Sometimes it takes an inner journey to help others

Bird Droppings October 31, 2017

Sometimes it takes an inner journey to help others

It has been several months that I have again focused on my own issues and problems and often let others problems drift by the wayside. I have been there but only perhaps in body so self-focused that many things drifted by. It took a friends email to wake me from my daydream of sorts. I recall very clearly when I received the note my dear friend was diagnosed with cancer and had emailed me letting me know. I do procrastinate always finding excuses for not responding not interacting not working on my dissertation. I went out the afternoon of his email with a smoldering bowl of white sage and ursa leaves to my letting the smoke waft about me clearing my head as I fanned the smoke and embers with a hawk feather. Numerous busy work, graduate papers, substituting and who knows what else seemed a great reason to hold off this week on so many details of life and interaction with others it was that an excuse.

I needed some time to be alone to think to ponder beyond my morning wandering and writing. Sittijng here I thought back to a trip nearly ten years ago when I drove to Macon Georgia to take my youngest son a suit and dress shirt for a semi-formal affair he said he was attending the next Saturday night. There is something about a drive that clears my head especially when on back roads with many things to see and good music to listen too. So my CD player was loaded with Allman Brothers, Neil Young, Black Crowes, Carlos Nakai, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton I began the drive. It was my first time listening to Neil Young’s new CD, A Fork in the Road, and how appropriate for a 250 mile road trip with many forks along the way.

I stopped by the school to get my camera and plug in a new battery I had purchased on Friday to start my day. A few errands and I was heading down the road. Somewhere about Covington Georgia, Bob Dylan was wailing Knocking on Heavens door and I recalled the day I went to hear my youngest son’s rendition at a talent show during a week of Choir camp the night my father passed away. Coincidently it was in Covington I went to hear my son sing that song. I called him to see if he knew the song playing but the wind and distortion on the cell phone during a harmonica solo were hard to hear.

Jackson Georgia came quickly and a left turn towards Macon was on hand. I took a few highway photos as I drove places of special memories. Fresh Air Barbeque and Towalgia Nursery and Towaglia River Bridge washed out many years ago in a flood and rebuilt. Towalgia is in the Creek language, bloody river. It seems it was somewhere here about scalps would be washed in the river and dried for trade to the white soldiers back in the day. Scalping being a custom adopted from the white man. I was going to stop and get a photo of Lake Juliette as I drove by since the lake was topped off with all the rain. This was the spot my father in law drowned several years ago on a fishing trip. It was a day of memories and details flashing back and reminding me of my own mortality as I drove towards Macon.

I stopped just before Macon at the new Mall and went into Barnes and Nobles looking for Kent Nerburn’s newest book which they did have several copies of and I grabbed one. I was drawn to the CD section and also found Neil Young’s newest CD. So here I am Neil Young and a Carlos Nakai CD and my Kent Nerburn book headed to Mercer. My son met me on campus and showed me his apartment and I am always amazed at how college kids can devastate what many call a domicile. Although Matt said it was clean for once. I left Mercer and headed to the Indian mounds. I tend to enjoy the solitude and quiet and sacredness of the mounds although quite a few tourists were about that Saturday.

I went into the main building where the museum and presentations are held and got a new t-shirt from heritage days just a few weeks back. Several different tribes are represented with artisans, dancers and story tellers giving presentations through the weekend. The back of my shirt borrows from a Sitting Bull quote “Let us leave a world for our children”. I drove out to the temple mound on the far side of the property. All along the way the stillness and quiet was what I needed. Several families were on top of the mound as I came in and I waited till they left. I enjoy the solitude and sacredness of this spot. For nearly five thousand years various peoples have held this place as sacred. When I go I always face each of the four directions, north, east, south and west. There is something about imagining what it was like a thousand years ago when people lived around the temple mound and corn fields and canoes could be seen from the top.

I gathered my camera and began the trek home. I put my new Neil Young CD in and read through his new songs. One set of lyrics caught my attention and I played that song several times along the road. Appropriately it is called Off the Road.

“When the day is done and the sun is sinking low. When you’ve seen a lot and you’ve been most everywhere. You go, you go and you think the end is in sight. You can never take your eyes off the road, off the road when the traffics slow, and those brake lights are lighting up. When you are all alone and you’re driving through the night and you know the end is not insight. You can never take your eyes off the road off the road” Neil Young

I read these words and thought about my own mortality. As I get to my sixty eighth year so many things come to mind and when my dear friend sent an email of his development of cancer along with an early birthday thought years back. It was reminding me if as if I needed that. But as I rode I found my emptiness subside and a peace fill the void. Thoughts, ideas and pondering it seems through a journey along the roads of Georgia does wonders for the soul. Please my dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

In a world of data can we still use intuition?

Bird Droppings October 30, 2017
In a world of data can we still use intuition?

 

I mentioned to a fellow teacher I can tell when a child has emotional issues most of the time after observing a few minutes and listening. Granted observations are part of most evaluations but I was referring to an intuitive aspect of observation. Something we learn perhaps as we experience and live life. Over the years several children I have worked with I have recommended additional involvement and unfortunately also got to say I told you so in future. I got up in the middle of the night to work on some ideas preparing for an IEP later today. I am going to my niece’s daughters IEP to offer my advice in what seems to be a child being under served. My printer is rolling out 300 plus pages of Georgia Kindergarten standards for some light reading this morning. My point this is we have data, black marks on a page and yet often this is insignificant if interpreted without intuitive wisdom as a filter or guide.

 

“Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” Edwin Hubbel Chapin

 

As I was discussing the final class debriefing as it is called at a foxfire teachers training. A thought hit me as to why some teachers can do more than others. Why some teachers succeed where others flounder, intuition, a simple thought and a difficult concept to teach to another. This is an area most education classes forget. I have for many years considered teaching an art form. There is an aspect of teaching that separates great teachers from poor teachers. There midst the volumes of educational lore are very few that get into the concept of intuition.

 

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” John Steinbeck

“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” Michael Burke

 

Knowing what to do at a specific moment intuitively is not easily taught in a classroom it has to be experienced and understood at a deeper level.

 

 

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” Dr. Benjamin Spock

 

“Instinct is untaught ability.” Bain

 

In a teacher training session on grading I listened to seasoned teachers discuss how they would do this or that, then one said “do you have that written down” What is your starting point. How much planning time do you allow and as I watched and heard in disbelief in this situation that was one of a teachable moment slip away by the way side. The person speaking turned around stunned as I was and said I really do not plan it takes ten minutes to jot down a daily note to my students and each day they experience new things and we build on that.

 

“Instinct is intelligence incapable of self-consciousness.” John Sterling

 

I began thinking of key words in teaching, intuition being a good starting point. Always when teaching anachronisms help and I found, IESP, Intuition, Empathy, Sympathy and Perception. These are all aspects of a good teacher and a good parent and a good person as well.

 

“Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” Dr. Joyce Brothers

 

In doing research on intuition in years gone by, many psychologists believe we have stored experiences and concepts that we do not even recall that are the basis for intuition.

 

“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.” Florence Scovel Shinn

 

There are other researchers who consider aspects yet undiscovered as a basis for intuitiveness and intuition.

 

“A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action.” Jawaharlal Nehru

 

So many years ago Nehru was the first Prime Minister of an independent India and as well a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

 

“Instinct is the nose of the mind.” Madame De Girardin

 

I saw this note and it intrigued me. Instinct being a door opener and perhaps starting point, a beginning it could be possibly even one of our senses.

 

“I would rather trust a woman’s instinct than a man’s reason.” Stanley Baldwin

 

I do not know exactly what this entity is we call intuition. I have observed many teachers and parents, workers and managers. Some know answers and others have to understand and solve the issues. As I was thinking and pondering the past few days I always seem to come back to a favorite quote.

 

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

 

One of my red neck buddies responded, “what the h— does that have to do with intuition”? Some of us have a goal a destination but the journey the getting there is as critical and crucial as the end result. Each aspect of the pathway is essential rather than simply the end of the trip. When you are looking as you go you see so much more. I recall a long trip as a child and we would play games looking for animals. If you choose to look only for red tailed hawks, it would be miles and even hours between birds. If you choose birds and how many different ones you can see we up the chances of every few seconds or minutes seeing something. Open that to all animals and now every few seconds and you are looking for details in the road side and trees and grass. Life is so similar some people are looking for specifics so minute they seldom find what they are looking for. Others see every nook and cranny. Intuition is in the crannies I think.

 

“The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.“ Anonymous

 

I wish I had said that or who said it. 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

A chilly morning observation

Bird Droppings October 27, 2017
A chilly morning observation

 

I spent the better part of yesterday avoiding my direction so intent on the moment I was missing cues to the past and future. As an empathetic human being I get caught up at times in the emotions and feedback of the present. When I allow my wisdom to kick inn and help determine pointing the way so to say I can be a formidable teacher and advocate. John Dewey writes about experiences past, present and future and how they are interrelated and interchanged often. I am working on a notion of curriculum that is continuous not finite as most teachers try and do in practice. William Pinar discusses curriculum as runig the course that it is ongoing it intersects each aspect of life and time. So as I sit here today pondering my previous day, present moment and future I see the interplay that so easily can be hidden in focusing solely on the moment. So a swig from my meditative mug of strong chai tea and into today’s thoughts.

 

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

 

My wanderings in general are the expanse of my life experiences over several days of traveling, thinking and observing mankind. Just a few nights ago my son and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature was only a few feet away in its wildest. I was walking this past Sunday morning and being away from my quiet spot near my home in Between Georgia in a small town in middle Georgia sitting on a porch of an old mill house the quiet was over powering along with the gentle breeze and sunshine. Around me birds would occasionally fly into and out of the trees but most of the time without a sound. I was essentially alone sitting listening while everyone else was inside. Only a few hours earlier I had a wonderful experience watching by my own house as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.
Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. This past weekend as we drove home from a quick trip to see my son and his wife and our grandbabies we noticed nearly fifty red tailed hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground.

 

Clearly we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

 

Only a few years back we have been through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter election campaigns I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads were the vast majority of all from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with after the election and even then that was questionable. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”. I received a copy of a book in the mail from a friend in New York after he published. I had known the title for months prior but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today.
Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

 

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all experts liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

 

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the newly legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past year lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. I grew up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions. Even more significant is my son still in nursing school who is over twenty five but is covered with new health care law. If not for that not sure where we would be after his accident in May of this year with over three hundred fifty thousand in medical bills that were covered.

 

I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

 

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

 

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai who is a seven note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage of a clear sky and quiet surrounding the trees. I had to stop listen to the music and see this quiet still image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house. As I turned from observing I noticed a flat tire on my son’s truck which brought me back to reality and the moment.
To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their 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 as teachers build doors or walls?

Bird Droppings October 26, 2017
Do we as teachers build doors or walls?

 

I enjoy arriving at school while the stars are still shining overhead something about the darkness is peaceful for me. I can remember when my youngest would ride to school with me; he is not quite as big a fan of mornings and pre-sunrise as I am. He misses that few extra moments of sleep each day. Last week while my granddaughter visited we started telling stories and she too got caught up and was adding to the story. I would start a story about who ever she wanted and we would make up things as we went. Grandmommie was first and Charlie wanted to go to Disney Store with Grandmommie so the story unfolded.  I was in Barnes and Nobles book store a few weeks ago and picked up a copy of James Bradley’s book Flags of our fathers. The opening quote is a very powerful, what if.

 

“Mothers should negotiate between nations. The mothers of fighting countries would agree: Stop this killing now. Stop it now.” Yoshikuni Taki

 

I have been in several I should say many meetings the past few years with teachers and parents. It has been a few years since my youngest son handed me a sheet of paper to sign up for a teacher parent conference in geometry. It appeared that he let a test or two slip by. Any student with a less than 75% grade is to have a conference, school rules. Interesting is that so many students only want a seventy percent. As I am thinking about comments from one of my meetings where a mother wanted the school to do what she was doing in keeping her children up with their work, because she was tired. Ideally it would be great each teacher spend time each day with each individual student. However if you do the calculations at one hundred and ten minutes or so per class and thirty plus students that is less than four minutes apiece if there is no start up or down time. Less than four minutes for each student.

 

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather        this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its            influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the       individual?” Albert Einstein

 

This has been a favorite quote of mine for many years and hanging on the back of my classroom door where I can see it most of the day. As a parent and a teacher how do we make our parenting and or teaching so potent? How do we or should we provide a doorway or open the door for students and children?

 

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

           

Could not this person be a parent, friend and or a teacher?

 

“John Dewey’s significance for informal educators lies in a number of areas. First, his   belief that education must engage with and enlarge experience has continued to be a         significant strand in informal education practice. Second and linked to this, Dewey’s   exploration of thinking and reflection – and the associated role of educators – has continued to be an inspiration. We can see it at work, for example, in the models           developed by writers such as David Boud and Donald Schön. Third, his concern with interaction and environments for learning provides a continuing framework for             practice. Last, his passion for democracy, for educating so that all may share in a          common life, provides a strong rationale for practice in the associational settings in        which informal educators work.” Mark K. Smith 2001

 

As I sit and think about how do we work with kids and I recall ideas from John Dewey. This passage written by Mark Smith relates four thoughts from John Dewey’s philosophy engage and enlarge experience, thinking and reflection, interactions and environments for learning, and democracy in the classroom. Engage and enlarge experience: If we as teachers draw on what the child knows and has seen and touched and then build on that and develop so that we can move forward and or sideways or up and down.

 

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens   to him.” Aldus Huxley –

 

            “Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced — even a proverb is no proverb to        you till your life has illustrated it.” John Keats –

 

            “Common experience is the gold reserve which confers an exchange value on the          currency which words are; without this reserve of shared experiences, all our       pronouncements are checks drawn on insufficient funds.” Rene Daume

 

Thinking and reflection: This is that aspect that Einstein refers to that has baffled the sages down through time. How to get students anyone to think and then as Dewey teaches reflect?

 

“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  

 

            “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  

 

            “Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the           work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise             to revisions and refinements.” The Foxfire Approach

 

Interaction and environments for learning: Providing an atmosphere that students want to be in is a key to success. Be it at home or at school if a child does not want to be there it is difficult to learn and to function.

 

“Course content is connected to the community in which the learners live. Learners’    work will “bring home” larger issues by identifying attitudes about and illustrations         and implications of those issues in their home communities.” The Foxfire Approach

 

            “For industry to support education and training it must provide a relevant cost            benefit             to the employer. The content and design of the learning on offer must be capable of not          only sustaining the candidate’s willingness and ability to learn but also respond to the         ever changing environment within which industry operates.” Mike Goodwin, University            of  Wolver Hampton addressing the concept of negotiated work based learning

 

Having a context for learning by providing rationale and reason for what is being taught. Content is much easier to work with it is in the text book but providing context is where doors are created and opened.

 

Democracy in the class room: Students and children being actively involved in their class room changes often the direction and flow of learning.

 

“My own belief….is that a teacher’s stated views – and, more important, the visible        actions which that teacher takes during a year in public school – are infinitely more     relentless in their impact on the students than a wealth of books of any possible      variety.” Jonathan Kozol, On Being a Teacher, p. 25

 

            “Students can be forced to sit through a class, but they cannot be forced to be interested in it, or to do well.” Alfie Kohn

 

            “A visitor then to my democratic classroom in action would walk into a room in           which students are working in groups or individually grappling with ideas that will     later enrich the classroom. Deliberation and debate would be ongoing as students      worked on issues and projects that mattered to them as both a class and as   individuals. I as the teacher would not be the center point of the room but would instead be its facilitator and manager.” Ryan Niman

 

Parents, students, teachers and administrators each have differing and often specific involvement in that student’s learning. There is no specific script that is better than another. As I listened to a mother she wanted the school do take over all she did at home I wondered, what are you going to do take a vacation? While she was tired and concerned those 16 hours away (sixteen hour syndrome and still no cure) from school are as crucial as the eight or so that students spend in school. It is about getting sleep, proper nutrition, care and love which are all integral aspects of getting a child to learn and to have an appreciation for learning. Who opens the door and who creates the door sort of blend in and are not as important as that it is open and students and parents and teachers can each find their role and build. It is up to each of us to try and do just a little better each day in all that we do and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
For all my relations

Wa de (Skee)
bird

How do you feed the wolves?

Bird Droppings October 25, 2017
How do you feed the wolves?

 

I walked outside very early this morning to a sky filled with stars and wisps of clouds floating by. Crickets were almost silent chirping slowly in the cool weather. My morning started long before sunrise today and the sounds as I walked to the car caught my attention. Nearby a coyote was calling and an owl’s call added to the moment. Numerous constellations were visible through drifting pieces of clouds. I sat my goal to get to go to Kroger early so I could spend some time writing today and with so many thoughts going through my mind I sit down as listening to an old track on iTunes. Bob Dylan’s, Blood on the Tracks is considered by many to be one of his best albums. I picked up my phone and a note was visible on the lock screen. It was a thank you comment from a former student from eleven years ago what a great start to my morning.
There are times when it is hard to put into words whether it is because of confidentiality or emotions maybe even words truly do not describe well enough and yet pictures are not suited to define or describe as well either. A large display of Georgia Bulldog marketing materials, cups, flags, caps and stuffed bulldogs reminded me of a past trip. It was several years ago I went to Kroger after school to pick up a few things to make spaghetti, the universally excepted meal in our house. The parking lot was packed from one end to the other so I parked about twenty miles from the door. I read that is a good thing to do for exercise adding a few more steps to your day. After finding all I needed and visiting with at least half a dozen friends I bumped into I started up the book aisle which is sort of habit. It was packed and everyone was in line. A rather assorted bunch of folks were standing in what appeared to be a line.
I carefully went back and went down another aisle to head for checkout and as I reached the front of the store there were several men in black suits standing almost at attention beside a table stacked with books. My initial thought was it was Sarah Palin’s book signing but I knew she would have been in a more strategic location than a Loganville Kroger and while she is popular there were a lot of people here. Then I see this old man who is still pretty spry for an old codger sitting shaking hands and signing his latest book. I had forgotten today was Vince Dooley day at Kroger. Dooley is somewhat of an icon in this area. Vince Dooley was the former head coach and athletic director of The University of Georgia Bulldogs. Where else but in Loganville would thousands of people swarm a grocery store to get an autograph from Mr. Bulldog himself. Being an avid Georgia Tech fan I walked by nose in the air and paid for my groceries.
But the events of the week so far and thinking back had me recalling an old email I received nearly ten years ago. The story goes something like this. One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a debate that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” I received this note from a parent of a former student.

As I thought back and read over this simple story again I was thinking about how children respond to various situations and we adults then commend or condemn them. Those two words are so closely spelled yet so far apart in meaning and understanding. Yesterday morning a young lady came in and was visibly upset but more of a moping kind of upset. Seems her boyfriend and she were sort of at odds. I shared the Thomas Merton quote I have hanging on my wall and have used here so many times.

 

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

 

I asked the young lady to look up Merton and see some of his other writings and who he was which she did before school and then she left with a copy and a Kent Nerburn book, Calm Surrender. As we talked I thought of this quote about the wolves inside of us and how we all are fighting as she told me of conflicts in her life and in her boyfriend’s life as well.
Several days back my wife and I were discussing kids as we tend too and the topic of learned behavior came up. We teach kids through our actions and inactions and yet we then punish them for the same exact thing. An attorney was on TV saying parents who knew kids were drinking at a party at their house should not be held responsible for any actions of drunken teenagers. The discussion was on a point, counter point discussion and then the other side mentioned that the person who was involved in the accident had been arrested previously for DUI and the parents knew that so there was a history established. So I sat listening to this back and forth, an underage drinking party led to a teenage driver killing a child. The underage drinker who was driving had left the party at that particular parent’s home with their knowledge he was drunk and had been drunk previously, both parties were found guilty. On the one hand the defense attorney was saying kids will be kids and on the other a dead child.
So often in life we are faced with what ifs. We have knowledge of behavior that is construed as dangerous or potential dangerous and yet we tend to shrug it off. A headline yesterday caught my eye where industry is turning its nose on incidents that do not cause major damage or injury. Coming from an industrial safety background it was these incidents that lead to major break -through in safety and loss control. A headline down was about women not getting mammograms anymore till fifty and on the news many women were up in arms who had breast cancer and whose family members were saved by early detection. I recall a young man I worked with back in the 1970’s and how on many occasions I had requested an evaluation and was told keep out of it the young man was Learning Disabled only. After I married and moved to Loganville I actually let him spend the summer with me and work on our farm. Sadly a few years’ later things changed and he was arrested and sentenced to three life sentences. He had killed a woman and her two kids wanting to return to Central State Mental Hospital. Commend and condemn so similar yet differing in the meaning.
I look back at the story which wolf is being fed. We are responsible as parents, teachers, friends and we and others need to be more actively involved in keeping such situations from happening. Whether it be teenage love or teenage drinking there is harm being done around the corner and often under our noses. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Words not spoken are some of the most profound wisdom

Bird Droppings October 24, 2017
Words not spoken are some of the most profound wisdom

 

I am sitting at least thinking about writing papers for grad school and words is what is on my mind right now. I just commented on a Facebook post about learning languages and how I know enough in several languages to survive and order chicken and rice. Within the past several weeks I have watched comments from politicians made and the rebutted by often the same person which I find most interesting. Native Americans survived this trend back in the day as treaties were made and broken all in a few years only to be told that sorry we got the wording wrong or you misunderstood what we were saying. When we said we were going to kill off the buffalo we meant all the buffalo not just those slowing the train down.

 

            “He believes profoundly in silence – the sign of a perfect equilibrium. Silence is the        absolute poise or balance of body, mind, and spirit.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander           Eastman, Santee Sioux

 

Trained as a physician Dr. Eastman was also a profound and eloquent speaker for the Sioux nation. So often when we speak it is words spilling out of a bucket filled to over flowing with politically correct jargon. A barrage of often meaningless dribble that just is there waiting to explode. Such plain and nice platitudes as hello how are you, how’s the family the job and numerous other familiar little blips we tend to throw at people we meet.

 

            “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, Teton          Sioux

 

“In my opinion it was chiefly owing to their deep contemplation in their silent   retreats in the days of youth that the old Indian orators acquired the habit of            carefully arranging their thoughts.” Blackbird, Ottawa

 

So often in our haste we blurt out words that become meaningless simply because we feel we should be talking. As I look at the words of these great Native American orators often it was in their silence and reflection that wisdom has shown through. Sadly we will never see the silence. There was not a hasty response that was spontaneous and not thought through each word was carefully chosen so as to impact and bring the point to the listener. For many words were sacred and a privilege to use and to speak. I was thinking wouldn’t that be great if every ADHD child thought before they spoke. We would not need medications, in school suspensions, and behavior modification anymore. There would be fewer bars of soap sold as parents would not have to wash any mouths out, thinking back to my wife’s favorite movie “the Christmas Story” as Ralphie gets his mouth washed out.

 

            “You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts”         Cochise, Chiricahaua Apache

 

Known as a great warrior as well as spokesman for the Apache, Cochise was feared and revered by many. So often listening to the fabrications of teenagers as a teacher you do enjoy silence and or truth. So many times exaggerations flow like water each telling of a story embellishes on the next and so forth till somewhere perhaps reality really did occur.

“Good words do not last long unless they amount to something.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Growing up I recall stories of Chief Joseph and how his people avoided the army and won numerous skirmishes in there attempted flight to freedom in Canada. After being rejected by the Canadian Government they had no alternative but to surrender and Joseph’s speech has been quoted by many ever since.

 

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember      all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by             men who had no right to talk.” Chief Joseph

 

In recent weeks I have watched our politicians talk out one side of the mouth and down the other. It is like going to a used car lot and watching used car sales folks at work. What do you believe? Watching news today is not really watching news it is ok what do I believe and what is fantasy. I find friends posting stories that have been shown to be false and literally lies numerous times over and still showing up as true. On many shelves popular newspapers on the racks at grocery stores, scandal sheets with altered photos grab the attention and we are lead to believe what the story supposedly implies. Investigators are trying to blame someone with the misinformation on Iraq that led to the war for example was a recent heading. We now know most of what we were told were lies yet we are told the people lying were only misinformed.

 

It becomes confusing as I am sure years ago when soldiers would explain peace treaties with numerous lines of fine print. One famous line read, “As long as the buffalo roam” to a plains tribe who lived off the vast herds of migratory buffalo numbering over fifty million on one count that would be was forever. However a new Sharps rifle accurate to over a thousand yards and a healthy trade in buffalo hides quickly reduced the herds to a handful and we said as long as the buffalo roam and they are gone. We do this today in politics, in schools and in life getting commitment based on something we already know.

 

            “I would have been better pleased if you had never made promises, than that you          should have made them and not performed them.” Shinguaconse

 

We so often tell little stories to a point it becomes habit and soon we are caught up in our stories with no return.

 

            “Always tell the truth – it’s the easiest to remember.” David Mamet

 

Thinking as I ponder this simple statement by Mamet if we only took our own advice and just tell the truth and there would be no need to have anything to remember. 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

What is that piece you cannot teach teachers?

Bird Droppings October 23, 2017

What is that piece you cannot teach teachers?

 

“Studies suggest that instructional and management processes are key to effectiveness, but many interview and survey responses about effective teaching emphasize the teacher’s affective characteristics, or social and emotional behaviors, more than pedagogical practice.” James H. Stronge, Qualities of Effective Teachers

 

I have been a student in classes with and have heard over the years many great teachers. If I was to put a characterization on those individuals it would be they could communicate and relate to their students. There was an affective, emotional and social interaction that brought relevance to their teachings. I first gained a serious enjoyment of literature from a professor at Mercer University in Macon Georgia who stood up on a desk and began reciting Shakespeare in his overalls. He had studied Shakespeare in Great Britain and acted in Shakespearean theatre while there. I was enthralled and for the first time in four or five years of college received an A in a Literature class. This professor went on after his tenure at Mercer to work with indigent farmers in rural Georgia which was his true passion.

 

“Why does everyone seem to have a story about how one special teacher got through to them, and reshaped their life forever? Could it be that teaching is just about the most important job in the world? And could it be that in the end, the challenge of fixing Americas schools comes down to putting great teachers into classrooms and giving them the tools they need to do what they do best.” Karl Weber, editor, Waiting for Superman

 

I am sitting here a bit later than I have been normally as my schedule is mixed up with school holidays and recovering from an illness and getting up a bit later than normal. I knew my wife would be going to work so no one around to wake me up. I went outside into the fifty degree chilly morning with our dog earlier.  There were stars and silence was nearly deafening in the chill. I could imagine early people on this spot hundreds even thousands of years ago looking up and seeing what I was seeing and imagining a hunter, a stag, a warrior, and dragons all emblazoned across the sky. But my experience does have some implication to my topic today as to what it is that in inherent ingredient in a great teacher.

 

“If we can’t identify the best teachers by comparing their credentials, we face an obvious and crucial question: How do we define a good teacher.” Karl Weber, editor, Waiting for Superman

 

It has been nearly ten years since I finished my Specialist degree at Piedmont College. When we would sit in our cohort and on that first day we were introduced to a thirty or so page document that at that time was labeled the STAR. This was to be the basis for our degree program. Basically it was a rubric to determine whether or not you as a teacher were proficient, excellent or distinguished and so forth. The rubric was loosely based off of work done by educational consultant Charlotte Danielson who now heads up the Danielson Group based in Princeton New Jersey. I have read articles arguing the merits of Danielson and Stronge but I see good points in their work. I do have issue with some of the bastardization school reformers have done with their words.

 

“An effective system of teacher evaluation accomplishes two things: it ensures quality teaching and it promotes professional learning. The quality of teaching is the single most important determinant of student learning; a school district’s system of teacher evaluation is the method by which it ensures that teaching is of high quality. Therefore, the system developed for teacher evaluation must have certain characteristics: it must be rigorous, valid, reliable, and defensible, and must be grounded in a research-based and accepted definition of good teaching.” Charlotte Danielson, Danielson Group

 

“When teachers engage in self-assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversation, they become more thoughtful and analytic about their work, and are in a position to improve their teaching. Evaluators can contribute to teachers’ professional learning through the use of in-depth reflective questions. By shifting the focus of evaluation from “inspection” to “collaborative reflection” educators can ensure the maximum benefit from the evaluation activities.” Charlotte Danielson, Danielson Group

 

The major goal of the Specialist program was for each of us to leave Piedmont as Distinguished Teachers. Somewhere I actually have a medal on a blue ribbon showing that I am a distinguished teacher. There is a catch to this being a great or distinguished teacher does not stop the day that it is anointed on you. This is literally who you are not a degree or piece of paper. But what makes a great teacher different and what is it that gives us these great teachers? According to the Danielson framework there are some specifics.

 

The Framework for Teaching:
Components of Professional Practice
Domain 1: Planning and Preparation Domain 2: The Classroom Environment
§  Demonstrating Knowledge of Content
and Pedagogy Demonstrating

§  Knowledge of Students

§  Setting Instructional Outcomes

§  Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources

§  Designing Coherent Instruction

§  Designing Student Assessments

§  Creating an Environment of Respect and   Rapport

§  Establishing a Culture for Learning

§  Managing Classroom Procedures

§  Managing Student Behavior

§  Organizing Physical Space

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities Domain 3: Instruction
§  Reflecting on Teaching

§  Maintaining Accurate Records

§  Communicating with Families

§  Participating in a Professional

§  Community

§  Growing and Developing Professionally

§  Showing Professionalism

§  Communicating with Students

§  Using Questioning and Discussion

§  Techniques

§  Engaging Students in Learning

§  Using Assessment in Instruction

§  Demonstrating Flexibility and   Responsiveness

From Danielson Group website:

 

So often we need to confine our ideas to lists too easy to understand bits and pieces so we can check off what we have done or will do. Danielson’s four domains are significantly more than most twenty minute walk through that are the standard in Georgia. But still there are pieces that cannot be pinned down so easily. James Stronge in his book, Qualities of Effective Teachers has a few that stand out.

 

“Effective teachers care about their students and demonstrate they care in such a way that their students are aware of it.”

 

“Effective teachers practice focused and sympathetic listening to show students they care not only about what happens in the classroom, but about students’ lives in general. These teachers initiate two way communications that exudes trust, tact, honesty, humility, and care.”

 

“Effective, caring teachers know students both informally and formally. They use every opportunity at school and in the community to keep the lines of communication open.”

 

It might sound a bit silly but I am bothered when a teacher says they could not live in the community they teach in. How do you ever know your students if you only see them and experience what they experience eight hours a day? So often it is hard for teachers to break through the shell of teacher student barriers that are presented and held in place by tradition and often school policy. Teaching is not just standing in front of a group of students and lecturing for two hours. Generally most are asleep within the first ten minutes. Relationships need to be developed and cultivated that can bridge gaps. Emails to parents, communications with students and parents to let them know you are concerned. In all of my undergraduate and graduate years I only seriously remember one very bad professor. He would come in put the text book on his podium and then read it to us. When the bell would ring he would fold his book closed and leave. His office when open was rather cold. One girl I recall went to him for some help and came in sat down and he stared at her for twenty minutes and never said a word.

 

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed.  Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block, Ethics and Curriculum

 

Perhaps it is remembering that worst case scenario of bygone years and multiplying it over and over in our heads to help us conceive of and develop what is the way things should be. I think I came to my idea of what makes a great teacher by comparing the worst and best and seeing the vast difference in learning that occurs. I did not need research and data to see kids were reading who used to be illiterate. I did not need a check list to watch people come away from a great teacher with the conversation still going and carrying it to lunch in the commons at Mercer or over dinner at Piedmont or Georgia Southern.

 

“Passionate teachers organize and focus their passionate interests by getting to the heart of their subject and sharing with their students some of what lays there – the beauty and power that drew them to this field in the first place and that has deepened over time as they learned and experienced more.  They are not after a narrow or elitist perspective, but rather a depth of engagement that serves as a base for branching out to other interests and disciplines.” Robert Fried, The Passionate Teacher

 

It is so easy to throw out the word passion and try and point to ourselves and say we are passionate teachers. But you can see quickly the difference between the also run and the passionate in life. As I wander today I have been a fan of Savannah College of Arts Literature Professor Mary Aswell Doll’s thoughts and have used them numerous times as references in papers on curriculum and education. This illustration of an electric current running through us combined with Fried’s passion and these are components of a great teacher.

 

“Curriculum is also … a coursing, as in electric current. The work of the curriculum theorist should tap this intense current within, that which courses through our inner person, that which electrifies or gives life to the persons energy source.” Mary Aswell Doll  

 

You have got soul. Many the time, I have heard that remark in reference to or about someone. One of the experts on soul is Thomas Moore who has written numerous best sellers about this often ambiguous subject.

 

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves.  It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance.  I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality.  When we say someone has soul we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

 

Soul cannot be taught it cannot be bought and it cannot be traded for. Moore uses some words here going a bit beyond Stronge’s qualities of a great teacher. Depth value, relatedness, heart and personal substance these are attributes are also pieces of who a great teacher is. A great teacher has soul might be my next point. Over the numerous years of teaching I have heard teachers say they have been called to teach. I sort of wandered back into teaching. Finding it was where I was meant to be. Parker Palmer offers to teachers that there is sacredness in our undertaking.

 

“The Community of truth, the grace of things, the transcendent subject, and 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.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

 

Maybe I should have stopped a few hours back but being in my sanctuary here upstairs and totally quiet save for Brewer and Shipley for a couple of hours and I get a bit carried away. I want to stop with a thought that no door can remain closed. We as teachers need to be about self-improvement, becoming students as well as teachers learning and reflecting so that we can always become better at our undertaking. We are critical links in our societal endeavors and it is crucial we hold up our end.

 

“I used to think that any door could be opened. Some stood freely open, some could be opened easily; some were harder to penetrate. Sometimes you had to knock, sometimes bang, sometimes charge; but always the door could be opened.” Susan Thomas Anthony, Walk With Spirit

 

I started this many hours ago and here I am bringing to a close an unfinished work. Hopefully over the next few days I can address this idea of what makes for a great teacher but until that time 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