A chilly wet morning, it is still hard to kiss a frog.

Bird Droppings August 31, 2017
A chilly wet morning, it is still hard to kiss a frog.

 

It is was a bit chilly and wet here in northeast Georgia with nighttime temperatures hanging in the low sixties. However a rumor persists of a nice weekend hanging out there. Many of us gardeners are glad for rain although I am not excited about chill. I was watching TV last night and an historical show of sorts a movie about the Pilgrims coming over to the New World is coming back on soon. I find it funny how after that first Thanksgiving relationships between the natives and Pilgrims went downhill fast and it was not long till red skinned natives were the spawn of Satan and were to be eliminated by whatever means feasible. Pilgrims were not much different than today’s politicians when land was involved. I found it interesting how things changed so fast. Why is it we only have heart occasionally and some people never do? Maybe Thanksgiving is to remind us about heart?

 

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and            treating all alike.” Buddha, Sayings of the Buddha

 

It has been several months since I was working with students expressing a news article in visual form. Over the past few years as I interact with people and seeing how much of an impact that learning styles play on the actual learning of students it amazes me that such a simple thing gets overlooked so often. How we learn has been an issue I have looked at very seriously. Humans tend to learn basically in one of three ways visually, auditorally, and kinesthetically, in other words we see, hear or touch. I offer the idea of perception as well and how we hear see and touch along with how we interpret is a factor. The assignment entailed using one PowerPoint slide to explain one of the main news articles out currently. The sample I used was based on The Red Lake Shootings from 2006. In a few moments about 45 seconds images and a few words flashed over the screen and my interpretation of the news flashed before us.
Students then chose stories and interpreted visually what they saw and felt. Ideas varied and stories varied significantly. One went in a direction of an issue close to home teen suicide and several reiterated the Red Lake Shootings. One however focused only on himself. His visual experience while interesting was a whirl of his own image. For several months going on two years I have known this student and his focus so often is self-motivated as so many of us are. He derives his day from seeking attention to and through himself be it passing gas and letting everyone in the class room know or speaking out loud to draw attention from a teacher. The idea of disrespect is an understatement but it all is self-focused so to say here I am.

 

“A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.” Dictionary.com

 

For quickness I used dictionary.com and there is defined the word sympathy as an interaction between two people or things affecting both. As I thought back to my self-centered fellow I wondered as he focused all day on himself does he have sympathy? In the defining quote from Buddha sympathy is established as four aspects those being charity, kind speech, doing a good turn and treating all alike.

 

“The force of truth that a statement imparts, then, its prominence among the hordes of recorded observations that I may optionally apply to my own life, depends, in addition      to the sense that it is argumentatively defensible, on the sense that someone like me,    and someone I like, whose voice is audible and who is at least notionally in the same room with me, does or can possibly hold it to be compellingly true.” Nicholson Baker

 

There are many issues at hand that warrant attention and sympathy today locally and worldwide is needed often.

 

“All sympathy not consistent with acknowledged virtue is but disguised selfishness.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

“Sympathetic people often don’t communicate well; they back reflected images which hide their own depths.” George Eliot

 

As I searched this morning deeper I found often we tend to view sympathy with caution perhaps this person is being sympathetic for a reason. Perhaps it is for gain thinking back to the Pilgrims. Is it human nature to be so wary so distrustful of others.

 

“Is there anything more dangerous than sympathetic understanding?” Pablo Picasso

 

“The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity is not enough.” Simone Weil

 

Several semesters back I sent off a paper dealing with kissing frogs. It was a reflection on teaching in a way but really it was a reflection on life. My premise being we should all be frog kissers. Teachers and so often parents are to be the Frog Kissers: Many times I have used the inference to the fairy tales of child hood of kissing a frog. We are always trying to find that enchanted princess or prince hidden beneath the guise of a frog; one kiss and the prince or princess will appear. Being an avid herpetologist along with my son, kissing frogs can be a risky business. Many species secret toxins some so lethal they can kill a man with barely a touch let alone a passionate kiss. There are some that can induce psychosis and hallucinations when ingested. All these efforts by the amphibians are purely defense mechanisms evolved over millions of years to avoid turning into a human being perhaps.
But the symbolism of the fairy tale and teachers/parents is what struck me. Teaching is about kissing frogs. We as teachers need to be taking those risks trying to find the hidden princes and princesses among our students. In reality we are going beyond simply taking roll and letting that child slip through the cracks. We need to be risk takers we need to set the example for the students that we will make an effort to be there and give each child ample time and place. As I pondered it was obvious as to where and why teachers quit. I see John Dewey’s ideas and the example of Dewey in the classroom through The Foxfire Approach to Teaching and all these great idealistic thoughts and then they seem to disappear into educational lala land.
What were to be great teachers seem to be eventually lost midst the flow and ebb of educational bureaucracy and never get a chance to be who they are. For many years I have wondered are today’s students and teacher automations doing as all those others have done before. Turn to page 138 children and read, now answer the questions at the back of the chapter. Raise your hand when you wish to speak and do not get out of line. I recall a Harry Chapin song I use often about a little boy who comes in his first day and colors flowers in a rainbow of hues, until his teacher corrects him and flowers are red green leaves are green, soon the creative spark is gone and another student became a frog. Fortunately in the song a risk taking teacher saves the day and kisses the frog and the rainbow is back. We need to work towards being that which we should be teachers, not simply information stuffers. As a parent and teacher a hard row to follow.

 

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and            treating all alike.” Buddha

 

I keep thinking back to this idea of sympathy it is an active process not simply a feeling. I used loosely the illustration of kissing frogs but each aspect described by Buddha is an action. Charity is an activity although borrowing from a 1600 translation the Greek word agape is translated as charity. In Greek three words translate for love; Eros, Philos and Agape. Agape often is also translated as a supreme unlimited love or God’s love. In the Biblical translations of 1600 the Greek agape would translate to charity, an active love an ongoing love. Kind speech is an action and is a physical response. Doing a good turn not just charity but physically doing something and perhaps the most difficult treating all alike again actively involved.
When I started this morning sympathy was more an emotion. Having a heart as I thought was just a sentence structure used to elicit sympathy and or other emotions. But sympathy is an active word it is beyond and there for having a heart perhaps too is active engaging. For nearly six years now I have ended each Bird Dropping with keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind, originally I started with the attack September 11th and then war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it has grown in form keeping in your heart is an action it involves doing not simply mouthing words. I recall nearly eight years ago in the state of Vermont which still operates on a town meeting basis and several towns were voting to not send anymore national guards units from Vermont to the Middle East. Vermont had lost more soldiers per capita than any other state. Action some are sending cards reminders of home. For some it may be just a thank you as GI’s return. It is about active involvement, kissing frogs, having a heart, it is about voting and sympathy is action not just thinking about it. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

I wonder if there is such a thing as Essential Education?

Bird Droppings August 29, 2017
I wonder if there is such a thing as Essential Education?

It has been almost seven years since I was discussing various educational philosophies and pedagogies with my son, then a graduate education student. One topic happened to be essential education which per his text is only a slight step from perennial education which basically is reading, writing and arithmetic period. There is little if any art or music what so ever. As I looked through my files an author popped up who dabbled in or wrote the book on essential education, Ted Sizer.

“Pedagogy logically is a subject for which schools of education are – or should be – responsible. It all depends; of course, on how those schools define pedagogical skill. Is pedagogy merely the training necessary to contribute to a penny-bank system of schooling? Is teaching more a science than an art? Is sophisticated teaching the instruction of ideas and skills, matters of speaking and telling? That is, can we describe the steps a teacher must make, ultimately as a matter of habit, in enough detail to allow careful testing to determine whether the work has succeeded? To my eye, teaching – pedagogy – is an art … a demanding art. There is science to it (just as with painting) but also style, the quality of a person’s actions whether that person is fifteen or fifty. Getting others to learn, which includes helping them acquire skills, is a subtle, complex business… Pedagogy depends on a teacher’s character, his experience, his willingness to examine what is going on in his classes and to test his judgments against those of others. It requires self-confidence and a willingness to listen to the view of others. Those of us in education must accept this inevitable fuzziness and learn how to live with it as artists do.” Ted Sizer

A friend posted a link to a blog that happened to have this quote yesterday and attached to my Facebook page that is synchronistic. As I looked further in my various articles and readings this version of essential education is a bit more than what my son’s text from two years ago implied. There are several very good ideas in terms of education and learning in the programing at the Tara Redwood School.

Essential Education Pedagogy
The pedagogy developed by Tara Redwood School and Essential Education includes the following:
• Knowledge of the inner world of thoughts, feelings and emotions is as important as knowledge of the outer world
• An integrated and interdisciplinary approach to learning is preferable to one that fragments and divides knowledge
• Individuals often have dramatically different learning styles; all learning styles are valid and must be both acknowledged and nurtured.
• Learning rooted in direct experience far surpasses in depth and endurance learning by indirect methods
• Generally accepted subject matter can be enhanced by integrating a Essential Education approach and accompanying methods and techniques
• The intuitive wisdom of the individual can be developed by dialectical discussion and debate exploring philosophical, spiritual and moral themes.
Tara Redwood School. 5810 Prescott Road. Soquel, CA

Sitting here thinking about a specific definitive pedagogy and I am one who seldom uses the word many thoughts. Over the past few years I have been exploring my own ideas of what is pedagogy and how I see my teaching and instructional methods. I have borrowed extensively from Carl Rogers who was controversial in 1968 and his ideas still are considered perhaps utopian to borrow a few words from a friend. It is difficult to piece together I have found as so many aspects of how I view teaching are themselves controversial as well. I have borrowed over the last several days from John Dewey, Elliot Wiggington, Foxfire and today the Tara Redwood School. So much of our world view also reflects through our ideas and interactions each day and is directly influencing upon our pedagogical conceptualizations. Having for most of my life being involved directly or indirectly with in working with and teaching exceptional children and adults I am always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas. I tend to stick with things that work well and always are tuning those ideas that I do use.

I mentioned my use of the Foxfire Core Practices and tools such as a trust scale I developed back in 2003. Numerous times I have brought up my use of animals in my classroom and addressed the impact that being involved with snakes for example has on attitudes and especially on developing trust with students. I do believe relationships are a key to teaching building and maintaining positive relationships with students can open doors to learning.

“Schools have been captured by the concept of accountability, which has been transformed from a notion that schools need to be responsive and responsible to community concerns to one in which numbers are used to demonstrate that schools have met their minimal requirement.” David Purpel, 1989, Department of Curriculum and Educational Foundations, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

In our world of accountability in education test scores rule. With the factory oriented mentality leading the way in teaching many do not allow time for relationships and or care to have that as an aspect of who they are as a teacher. John Dewey over and over again emphasizes community as a key in building an effective learning situation.

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

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

“The work teachers and students do together enable learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.” Foxfire Core Practice three

Foxfire is based on working together and involving the community of the school it is about building and establishing relationships and I have found in my research long lasting relationships between students and teachers. Part of my own approach has been using Facebook as an extension of my class room. Many photos from school events are posted as well as my own daily journaling. Occasionally a former student will send a note thank you for the thoughts or just what I needed today. Recently one of those notes was from a student from eleven years ago when I first came back to teaching. I was last night night accused of being the best teacher a student never had and teaches us all his ways whether we are his students or not. Got to thinking hope that is for the better.

“Critical pedagogy considers how education can provide individuals with the tools to better themselves and strengthen democracy, to create a more egalitarian and just society, and thus to deploy education in a process of progressive social change. “ 21st Century Schools

As I was reading various articles and papers this morning John Dewey again is continually through the pages of critical pedagogy, experiential learning and Foxfire. Much like in so many other theorists and practitioners works Dewey seems to crop up. When I read this short note from 21st Century Schools about Critical Pedagogy several key elements caught my attention. Education strengthening democracy and social change almost directly parallels John Dewey.

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” John Dewey

As I wonder about how should we really be teaching children I keep coming back to providing context for the content. With accelerated lesson plans and curriculum maps and everybody trying to attain a one hundred percent pass rate on the various tests that we are mandated to give to students in Georgia and across the nation little time is left for context. We are leaving the most valuable learning by the wayside in order to get the quick score on a test. I end each day with please lets us keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts. As I am pondering maybe we should include children subjected to a battery of standardized tests that do little more than provide the numbers David Purpel writes about but within all of this still remember to give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Finding the right spot for the puzzle pieces

Bird Droppings August 28, 2017

Finding the right spot for the puzzle pieces

 “In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.” Genjo Koan 

 

There are times when we in looking we miss what it is we are trying to find. Contained within a drop of water there is an entire universe. Sometimes we want to have things to be simply round or square and yet infinity abounds. Yesterday I was speaking with several teachers discussing why students acted as they did and behaved as they do. In a recent presentation on a chapter from a book on behavior management and treatments the last paragraph of the chapter summed up quite a bit and so often we look everywhere else and the answer is right beneath our feet.

 

“The absence of evidence to support medication as a viable alternative should lead future researchers and clinicians to further explore parenting strategies that facilitate the development of better sleep habits.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards

 

As we do so often we look for excuses we look for medical, physical, emotional reasons for sleep disorders in children. Yet with behaviors at school we blame class room activity, we blame teachers, planning, books, and or administration. What always amazes me is that the sixteen hour syndrome is never discussed; we never tend to see where the issue really lays, that of parenting strategies and all the overt issues that children contend with as they leave school. I often wonder why we cannot accept the blame as parents or why we want an excuse in any aspect of life.

 

“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do –or don’t do.” Simone De Beauvoir, French Existentialist, Writer, and Social Essayist 1908-1986

 

I was ready to write down how the great Simone was a heroic figure in Bolivia, a crucial part of South American history and yet really this person was a philosopher from France and under study to Sartre.

 

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” Frank A. Clark

 

“Parents are not quite interested in justice, they are interested in quiet.” Bill Cosby

 

It is so funny thing how in the United States we have most of the world’s ADHD children. It is a funny thing that as we became so mobile and our family structure somewhat altered that number increases as well. Another interesting point is that during the 1980-90’s ADHD increased so rapidly, almost in epidemic proportions, over nine hundred percent. It is so funny how we began seeing this issue when it got on our nerves as parents and or teachers and took up our time. As an old person I was thinking to my own history and where was ADHD when I was a child.

 

“The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow

 

We try and look at the whole and miss pieces or sometimes we look so intently at a piece we miss the whole. This is a paradox of sorts. I hate jig saw puzzles yet am fascinated by them and often I use the comparison to those same jig saw puzzles for life in general. Life is very much like a myriad puzzle, millions of intricate pieces all falling into place one at a time, each more intricate then the next. Sometimes we see a piece and for days focus on each minute detail, each little facet and each little color speck of white or red and the details over whelm us. We so easily lose sight of the whole picture the vast array of life in front of us forming over a minute tiny aspect.

 

“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence then this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Amazing as I pulled Emerson in amazing how a hundred years ago a poet has pieces for today. We as parents, and or teachers try so valiantly to cast our being into a child to see ourselves living again. Maybe that is why we focus on a piece for so long.

 

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop former Surgeon General of the United States Famous

 

As I think of Dr. Koop it is so much more so for the adding of the warning on cigarettes than his philosophy most people remember him. As I think I recall my dad’s story of how he also prayed by the bedside of my younger brother many years ago in Philadelphia Children’s Hospital where he was Chief Surgeon. He is an interesting man and great doctor.

 

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Dr. Michael Levine, professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology at The University of California

 

More so as I write today I find who these people are as I am looking at parenting as it is interesting as to what they say. Dr. Koop told my father as he sat with him one evening discussing my brother how parents of critically ill children were so different than so many others. They talked about how faith was so much an aspect of their lives and trust a critical piece of their puzzle as that dealt with their children’s issues.

 

“The word no carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say yes.” Joyce Maynard

 

“Do not educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they know the value of things not the price. “ Santosh Kumar

 

On many mornings I am really not sure where I am going with a thought and I know I wander about here and there. I wonder as well what I am trying to say as I start and many times midway I still am wondering. Joyce Maynard’s statement may be where I was going in the last page or two looking and building to this. Whether a parent or teacher or friend this applies as I look back to my starting quote from nearly 1000 years ago written by Dogen, a Zen master and told to his student. Back in those days, a koan was a question put out to answer a puzzle piece in a person’s life. A Genjo Koan, is an essential question, a question that entails and involves life itself. Only a few moments ago a former student posted a status update with the line from Santosh Kumar. In trying to track down the unnamed quote I found Santosh Kumar. On Facebook a huge following for a young philosopher, and then I found the name is much like John Smith with thousands of internet hits. So perhaps this young fellow did not spout these words but they are good ones and worth repeating.

 

“When fish go through water, there is no end to the water no matter how far they go. When birds fly in the sky, there is no end to the sky no matter how far they fly. But neither fish nor birds have been separated from the water or sky – from the very beginning. It is only this: when a great need arises, a great use arises; when there is little need, there is little use. Therefore, they realize full function in each thing and free ability according to each place. “ Dogan, 1243

 

As I sat this morning, thinking and writing so many ideas flowed listening to teachers yesterday express concern and question hearing parents gathered round their SUV’s trying to solve world issues and who was wearing what and what was the latest gossip. It is so easy to be sarcastic. Children are our greatest future commodity we should not waste them. As Dogan said about fish when parenting there is no end as long as you are a parent when a teacher there is no end as you are teaching. When as I say you are placing pieces in the puzzle it is not a whole as you focus and look at a piece in your hand. We all have work to do as parents, teachers, friends, as a child, or student. In all of this please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Can we find answers outside our windows?

Bird Droppings August 24, 2017

Can we find answers outside our windows?

As I read and pondered a world engrossed with money and how we can spend more money. I wonder if perhaps some of the thinking that is bringing so many American Indians back to their more traditional world views has merit. I was trying to look at a book written by the creators of Waiting for Superman, a movie about public education. I first when reading a book look at the index to see who does the author borrow from and quote. This for me is often a precursor for my continued reading of that book. I first caught notice of John Dewey and went to the page that mentioned John Dewey. All that was written was that John Dewey taught that experienced based education was the way to go. Jean Piaget had six words while Arne Duncan had ten or so pages and even Bill Gates had more than that. I did not see one innovative educator in reference anywhere. Most were advocates of the privatization of education or people who were foundation heads and provided money. Sadly nowhere was really innovative education being considered. Needless to say while I did look through the book it will not be used kindly in my references.

“Black Elk saw the earth becoming sick. The animals, the winged ones, and the four legged ones grew frightened. All living things became gaunt and poor. The air and the waters dirtied and smelled foul.”  Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Mother Earth Spirituality

Black Elk was a teenager during the battle later known as the battle of the Little Bighorn, in which Custer lead his four hundred or so troops to battle against the combined forces of Sioux and Cheyenne numbering over two thousand. Black Elk had a vision as a young man that would be later translated by his son and recorded by John Neihardt in the book, Black Elk Speaks. This quote is based on Eagles Mans thoughts on a piece of the vision and yet how prophetic are the words. Looking back in recent history we have polluted rivers till they smell before we do anything. In Ohio a river caught fire from the pollution. Most recently we had the great oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and today an article on the massive dead areas on the bottom of the Gulf. Dead coral and other normally alive areas are devoid of life. We issue smog warnings in most major cities on a regular basis. Acid rain strips paint from cars and kills frogs.

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

It has been nearly three years since I was walking on the beach in Panama City Beach Florida. As the sun rose I was alone with the water, wind and pelicans flying along the edge of the water. There was a silence even as the waves rolled in and wind blew. There was calmness amongst the surroundings that put me at ease. As I gazed out into the Gulf with my back to the civilized world I could imagine this place before the tourism took over and high rises and condos sprang up.

“Although we can expect great progress from the greening of technology and the inventiveness of the human spirit, we should not allow ourselves to be beguiled that information and technological advance will be sufficient.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

Perhaps I think too much and ponder too much as I sit here writing. I do believe we can accomplish a new world and a new way of seeing our reality. It will take each of us perceiving life differently than we choose to now. I wonder if that is even possible.

“The more knowledge we acquire, the more mystery we find…. A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. The delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a person nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to see this completely, but the striving for such an achievement is in itself a part of our liberation and a foundation for inner serenity.” Albert Einstein

In this world of ever changing technology and innovations what is new today will be antiquated tomorrow. Albert Einstein knew this as he offered the statement above. Einstein was a man of vision and thinking beyond what most of us will ever comprehend.

“Because the world at large does not get enough exposure to feminine principles such as acceptance, emotional expression, and peacefulness, we have moved to far from center and are therefore contrary to Nature’s plan. Humanities patriarchal track record is dismal at best. We need to remind ourselves as individuals as a culture, that aggression and intimidation are not our only options when something does not go our way.” Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

In my life time I have not known a true time of peace in the world. When I was a tiny child the Korean War was being fought as a teenager and young man Viet Nam and in more recent years we have been fighting in the Middle East for nearly twenty years. In my studies of history I have found that all wars have an inherent base cause of money. Stories go that Lyndon Johnson continued Viet Nam to provide business for US companies. Historians will write about our effort in Iraq as a war for oil. Greed has been a driving force in literally everything we do.

“It is not only important to walk down the path that creator has set before us; but we must walk in the way. The way is all the little things one does along the path. What kind of product is being produced? Is there a large pile of money? Is there a pile of accumulated physical things, such as cars, houses, property? Are there many degrees and awards on the wall? All of these things can be used in a positive way. Possibly, when one accumulates them as a means to a positive end, they can be certainly good. However if one accumulates them as an end; this may be not so good!” Susan Thomas Underwood, Walk With Spirit

I am often reminded of a line from a song by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. “Life is about the journey not the destination.” So often I forget and start seeking that destination and forget that so much is along the pathway. Opening my eyes and listening a bit more carefully there is much to see and hear. Here in Georgia we are in the grip of a winter freeze and temperatures have dropped below freezing. This morning I will bundle up as I head to school and try and educate a few children. Last night I watched Braveheart the story of William Wallace of Scotland in the late thirteenth century. An interesting tale while part fiction it has some truth. A man believed in freedom and fought for it dying betrayed by his own countryman. A bit away from my journeying and writing but as I think and ponder. Another day and as I have for so long 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

Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

 

Bird Droppings August 23, 2017

Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

 

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

 

In all of my years of searching, pondering and wandering about it seems the pathway always continues ahead of me. Many times I am stepping from one stone to another to get across the stream placing one foot ahead of the next trying to stay out of the water. I think I have always tried to leave that life as I wander a little better than when I got there. It does not always work out but I do believe I try. When I am walking down the hall ways at school I always trying to smile, joke with students, get others smiling and joking, and enjoying that precise moment of life. We equate time in seconds and that is only the blink of an eye and so easy to miss.

 “None of us is promised tomorrow. Today in all its beauty and sadness and complexity,  is all we have. This light we see may be the last such day we have on this earth. There is  no certainty, beyond the fact that one day we will have no tomorrow, and that it is not         ours to know when that day will be.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

Just before school was out last year I had to report an incident that was told to me by a student. It is difficult to when told in confidence yet the situation was severe enough to warrant reporting. In my same conversation with this student I was asked if my children ever got in trouble and I said no although tongue in cheek. The student responded, “They have never run away or sneaked out or …..” and again I said no. Immediately I asked instinctively if both parents lived at home. The response was hesitant but came, “no I live with my mom”, “but I don’t misbehave for my dad” and so forth. It comes to be the incident was not a onetime deal it is a regular occurrence and as I talk with parents and students I find my life is not “NORMAL”. It seems normal is having kids who are in trouble, causing problems yelling at their parents etc. It seems it is parents who are hitting their kids drinking with and such that is what society seems to deem as normal. Philosopher Michael Foucault would use the idea of looking at abnormal first to determine normal.

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light       by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life,   nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

I woke up from a vivid dream while I was getting my hair cut and I never fall asleep while getting my hair cut. Just as the hair was being brushed away from my neck and I looked up at a clock on the wall it was 2:30 and I had to get going. But as I am thinking back to my dream, my dreams are generally simple ones with complexities woven in and throughout. As I thought back nearly twelve years to my starting back to graduate school. In preparing for my final presentation in my master’s program, my advisor was continually using the word “weave”. Our project was about weaving all the pieces together. I actually at one point of my thinking was going to produce two covers and weave them together in a symbolic gesture indicative of my professors thought. Life is a weaving in reality as I look at each aspect intertwined with the next. It could be that child growing up in the context of arguing and issues at home finds that is normal and yet asks what it would be like to live in my family where that doesn’t exist. I smile and joke and offer solace for the moment I have with that student not so much as to change the pattern of weaving but to offer stronger thread or a tighter warp to the pattern. I think of my grandkids as they each are traveling in life. How do they see events unfolding and changing around them?

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is         peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for  me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Nearly fourteen years back I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome for the first time and how as a teacher I had eight hours to undo the sixteen hours parents and family have to deal with a child. Mathematically it doesn’t work and logically it doesn’t work and some parents do not want it to work, they have chosen the direction for their children and that is that.  Many times it seems futile as a teacher to even try and make a difference knowing what some children go home to. Jokingly two boys sitting in a physics class said to me they were waiting for antique farm equipment to move so they could do the lab. I was taken back a minute and said what? They looked over at lab counter and six black kids were working on lab. I responded as I do often sarcastically first it bothers me that you both have that kind of attitude but since I know the grades of all six and yours using that as an excuse only proves how ignorant you really are. Neither responded and they know where I stand on the subject.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

 

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

Just before school let my last Friday at the high school, a particular student asked me about absolute truths. I responded and had a response from a dear friend and so forth a dialogue and the context was a positive one as we shared ideas and thoughts. Again just a few days before that I reported an incident that had happened to a student and was told that it was ok, it was discussed. Sadly that child went home thinking this is how life really is. It simply is ok. Normal parents and kids do yell at each other and hit each other and throw things at each other, it is ok.

“We dribble away our life, little by little, in small packages — we don’t throw it away   all at once.” Robert A. Cook

 “Life is a succession of lessons enforced by immediate reward, or, oftener, by      immediate chastisement.” Ernest Dimnet

B.F. Skinner the man behind the concept of behavior modification once said he could change anything and anyone through behavior modification. Who knows maybe he is right, maybe if we continue picking away and smiling and joking and living life as un-normal as it may be to some others will catch on. Who knows maybe just maybe when tomorrow comes that child who was asking about have my children ever run away will be asking how much they study each night instead or what books they have read or what college are they going to.

“Every morning I wake up saying, I’m still alive; a miracle. And so I keep on pushing.”    Jacques Cousteau

I have a friend at school a breast cancer survivor who said something very similar to me. For her “each day is a blessing to make the most of”. How profound and almost understated is amazingly her students love her. She honestly cares about them and they know it. A simple bit of attitude goes very far when wielded in honesty and good faith.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the   wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

Many years ago I raised buffalo and as I would walk out each morning into the dark I would hear an occasionally snort and blow of air from our bull as he checked the cows and calves walking about in the morning haze. I knew life then and even today as I walk out and greet the morning though different sounds living in a subdivision but still I can hear if I listen hard that faint echo of a buffalo snorting in the fog as it drifts in. Life is what we choose to make it and how we weave or how we step into the day it is our choice. In teaching I emphasize setting the example and I have had hanging on my one of the walls in my room at school a poster from my hippie days 1971 or so. Of course it is a black light poster. The posters title is “Children learn, what they Live” and it goes on from there. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and set the example in your own life for others to see and follow and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

What does it take for that light bulb to go on?

Bird Droppings August 22, 2017
What does it take for that light bulb to go on?

 

It has been nearly twelve years since my doctorial cohort at Georgia Southern ended and we began the journey on our own. For a couple semesters I was a member of a new cohort at Piedmont College and wandering down the path of learning again. I recall many months back we met for an advanced seminar and one of the readings was an Aldus Huxley book, Doors of our perception, which while not that many pages was a major part of the discussion. I am always intrigued when pieces of my time in existence seem just for me as several ideas within the book were significant as I look back. However our professor ended the session pointing inward and mentioned how he has pursued intellectualism. Reading and expanding his own knowledge has been his pursuit and he mentioned several times how great it is to be a professor you get paid to read. I was thinking to high school students who we try and get to read and many college students as well. So often when you ask, what is your favorite book a response will be I do not read? Instilling that passion for knowledge should be our task rather than just testing for specific pieces of information.

 

            “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where   your thoughts take you.” James Allen

 

I have been thinking on this passage many days. I firmly believe even as we plan and set goals and agendas we are where we need to be at this moment. Is it as simple as we travel the pathways presented to us each day thinking we have choice and actually could be setting the direction? It has been a few years since I first looked at life as a journey. Since that first day however it has become a truly memorable one for me. Now I make an effort to view each moment as I pass try and keep up with all the surroundings and trying to understand each piece of the puzzle as it falls in place. “Life is about the journey”, I have used many times in my writings.

 

“Thinking more than others about our own thoughts is not self-centeredness. It           means that if asked what’s on our mind, we are less likely to mention being aware of the     world around us, and more likely to mention our inner reflections. But we are less        likely to mention thinking about other people.” Elaine N. Aron, Clinical Psychologist

 

I just took Dr. Aron’s quiz to see if I am a HSP highly sensitive person or not rather interesting. I tend to argue several issues within her test. I thrive on the interactions and emotions while the tests seem have this as a negative response.

 

“You live with your thoughts — so be careful what they are.” Eva Arrington

 

            “If everybody thought before they spoke, the silence would be deafening.” George           Barzan

 

While teaching I spend a large portion of time trying to assist students in thinking. A simple thought yet rather difficult. Trying to encourage thought processes can be interesting as one student told me. “Mr. Bird why do we have to think it hurts my brain.” Sadly I hear that several times a day.

 

“There are lots of people who cannot think seriously without injuring their minds.”      John Jay Chapman

 

I keep a box of Band-Aids handy and have pulled them out occasionally for serious brain injury and surprise students with the offer when their brains hurt.

 

            “No matter how hard you work for success if your thought is saturated with the fear of             failure, it will kill your efforts, neutralize your endeavors and make success        impossible.” Baudjuin

 

            “A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which   does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all.” Georges Bernanos

 

Thought processes are often bewildering. I was sitting here typing and thinking and went to type, Ge, and was thinking and spelling and got to Geo and couldn’t hit the “o” key I wanted to hit “r” but thought process and fingers got caught. I was looking at “o” and wanted to type “r”, actually paused for a second to rationalize.

 

“We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by            selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow           that never leaves them.” Buddha

 

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.” Buddha

 

Interesting as I look at these two remarks from several thousand years ago. Today psychologists will say the same thing. I say the same thing without quoting Buddha every day. But so many people do not really think about where there are.

 

“Man is what he believes.” Anton Chekhov

 

It is so difficult to explain this to students really to anyone. Yet great coaches around the country have been proving this for years. My youngest son is an avid sport trivia fan while still not on par with the great trivia authority and good friend Jimmy Hughes, my son is pretty good. He will ask many times who do I think is the greatest of all time NCAA coaches. Although usually the question is “dad don’t you think Spurrier is the greatest of all time NCAA coaches”. I like it when he leaves me an out, he didn’t mention a sport and I can throw out John Wooden or Dan Gable or even more recent Paul Hewitt and really get him going. “Well what about Coach K then”, thinking though is the goal and that he does.

 

            “The problem with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes   rather than their minds.” Walter Duranty

“It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains       definitely and systematically to work.” Thomas A. Edison

 

I recall my middle son’s senior year. He was near the top in his class and always an excellent student. Due to scheduling he was unable to take the honors English course he wanted to and had to take regular senior English with the rest of humanity. He has a slug sitting next to him who every day would ask to copy his homework. My son got to where his responses were classic, one that stuck with me went something like this “We all make mistakes and in all honesty I truly believe this is all correct. But what if I am wrong and I allow you to copy and then you receive a failing grade and your life is ruined I will not be able to live with that. So no, I cannot allow you to copy. If you fail I want it to be you who fail not me helping you too”.

 

“Humans have the ability to shift perspective. We can experience the world through     our senses. Or we can remove ourselves from our senses and experience the world   even less directly. We can think about our life, rather than thinking in our life. We            can think about what we think about our life, and we can think about what we think       about that. We can shift perceptual positions many times over.” John J. Emerick

 

Each moment is unique and each uniquely different. As we are wandering the pathways of life they can tire you. You might stop to sip a cup of water midst the turmoil of the day and to move on past the strife. Each day we have choices to make we have opportunity and we have disaster waiting. It is that light bulb going off like in the old cartons over our heads that makes the difference. Sitting in my sanctuary of my class room at school in the darkness of morning thinking and pondering as I say that makes the difference. As my moments draw down and it becomes time for stage two of 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

Our perceptions vary greatly about life

Bird Droppings August 16, 2017

Our perceptions vary greatly about life

 

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” Irving Berlin

 

It was sixteen years ago I was waiting to go teach again after having spent nearly twenty three years in the publishing business. I was anxious to say the least. I had gone by the high school and signed a few forms and talked with the principal for an hour or so. Then the next day came and within hours I was immersed in a day I will not forget. It was my first day back teaching. While I spent most of the day locked in a room in a school lock down because of the 9-11 bombing I still introduced myself to my charges and we did get to know each other.

 

“To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Each moment, is for each of us different and as I use the word over and over our perceptions vary greatly about life. Emerson so eloquently states “the same world is a hell and a heaven” depending on how you take it. How we live life and our reactions can be construed much the same way.

 

“It’s how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success.” David Feherty

 

We live in a world of contrast black, white and a swirling of gray then somewhere there is a dividing line to separate the differences. Our adaptation and manipulation of crossing the line between the variations is our dealing with life.

 

“Nothing in life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

 

“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” Thaddeus Golas

 

Many years ago I recall a story from Hindu lore of a water bearer who each morning would go to the stream and fill two great jugs with water. One was new and held every drop all the way from the river to the house. The other jug had a crack in it and a steady stream of water leaked out all the way from the river to the house. Often when arriving at the house the cracked jug would be literally empty. One day the new jug most boastful said to the cracked jug how can you be so happy you never complete your task each day all your water leaks out and you come home empty. The cracked jug said smiling and never once upset, “have you noticed the flowers all along the way from the stream lining the path where I water them each day.

 

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz

 

I find this so true in high school among students; some who are so capable simple choose to just pass. “I have a seventy I am passing that’s all I need”. Others who struggle to achieve try for an A and work each aspect of their endeavor. Every difficult sentence a chore but they persist and succeed. I got to know a young lady who took the science portion of the Graduation test five times each time she would be closer gaining points as she went, finally she passed by two points. I have read how the school board has again passed or stated they will uphold the graduation walking policy. Sadly within that are the girls and guys who do try and may take five tries to succeed not because of attitude but because of ability. Yet they are in jeopardy of not walking at graduation.

 

I have read numerous times how we need to uphold that standard but it is a faulty one there are exceptions and another young lady is one and her mother and she were ones that fought last year to walk. She received her fourth test score weeks before graduation and was one point off. She took testing classes studied hard and had been a good student all twelve years, she was an honor student. She wasn’t a person, who did not deserve to walk she tried more than many that did walk, but our view is of a failure and we punished her at graduation time. She quit school the last week and went on to get a GED.

 

“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.” Fredrick Langbridge 

 

Sometimes it is only a matter of looking up versus looking down and perception is radically different.

 

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” Chrétien Malesherbes

 

So often we limit ourselves we set up the road blocks and stop dead in our tracks all possibility of success.

 

“Attitudes are more important than facts.” Karl A. Menninger

 

“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” Earl Nightingale  

 

“We have unprecedented conditions to deal with and novel adjustments to make; there can be no doubt of that. We also have a great stock of scientific knowledge unknown to our grandfathers with which to operate. So novel are the conditions, so copious the knowledge, that we must undertake the arduous task of reconsidering a great part of the opinions about man and his relations to his fellow men which have been handed down to us by previous generations who lived in far other conditions and possessed far less information about the world and themselves. We have, however, first to create an unprecedented attitude of mind to cope with unprecedented conditions, and to utilize unprecedented knowledge.” James H. Robinson  

 

It was only a few years ago in the history of man that TV became a reality. Last week as I was helping someone do a paper a question was asked “when did racism start was it during the civil war”. Racism and slavery are not new to man, some anthropologists look back even to Neanderthal man at signs of racism with Cro-Magnon man. But each generation has more to work with more information more knowledge more data to compile and their response is what had been looked at one way has become different.

 

“There are times when you just get down, you feel like nobody likes you. We’re in high school forever. It’s just what we do with it.” Rene Russo

 

Rene Russo is one of my favorite actresses and someone who was famous as a model and actually then made it bigger as an actress. She at one point as her modeling career started to dwindle thought all was over but interestingly enough now she models perhaps more now that she is famous as an actress.

 

“Don’t be against things so much as for things.” Col. Harland Sanders

 

Most of us have had Kentucky fried chicken at some point in life Col. Sanders literally changed fast food along with Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame and it was their attitude that did it. Both men took already used and tested ideas and with attitude made them work.

 

“Nothing will work unless you do.” John Wooden 

 

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” Ray Kroc

 

Every day I hear a student blame a teacher for being a sorry teacher I have never yet heard a student say they were a sorry student. But I have heard many students except simply a seventy percent and be happy “its passing” and so where does the blame lie if in effect blame is appropriate. We choose and we choose to fail or succeed. We are the culprits not a teacher, not the book and not the class we choose. Please keep all in harm’s way in your thoughts and on your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird