Teaching can be successful

Bird Droppings May 12, 2017

Teaching can be successful

So as I do on many mornings when I get the time I walked out to a quiet corner of my back yard. Nestled in a patch of weeds and brush I laid claim to my quiet spot and look toward the east in the morning. It is still too dark when I head to school to glimpse the sunrise or the threads of life as I call them glisten in the early morning light. These are strands of spider webbing that are still hanging connecting everything. The scientist part of me knows that they are simply webs from wandering spiders the previous night out hunting but the mystic in me sees the connections. I do see the interconnections but many do not. I have not been lazy these past few days but visiting my newest grandbaby in North Carolina. We are so happy to welcome Harrison Bird to the family.

As I see my grandchildren and interact I become concerned deeply with their education. I am concerned about learning even more so than education. That is a strange statement to make coming from a teacher by trade. We have institutions established called schools where learning is to occur. Sadly various interfering elements within state and federal polity contradict and totally destroy the ability to provide learning experiences for children. Yesterday several editorial cartoons were sent through the internet showing a group of students all connected with wires from their heads staring ahead and one trying to climb out a window to the outside and nature. The just of the image was education reform wants us all to be education zombies all learning the same thing at the same time. If we cannot reverse the decline in learning our children will be simply pawns of whoever is or whatever is in power at the time.

 

“The first object of any act of learning, over and beyond the pleasure it may give, is that it should serve us in the future. Learning should not only take us somewhere; it should allow us later to go further more easily.” Ted Sizer

 

I received an email yesterday or I should say a response to a Facebook post I shared from a friend. The video clip I shared many months back was directed at the Teach to the Test mentality that is sweeping education due to high stakes testing being mandated by states and federal law. A young man a recent college graduate stated he could not get a job because his method of teaching was more hands on than what administrators were looking for. Daily I see the frustration of my son who was trained to teach in experiential manner and is now limited by what is on the curriculum map today. I have co-taught with a teacher in physics who likes to provide context to the learning. In order to study the concepts of velocity and acceleration we did a slip and slide lab to take data in order to calculate acceleration and velocity. It was interesting to see physics come alive for those kids and still comply with the curriculum requirements. If I was wagering I would definitely say we did.

 

“A vision without a task is a dream – a task without a vision is drudgery- but a task with vision can change the world.” Black Elk

 

“Too much emphasis has been placed on reforming school from the outside through policies and mandates. Too little has been paid to how schools can be shaped from within.” Roland Barth

 

Just a few days ago I addressed the fact we are educating more diversified students in the United States than anywhere in the world. I borrowed from Black Elk a Lakota Sioux Holy Man who passed away nearly sixty years ago. Black Elk believed in the power of visions. Roland Barth was a professor at Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. His book Improving Schools from Within, was a best seller in 1991. His latest book Learning by heart, addresses the need for school reform and changes and that they need to come from changing the culture of schools. As I read both pieces and thought a Sioux holy man talking about making a vision real and a renowned educator saying we need to look within in order to elicit change maybe we should be listening to them and not politicians.

 

“Rarely do outside of school remedies work their way into the fabric of the schools or into the teacher’s lives, and more rarely into the classrooms. Therefore they only offer a modest hope of influencing the basic culture of the school.” Roland Barth

 

“Community building must become the heart of any school improvement effort.” Thomas Sergiovanni

           

“The best we educational planners can do is to create the conditions for teachers and students to flourish and get out of their way.” Theodore Sizer

 

As I ponder my various authors I am reviewing and borrowing from today Barth, Sergiovanni and Sizer in the quotes above I find continuity. These men are all innovators and have made significant and powerful suggestions about education across the nation. Many school systems use the concept of learning communities that Sergiovanni promotes in his writing. I know that Roland Barth’s ideas are taught and re-taught in graduate schools nationwide and teachers seldom leave college without hearing the name of Ted Sizer. What concerns me is why is it with the potential to change education we seem to be in a rut and really going nowhere different. Why do we continue to know what to do to better educate kids and then do not do it. I wish an answer were simple to place in writing but I see blame as being in the leadership of schools. I see blame in school boards and in state education boards and eventually at a federal level. As the ideology leaves the classroom it goes from being real and meaningful to being business and is it cost effective? Can we afford this? Should we spend dollars on this? Somewhere children get left out and learning gets sat by the roadside.

 

“To cope with a changing world, ant entity must develop the capacity of shifting and changing – of developing new skills and attitudes; in short, the capability of learning.” A. DeGues, The Living Company

 

“The challenge of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

 

“You cannot have a learning organization without a shared vision…A shared vision provides a compass to keep learning on course when stress develops. The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.” Peter Senge

 

Dr. Peter Senge is a professor at MIT and renowned scholar in the field of learning. His books and theories are used in management schools and education studies. The idea of a collaborative effort in learning falls back into many ideas that have been mentioned in previous droppings dealing with Foxfire and John Dewey and the democratic class room. Students learn more when it is relevant to them and they have some buy in. Proust provides that we need a new perception to see rather than using the same old mythology to view education and learning. We have to develop new skills not just use what is available. Although John Dewey’s ideas are still considered progressive at over a hundred years old always strikes me as interesting.

 

“We learn best from our experience, but we never directly experience the consequences of many of our most important decisions. In the absence of a great dream pettiness prevails. Shred visions foster risk taking, courage and innovation. Keeping the end in mind creates the confidence to make decisions even in moments of crisis.” Peter Senge

 

“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from non-conformity, the ability to turn your back on old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesteryear for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We mist dare to invent the future.”  Thomas Sankara African leader

 

“Schools are among the very few institutions that have remained almost entirely unchanged for most of this century.” Judith Aitken

 

“No other organization institution faces challenges as radical as those that will transform the school.”  Peter Drucker

 

“Today’s Schools are not Tomorrows Schools. That’s a fundamental misconception.”

David Lange

 

Author, speakers, management consultants, professors, educational leaders and each of them a great teacher in their own right have been outspoken for years about our schools and learning. Why do we let politicians decide what our students should be learning or how we should be evaluating these students? Why do we put arbitrary numbers on children with disabilities as to who can and who cannot exempt or not exempt state mandated tests. One IQ point separates two students one who because they cannot pass the High School graduation tests is and receives a special education certificate of attendance and is counted as a drop out because they did not graduate and the other by submitting a portfolio of what learning occurred in high school graduates with a legitimate high school diploma and is a graduate. One IQ point separates the two and how they are assessed.

 

“The overwhelming number of teachers …are unable to name or describe a theory of learning that underlies what they do.” Alfie Kohn

 

“It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather… I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” Haim Ginott

 

“In teaching students to think the emphasis is not on how many answers they know. Rather, the focus is on how well they behave when they don’t know.” Art Costa

 

I recall reading Alfie Kohn for the first time in 2001 at the suggestion of my principal who had formed a book club. The title of the book is The Schools our Children Deserve. As I read through these authors and quotes last night as I researched for my morning wanderings I wonder can we ever really change the industrial complex that drives education? Can we unseat lobbyists and politicians who seek profits at the cost of our children’s learning? I wonder as I finish up today if we can overcome.

 

“In the absence of a great dream pettiness prevails. Shared visions foster risk taking, courage and innovation. Keeping the end in mind creates the confidence to make decisions even in moments of crisis.” Peter Senge

 

I started and end with a vision. “A vision without a task is a dream – a task without a vision is drudgery- but a task with vision can change the world.” Black Elk The great spiritual leader Black Elk spoke of his visions and Peter Senge offers a shared vision. I was once told it took leaders who had vision to truly lead and I wonder if we can find those people within education who care enough about children and about learning to pave the way to a new understanding and realization of our educational system. 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

 

Culture is far more than just a word

Bird Droppings May 11, 2017

Culture is far more than just a word

 

“Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and granting a space of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that thought comes before speech. In the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect. More powerful than words was silence with the Lakota.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

Culture is those pieces of which we are that others see when we are in their presence. It is how we eat and what we eat. It is how we honor and respect others and or not respect others. Culture is a combination of learned and practiced behaviors all that come together and make us an individual, family, community and nation. In a world as diverse as we live in now it becomes cultures rather rapidly as the melting pot of humanity that is the United States perhaps more so than anywhere else in the world has attracted peoples from around the world.

 

My father as we grew up told many stories of the various Indian tribes around the country some of which he heard from Code Talkers that his LSM shuttled back and forth on landings in the South Pacific during World War II. The Code Talkers were Navaho who would use their native tongue send encrypted messages across the Japanese lines and in the years they served in the Pacific the code was never broken. My father became good friends and his stories of Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle have been passed now to his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

 

It has been nearly fifty years since I was first exposed to a hatred I had never seen before. I headed to Texas after flunking out of college my freshmen year. I was trying to not get drafted more so than staying in college, since a student deferment was one of the few ways to avoid getting drafted and I was not interested in getting married. Back in the day Plano Texas was in the sticks about twenty miles from Dallas and really a hole in the wall. We had a pizza place and a Dairy Queen and that was it. So we students who hailed from all over the country would frequent one of the two options on a regular basis. On one particular day I went in and several for real cowboys were sitting there with wads of tobacco in their cheeks and discussing the hated Indians and what they would do if one came in the Dairy Queen. About that time one spit right at my flip flop shod feet. Seems long haired college students were only one step up from Indians in this narrow minded world of Plano Texas in 1968.

 

“His strict observance of this tenet of good behavior was the reason, no doubt, for his being given the false characterization by the white man of being a stoic. He has been judged to be dumb, stupid, indifferent, and unfeeling. As a matter of truth, he was the most sympathetic of men, but his emotions of depth and sincerity were tempered with control. Silence meant to the Lakota what it meant to Disraeli, when he said “Silence is the mother of truth, for the silent man was ever to be trusted, while the man ever ready with speech was never taken seriously.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

Over the past weeks I have written about illegal immigrants and racists and the entire for me issue of how is it we cannot see others as human beings. Standing Bear makes a statement that hits hard it is the silent man who speaks the truth and the man who was always speaking who needs to be not taken seriously. In a school watching students interact there are those who sit quiet and those who never sit still I was joking yesterday about a student who is more like ADHD on Steroids bouncing off the roof and never still. It is the pondering and reflection of the silence that allows us to draw wisdom to the surface and can provide more meaningful interaction. Far better than the noise makers on talk shows who spout off just to hear themselves speak. Sitting in my car driving around yesterday with R. Carlos Nakai flute music on my stereo and the sounds of running water as the rain came down I am in my sanctuary and comfortable as I sit and reflect about my days thoughts. Perhaps when I clear my head from this cold I can get on a better track in terms of getting my droppings out earlier in the day. I wish we each could remember to keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Why should I do more?

Bird Droppings May 13, 2016
Why should I do more?

 

“Choices are sacred to life’s journey. They lie along the path that all of us must follow for ourselves. An important Cherokee lesson is that if you involve yourself in any decision, you also experience the consequences of that decision.” Dr. J.T. Garrett, Meditations with the Cherokee

 

It has been quite a while since I was able to walk out first thing in the morning and experience the newness of the day and not be in a rush to get to school. Granted being not in the structured routine of school I tend to get lazy from not having to get up. I decided this summer to get up early and continue my ritual starting with my cup of green tea and write and read. It has been a very strange spring in Georgia with rain predicted one week and then heat and dry ahead for some time. Afternoons we have a chance of scattered thunder showers and yard work gets curtailed while plants and grass dry a bit. Over the weekend and several times in previous weeks I had to stop till rain drops subsided enough that I would not get soaked coming from my car. It has been nearly nine summers since I submitted a reflection of sorts for my graduate work based on viewing history in more than one color, more than one culture or societal norm. Rereading that reflection led me to a powerful thought.

 

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

 

As I sit here this early morning responding to emails from previous days I am slowly catching up. It is through our actions we are perceived. It was many nights back even several years ago at a basketball game several fans were asked nicely to leave by administration and eventually sheriffs intervened in the altercation. You could be upset with a situation but when you vocalize using words that in reality do not really make sense, as so often swearing does not (sit and write literal meanings to most swearing) and add hand gestures and increase volume, you are being perceived as out of control. When asked nicely to cease such distracting behavior and you continue that too adds to the perception of perhaps out of control. In speaking to a sheriff in a derogatory manner, again fuels the flames of perception, being a person who has ceased to utilize their own self-control and the result, being asked quite nicely to not be in the gym in public view might seem a bit understated.
It could be behavior modification time and coincidentally having a background in BM, that’s behavior modification by the way. Although today we use less harsh terms, Functional Behavior Analysis and Task Analyzes. BM is what it is about and there are times now with two little ones in the house I see some behavior that BM could mean more along the lines of potty training. Back to my story for example, the first offense at a basketball game and there after you can come but must wear a dog training collar to reenter gym. In the control booth sits your modifier, preferably a spouse or child who probably will enjoy this, holding the button. If you get out of control they get to press the button sending a mild shock to your neck. However if you continue they also have on the side of the control box the increase switch, raising the voltage. I think there are some spouses that may automatically go to max even for first jolt.
There is a chance of course that the child or spouse in the control booth has read Skinner’s books and articles and knows intermittent variable reinforcement works great too and shocks just to let their collared friend know who holds the button, and that might become the norm. Sporting events would never be the same. In the stands half the people sitting and twitching from shocks and the other half is sitting quietly smiling pressing the buttons. Kids could play their games and cheerleaders could cheer and what a wonderful time would be had by all. However had everyone read the first line of the first quote today none of this would be necessary.

 

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing” Uncheedah, grandfather of Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman

 

Is that something we now teach? In teaching biology I use a lesson and style of teaching that I had used myself in a graduate school class demonstration on existential teaching methods. I let the students find the answers and act only as a facilitator. In one plastic container is a tiger salamander (Elmo) and in the other a leopard gecko (Emily) one is an amphibian and the other a reptile. The lesson is based on taxonomy and differentiating between amphibians and reptiles. Having done this numerous times in summer school in Biology and in my own classes during the school year those that work through the lesson will remember which is which far better than having read a book or heard in a lecture, they literally followed the trail. How often do we take away curiosity and how often do we brush the trail clean of tracks?

 

“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity.” Edmund Burke

 

“It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellence.” Marcus T. Cicero

 

Far too often we do not have time for children’s questions; we do not want to follow a new trail as Uncheedah speaks of. We only want the status quo the peace and solitude of that lesson plan laid out months in advance and carefully formulated to cover each of the required curriculum needs of the subject in a given time span. Let us get from point A to point B and not venture off the track ever again.

 

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” Samuel Johnson

 

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt

 

So often I talk with students who are not curious. They seldom ask why and only accept what is taught to them and many do not even do that and simply shrug their shoulders and state they don’t care. So many people in our world today simply follow and media and the corporate advertising feed on this. When I read a statement from a person who says this is what I believe and you cannot change that about any subject matter or idea I sort of wonder.
We should be teaching children to challenge, to question, never just accepting an answer. My middle son had the highest regard for a teacher and on an occasion pointed out an error on a discussion transparency dealing with a specific type of animal. He pointed out that what was on the slide was in error and backed it up with the very biology book they were using, as well as other sources. A year later in he was in another Advanced Placement Biology class, and the same slide, same response. He again pointed out the error and the teacher was still teaching exactly the same, still in error and had never changed that slide. By chance three years later, speaking to a class, that slide again appeared, this time his respect for that teacher was gone, while a good teacher, a poor learner. It was difficult for a “teacher” to except a “students” understanding of a topic albeit that students brother had raised and bred that specific animal at home for many years so it was not simply a student spouting off, there was experiential contextual knowledge involved.

 

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Edward Sagan

 

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

 

We got into a discussion of sorts yesterday about doing school work. So often teachers assign a certain number of problems in math regardless of whether the students know how to do that skill or not, homework for example, do these twenty problems. If the skill is known, why do the assignment, if not known, doing problems you do not know how to do, doesn’t help. This is not to pick on math teachers but so often this happens and students begin to look down on busy work. If that assignment had meaning, perhaps more care and effort would ensue. It is no wonder so many students soon learn who is doing homework and copy that person’s work simply to get credit for homework.

 

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

 

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R. K. Bergethon

 

When you can apply a piece of knowledge it lasts far more than when it is simply an idea, a passing, thought something to forget. In some subjects it is difficult to make ideas applicable, at least this is what some teachers think and students soon grow weary and curiosity is gone. Several times I have mentioned a friend who in teaching history would occasionally dress as a knight or king and or a lowly goat herder to make a point drawing the class into the lesson.

 

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

To instill curiosity a teacher must also be curious; a teacher must also be a learner. Recently I read several articles about schools where students and teachers make choices and decisions on the operation of the school, a truly democratic school. The Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts is an example as I mentioned recently. Many years ago Socrates would simply ask a question and students would have to find the answers, not be told the answers and Socrates would assist through more questions. He must have upset his school board since he was required to drink poison.

 

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” Mark Twain

 

This is a good place to wind down today. I am sitting here, thinking, pondering and wondering about where the day may go and what will be said and who will listen. I find solace in that thought. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks for all namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Can we be about healing?

Bird Droppings May 9, 2017
Can we be about healing?

 

“People cannot know how sacred power, or medicine truly works, but almost every Native American knows something of its ways. Often seen as a mysterious force that is fluid, transmissible and important malleable, sacred power can be manipulated by those who possess it – either for good or for worse” Larry Zimmerman, The Sacred Wisdom or the American Indians

 

It is so easy to get up knowing my children and grandchildren are safe and walk out into a morning unafraid, I have never been in the situation my parents were faced with my two younger brothers and me. Shortly after I was born they were unsure as young parents of the medical issues and why their new born was having seizures. I out grew that and moved on to polio at about three and a few small minor other health issues in my childhood. My youngest brother also started with seizures and almost immediately the intensity increased and I think back to how my parents must have felt at that time. My middle brother contracted a bone infection and was on antibiotics and bed rest for weeks.
Watching my own children grow up with so few problems has been easy. A good friend has two small children one diagnosed with diabetes the other with health issues of another sort. A few years past on a Monday a dear friend went in for brain surgery, not something that you volunteer to do, she knew that she may not walk away from it. But in this situation options were minimal, an aneurism on the main artery in her brain could rupture at any time and she would be gone. She had her surgery and survived and is doing fine. We have daily medical miracles unthought-of even when I was a child.
There was calm this morning as I went outside with our dog before even heading upstairs to get on my wife’s computer I was lazy and left mine at school. It was an uneasy calm, as if a storm is coming or maybe just a weather change, yet so peaceful and still. I was absorbed in the quiet, and the stillness, perhaps the storm will come we can always use more rain (sarcasm there after two inches in the past few days). But perhaps the calm will stay and continue. I have a spot in the yard actually I call it my medicine circle where I often go to sit and to listen. As I sat birds were chattering about me and I was looking for answers and to what today would be for me. Sometimes I wander in thinking to defining infinite and nothing. Two simple words yet so much of philosophy and life revolve around attempts at defining those two words. Religions are based on and built on finding answers to the infinite and or understanding what is nothing.
Last evening I walked to my car to get my phone that I had left on the charger. At this time in the evening with little traffic in our neighborhood my front porch is a quiet resting spot as well. I sat down in the rocker and was listening. A buzzing or more humming sound caught my attention and I was face to face with a hummingbird. We stared at each other for some time till the tiny bird flew off into the expanse of pines alongside the road. Had I been a few minutes later or sooner I would have missed the hummingbird.

 

“Creative breakthroughs and prophetic knowing will become ordinary. Empathy and compassion will flower as a result of our deeper connection with one another. The awareness of immortality takes the pressure off living and dying. This will not happen automatically, however. We have to do our share and set our biases and prejudices aside. These are urgent matters.” Dr. Larry Dossey, Healing Words

 

It has been quite a few years since I read Dr. Larry Dossey’s first book. I coming from a seminarian background, my library is filled with books on prayer and the healing power of prayer. Every day in the local paper articles and advertising for various churches allude to the power of prayer. There have been times in my own life when prayer was a significant issue. I recall my father telling the story of my brother lying in a bed at The Philadelphia Children’s hospital this was in the mid 1960’s and the head doctor Dr. C. Everett Koop (The former U.S. Surgeon General circa 1981-1989) offering a prayer over John. I recall a comment my father said years ago that Dr. Koop offered in all of his years in medicine and dealing with terminally ill children had he ever met anyone who refused prayer. Dr. Larry Dossey in his work however is looking at prayer as a thought of healing intentions. Dossey even removes religious connotation from prayer as he looks at the power of prayer, in a California study where a group focused on the individuals in a critical care heart unit and healing occurred.

 

“This is actually been tested in certain studies, and has achieved positive results. For example, at the University of California San Francisco Medical School, they actually tested healing intentions, which were initiated at a great distance by several individuals, for people with advanced AIDS. This was a double blind study. The people who received the healing intentions statistically did much better than people who did not. So this is not just fantasy. This is a valid phenomenon, which has been tested.” Dr. Larry Dossey

 

I am rambling a bit, a dear friend emailed back a few months several incidents of healing and intuition recently, while she was a pastor in Delaware. A good friend would end his emails to me sending energy south. For a number of years now I have ended Bird Droppings with a simple line, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart, each day. A very simple statement, as I sit and think imagine if we each would do this daily how profound an impact would that make on the world.

 

“We are made of prayers. With prayer we listen to what is important inside of us and all around us.” Navajo healer

 

“We are not alone. The spirits of those gone before guide our steps, our traditions, our beliefs. We are not alone. The care of those around us leads us to healing and wholeness and comfort. We are not alone.” Mohawk/Onondaga healer

 

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.” Chief Seattle

 

A good friend from the mountains of North Georgia introduced herself to me slightly over a year ago as a healer and soothsayer. I sat not too many hours ago again with her talking about medicinal plants and other healing topics. I was talking how as I learned more about certain plants I seemed drawn to specific ones. Her response and she has been healing and working with folks for nearly fifty years was they will let you know when they (the plants) are needed. So I close today someone needs a soothing tea I have included a recipe and taking a spare book and a plant to a friend tomorrow. If we focus on those in harm’s way if we try and alleviate suffering and harm being done to others within our own realm of being, that will spread that will encompass soon all of mankind and the world will be touched. Today make it a point to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and a special thought for a little girl in North Georgia and a local woman in Athens who just came out of surgery and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 
A soothing tea:
From Listening with your heart by Dr. Wayne Peate M.D. An Iroquois healer as well as a medical doctor

8 fresh peppermint leaves
4 fresh strawberry leaves
2 cups of water
Crush leaves, place in a tea pot. Add boiling water and cover for ten minutes. Strain and serve. I am making some right now although my strawberry leaves are minimal I did have a lot of peppermint.

 

PS: This is a wonderful tea I use it at home when strawberry and peppermint plants are about.

 

Can we discuss curriculum as sacred?

Bird Droppings May 8, 2017
Can we discuss curriculum as sacred?

 

My wife and I are talking about taking a day hiatus to explore the North Georgia Mountains with no schedule and little baggage.  We will head north on a Saturday morning no plans. Thinking back to our last crazy trip our last journey included a nursery or two, some tourist traps a museum and always some good food. As I sit here thinking so often even a miniscule idea will trigger with me a significant memory.

 

We have a standing joke at our house about the rabbits that live around our yard. My wife continually mentions the book, Watership Downs, when addressing the bold creatures. A few days ago I was heading to the front door when a young rabbit was standing at the door. The rabbit had no sales flyers or sample case so I am sure it was not a traveling sales bunny. But as I pondered and I did get photos of our door tapping rabbit I thought back to one of my earlier undergraduate experiences. I had a professor in 1969 at Eastern College in St. David’s Pennsylvania, Dr. Tony Campolo; he was and still is a professor of sociology. He has made more of an impact on me in the years since I sat in his class and it was not because he was not a great professor for he was but it has been in reading and pondering his books since.

 

“While the would be spiritual oracles fail to understand about our ‘advanced’ capitalist social system is that the means have been devised to make spiritual realities somewhat unreal to us. More accurately, ways have been found in our consumer-oriented society to reduce spiritual hungers to emotions that can be gratified by purchasing the things being sold to us through the mass media.” Dr. Tony Campolo

 

It is not just church related spiritual realities Dr. Campolo is talking about here. It is the just of who we are that inner being getting to know where we are in the world and why. Dr. Campolo was a theologian first and often would use Greek as he taught periodically to make a point.

 

“Koinonia, (fellowship) supposedly can be generated simply by drinking the right beer” Dr. Tony Campolo

 

As I have been reading in some curriculum texts it is an interdisciplinary event as well as it is an all-encompassing lived in totality undertaking? Curriculum is not just the linear understanding of a school room and class XYZ. Seeing curriculum as the tracks that my life’s train is riding on is perhaps a metaphorical stretch at best yet in the true sense of understanding it is so.

 

“It is through a concern with problems as they are relating to mankind at large that it may be possible to create the type of understanding that will enable man to use with wisdom those tools which have made this century the most promising and the most perilous he has ever known.” Elliot Eisner

 

For many years I have embraced within myself a different sort of understanding of the world. In Native American culture all is sacred, every leave, twig, rock, animal and human being.

 

“It was a quote from Krishnamurti that said – he was talking about education being the understanding of the self, and he said, ‘For it is each of us the whole of existence is gathered.’” K. Kesson

 

For me spiritual is simply walking out the door to a brilliant sunrise or full moon as it inspires and fulfills that within me. I see curriculum in a similar manner one of sacredness of spiritual and fulfillment more so than a curriculum map on a wall next to the essential question of the day. As I read curriculum theorists it is this group who are bringing back the sacredness of learning of understanding and perhaps returning a culture lost in the midst of being found.

 

“The Community of truth, the grace of things, the transcendent subject, the “secret” that “sits in the middle and knows” – these images emerge, for me, from my experience of reality as sacred and of the sacred as real. Others may arrive at similar understandings from different starting points. But I believe that knowing, teaching, and learning are grounded in sacred soil and that renewing my vocation as a teacher requires cultivating a sense of the sacred.” “I think the problem we are up against is that we are crippled in this modernist culture in speaking about this dimension, and the people that have experienced it throughout history – the mystics, the sages – it seems to me they do come back and report it as a deeply meaningful and moral realm.” Ron Miller

 

I was first introduced to Black Elk by a Creek friend whose grandfather was a holy man as well. He said I should read the book and get a feeling for what spirituality is about. Interesting as I read I also found this is what learning is about.

 

“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

 

This is the outlook of Black Elk, Oglala Sioux holy man in his discussions and narrative of his visions as a child and as elder in the tribe with John Neihardt in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. This view Native Americans have of life we civilized folk have a difficult time with. Black Elk perceived that there was an all-encompassing view of all that is. In my naive beginning study of curriculum theory I see aspects of this philosophy in curriculum theory and my analogy of a track a circular journey in life of education and learning.

 

“One of the paradoxes of our times is that in an age pervaded by the clash of conflicting ideologies so little effort is spent in enabling students to critically examine their values and beliefs.” Elliot Eisner

We tend to lose individualism in trying to accomplish everything and to standardize and sanitize and provide “curriculum” to our schools. I became a big fan of Elliot Eisner studying at Georgia Southern University so borrowing from Eisner again.

 

“As David Hume suggested, one cannot logically proceed from a description of what is to a conception of what ought to be.” “If the concept of mankind were used as an organizing element in the curriculum, certain differences in school programs might emerge.” Elliot Eisner

 

Curriculum is a living thing ongoing and pervasive. It is not a limiting plan of strategies as so many teachers presume. I think I have been pondering to long today and who knows maybe there are answers after all 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

 

 

Do we learn from a ripple or a wave?

Bird droppings May 5, 2017
Do we learn from a ripple or a wave?

 

Today I will be digging and planting, transplanting and repotting various flowers and herbs in our yard. I need to spend some time weeding eating the jungle now that we have from the rain and storms headed in. I have several plants in dire need of planting. One poor lemon verbena that had been hiding for about a month in a seedling pot and now about twenty four inches tall. That poor plant will be happy to be in some real dirt. I got thinking back, my cousins had a memorial service for my aunt and uncle nine years ago and we all celebrated their lives. Both had passed away within a short period of time. I have been thinking since early morning when I started the day after a message from a former student thinking about this idea. Do we learn more from a ripple or a wave?

 

“Make ripples more than waves” Bob Algonzzine, Little book of Wisdom

 

This thought is number 298 out of 365 thoughts in his book. It isn’t necessarily in in any special order it just happens to be that number. As I saw this comment as to a teacher in class I recalled a legend from local Native Americans about throwing a stone into a pond or lake and watching the ripples dissipate against the edges of the pond. Technically as I looked up definitions ripples and waves are the very similar and even some said the same just in different velocities or size. But as I think this morning a ripple doesn’t have the force of a wave, sort of in education the difference between telling versus asking for something to be done. You are trying to accomplish the same event or solicit the same behavior but one has a lot more force behind it.

 

“It is nobler to convert souls, than to conquer kingdoms.” Louis Debonnaire

 

“People have a peculiar pleasure in making converts that is, in causing others to enjoy what they enjoy, thus finding their own likeness represented and reflected back to them.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

 

So often the teacher is the expert and it is my way period, saying such things as you will learn this now or else sort of thing. Waves have a tendency to do damage more so then sink in as they hit. Ripples are absorbed at the shore line as I thought deeper on this knowledge is no different. Is what is taught to be simply for Friday’s test or is it to be a life lesson?

 

“That, which proves too much, proves nothing!” Proverb

 

“You must make the product interesting not just make the ad different. And that’s what too many of the copywriters in America today don’t yet understand.” Rooser Reeves

 

I often wonder however when it is a ripple and when a wave. A new idea could knock some students over and yet be just what another student needs to keep momentum up. By coincidence my middle son found out about four years ago he and his wife were going to be having a baby girl and I recalled how he would come home from Georgia Tech to relax, the atmosphere at TECH is very stressful I should have told him back then being a daddy is no different. A regiment of study, video games, study, read, video games and very little humanity time at Tech. Now he has a beautiful little bundle that is smiling one minute and the next needs a diaper changed. On the other side my nephew would come home from another college to study because all time in his dorm was humanity time and no one was concentrating. As I think back it was funny they would spend their weekend’s home playing video games together before heading back to their schools.
As I sit here midst my debris a thought, that incessant barrage of ripples one after another nothing over whelming as it sinks in and it is absorbed. I often use and have cards sitting around my room at school with FIDO printed on them and on the back the acronym, Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over Again. This is the FIDO principle and my “good friend” B.F. Skinner’s philosophy and eventually it will sink in.

 

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

 

“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.” Stephen R. Covey

 

Covey’s idea is true however ripples or waves hitting on concrete is far more different than if it were hitting on a sponge. The big question is then how do we develop sponges as to learning and concrete as to character.

 

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

 

“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

 

How often do we see people like this so restricted in movement and in thinking only a finger can be moved. Each day during school hours I can look down the hallway and see teachers who respond this way. As I have written the past several years I used the term boxed in, they are in their little box sealed up and new ideas concepts cannot get in. Occasionally they peek out but usually only to see if the wrapping is intact. Most of the time this type of teacher teaches with waves throwing one after another at students. BOOM, you got it or you don’t and I am out of here back to my box.

 

“I have always had the feeling I could do anything and my dad told me I could. I was in college before I found out he might be wrong.” Anne Richards

Recently I was discussing what makes a teacher. Part of my rationale is you cannot truly tell someone how to teach. In schools of Education they try and so forth in math science etc. I have found creativity and imagination get so often stifled as in Anne Richards quote by experts. We want to make sponges not concrete.

 

“We are hoarding potentials so great that they are just about unimaginable.” Jack Schwartz

 

“You have within you right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.” Brian Tracy

 

“Make ripples not waves” I was just thinking about days gone by and making waves in a pool using a kick board you push against the water and shove in a direction and make a wave. It takes one good hard push and you have a wave. A ripple is more of dropping a stone and from the epicenter of where the stone hits ripples play out one after another till they hit the shore. Perhaps the identical force is involved in terms of physics but in the ripple effect many hundreds of ripples play against the edge or the student and with the wave it is a onetime deal. So we are faced with a wave versus a series of ripples.
As I sit back pondering which would I rather teach and which would I rather have to be a student within? An interesting scenario in that thought as my mind wanders about today one in which ripples created a new country over two hundred years ago. I wonder how many teachers teach and think in terms of being a student listening to their lesson. As I look at News this morning it seems we are still at war in many places and some countries are trying to aggravate further with rhetoric and missiles. So for another day and sadly one that is special to us here in the US our friends and family members continue to be at risk and many are in harm’s way. So 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

 

Should we be pondering the idea of faith?

Bird Droppings May 4, 2017
Should we be pondering the idea of faith?

 

“Modern technology advanced in such tiny increments for so long that we never realized how much our world was being altered, or the ultimate direction of the process. But now the speed of change is accelerating logarithmically. It is apparent that developing a language and set of standards by which to assess technological impact, and to block it where necessary, is a critical survival skill of our times.” Jerry Mander

 

These are the words that begin author Jerry Mander’s book, In the absence of the Sacred: the failure of technology and the survival of the Indian Nations. Mander, a former advertising company president, has questioned the concept of technology in previous books and articles including his best seller, four arguments for the Elimination of Television. While arguing technology’s negative aspects Mander mentions understanding technology is crucial and to not let it outstrip our knowledge of it. We now have a generation of children who do not fear the technology their parents invented and in many cases do not even hold in awe but consider it common place or boring.
Going a bit further and into more theoretical concepts, R. L. Rutsky redefines technology and humanities understanding of technology in High Techne, moving mankind to the post human. The fine line between technology and art is blended and swirled.

 

“The position of human beings in relation to this techno-cultural unconscious cannot, therefore, be that of an analyst (or theorist) who, standing outside this space, presumes to know or control it. It must instead be a relation of connection to, of interaction with, that which has been seen as the “other”, including the unsettling processes of techno-culture itself. To accept this relation is to let go of part of what it has meant to be human, to be a human subject, and allow ourselves to change, to mutate, to become alien, cyborg, posthuman.” R. L. Rutsky

 

Letting go of what we have learned, and incorporating and becoming one with that which we have deemed the other through history is what many see the direction of mankind. Could it be that teenagers and young people are allowing themselves to become posthuman, something other than what they were? No longer are they walled in by societal parameters and limitations. Technology is putting the world into an instantaneous realm of immediate.
The current crop of young people labeled Generation Y or Echo boomers by the media has come at technology with little or no fear as do so many of their parents and the Baby Boomer generation. The acceptance and interaction with technology and the understanding that comes with that, often lessen the interconnections with the very society that led them to this point. Technology has found a friend in No Child Left Behind, while considered catch all and cure all for education, through narrowing the parameters of what is construed as education; schools have perhaps left behind pieces of those children’s imaginations and creativity. As I approached the concept of what I believe is missing in children as they access and utilize our accelerating technological advances, it could be this lack of fear of technology that is creating the void, as I call it in children.
Any sort of spiritual endeavor requires some questioning of who we are and why, albeit the issue of faith. It is the concept of faith that precedes any sort of view of the spiritual. But we live in a world of duplicity as well accelerated by technology. If you find no reason to question or search for understanding because at your fingertips are instant answers, then believing in anything that is not readily available on the internet or in some virtual experience, becomes inconsequential. Perhaps there is a need or void that we try to fill with an idea of god. Many of us perceives the concept of a god in our own way often influenced by those around us and those who taught us. Joseph Campbell, author and teacher, known for his extensive writings on mythology approaches humanity and the need for mythology.

 

“During the greater part of this long arc of life, the individual is in a psychological situation of dependency. We are trained, as children, so that every stimulus, every experience, leads us simply to react, “Who will help me?” We are in a dependent relationship to our parents.” Joseph Campbell

 

Campbell sees us as needing someone or something throughout our lives. We are taught the myths and traditions of our parents and culture as answers to what we can depend on. In many situations that could be a concept of a god or religion. Campbell goes deeper into his anthropological view of mythology and its focus on life and or on death. Religions down through history have played on either or both aspects. As humans however we seem to find unknowns and it is that unknown aspect of our existence that provides windows or doors, as Huxley states, to understand who we are and why.

 

“From the records of religion and the surviving monuments of poetry and the plastic arts it is very plain that at most times and most places, men have attached more importance to the inscape than to the objective existents, have felt that they saw with their eyes shut possessed a spirituality higher significance than what they saw with their eyes open…What wonder, then if human beings in their search for the divine have generally preferred to look within.” Aldous Huxley

 

Today’s children do not have time to look within as technology provides easy and ready access to occupy every waking moment in one fashion or another. Children tend to be oriented in their technology, plugged in, online, or texting, with the opportunity of going somewhere within, not worth the time.
Lev Manovich offers his theory on technological advances in media in his book The Language of New Media. Having a background in graphic arts, the radical changes and speed with which they have come in the field of media is overwhelming. I recall the day an elderly man came to my office in 1989 or so and was looking for work. He had been a hot type, typesetter for forty five years and his former place of employment was the last hot type facility and was no longer using hot type. Hot type is where lead is melted and literally each letter is molded from that hot lead within the machine. Manovich addresses the idea of having myths in his writings.

 

“If traditional cultures provided people with well-defined narratives, (Myths, Religion) and little “stand alone” information, today we have too much information and too few narratives that can tie it all together.” Lev Manovich

 

We are in the information age and that information is at our finger tips instantly twenty-four/seven. Perhaps this is the void that I refer to; something is missing, it is that something that is not able to tie it all together.
From my own personal experience working with teenagers, I have found many teenagers and young adults will allude to atheism or an agnostic approach, as the name they will throw out, and the concept of god they do not believe in, is an anthropomorphic entity of Judeo-Christian construct with a white beard and castle in the sky. Seldom will teenagers offer a believe structure. Fredric Jameson points to religion being the focal point and reference point for civilizations.

 

“Religion was perhaps the most ancient organizing concept in the emergence of anthropology as a discipline: the ultimately determining instance for national or racial character, the ultimate source of cultural difference itself, the marker for the individuality of the various peoples in history.” Fredric Jameson

 

Looking at teenagers as a whole perhaps it is the technology that is defining them more so than religion. Issues of faith and trust are daily within news and media that teenagers access far more readily than do we as adults. News articles of men of faith who lied and cheated and yet continue to do as they did before getting caught. There are Church’s turning their backs on children who were molested, and/or buying their silence. It is not difficult to see where faith and trust can be subverted. Sometimes it is easiest to go back, and look at a view from a more traditional standpoint. Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, is first and foremost Oglala, he is an attorney, ex-marine pilot having flown 110 combat missions, and he has participated in seven sun dance ceremonies. He writes extensively on spirituality and the earth. McGaa discusses deeply religion in his book Native Wisdom: Perceptions of the Natural Way.

 

“Who is God? Before I can begin to answer such a question, I must explain that any answer, or attempt to answer, is based on my background, my personal experiences and that which has influenced me upon my personal journey down the Red Trail of life or as some may call it, my journey within the Natural Way.” Ed McGaa

 

As I consider myself a searcher I am always observing and pondering. Many times when talking with youth I will ask them to define god whether they believe in god or not, but to not use pronouns and or scripture. To date very few have succeeded, they are limited by their experiences. So much of who we are is based on where we came from and what we have experienced. In attempting to find what I believe is missing, perhaps rethinking where I have come from.
I attended Candler school of Theology in 1973-75 at Emory University. I have always questioned others views on god and faith. As I took classes in theology and biblical studies, and I would often be on one side of the table alone, as we argued or discussed various views. While I never was a student in Dr. Fowler’s classes I was impressed as I read his books and articles. Dr. James Fowler was a Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University, he was director of both the Center for Research on Faith and Moral Development and the Center for Ethics until he retired in 2005. Dr. Fowler has written numerous articles and books on his concept of faith and on his theory of how faith develops. This idea of a developing faith could impact how technology also fits into human awareness. Could it be through the intensive use of technology we are circumventing a stage in our development? Looking back at Campbell’s thought could it be we are finding in technology a substitute for that parent dependency within society? Dr. Fowler starts his book The Development of Faith with this thought.

 

“Anyone not about to kill himself lives by faith. It is what keeps us going when love has turned to hate or hope to despair. Faith carries us forward when there is no longer reason to carry on. It enables us to exist during the between times: between meaning amid dangers of radical discontinuity, even in the face of death. Faith is a sine qua non of life, a primal force we cannot do without.” Dr. James Fowler

 

The idea that there is a development of faith even as a child grows physically, in developmental stages, has intrigued me for many years. My own personal journey has been intertwined with my studies and readings as well as experience, dealing with people and with my students. Faith is a word that is very difficult to scientifically dissect and analyze. For different people faith will have different meanings many times associated with religion. In my own journey I found an author, William Eleden, who was a former fighter pilot in World War II and Pastor and is currently at ninety six years of age still an author and columnist.

 

“Words can lead us into dead end canyons, and what is the bottom line? In this: Words fool us into thinking we have experienced what we talk about. Take water for instance: I can read volumes about water listen to a thousand lectures on water and develop an exhaustive vocabulary about water, without having ever experienced water. I will know more about water after drinking a glass full, or diving into a lake then if I attend lectures on water for the rest of my life.” William Edelen

 

The implications to faith, trust, soul, god and even education from this statement are many. In writing about faith and researching faith it is a similar situation. It is the experiencing of faith that is the true teacher not all the theologians, professors, dictionaries, libraries or philosophers in the world can truly explain faith, it is in the experiencing. Perhaps children are not able to experience faith as they use their technology? Children do not need to imagine or create, as at their fingertips are virtual realities by the boxful. Essentially all they can afford.
In a recent discussion with several other teachers about John Dewey’s book, The School and Society and The Child and Curriculum, a fellow teacher made a statement that impressed me. “A good teacher is also and foremost a good student.” I have always felt that in order to teach an individual has to continually stay vital, awake, to be in a constant state of educational evolution, a good teacher must always be a good student, always experiencing teaching from another source or individual. Living as a student is growth; it is a constant acquisition of concepts, of materials, ideas and of theories. It is the ingestion of these and the cognitive development of these that provide the base from which we can attack, mentally the rest of life including faith. I offer, perhaps technology in some cases takes away the learning by always providing answers and never providing actual context to that answer. It is another morning and so much more to ponder on today. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Why do children do what they do?

Bird Droppings May 3, 2017

Why do children do what they do?

 

“Our task is to make our children into disciples of the good life, by our own actions toward them and toward other people. This is the only effective discipline in the long run. But it is more arduous, and takes longer, than simply “laying down the law.” Before a child (or a nation) can accept the law, it has to learn why the law has been created for its own welfare.” Sydney J. Harris

 

Over the years I have been faced with dealing with students who have continually found their way into trouble. Often in education we use the term manifestation as in is it a manifestation of their disability or often times the question is are they choosing to do whatever it is they are doing. It has generally been a hit or misses in some cases. How do we know for sure with any kid was this a manifestation of a given disability or not. It has been a year or so in a neighboring county a teacher punished a child, a five year old child by hanging him on the board by his belt loops. I have worked with children for nearly fifty years. I have never physically hurt a child for any reason. I will admit I proposed euthanizing eighth graders. I have worked with institutionalized combative psychotic adolescent females. That was interesting and never an issue. So how does a five year old little boy warrant being hung by his belt loops? There is no way and losing your teaching certificate and or being fired seems a light sentence.

 

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle

 

“Self-command is the main discipline.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Back to my fun group many years ago I spent six months involved in pastoral counseling in a combative psychiatric unit in a state mental facility. There was never a question about why something happened since combative adolescents, was the term used to describe the unit. When someone got upset they simply went to solitary confinement and were administered large doses of drugs combined with numerous orderlies and even the great standby a strait jackets was often employed. Little was occurring to change the behavior and or rationalize those behaviors. All was simply putting a bandage on the moment.

 

“Anybody who gets away with something will come back to get away with a little bit more.” Harold Schoenberg

 

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” John Trapp

 

Often as I find a quote the person behind those words has more to offer. Schoenberg is a scholar of music, a prolific writer about great musicians and music. Trapp is a bible scholar with several biblical commentaries to his credit. These great writers who themselves were very self-disciplined. Harris a columnist for over three hundred newspaper writing about daily life though his essays on education and morality are what drew me to his words.

 

“THE STUDY OF WORDS is useless unless it leads to the study of the ideas that the words stand for. When I am concerned about the proper use of words it is not because of snobbism or superiority, but because their improper use leads to poor ways of thinking. Take the word ‘discipline’ that we hear so much about nowadays in connection with the rearing of children. If know something about word derivations, you know that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same Latin root discipulus, which means ‘to learn, to follow.’” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly speaking

 

Sitting here looking up references and quotes related to discipline and ending up with example, to learn, and or to follow, just semantics as we go. In order to operate a public school we have to have standards this week we use the term “givens” to operate by and in effect rules. Looking at this from a behaviorist standpoint it is easy to say ABC, Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. First you have an antecedent which is that stimulus that causes the behavior. You then have the behavior that which is the event or action that we see, feel or hear about. Following we have the consequence which can be what we do in response or what the student or person issuing the behavior receives for eliciting that behavior.

 

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

 

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” George W. Crane

 

“To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

 

It is always about what we do. Over the past few days I have with several teachers and friends been discussing many of these ideas in a teacher training program in the mountains of North Georgia and often it comes back to perception. Perception being the how we see and understand events and happenings. One of the categories in writing a behavioral plan for a student is planned ignoring simply tuning out a behavior. Often with no stimulus to keep it going a behavior will disappear. Many times it is getting attention that is the desired consequence.

 

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

 

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” B. F. Skinner

 

How often do you find a football quarterback’s quote and one from the father of behaviorism all in the same paragraph? These two men from distinctly different arenas yet are so very obviously similar in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It has to make a difference to the person for them to change. Skinner sees we can manipulate the subject matters, we can offer alternative consequences to hopefully change the behaviors we can except. A Harris line caught my attention this morning as I started on discipline as I thought back to preparing for two IEP’s coming this fall related to behavior, “by our own actions toward them and toward other people.” SJH. So often it is not the consequences that deter or change a behavior but our actions towards the person and those around them, it is the example we set and not what we say that matters. Please as we venture out today 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

Is not every day a new journey begun?

Bird Droppings May 2, 2017
Is not every day a new journey begun?

 

“School divides life into two segments, which are increasingly of comparable length. As much as anything else, schooling implies custodial care for persons who are declared undesirable elsewhere by the simple fact that a school has been built to serve them.” Ivan Illich, 1971

 

I started my wanderings this morning with this statement from Ivan Illich who was an Austrian philosopher, former Roman Catholic priest, and “maverick social critic” of the institutions of contemporary western culture and their effects on the provenance and practice of education, medicine, work, energy use, transportation, and economic development. From my own stand point it was his short book or essay, Deschooling Society, 1971 that caught my attention in an education philosophy class in graduate school almost forty years after he wrote the book.
“Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education–and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries.” Ivan Illich, 1971

 

This short book brought Illich to the attention of the general public. I want to emphasize one sentence. “The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring” After a couple of weeks of John Dewey and Foxfire I find this very significant. I really like the concept of educational webs. We emphasize in Foxfire teaching the connections made in life and in education. Chief Seattle addresses the web of life and I have used his words often in my writing.

 

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” Chief Seattle

 

I find as I ponder teaching, education and learning I continually come back to my father and his impact on my own concept of teaching. I remember all of the acronyms and quick one-liners he would use to emphasize points. As I was thinking it hit me that it is the nearing the seventh anniversary of the last time I spoke with my father. It was June 27, 2007 and I had dropped off some medicine at my parent’s home and spoke with my mother for a few minutes. Two of my nieces were there with my dad standing by his bed as I went in. He lay still not moving my mother said he has been like this now for some time. It was hard leaving and going to my next stop of the day. A feeling of apprehension seemed to carry with me. But there were other stops other pieces to that day’s journey I needed to make.
I drove down to Oxford Georgia after leaving to watch the talent show of my youngest son’s choir camp. My wife stayed home as she was tired from a hard day at work and she had to make several follow up calls and wanted to watch a show she had missed previously. I stopped and picked up a water bottle for the journey, I only drank Evian back then more recently switching to Smart water liters as they fit in car drink holders. Fortunately that is about my only idiosyncrasy.

 

As I headed from my parent’s home just before dusk almost on the county line a dead tree trunk stark white against the darkening surroundings was to my left as I drove by. Stark and free from bark it was white in the waning hour. Atop the tree in the highest possible point sat two red tailed hawks. Watching me as I drove by, I thought having my camera what a picture, this could be one for National Geographic. But as instantly as the image presented itself it was gone in the speed of the car driving along and by that time I had reached my destination. In Native American thought often animals are linked to us in a special way and provide us with bits and pieces of what we need as we travel in life. Sometimes a boost seeing a hawk fly by just as you are driving or walking outside. It could be a deer standing watching as you drive away almost seeing through you.
I arrived just before the program started and have always enjoyed the Emory at Oxford campus of Emory University I walked around a bit. The grounds date back to early 1800’s and exotic trees and shrubs abound. I listened to a talented group of young people my son included as he did his now world famous rendition of Axel Rose and Bob Dylan singing a duet on that famous tune “Knocking on Heavens Door”. The song stuck with me as I drove away after the program. Bob Dylan wrote the song many years ago featured in the movie Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett in 1973.

 

Mama take this badge from me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s getting dark too dark to see
Feels like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door

 

I came home and sat talking and watching TV with my oldest son. He tends to stay up longer than me on almost every night. I told him how his brother played his duet again. It is sort of hard to explain as he comes out as Axel Rose of Guns and Roses fame and Bob Dylan at the same time. But the words hung with me as I continued my journey into night, falling asleep. Around two in the morning I had a one dog night and funny it was because she was hungry. There is nothing like a dog chewing dry dog food at two in the morning.
I got up with my wife fully intending to get started on graduate school work I needed to be working on and walked around turning out lights finding my chair in the dark I thought my oldest son had work this morning so I thought I would wake him up and he walked by. I had several vivid dreams over the last two hours waking up as my son came by. I emailed a friend that knew my son and had been a member of the Choir Camp for many years till graduating from high school and heading to college. I for some reason went and picked up my phone all I heard was “he is gone”.
I thought I responded and talked a few minutes and called my oldest and wife to let them know my dad had passed away. I walked into my middle son’s room and told him. This was around eight o’clock in the morning June 28th. I walked out to my quiet spot among some young pecan trees and thought, listened and pondered for a few minutes. I enjoyed the smell of sage and sweet grass as the wisps of smoke rose in a morning air. Life is a circle I thought looking at some river stones I had gathered from a special stream for me in North Georgia that I had previously placed on the ground in a circle medicine wheel some might say when we first moved to this spot.
I told my son I was heading to town to get mail and such and drove off. Around ten thirty my mother called and asked if I got the message she left. I said no I talked to you earlier you said dad had passed away. She informed me she did not talk to me. I told her I would be over shortly and she was fine. It is strange how we respond as we consider all events all happenings and see that truly life is a circle a simple circle. No beginning and no end as we journey. We get to participate along the way interconnecting and meeting people. We gain understanding and wisdom as we travel this circle and for some most I would say the transitional points are painful and yet for others wondrous moments and new journeys. My father had told me numerous times he had done what he needed to do here and was ready. He passed away in his sleep content that he had been a great father, grandfather and great grandfather as well as teacher, author, thinker and innovator in Industrial Loss Control management. There are many who knew him over the years from Scouting, Church, Red Cross, Safety and Loss Control, and all were his dear friends. Each has stories to tell of pieces of my father’s puzzle.
“Knocking on heaven’s door” keeps resounding as I recall my sons singing that night eight years ago and it was so many years ago another son left me a note after sitting all night with a teenager who had been in a car wreck “Life is about the journey not the destination”, a line from Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I thought back again to May of 2007 with my father in law passed away and a student who I considered a dear friend as well and then my dad. I mentioned to my wife last evening that wisdom comes with experience and time. There is a new journey a new day I wish all well on their journeys and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. Peace to my father and all of my friends and please always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Pondering and researching education while remembering a waterfalls

Bird Droppings May 1, 2017
Pondering and researching education while remembering a waterfalls

 

It has been five years since I was staying at the Sylvan Mills Bed and Breakfast in a room literally over a waterfall. I went up to North Georgia to recharge perhaps another word might be to rekindle my passion for education and learning. For nearly ten years I have been participating in and attending Foxfire training programs. I started writing before day break listening to nature’s sounds today the whippoorwill chorus was surrounding me. Two years back I stayed in a room overlooking a waterfall with my windows open wide taking in the sounds. Trying to write in the lulling sound of water running is difficult and I would doze off. With the sun up I would move my computer to the porch overlooking the falls fully intent on pulling out my Bose ear phones and listening to Crosby Still Nash and Young. The sounds and energy of the water mesmerized me. I walked about the area just before dark taking pictures.  This week I have been pondering the John Dewey and Foxfire program and the implications that can made in a teachers classroom. I am behind in my reading as of the moment, so I will try and get some additional reading and writing done this week.
With the bulk of education in the early 1900’s following closely the Industrial Revolution and mass production, a few great thinkers took the concept of the individual child in psychology and education in new directions as to its relationship to children. How children were viewed became the basis for several educators to develop their theories and ideas. Child psychology and child centered educational ideas flowed from these thinkers. John Dewey reminded us that the goal of education is more education. To be well educated then is to have the desire as well as the means to make sure the learning never ends. Alfie Kohn educator and author refer to Dewey and to his idea of providing for a lifetime of learning. In his book What does it Mean to be well educated?, Kohn points out, “many classroom teachers asked to specify their long term goals for students, instantly responded with the phrase life-long learners.”
Dewey was not alone in his thinking which was in direct contrast to the traditional educational practices of his day. Dewey was frustrated with the rationale of educators when he wrote

 

“Why is it, in spite of the fact that teaching by pouring in, learning by a passive absorption, are universally condemned, that they are still so in trenched in practice. That education is not an affair of “telling” and being told, but an active and constructive process.” John Dewey

 

The traditional philosophy of education was a focus away from children and their interests, and not trying to understand children simply seeing them as small adults. Traditional education is about efficiency and production which were carryovers from the Industrial revolution. It was time for serious educators to get away from the assembly line processes of traditional education. One of these new educators a thinker, author, scholar, and advocate for children Alfie Kohn throughout his writing illustrates this point.

 

“Looking at the long-term impact of traditional teaching and the push for Tougher Standards, then we are finally left with Dewey’s timeless and troubling question: “What avail is it to win ability to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul.” Alfie Kohn

 

In a burst of educational energy just prior to the turn of the century numerous educators and scholars were developing ideas that often parallel John Dewey as they sought to come up with a better way to teach children. Howard Garner in his book The Unschooled Mind states discusses some of this basic history of progressivism.

 

“Progressivism is most frequently and most appropriately associated with the name of John Dewey. In fact, however the practices of progressive education had already begun to be implemented in the period before 1896…Leaders like Francis Parker, first superintendent of the Quincy Massachusetts Public Schools, later principal of the Cook county Normal School in Chicago, and finally a founding member of the Chicago Institute, which ultimately gave rise to Dewey’s educational facility at the University of Chicago.” Howard Garner

 

While Dewey was establishing himself in educational history in the United States across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe Dr. Jean Piaget was developing child centered education which would lead along with Dewey and Vsygotsky to the concept of constructivism. Piaget believed each aspect of child development followed clearly defined stages and this did not change child to child but could occur at differing speeds. Dewey saw the past experiences of children so often not even being recognized and yet at that point is the basis for their ability to learn.
In a similar fashion a medical doctor working with mentally disabled children in a residential setting in Europe was looking at the child centered aspect of education as she developed methodology with a developmental learning process in mind. Dr. Maria Montessori in her book The Advanced Montessori Method describes her philosophy and understanding of educating children.

 

“Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.” Dr. Maria Montessori

 

Another psychologist looking at children in a developmental approach was the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky whose work was not discovered by the western educators till the later part of the twentieth century. Vygotsky also saw experience as a significant factor in children’s development. Retention of previous experiences facilitates adaptation to the world around them and can give rise to habits when those experiences are repeated. Vygotsky differed with Piaget in that he said learning can precede developmental stages. We can acquire use of a given tool in order to attain a certain stage of development. Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development which is “the distance between actual development determined through independent problem solving and the level of potential development through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers”.
There are some similarities to Dewey with Vygotsky; much like Dewey he also felt there was a significant element of group interaction needed for education to be meaningful. The ideal school for Dewey was one that took the form of an “embryonic social community,” one in which students were encouraged to cooperate and work together and learn from each other as well as their teachers.
The originators of constructivism Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey all started with psychology and that the child is a unique individual as they developed their interpretations and understandings of learning and education. Even today the child is not the focus of education. One need only to leaf through the tables of contents in recent educational journals to discern that the individual child is not the focus of educational reform. Each of these great educators believed in the act of doing as a way to learn and as Ted Sizer points out that there is context. “What I have learned is context is everything….. The memorable learning was that you have to be very respectful and very sensitive to the values, to the attitudes that youngsters bring into class, that their parents have, which the community has”. Montessori and Piaget leaned towards the developmental stages in child development and Dewey and Vygotsky while accepting developmentally sound stages as real felt the community, peer group and teachers elevated learning past developmental points of reference. Maybe it is time to look back to Dewey.

 

“Curriculum has held our attention for generations because those who think seriously about education understand its inherent possibility. Maxine Greene’s call for a return to the search for John Dewey’s great community, her call to rise to the challenge of coming together without losing each person’s unique way of being in the world challenges our educational imagination.” Mary Aswell Doll

 

For Dewey an educational experience had to be connected to the prior personal experience of students and also to a widening or deepening of future experience. It was through reflection that Dewey saw the ability to go beyond where you were now. John Dewey reminded us that the value of what students do “resides in its connection with the stimulation of greater thoughtfulness, not in the greater strain it imposes”. The act of reflection is taking a given reference and moving ahead to a new possibility. Often it is the teacher who provides the window for reflection to occur.

 

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connectedness among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.” Parker Palmer

 

It was in this reflective, imaginative undertaking of Dewey’s that provided ideas and thoughts that led Elliot Eisner to Art Education. In his writings Eisner looks to the arts as a basis for education and his ideas and thoughts offer a new stream from Dewey. John Dewey once commented that the stamp of the aesthetic needed to be on any intellectual idea in order for that idea to be complete. It is this feel both imaginative and sensible that the so-called academic studies would foster if they were modeled after the arts. Dewey identified making things as one of four fundamental interests of children. Unhappily, because schools put so little value on making things, most of us grow up with contempt for work done with our hands. Eisner drew often from Dewey’s idea on needing context and relevance for learning to be genuine and to be lasting. Eisner places experience at the center of learning.

 

“It is through the content of our experiences that we are able to perform two very important cognitive operations: we are able to remember and we are able to imagine…. Imagination …works with the qualities we have experienced. What was not first in the hand cannot later be in the head.” Elliot Eisner

 

“One of the potential virtues of situated learning is that it increases the probability that students will be able to apply what they have learned. When the conditions of learning are remote from the situations or tasks in which what is learned can be applied, the likely hood of application or some would say transfer is diminished.” Elliot Eisner

 

The idea of imagination needing to have a basis in reality, in the context, is of significance. It is imagination that brings meaning, purpose, and application to what is learned.
“Imagination for Dewey, explores alternative possibilities for action within a selected context of ongoing activity. Imagination enables the search for ideas that can reconstruct the situation. It takes the context and its data, including emotional sympathetic data, as intuited and determined by selective interests and transforms them into a plan of action, an idea that if acted upon might allow the agent to achieve the desired ideal in reality.” Jim Garrison

 

Elliot Eisner believes in diversity, that this is the key to education and learning and through this provides richness for our culture as well. Continuing in that same line of thought, Maxine Greene educator, philosopher and pioneer sees reality after all as interpreted experience and that to limit learners to a single dominant mode of interpreting their experience may be to frustrate their individual pursuits of meaning and consequently, their desires to come to know, and to learn.
With much of her work is based on the concept of caring, Nel Noddings defines education “as a constellation of encounters, both planned and unplanned, that promote growth through the acquisition of knowledge, skills, understanding and appreciation”. Eisner and Barone understand that the aesthetics of experiences is what builds those in our minds and provides the means to imagine and be creative. The concept of Aesthetic Learning and Education is one of understanding, of perception and ultimately of creativity. Eisner looks at teaching as artistry, it is the ability to craft a performance and to provide the students with the mediums and means to perceive and understand their world.
For John Dewey, aesthetic experiences are not confined to high art, but arise from within the interaction of human organisms with their surroundings. Thomas Barone points to Dewey being the primary thinker that envisioned art and aesthetics having a central role in education and in learning. Thomas Barone is concerned as are many other progressive educators with the linear format of traditional education.

 

“If students are not given access to metaphoric learning activities, if the shape of their learning is always linear and closed, how will their capacity for creativity and invention be developed?” Thomas Barone

 

Perhaps in my research and reading I am getting a bit over board with Dewey and education but I see tie ins to daily living, to how we respond to others, to what the future holds for us and our grandchildren. If each of us took a bit more time to try and understand why so much of what is going on in society is going on maybe just maybe we could finally realize much of this does not need to be happening. So again after nearly thirteen years of daily writing I ask as I do every morning 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