and thought about my hawk yesterday and how we are all intertwined on this globe, the hawk and I my students at school each an aspect of who we are and why we are here. I look forward to the journey today as always and one day way off when a destination does approach it will be when it is. But for today I am occupied with the journey 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