I am searching for answers in reflection and thought

Bird Droppings October 14, 2017
I am searching for answers in reflection and thought

 

Yesterday I was wished a happy birthday by a friend on Facebook and it got me thinking a since nearly two weeks to go to be another year older. Yesterday was not my birthday and it is coming up far too soon. As I look forward to being another year older and with that many more moments for reflection and thoughts the past week especially being out of school for retirement break. On many other years around this time I would go to the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia and climb to the top of the great temple mound. There is something about standing facing to each direction on such a sacred site. For the last ten thousand years this spot has been sacred and a special place to Native Americans of many tribes. On my list for next week Foxfire and Indian Mounds.
It has been almost twenty weeks since I sat in my class room at school doing some paper work and I was thinking about a mason jar of good Georgia sweet tea (granted it would be unsweet now) from Momma Jean’s at H&H over on Cherry Street in Macon. I downed some water and tea and a couple of Advil for this sinus issue I have been fighting for a week now. It has been an interesting week with our grandkids visiting two days and today Stone Mountain. We painted pumpkins, built blanket forts and cabins, painted and colored maps and read Brown Bear Brown Bear by Eric Carl a million times. Thinking back about this time of year we would be getting into genetics in biology which is always fun. My oldest son would come by to discuss ball python genetics. Interestingly enough he is at a reptile show doing just that.

 

Always I have conversations with different people, people I never met before. I recall a lady at the mounds at the cash register as I bought a book and T-shirt and I started talking about the CCC and job corps of FDR. Her brother had worked for CCC back in the 1930’s or so working for the archeological digging at the mounds. While I was there an obnoxious man started arguing carbon dating with her and complaining how the labels should say theorized instead of actual dates on artifacts. Every day at the corner store someone new and interesting. I have made friends with the couple who run the breakfast café. They are from Puerto Rico and their opinion is always interesting to discuss each morning currently.
I went out much earlier today than I have all week catching the sunrise although clouds kept it hidden, maybe I was thinking it was daylight savings time last night. But we still have a week or so. A few sprigs of sweet grass and a sage leave or two help bolster the senses as the smoke rises and wanders across the darkness. Watching a bit of smoke curl up in the morning is an interesting sight. It was cool but not cold as I walked out into the backyard. The grass was damp from a morning light frost.  My cricket chorus while subdued in the slight chill of the fall was doing their best maybe two or three were chirping still perhaps up against the house.
As I went through the day today it is always a good feeling to receive birthday wishes from friends and family even though a week or two early. I was thinking earlier this morning about what direction to go but there were so many thoughts circulating in my head, I was thinking about numerous points of impact in sixty six years plus of life. I thought back to one I ponder on quite a bit, especially as recently I found on Facebook someone from the same small town in Pennsylvania that I lived in. The one point that continues to pop up is poking a fellow in the butt with a pencil in East Fallowfeild Elementary school in first grade. While not an inspiring event it has stuck with me for some reason from fifty eight years ago, might be getting hit in the head by my teacher after the fact that reminds me.
On a more dark note I remember being carried through the polio wards in West Chester Hospital when I was three years old or so and seeing kids one day and they are were gone the next. I recall meeting a little autistic boy Artie Cohen in 1970 or so his photo still hangs in my current classroom. I have so many very fond memories of “The JUNGLE”, a small patch of sassafras, honeysuckle and sumac that a few of us literally lived in for so many years. There are many good friends from my graduating class in high school who I still communicate with daily if not weekly. I recall having homemade root beer at a good friend’s house on Caln Meeting house road so many years ago. I find dark humor in the anti-vaccine folks having survived polio as they say DDT caused polio. It wasn’t being used during epidemic in my town in 1952 or so. Interesting only country still using DDT is India and they have been Polio free since 2011.
It was over Forty years ago I met my wife to be and all of those thoughts and memories of the births of my three kids are with me always. There are so many moments special to me going through my head. I recall very easily my first day back teaching on September 11, 2001. I have so many folks I have met along the way in teaching and grad school and each a memory worth saving. As I think I have found out how critical it is to reflect and ponder and really seeing as I get older how important this is to the journey we embark on in life.

 

“Before undertaking a project, ponder what will be gained, lost and ultimately achieved. There is nothing too difficult for a man who, before he acts, deliberates    with chosen friends and reflects privately.” Tirukkural 47: 461-462

 

This particular thought was written nearly 2000 years ago by a master weaver, a member of the lowest caste in Hindu culture and life. Pondering is an old art I found out. Many of you who have taken courses at Piedmont College and or read John Dewey’s work understand the concept of reflection and how it is engrained in further thinking.

 

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit          often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once             committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a   “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything         different.” John Dewey

 

As I read these two views to start today having read Dewey numerous times he too advocates reflection for teachers and students. As I read his view here is one of frustration in dealing with mankind, for far too often it is too difficult for men to climb out of that rut and to even consider true reflection.

 

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to            elevate             his life by conscious endeavor.” Henry David Thoreau

 

The poet’s, commonly, is not the logger’s path, but a woodman’s … there are spirits     … to whom no simplicity is barren. There are not only stately pines, but fragile          flowers, like the orchids, commonly described as too delicate for cultivation, which             derive their nutriment from the crudest mass of peat. These remind us, that, not      only for strength, but for beauty, the poet must, from time to time, travel the logger’s         path and the Indian trail, to drink at some new and more bracing fountain of the Muses, far in the recesses of the wilderness.” Henry David Thoreau, The Maine   Woods

 

It has been a few mornings although today as I took out our westie it was a star filled sky and I was remembering back when very close friend Dr. Harold Sweetman, was showing me Cassiopeia for the first time as a high school student in Boy Scouts. It was over my head this morning as I headed out. It is difficult for me to not ponder and reflect on what life presents to me each day. For me each morning as I write it is a clearing, a meditation of sorts, it is reading, finding pieces to my own puzzle to share and meditate upon with others as I can. It is looking at that rut we travel or seeking anew along the Indian trail of Thoreau.

 

“The devotion of democracy to education is a familiar fact. The superficial         explanation is that a government resting upon popular suffrage cannot be successful           unless those who elect and who obey their governors are educated. Since a democratic society repudiates the principle of external authority, it must find a        substitute in voluntary disposition and interest; these can be created only by             education.” John Dewey

 

Knowing and understanding are keys to democracy and to life and moving beyond the rut, looking for the loggers trail or for the pathway of the Indian requires learning and knowledge and that is education.

 

“I believe that the individual who is to be educated is a social individual and that           society is an organic union of individuals.” “I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of    community life. It conceives the school as a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be learned, or where certain habits are to be        formed. The value of these is conceived as lying largely in the remote future; the           child must do these things for the sake of something else he is to do; they are mere             preparation. As a result they do not become a part of the life experience of the child         and so are not truly educative.” John Dewey

 

I was wondering about the direction of the flow of my thoughts as I read, and pondered I find Thoreau similar to John Dewey both wanting experience to be more than simply taking up time. They both want it to be meaningful learning and for it to move each of us a step ahead. Dewey wants education to be about now as well as providing tools for later. He offers that it should be meaningful, that it has to affect life immediately and currently as well in the future. This is what Thoreau was all about as well. Thoreau quit teaching to become a learner as the story goes and in doing so became a better teacher. The reflections of the master weaver help many to ponder even today and show that rather than simply doing something we need to see the now and then of an effort.
Dewey argued that far too often we in society today only look at the then. Thoreau offered the now and Dewey argued against simply educating for later that there has to be an impact now as well to be meaning and long lasting. Learning has to become part of the life experience of the child.

 

“It was a pleasure and a privilege to walk with him. He knew the country like a fox       or a bird, and passed through it as freely by paths of his own. He knew every track in       the snow or on the ground, and what creature had taken this path before him. His   interest in the flower or the bird lay very deep in his mind, was connected with          Nature, — and the meaning of Nature was never attempted to be defined by him. … His power of observation seemed to indicate additional senses. He saw as with a             microscope, heard as with ear-trumpet, and his memory was a photographic    register of all he saw and heard. And yet none knew better than he that it is not the        fact that imports, but the impression or effect of the fact on your mind. Every fact lay         in glory in his mind, a type of the order and beauty of the whole. His poetry might be         good or bad; he no doubt wanted a lyric facility and technical skill, but he had the           source of poetry in his spiritual perception.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, a eulogy for       Henry David Thoreau

 

I am sorry I am wandering today but I can do whatever I want maybe it is because I am getting old, between the simple thoughts of HDT and the planned thinking of Dewey. I want you to ponder yourself as the day goes on and the week ahead begins. Where in among the shade of the tress do you see your thoughts going? Is it following the path of the logger or the Indian or is it seeing life as a rut in your journey or is it as a trail blazer seeing for the first time the trail and leaving a path for the next person to see as new. I have for so long been writing that life is about the journey we take. I always seem to find my way to this simple quote.

 

“And how high can you fly with broken wings? Life’s a journey not a destination and    I just can’t tell just what tomorrow brings. You have to learn to crawl before you   learn to walk.” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

 

For many years I have been using a line from this song by Aerosmith, taken from the context of the song. “Life is a journey not a destination”, and I think back to when I first saw it posted on my computer after spending the night at The Athens Regional Hospital in Athens Georgia, holding the hand of a sixteen year old young man who had been hit by a semi after doing a u turn on a back road. My oldest son and his band played Aerosmith tunes quite a bit. But this was a line from a song that in and of itself was significant. It was for him and for me at that moment very significant and life altering for me.
It evolved for me as I saw how my own life was a journey. As I looked at each aspect of my own life and see each is crucial to the next. In days prior I had been reading numerous books on the purpose in life or finding Meaning in life trying to find a focus for myself. I was floundering in business and trying to get a foothold back on the day I first saw this quote, a yellow post it note on a computer after sitting with a dying teenager. A life changing or life refocusing moment it would seem. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought how profound for my son barely older than the young man who was killed to have found this concept and I had been searching for nearly fifty years and still had not seen.

My own life started to focus and clear and ideas thoughts seemed to flow and make sense. Earlier today I was answering an email from someone I have never met. I was talking with several people yesterday about how we can in today’s electronic age communicate with so many people all in a touch of a computer keyboard. Often with photos and such attached, multimedia is an understatement. Actually we addressed this in graduate school over the past few conversations. But the message is still clear. It is about the journey.
A key element to me is the example we set, the picture we paint for others to see that has significance and meaning as we go through the day. What would a child learn from a teacher who yells at an extremely high decibel other than to cover their ears? What does a child learn from a parent who abuses them other than abuse? What does a friend learn from a friend when they betray them other than distrust? Within the fragility of our experiences we need examples of direction of positive journeying. Each day I wonder why kids come by my room just to smile and say hi. At other times it is to ask for a word or two of advice. Life is about the journey, may we all be cleaning the pathway rather than dropping boulders for others to trip on. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and you know each new day is another step along the way. May peace be with you 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

Thinking ahead

Bird Droppings October 12, 2017
Thinking ahead

 

Occasionally I will have a crazy thought although my students used to say occasionally I have a normal thought and that would be more like it. They were insinuating most of my thoughts are crazy. My youngest son just had his anniversary this past week and so many memories. I recall the ceremony was held under an ancient live oak tree in Panama City named the Sentry Tree for standing watch over the bay during the Civil War. The great tree is several hundred years old and is covered with Spanish moss as are many of the oaks along the coast in Florida. Ferns and other plants grew along the tops of the branches almost a separate ecosystem.

 

I spent several hours each day we were down in Florida sitting listening to the sounds under that great oak tree. I walked out to the bay and looked and listened to what nature had to show me. Numerous birds and flowers all special to Florida greeted me as I pondered so many things. Some good memories as I thought back.
However I got to thinking as I was driving home yesterday from town. I sat down in my chair and thought, what if when we were born the hospital tattooed on your left foot made in whatever country and a hospital code for example and then underneath that an expiration date. You would know the exact moment, hour, day and year you will die. I started thinking at what point I would change how I lived. My students were arguing with me about living it up since my birthday is coming up and I will be sixty eight. Their philosophy was you only live once go party live it up. So I was wondering knowing exactly how many days you have to do whatever it is you will do would you change anything knowing the exact moment of your demise.

 

“There is not any present moment that is unconnected with some future one. The        life of every man is a continued chain of incidents, each link of which hangs upon the           former. The transition from cause to effect, from event to event, is often carried on        by secret steps, which our foresight cannot divine, and our sagacity is unable to            trace.   Evil may at some future period bring forth good; and good may bring forth     evil,      both equally unexpected.” Joseph Addison

 

It has been some time since I first used the concept of a puzzle to explain how our life progresses each of the pieces falling into place, each interconnected to the next. As I speak with people I use this comparison, often showing how each aspect of our lives ties to the next and how consequence comes from even the smallest of things. Knowing we had a limited amount of time to finish our puzzle would we do anything different? I think it is amazing as I think of what if we still had no directions and were floundering in trying to get things done I wonder when panic would set in.

 

“There are no rewards or punishments — only consequences.” Dean William R. Inge

 

            “Whatever our creed, we feel that no good deed can by any possibility go            unrewarded, no evil deed unpunished.” Orison Swett Marden

We have to take each piece as it comes and try and build from there. Each element leads to the next, a building block of sorts, as we travel through life, a deed leads to a consequence and then to another and another, each beyond the next.

 

            “Men must try and try again. They must suffer the consequences of their own mistakes           and learn by their own failures and their own successes.” Lawson Purdy

 

            “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of          dodging our responsibilities.” Sir Joseph Stamp

 

As I wonder about my words and events that yet will play out today, I daily use the term ABC, Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence. In life, everything we do involves these three elements. Each aspect of our existence is preceded by an event, a happening that causes the behavior, no matter how subtle that event is. The behavior in turn leads to a consequence it is so simple, so clean it’s actually pretty cool. We respond and soon cover up, ABC. What if we could analyze all events so simply and plan our day. I do this, then that, this, then that all day long. However, conversely we tend to do this with students as well, if we see an event about to happen we can change the antecedent and alter behavior and of course the consequence. Managers in business do this as well as retailers are doing it as we sit and read, altering our buying for this holiday season through various sales specials etc. In reality through consequence the world is controlled so how do we keep our heads up and still be unique, and independent.

 

            “Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every     virtue; and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to        live on a barren heath.” Mary Wollstonecraft

 

It was a many months back I was introduced to Mary Wollstonecraft a person who was ahead of her time, the ultimate feminist. She was writing about issues under her name and pen names, often a man’s name to get her point out. Her fire and zeal were passed on to her daughter Mary Shelly who penned the novel Frankenstein and was married to another great writer and poet Percy Shelly. How do we maintain within the struggle, to be who we are?

 

            “I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really        good at heart.” Anne Frank

 

            “Ideals are like the stars: we never reach them, but like the mariners of the sea, we      chart our course by them.” Carl Schurz

 

How do we? I was thinking yesterday about my own direction in life one day going here and there and a slight bump and left turn and heading elsewhere. Do we have focal points to guide us, stars as Schurz states? Can we find our way home when we get lost in life? I wonder at times even as pieces of the great puzzle fall into place. Maybe the pieces are wrong, maybe this is not where I am to be but as events slow down and the fog clears we can see even the most confusing of life’s events seems to work out. I was reading yesterday a new book, Spirits of The Earth by Bobby Lake Thom. He starts the book with a prayer that I would like to end with today.

 

“I ask that you bless our elders and children, families and friends, and the brothers       and sisters that are in prison. I pray for the ones sick on drugs and alcohol, and for             those who are homeless and forlorn. I pray for peace among the four races of        mankind. May there be good healing for this earth. May there be beauty above me.          May there be beauty below me. May there be beauty in me. May there be beauty all         around me. I ask that our world be filled with peace, love and beauty.” Medicine         Grizzly Bear, 1990

 

So easy to sit and write, yet around us, so much going on would we change anything if we knew our expiration date I wonder. 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

 

 

 

PS: I had started writing when some discussion last and through the week sort of took over and I scribbled my crazy thoughts down.

 

Doc Bird’s Morning Dropping or rant:

I was teaching a college class back a few months on US History and the various issues in a progression to the Civil War. One of the many was the situation in Texas during 1830’s. Mexico won independence and freed slaves. Texas was a part of Mexico and Americans had been moving in and wanted slaves following a series of weak attempts at Mexico controlling the vastness of Texas. There were more Americans than Mexicans in Texas and as General Santa Anna came to power he saw a need to squash the Americans and make Texas a serious part of Mexico. Five thousand Mexican soldiers surrounded San Antonio and an old mission post The Alamo. I asked my class anyone ever heard of The Alamo. (It was in the readings as well.) No one knew about The Alamo. I threw out Fess Parker, Davy Crockett, Colonel Travis, Sam Houston and several more. Nope no one knew about The Alamo. Somewhere Michael Jordan came up the Kobe and LeBron. Bill Gates was mentioned and Steve Jobs and an idea struck me. Who are the heroes of today? I  thought back to my childhood and my heroes, my dad, Robin Hood, Davy Crockett, Geronimo, Cochise, Sitting Bull, Gandhi, and I am sure several more. Some are somewhat fictional others pieces of history and mythology. As I raised questions last night all were multimillionaires and that was a number one criterion, money. What’s in it for me? I heard that several times this week. My thoughts to another hero of mine and on a personal note having been a victim of polio myself in 1950’s Jonas Salk. He was a famous doctor and researcher who solved and found a vaccine for polio. When all was said and done he received not a dime for his efforts he donated it to mankind. I started to think why have we become so greedy, needy and blind to others?  A few minutes back I wrote on a good friends post something to the effect, so many profess to this nation being a Christian nation and yet we never seem to attempt to actually even try and be that. Gandhi once said “I Like your Christ it is Christians I do not like.” I find the word in scriptures Koinonia from the Greek is used quite often. New testament scripture was written in Greek along the line and not English till late 1500’s early 1600’s and yes King James was 1613 but taken from Latin and Greek translations. “Koinonia is an Anglicized form of the Greek word, κοινωνία, which means communion, joint participation; the share which one has in anything, participation, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, etc. It identifies the idealized state of fellowship and unity that should exist within the Christian church, the Body of Christ.”

Taking small steps

Bird Droppings October 11, 2017
Taking small steps

 

“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

How many times are we told “take your time”? So often in life we are anxious to get the job finished or to get to the top today. We often forget there are many steps along the way; many puzzle pieces needing to be placed in order to see the whole picture. For many months a student I used to work with had issues with sleeping in class and at one point was suspended for three days. I have tried to get his family to get him to the doctor due to large doses of medication and combination of meds he is on. His sleeping is not typical teenager tiredness.
Walking through the meat section of Kroger I ran into his mother. His doctor had called back with blood work and his level of one medication was three times what it should have been and the doctor was amazed he could even walk. One thing that so often happens in life is we want everything to be what we want now, placing a random puzzle piece on a table does not represent where or how the puzzle will turn out. It takes numerous more pieces till we see a bit and we assume to know the whole far too many times.

 

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” Elizabeth Taylor, A Wreath of Roses

 

A good friend asked me the other day about a job opening at another school. It happened to be in EBD, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. He asked what or could he succeed and what was key to my success. Unfortunately he asked as one of my students was for first time this year making a scene. I emailed back that evening the following. If you can trust the un-trustable and be patient with those who would drive you crazy, EBD is no big deal, they soon will do what you ask. Force them and you are in a fighting situation and ISS and OSS are not meaningful consequences. Building to intrinsic consequences is far more powerful, taking a kid off the computer and or me just being mad at some of kids bothers them more than ISS or OSS. Sometimes little pieces work better than big ones. Solving small issues will eventually accomplish big goals if there is plenty of time.

 

“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” Dutch Proverb

 

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you, so in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

 

“There will be a time when loud-mouthed, incompetent people seem to be getting the best of you. When that happens, you only have to be patient and wait for them to self- destruct. It never fails.” Richard Rybolt

A simple word is patience. Often I wonder what might be one of my major attributes and in one word I would say patience. Yesterday a student was asking what would it take to get me mad, calling me names etc. I said it takes a good bit to get me mad and name calling wouldn’t do it. He proceeded to try and after a few choice words actually he wasn’t upset just wanting to prove me wrong. I said first I know the statement to be false and secondly I know the person saying this to be ignorant and or stupid for saying such things. He sat back and said, well I would be mad if somebody said that to me, and I told him that is your choice. Puzzle pieces forever falling in place is my motto. Patience has kept that kid in school versus an alternative setting and is taking a piece one at a time rather than trying to solve a puzzle in one fell swoop.

 

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine

 

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them every day begins the task anew.” Saint Francis de Sales

 

A monk can address patience but they have to it’s their job. But monks too are alive and human and the frailties we face they too face or have faced. Breaking a task into manageable pieces often aids in completing the task.

 

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Victor Hugo

 

“How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.” William Shakespeare

 

Looking back on my own life it has been one of pieces falling in place slowly. One portion of my journey was twenty three years in the making. I left the teaching field directly for twenty three years all of that time in graphic arts and publishing for the training industry still indirectly in education. Coincidently during that time having delivered training manuals to most of the buildings at Georgia Tech which is where my son is now graduated from what a small world. It has been so long in coming and even now I know this is only a portion of the puzzle, more is yet to come. In life I have found you savor each moment each second enjoy the cool breeze if only for a moment. Pull off the road if you need to view a rainbow or sunset and truly bask in the magnificence but that is another day. 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

An eclectic morning

Bird Droppings October 10, 2017
An eclectic morning

 

I was talking with the cashier at a convenience store this morning. We began discussing, The Davinci Code and other philosophical diversions and fearing death as a basis for religion came up.

 

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

It has been a few years since I watched an episode of Star Trek actually it may have been one of the movies. Spock has interfered with Star Fleets objectives in relationship to a small group of colonists on an obscure planet. It seems they live forever or at least aging is so minute that life times are measured in tens of thousands of years. What was interesting is that they by choice became nearly primitive living off the land and pursuing wisdom, reading, writing, all forms of art work. Life became a process of always improving since time was not a factor.  As I read this quote from Gandhi earlier, this movie popped in my mind.

 

“The world is apprehended by way of the mind, the world is acted upon by way of the mind and all good things and bad exist in the world by way of the mind.” Samyutta Nikaya

 

As I thought further about Star Trek and this group of people living on a planet where radiation from their sun seemed to be the key to longevity I was reflecting back on several incidents at school almost two years ago. My assistant Principal came in with thirty minutes left on the day before a holiday to do an observation or so she said sticking her head in the door. On top of the timing I had two extra students who had been placed with me since they are not functioning in regular classes. They were in a sort of holding pattern for a day or two. I was in the middle of trying to alleviate a year book emergency rewiring a CD burner and trying to print out a picture for a teacher who wanted her daughter’s angel scene from a Christmas play I just took for drama dept. and several extra students were assisting in helping down load hard drives from refurbished computers. So all in all, ten things were happening in last thirty minutes of last day before the holiday not counting an observation.
I never mind observations and probably have had more in four years than most have in a life time or was my AP was getting back at me for several previous practical jokes. But we think what we portray in our minds within seconds I was shifted from disaster to plotting a new reprisal. Actually got quite a good report for diversity and individualizing the learning situations.

 

“Honesty can be cultivated by transforming your inner language. For example, you might think: “I am no good” or “They are not good.” Is this true? For some strange reason, people want to wallow in the idea of being either the best or the worst. What is true in this moment? How close can we get to the reality of our experiences?” Martine Batchelor, “Meditation for Life

 

Thinking back to the movie Spock was trying to save the Utopian society of a small group of people as he turned against Star Fleet in the movie. The reason that Star Fleet wanted this planet was literally to sell and package longevity. They were willing to destroy a people for profit. Human nature many would say. I observed those two extra students I had on that observation day. One of them I have for a period every day the other I did not know. As I thought to why both ended with me it was because of inappropriate behavior in class. Such terms as acting out and attention seeking were used. I used to be a big fan of “Law and Order” a popular TV show. Last night a young boy who had been abused was talking with the prosecutor and recalled a particular day in his life. The very man who had abused him for four years was the hero by chance. He was concerned he was “sick” because the greatest day of his life was also with the person who destroyed his life. Shortly after on the show this young man tried to kill himself.

 

“Real love is not based on attachment, but on altruism. In this case, your compassion will remain as a humane response to suffering as long as beings continue to suffer.” the Dalai Lama

 

Perhaps I am trying to cram too many thoughts into one sitting. It was a busy day today and yesterday and will be tomorrow writing and getting ideas formulated for my paper. We all need to be looking at our lives are we trying to over simplify? Are we being honest with ourselves? Do we use the word love as merely an attachment? Can we be more than we are in our given time? Many issues as we head into the holiday season I just need to take my wife’s car to the service station and here in the Athens area soon we will be deluged with all the folks heading south. It seems all major interstates seem to converge here and for a late Thursday just a reminder from Will Rodgers.

 

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.” Will Rogers

 

So as I am thinking further.

 

“The appreciation of the profundity and subtlety of his thought comes only after serious study, and only a few of the most committed students are willing to expend the necessary effort. Many, upon first reading him, will conclude: that he was a churlish, negative, antisocial malcontent; or that he advocated that all of us should reject society and go live in the woods; or that each person has complete license to do as he/she pleases, without consideration for the rights of others; or that he is unconscionably doctrinaire. His difficult, allusive prose, moreover, requires too much effort. All such judgments are at best simplistic and at worst, wrong.” Wendell P. Glick

 

Interesting I was thinking Glick was referring to me in this passage but alas it is Henry David Thoreau.  In a lesson plan on how to teach Thoreau Glick points out the difficulties even today though Henry David Thoreau is recognized as a great writer it was his idiosyncrasies that kept him from public acknowledgement in his time.

“He had in a short life exhausted the capabilities of this world; wherever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a home.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, In his eulogy for Thoreau

 

Early today I was answering an email about how I had gone into teaching. A friend from high school never imagined me teaching. I found that interesting because since I was twelve I have been teaching be it swimming lessons, boy scouts etc. As a parent we are always teaching. I started with Henry David Thoreau in that he was a teacher but he walked away from teaching to be a better teacher. Thoreau left to become a learner. He sought knowledge; he craved new ideas and thoughts. Everything about him was a classroom.

 

“Yet, hermit and stoic as he was, he was really fond of sympathy, and threw himself heartily and childlike into the company of young people whom he loved, and whom he delighted to entertain, as he only could, with the varied and endless anecdotes of his experiences by field and river: and he was always ready to lead a huckleberry-party or a search for chestnuts or grapes. Talking, one day, of a public discourse, Henry remarked that whatever succeeded with the audience was bad.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

In my email this morning my friend wrote about teaching should be fun and how for many years her fellow teachers thought her methods were different. Often I have other teachers wonder at what I do with students and how and why. But they learn and they ask questions. I was looking back earlier to why I chose teaching. Initially it was because of a Biology teacher I had in tenth grade. I wandered away from direct teaching into publishing of training materials for twenty three years and came back. Often I find myself using the statement I am where I need to be at this moment. My pathway has led me to this spot. Soon we will have a day of thanksgiving of holiday family and friends. So often within the constraints of life we find times of sorrow. Please be aware that around you and near by someone may be suffering as we celebrate offer a hand, a shoulder a thought and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and to borrow from a veteran and friend from an email many months back and with veterans day a few days away and still very applicable today.

 

“Please remember the sons and daughters in faraway lands, for once we were them” Reah Wallace, retired Navy

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Silence is the most profound wisdom

Bird Droppings October 9, 2017
Silence is the most profound wisdom

 

I am sitting at least thinking about writing and working on an article on educational immersion 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 Peoples 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

 

 

 

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is”

Bird Droppings October 6, 2017

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is”

 

It seems lately the pressure of old age has been weighing on my mind. Today is the first day in some time I felt pretty good it could be it’s a teacher’s work day and my grandkids are coming over. It was last year on a spur of the moment while grocery shopping I bought two pumpkins for my grandkids to paint. That turned out to be a great success along with a herbed pork loin I recall cooking that evening. With the chills setting in my days of getting flower pictures are numbered. I will be gathering in my plants that do not enjoy the cold this weekend and maybe a day of photos and reading Saturday.

 

I am a member of the National Association of Educators and receive their weekly publication. An article caught my attention in a past issue. In Georgia we had Standards that drive the curriculum throughout the state in line with federal and state mandates. Essentially the article was about teaching to the test.

 

“Preferring concrete guidance, teachers make what is tested their de facto focus. The unfortunate result is that tests become the curriculum. And because tests are filled with multiply choice items that do not adequately reflect important higher levels of cognitive demand, instruction becomes less rich that it should be.” Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard, Standards are not enough

 

As I thought I recalled a quote I have used many times before and how it applies to education.

 

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

 

It was last night as I was working on pulling some files together and books for my ideas that this Wayne Gretzky quote popped up again. Considering that I had played ice hockey in college and most my life it was sort of cool. Gretzky is a hero to hockey kids just like Michael Jordan is to basketball players. Gretzky’s records cover several pages of HHL record books, he holds or shares 61 NHL records. As an example a recent ESPN top twenty five sports records that will never be broken had Gretzky’s feat of 2857 points (goals and assists) right near the top since number three player, Gordie Howe at 1850 holds the longevity record as well and number two is 1887 points. But what does this have to do with the price of beans or with education?

 

“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their own learning and in democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of Children. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College

 

Proactive is a good word. “Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty” is how Dictionary.com explains the word proactive. A good friend has the Gretzky quote up on his wall, I gave him a copy nearly nine years ago and it still is in use. I first used this quote over nine years ago when my friend was principal at our high school. He has moved on but Gretzky’s words ring true, be it in Ice Hockey, teaching or in life. I have expectation as a key element though in this quote, be where the puck is going to be not just where it is. Be thinking ahead rather than thinking in stagnation.

 

“For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much – if he lives and uses that in hand day by day — shall be full to running over.” Edgar Cayce

 

“Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” Richard M. DeVoe

 

Much of Cayce’s reading can be a bit much but these are good words and our daily outlook does mold where and how our day will be.

 

“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” Orison Swett Marden

 

Marden was the founder of Success magazine and is considered to be the founder of the modern Success movement.

 

“We lift ourselves by our thought, we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere – your ideal of what you long to attain – the ideal of health, efficiency, success.” Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924)

 

I am always amazed at teachers who will have few expectations for students. Research has shown time and time again that students live up to the expectations of the teachers. Teachers literally set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little that is what you will get and conversely expect much and you will receive. A bit of a paraphrase of Gretsky.

 

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is” Frank Bird

 

As I thought this morning teaching is much like any other activity you plan you implement and you have expectations. If we only teach to where learning is soon you find you are truly going nowhere. For years I will at times use words far beyond operational vocabulary of students, my response is always “look it up and learn a new word”.

 

“By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible.” Giovanni Niccolini

 

“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” Ben Sweetland

 

I really liked this concept so often we teach the use of a teaspoon, I do it too, and thinking that this kid will never learn that or this kids reading level is too low. Sweetland writes about expectations and offers this.

 

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” Ben Sweetland

 

When that difficult student succeeds you as a teacher succeed and your path is brighter . Years ago I worked with severely disabled students and a simple movement often would warrant a celebration. So often I use the quote from Aerosmith’s song, Amazing.

 

“Life is a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler

 

As I was reading this morning Ben Sweetland either listens to Aerosmith or Steven Tyler reds Ben Sweetland’s books.

 

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland

 

After looking up publishing dates Steven Tyler read Ben Sweetland’s book. Many of which were published in the 1960’s. If we as teachers impose parameters on learning, if we set goals far to low and or do not teach to lofty goals we set, we in effect are the issue not the student. Maybe every teacher needs to tack over there door as my dear friend, the now Georgia Principal of the year at Osborne High School has.

 

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

 

Let us set some records now, records of learning of successful students and children in our communities. As I went out into the chill of the morning a bit earlier to walk my dog as I looked to the southeast the constellation Orion was clear as a bell over me. I could not help but notice that today was the first day in months it was silent in the morning. No tree frogs, crickets, cicada’s absolute silence. I have often wondered as to the abient temperature for silence in the morning. I was reading in a small book written between 1953 and 1954 by a Trappist monk, Thoughts in solitude and a passage struck a chord in the silence.

 

“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.” Thomas Merton

 

Perhaps I was not listening close enough as I went out just a few minutes ago when I said it was silent. I stepped out again with my other dog and a great horned owl was calling there is always more always new if we constantly adjust thoughts and perceptions. Merton was a prolific writer and his works have stood the test of time he died in a small hotel in Southeast Asia in an electrical accident protesting the war in Vietnam back in the late 1960’s and as I ponder this morning please 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

 

Seeing puzzle pieces by being patient

Bird Droppings October 5, 2017

Seeing puzzle pieces by being patient

 

For nearly a week I have been dealing with some sinus issues and meds mess with blood pressure so basically feeling sleepy or napping much of the day. Walking upstairs has even been a burden on some days. I have been trying to get medications balanced out. Sunday morning last week I decided to walk out to my quiet spot along an old stream bed by the house. As I ventured back a feather lay upon the path way. I picked up the feather and proceeded to my spot. I lit some sage and sweet grass and sat listening t the stillness of the morning. As I sat a twig moved and caught my attention. A squirrel was sitting beside me three feet away watching me. His mouth was full with a pecan. I did not move and after several moments he or she walked into the trees. I had a bit of sweet grass and laid the feather with the grass on a smooth stone. Over the past years I have learned patience and to listen more deeply to my surroundings and those people around me. Walking back to the house I found a bone from a turtle. As I ponder today about the idea of patience we all need to pay more attention to the details the tiny pieces of our lives. Each piece has significance and meaning.

 

“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

How many times are we told “take your time”? So often in life we are anxious to get the job finished or to get to the top today. We often forget there are many steps along the way; many puzzle pieces needing to be placed in order to see the whole picture. For many months a student I work with has had issues with sleeping in class and at one point was suspended for three days. I have tried to get his family to get him to the doctor due to large doses of medication and combination of meds he is on. His sleeping is not typical teenager tiredness.

 

Walking through the meat section of Kroger I ran into his mother and his doctor had called back with blood work his level of one medication was three times what it should have been and the doctor was amazed he could even walk. One thing that so often happens in life is we want everything to be what we want now, placing a random puzzle piece on a table does not present where or how the puzzle will turn out. It takes numerous more pieces till we see a bit and we assume to know the whole far too many times.

 

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” Elizabeth Taylor, A Wreath of Roses

 

A good friend asked me the other day about a job opening at another school. It happened to be in EBD, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. He asked what or could he succeed and what was key to my success. Unfortunately he asked as one of my students was for first time this year making a scene. I emailed back that evening the following. If you can trust the untrustable and be patient with those who would drive you crazy, EBD is no big deal, they soon will do what you ask. Force them and you are in a fighting situation and ISS and OSS are not meaningful consequences. Building to intrinsic consequences is far more powerful, taking a kid off the computer and or me just being mad at some of kids bothers them more than ISS or OSS. Sometimes little pieces work better than big ones. Solving small issues will eventually accomplish big goals if there is plenty of time.

 

“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” Dutch Proverb

 

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you, so in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

 

“There will be a time when loud-mouthed, incompetent people seem to be getting the best of you. When that happens, you only have to be patient and wait for them to self-destruct. It never fails.” Richard Rybolt

 

A simple word is patience. Often I wonder what might be one of my major attributes and in one word I would say patience. Yesterday a student was asking what would it take to get me mad, calling me names etc. I said it takes a good bit to get me mad and name calling wouldn’t do it. He proceeded to try and after a few choice words actually he wasn’t upset just wanting to prove me wrong. I said first I know the statement to be false and secondly I know the person saying this to be ignorant and or stupid for saying such things. He sat back and said, well I would be mad if somebody said that to me, and I told him that is your choice. Puzzle pieces forever falling in place is my motto. Patience has kept that kid in school versus an alternative setting and is taking a piece one at a time rather than trying to solve a puzzle in one fell swoop.

 

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine

 

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begins the task anew.” Saint Francis de Sales

 

So often a monk can address patience but they have to it’s their job. But monks too are alive and human and the frailties we face they too face or have faced. Breaking a task into manageable pieces often aids in completing the task.

 

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Victor Hugo

 

“How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.” William Shakespeare

 

Looking back on my own life it has been one of pieces falling in place slowly. One portion of my journey was twenty three years in the making. I left the teaching field directly for twenty three years all of that time in graphic arts and publishing for the industrial training industry still indirectly in education. Coincidently during that time having delivered training manuals to most of the buildings at Georgia Tech which is where my son is now graduated from what a small world.

 

It has been so long in coming and even now I know this is only a portion of the puzzle, more is yet to come. In life I have found you savor each moment each second enjoy the cool breeze if only for a moment. Pull off the road if you need to view a rainbow or sunset and truly bask in the magnificence but that is another day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

 

My friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

 

 

Educators, why are we deliberately wrong?

Bird Droppings October 4, 2017

Educators, why are we deliberately wrong?

 

I stopped playing the lottery many months back but I will admit that on a previous Saturday night with a Powerball jackpot of only about one hundred fifty million dollars I was pondering retiring if I bought a ticket and won. I think I would be if I won retiring to devote time to education in a more positive way than what today’s teachers are allowed. Due to so many mandates, edicts, pontifications, justifications and whatever other way of impeding education our school, local, state and federal government has imposed it is honestly hard to teach. Generally over the years each semester there is a teacher with a hard class and they talk of changing careers or retiring. This year it is epidemic. Teachers I consider some of the best are dwindling and others tired of the constant imposing of near impossible attainments for students with no changes in the curriculum and or courses we are told to teach. As with so many issues education has been bastardized and taken over by those seeking to make more money.

 

“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 have no right to talk. Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many misunderstandings have come between the white men about the Indians.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce January 14, 1879 addressing representatives of the President of The United         States

 

I am saddened nothing has changed in the over hundred plus years since Chief Joseph surrendered. Today there are over three hundred thousand complaints against the Bureau of Indian Affairs that are unanswered and in courts throughout the country and the highest suicide rate of teenagers are on reservations. Around the country we are arguing about illegal immigrants. In Arizona and New Mexico many of the ancestors of these people were kicked off their land when we won the Spanish American war. Navahos, Apaches, and many other tribes were dispersed to the Indian Territories in Oklahoma never allowed to return to the ancestral homes. We are so self-centered that we can argue about illegal immigrant’s maybe it is we who are truly the illegal immigrants. An old Indian was approached by an anthropologist and asked what your people called this land before the white man came. He calmly said, “Ours”.

 

“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to grow and live.” Chief Joseph

 

So often my thoughts come random after a few hours’ sleep and rising to take the dog out and a point or idea will stick. Last night about two thirty, I got off the phone after talking with a good friend from many years ago. We talked nearly three hours and in heading to bed something came to mind. It seems the powers to be back in the day and now always want to mass produce. In the world of the late 1800’s as far as Native Peoples go it was coming up with a blanket policy and no pun intended to cover all tribes. There was no consideration of culture, family; of language and of history just this was it including education using the Carlisle School as an example.

 

Basically the white Christian way was the best and only way. No exceptions Indians should be farmers like white folk no more hunting and gathering, no more Sundance ceremonies which were banned in late 1800’s or rituals that might offend Christian folk. Treaties and promises were made almost with little or any attempt to truly fund and or implement that plan. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Corruption ruled what little funding did find its way to reservations and holding areas. As I thought it was very easy to coincidently tie this government outlook to education of today.

 

In 2004 a massive educational bill was passed entitled No Child Left Behind. A key point being that by 2014 all children would be on grade level in math and reading. Sadly funding was left by the wayside and for states to implement as best they could. However penalties were still in place for not meeting standards imposed. The idea of all children being to standard includes all socio-economic, cultural, children with disabilities, ethnic groups and any other sort of subtitle that might be thrown in. Children would be evaluated with standardized tests given in specific grades and to graduate. Dr. William Ayers, that same fellow accused during the previous presidential election of being too friendly with our now president has and is a nationally known educator and author.

 

“The root of the word evaluation is ‘value’ and authentic assessment includes understanding first what the student’s value and then building from there. Authentic assessment is inside-out rather than outside-in. It’s an attempt to get away from sorting a mass of students and closer to the teachers question: Given what I know, how should I teach this particular student.” Dr. William Ayers

 

One of our states efforts to get assessment in line with national standards and accountability has been a new math curriculum and of course subsequent testing. On the front page of a past Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Only 52% of the students who took the End of Course test for Math II in May passed.” This was across the state averages in high schools on this particular test. State department of education people are saying they will get it just will take time for students to get use to new curriculum. In special education we have been told to start telling parent’s in IEP’s that kids may be in high school for five or six years due to higher standards for graduation. Interesting by chance should you take more than four years to graduate you are considered a drop out up, until just recently when the graduation   rules were again changed.

 

I question who is setting the bar up and why? As I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution it is due to mandated standards set in No Child Left Behind legislation. What about schools that are so far behind that no matter what bar level is set it will not happen. Many reservation schools and inner city schools have never hit AYP to date in nearly ten years of testing. Another sad point is it is common knowledge among administrators and educators that test scores and zip codes have strong correlation. How is that for a statistic? Borrowing a phrase now that is a Catch 22, yes most definitely. I had an idea last night after a brief discussion in a blog over what could be done. I asked for some time to think about solving this dilemma. By chance I went by Barnes and Nobles to get some back up material.

 

Great educators have known the answer for many years. John Dewey offered suggestions and thoughts well over a hundred years ago. Numerous other authors have expanded on and clarified Dewey’s thoughts and all seem to come to one conclusion the solution is not in one test fits all, one curriculum fits all, it is not about leaving children behind which is happening at an alarming rate currently. So here was walking my dog last night and a thought came to me. It’s about one child at a time.

 

“Teachers are explorers. As they explore the world and lives of their students, they cast            lines to different ways of thinking. Teaching is often bridge building; beginning on one shore with the knowledge, experience, know-how, and interests of the student, the teacher moves toward broader horizons and deeper ways of knowing.” Dr. William Ayers, To teach the journey of a teacher, 2010

 

You might say where do we start? Step one we start asking students. After talking with many students of the Foxfire program who have graduated many years back I am seeing that there are commonalities in their opinion of what they learned. They learned about community more so than any other topic this has come up numerous times. It was not a measurable academic lesson or standardized test score it was the interactions with others in a useful and viable manor. It was being allowed to be an individual and to be creative. It was about one child at a time.

 

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

 

John Dewey emphasized the democratic classroom and giving students a voice and allowing their past experiences to be utilized not just those perceptions and experiences of the teacher. This idea of One Child at a Time may sound a bit farfetched but when you look at how we currently test and evaluate it is not truly an indicator of what a child knows or even cares about. It is what has been drilled in the past semester. So often you will hear the term life long learner and yet is cramming for a standardized test lifelong learning? Is 52% of students taking test failing lifelong learning? What if we could take a bit more time learn who the student is allow that students weakness and strengths to be incorporated into the learning process and developed. I would say wouldn’t it be great if we could do an individual IEP for all students instead of a blanket testing policy. Would it not be great if each student had a portfolio that accompanied them in each grade showing progress and showing their achievements? It is one child at a time that is the key to educational success and or failure. I will wander more another time so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Is the seat of the soul in the heart or mind?

Bird Droppings October 3, 2017
Is the seat of the soul in the heart or mind?

 

I believe I was prepared from childhood to discuss this topic. It has been many years since my first introduction to Native Peoples. I was three or four years old when I first remember my father’s stories of Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle. The term Native American was not argued and the term Indian was not officially becoming politically charged and so we were raised with Indian stories. My father’s stories came from his background in the Boy Scouts of America; he had been an Eagle Scout, a scout leader and summer camp program director. Indian lore was a major portion of Boy Scouting in those days. As he told some stories came from meeting the code talkers on the Navy vessels ferrying marines onto the beach fronts. I I am borrowing from a favorite book on Indian Crafts my father told us of counting coup. W. Ben Hunt explains the word and meaning.

 

“Riding into battle with no weapons save a coup stick, and touching your enemy then riding back. It was considered a great honor to count coup” W. Ben Hunt

 

My father worked his summers during college in New Hampshire at Camp Waunakee using Indian Lore as a base for camp activities and he was chief of the campfire. During his military service, as a medic on a navy LSM in World War II, I learned he had spent many hours talking with Navaho code talkers as his Navy ship delivered them to islands in the South Pacific. Through all of those years he would say he was part Indian but it was not until he was in his seventies that his sister uncovered my great grandmother’s lineage, Leni Lenape, a clan of the Delaware tribes and actually confirmed it. To me as a child Indians were special, my father instilled this in us but there was always a spiritual aspect I could not explain. As I was reading for this morning a thought I pulled out of another old book from my childhood days by William Tompkins. My father would use this book to teach us rudimentary sign language in case we ever needed to converse with Indians.

 

“The originators of the Indian signs thought that thinking or understanding was done with the heart, and made the sign “drawn from the heart” Deaf mutes place extended fingers of the right hand against the forehead to give the same meaning” William Tompkins

 

As I read this line that thinking and understanding comes from the heart in so much of Indian philosophy perhaps this was what drew me to this group of people. I grew up with feathers, drums, rattles and other Indian paraphernalia always around the house. In my own experiences the spirituality and acceptance of all things as sacred in Native people’s culture intrigued me. As I started into a graduate school program on curriculum theory, it had never occurred to me, how education had been so misused and so often deliberately so in history. Those in power avoided teaching some things; I use the term the fine print, in relation to our indigenous peoples.
The trust inherent in their culture and their understanding of life and nature was turned against them for profit and greed. Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a member of the Dakota tribe, a medical doctor and known in his tribe as Ohiyesa is quoted in Kent Nerburn’s, The Soul of an Indian as he addresses a major difference in white and Indian thought.

 

“Many of the white man ways are past our understanding …. They put a great store upon writing; there is always paper. The white people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand if a white man loses his papers, he is helpless” Dr. Charles Eastman, Ohiyesa

 

In reading and discussing in graduate school not much is different from the many innuendos in today’s education and curriculums of hidden agendas and political maneuvering. Looking back as I progressed in my own schooling I learned Columbus mistakenly called the indigenous people he encountered Indians thinking he had found a way to the Spice Islands of the West Indies. The name would stick until more recently as we became politically correct and use the term Native Americans. Columbus even wrote in his journal of presenting letters from the King and Queen to the Great Khan thinking he was in China or near according to noted historian Ronald Takaki.
As I became older and as I too sought out my own understanding of Native Peoples and my readings went deeper. During my undergraduate years I spent a semester in Texas and experienced firsthand a powerful hatred even then in 1968 for Indians. My own journey very much paralleled my spiritual and educational pathways as with each step my ties and understanding grew. I was looking for answers even back then.

 

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to a point of             knowing.” Uncheedah, grandmother of Ohiyesa

 

I was searching for answers even in those days. As I finished up my undergraduate program at Mercer University I began to realize why Indians were never taught to read the fine print. In classes and from friends I received books and articles to read adding to my understanding. From one of our course texts, Author Joel Spring points out the concept of deculturalization.

 

 

“Deculturalization is one aspect of the strange mixture of democratic thought and intolerance that exists in some minds. The concept of deculuralization demonstrates how cultural prejudices and religious bigotry can be intertwined with democratic beliefs. It combines education for democracy and political equality with cultural genocide – the attempt to destroy cultures. Deculturalization is an educational process that aims to destroy a people’s culture and replace it with a new culture.”        Joel Spring

 

From earlier on there was an effort to assimilate and dismantle the cultures of the Native peoples in America. In the early 1500’s Spanish colonists, were some of the first to deceive and destroy the native people? Several nights ago a recent History channel episode was based on Cortez and the conquering of the Aztecs. A statement was made by one of the historians on the show that in the course of less than two hundred years from that first encounter with Cortez, ninety percent of the indigenous people of the America’s were either killed or died from European based disease and a new world was enslaved by the Europeans.
So many times it was through deception. As the white man pushed into the new world treaties and agreements were signed often with little understanding on the part of the Native peoples. Land was not for sale yet the white man is offering us trinkets. How foolish is the white man? Vine Deloria Jr., states very clearly in his book Custer died for your sins:

 

“In the treaty of August 5, 1926, almost as if it were an afterthought, an article (III) stated: The Chippewa tribe grant to the government of the United States the right to   search for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country.            But this grant is not to effect title of the land, or existing jurisdiction over it. The Chippewa’s, in the dark as to the importance of their mineral wealth, signed the treaty. This was the first clear-cut case of fraudulent dealings on the part of Congress. Close examination of subsequent Congressional dealings shows a record of continued fraud covered over by pious statements of concern for their words.” Vine Deloria Jr

 

I wonder if the Indian agents held their hand over portions of the treaty or wrote in such small lettering that most people could not read. It may have been perhaps using Old English lettering and only having taught in Times Roman fonts, which would bewilder most educated people even today. This concerted effort by those in control throughout American History was even condemned by the US government who were themselves, orchestrating much of it as shown by Joel Spring in his book.

 

 

“The US Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare issued in 1969 the report Indian Education: A National Tragedy-A national Challenge. The report opened with a statement condemning previous educational policies of the federal government: “A careful review of the historical literature reveals that the dominant policy of the federal Government toward the American Indian has been one of forced assimilation…. Because of a desire to divest the Indian of his land” Joel Spring

 

In many ways it was a naivety that undermined the Indians in their dealings with the Europeans and eventually US Government. But it was also an inherent trust that bound the various tribes and peoples together. There was no fine print to an Indian, his word was bond. It would be many years and near extinction till Indians realized the treachery. Kent Nerburn writes extensively about Native Peoples Spirituality and offers;

 

“The rule of mutual legal compact, with its European roots, had no precedent among the individualistic native peoples of the continent. In addition, the idea of land as personnel property, a key principle on which the United States was basing its treaties was alien to the native people. How could one own the land?” Kent Nerburn

 

Our own current study of curriculum shows many over lapping and residual effects and it goes far beyond just Native Peoples. Those in power write fine print for one reason so that is not read and in doing so essentially control the overall outcome and direction of whatever is in question. My position is we have been as a people continually dealt agreements, contracts riffed with fine print in regards to education and curriculum to a point it has become what we expect.
Even as a teacher our contracts contains numerous areas of extremely fine print. Daily we are being handed fine print in the news and through the medias about Iraq, politics, religion, and many too numerous to mention including our own president elect. Maybe one day we can truly have a democracy in our democratic nation funny thing is educator John Dewey said and felt the best way to assure a democracy was through a democratic class room. So as I set my thoughts to paper and close for this morning please help others read the fine print and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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