A look at essential Bird Pedagogy

Bird Droppings November 30, 2017

A look at essential Bird Pedagogy

 

It was seven years ago I was reading an article actually an interview with Arne Duncan, the former Secretary of Education. I selected a few choice quotes from his interview to savor and ponder for a few days. As I look at the words he said and his follow through with his actions we can see where he really thinks education should be. I have long argued that sports should not be priority number one in high school and in colleges but who am I to challenge the status quo. Football ticket sales and all the hoopla surrounding sports is big money. With Duncan’s emphasis more recently on a push to private industry in public education I found his words a bit confusing. At first I truly liked this statement and yet since these words were let loose he has gone three hundred and sixty degrees in another direction and supports in actions the making of money.

 

“If a university can’t have two out of five of their student-athletes graduate, I don’t know why they’re rewarded with post-season play” Arne Duncan

 

Over the past few days I have been looking at how I see teaching and instruction and I have wandered about a bit in my efforts. My own style is somewhat radical to say the least. However in thirteen years my craziness has worked with kids who are not supposed to graduate or succeed according to most.  I happen to see this line from Arne Duncan our Secretary of Education and it is amazing how we provide a sense of falsehood through athletics. I am not saying all athletes are poor students by any means. I know many who are honor graduates and scholars in their own right. The greed and competition however at a college level becomes significant. A local college at home games can bring millions to the economy. Many staunch fans never went to college anywhere yet have season tickets and trucks colored in that schools colors and even have the same animal as a pet as the local mascot. A good college football or basketball program is a business not a learning program.

 

“I think we are lying to children and families when we tell children that they are meeting standards and, in fact, they are woefully unprepared to be successful in high school and have almost no chance of going to a good university and being successful.’ Arne Duncan

 

Not every child should be going to college and why we have to advertise and promote this concept I honestly do not know. In a recent faculty meeting our superintendent discussed the excessively high dropout rate of freshmen. When you have an attitude of sending everyone to college those who really do not want to be there quit that first year. We have eliminated technical training in many high schools ours included in favor of everyone goes to college. This trend ties in with our role in international education as well. We constantly hear on the news how we are behind in education other international programs and countries. Let me start with one of the measures which is the PISA, The Program for International Student Assessment. In 2006 we the USA were ranked fifteenth. I have never heard of or seen this test administered in Georgia. It is a two hour test, multiple choice and essay. It is given every three years to rank countries internationally.  Australia is ranked fourth. There are differences between us and them and significant differences. It was 1992 till Australia started inclusion into public schools for disabled students versus 1974 in the US. However there is still a distinct difference between US and literally most of the world in terms of education. Our test scores for example as per NCLB include Students With Disabilities SWD as a subgroup and they are included in final tally of population. A 2% allowance is made for Mentally Impaired students in the total population. Australia in scoring on High School tests etc. does not include SWD in totals as European and Asian Schools do not include either. Most international school systems have in pace a mandatory age cut off 15-17 depending on the territory for example in in Australia. At that point choices are made and or mandated as to higher education technical and or college and or go to work. Throughout Asia this is common practice as it is in many European educational systems.

 

“If you have great assessments and real-time data for teachers and parents that say these are [the student’s] strengths and weaknesses, that’s a real healthy thing.” Arne Duncan

 

“We would do away with examinations. They measure the inconsequential type of learning. We would do away with grades and credits for the same reason. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks the end or a conclusion of something, and the learner is only interested in continuing the process of learning.” Carl Rodgers

 

In the words of the two educators above there are totally differing views. I agree with several of my friends that on some concepts Carl Rogers can be a bit off the deep end to a degree. But on this aspect I agree with him that competition as far as learning goes be that grades, test scores, can be inconsequential as to, is learning occurring. This would lead to another line from David Purpel yesterday that truly hit me hard.

 

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

 

We have stripped away that aspect of community from schools in order to have a clear cut and definite number to score and equate whatever it is we are wanting to measure in theory. One of the first things I learned in statistics is that they are at the mercy of the statistician. We can make numbers do whatever we want. Politicians like numbers and test scores and simply things so they can make policy and award lobbyists with nice contracts. Interesting how most educational research that is cited by the National Clearing house for research based materials is primarily one hundred percent publishing and testing company’s research. Much of this is very limited demographically and in a true research situation would not be valid. Significant dollars are involved however but that might be for another discussion, which sort of ties in with my idea of, is there ethical capitalism? Sadly industrial mentalities and capitalism drive education in US. Mass production testing and text book companies rule along with various support industries.

 

“I know there are schools that are beating the odds where students are getting better every year, and they are labeled failures, and that can be discouraging and demoralizing,” Arne Duncan

 

I continue to try and understand how when students are doing better year after year they are a failure. As for US schools being behind are they really? All US schools in all states we are mandated through NCLB to have an exit exam that is within certain parameters for graduation and if not passed student does not receive a high school degree. This consists of Writing, Math, Social Studies, and Science portions in the state of Georgia. Many subjects have End of Course Tests again here in Georgia. Even with this series of tests at our high school we have managed to raise graduation rate at our school from 71% to 92% over a five year period. Sadly this comes at the expense of real learning and the idea of teaching to the test is more than a catch word. Teacher’s jobs administrator’s jobs are tied to test scores and funding and state and federal intervention as well. I am not happy with the USA educational system as I am a supporter of students and learning which are totally being left behind in this numerical accountability competitive system.

 

“We are proceeding on with the intent of the Landmark – Leave No Child Behind Reform Act without political persuasion. The focus is effective delivery of services in education by review, restructure, implementation for maximum student learning.” Arne Duncan

 

Arne perhaps used some words wrong here. It should have read for maximum student’s success in testing not in learning.

 

I have taught in different parts of Georgia and in Pa. briefly and while many will say education is not as difficult as in previous generations all I can say is pull a high school or college biology book off the shelf dust it off and compare to a biology book today. The cellular material is years beyond my freshmen college and even zoology and botany books of 1968 and 1969. Not just the research gains but vocabulary and demands of material are voluminous compared to what we had in high school. Our system is flawed and it will take radical thinking I tend to believe more toward Foxfire core practices and John Dewey’s ideas and Carl Rogers because some of his thoughts are good.

 

“Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me. Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research –neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my own direct experience. My experience is not authoritative because it is infallible. It is the basis of authority because it can always be checked in new primary ways. In this way its frequent error or fallibility is always open to correction.” Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, 1961

 

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” Carl Rogers

 

As I close looking back on where and when and how I am still within my own learning searching for what is my pedagogy. It is a continual fluid moving process as I teach and learn each day. I can say I am inclined to think this way but only till a better way comes along. With a morning nearing end and new week ahead please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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

Trying to understand giving thanks, war and teaching

Bird Droppings November 29, 2017
Trying to understand giving thanks, war and teaching

I had a difficult time sleeping due to some sinus issues. When I got up and started to walk around and downed a large mug of mate and black tea my head started to clear a bit and I began to wonder about this day we just celebrated. So many times as in days before I open news articles and look through emails before writing or even thinking about what I will be writing that given day. I made a few comments on several thoughts and proceeded to ponder today’s thought and ideas. As I looked through several posts and listened to family members argue the cons of the current administration on line and in person this thought struck me this morning. Granted it is nearly ten years old but still has some powerful significance.

“Thanksgiving Day, Americans across the country will sit down together, count our blessings, and give thanks for our families and our loved ones. American families reflect the diversity of this great nation. No two are exactly alike, but there is a common thread they each share. Our families are bound together through times of joy and times of grief. They shape us, support us, instill the values that guide us as individuals, and make possible all that we achieve. I’ll be giving thanks for my family for all the wisdom, support, and love they have brought into my life.

Today is also a day to remember those who cannot sit down to break bread with those they love; the soldier overseas holding down a lonely post and missing his kids, the sailor who left her home to serve a higher calling, the folks who must spend tomorrow apart from their families to work a second job, so they can keep food on the table or send a child to school.

We are grateful beyond words for the service and hard work of so many Americans who make our country great through their sacrifice. And this year, we know that far too many face a daily struggle that puts the comfort and security we all deserve painfully out of reach. So when we gather, let us also use the occasion to renew our commitment to building a more peaceful and prosperous future that every American family can enjoy.” President Barack Obama, 11/24/09

Words are simple, these words and how we hear and or read them again is our perception which is a learned and acquired factor. Somewhere along the way we developed and took into an account varying stimuli that led us to how we see the world. As I read this short note of thanks from our former president whether you think good or bad, democrat or republican, black or white and they struck a chord with me. There is so much we have in this world to give thanks for. Myself thankful I can at least breathe a breath of air through clogged passages for some today I am sure there is pain and sorrow.

Dr. Michael T. Garrett in his writings discusses the theory of opposites. We need to have a balance in life which provides then definitive points for the other. Perhaps my growing up in Pennsylvania influenced my own thinking of pacifism and philosophical view of believing we do not need war. Yet around us worldwide strife is ongoing Thanksgiving day or not. It is inside of us we need to seek answers for our own understandings and acceptances of what we perceive within this world. Perceptions do change albeit not easily. But they can they are not engrained at birth but a learned and acquired commodity.

“Internal peace is an essential first step to achieving peace in the world. How do you cultivate it? It’s very simple. In the first place by realizing clearly that all mankind is one, that human beings in every country are members of one and the same family.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Within the passage is perhaps a key to humanities survival on this planet. It will never be done simply by who is most powerful, or who has the biggest guns and missiles. We must at some point accept others and understand others. As I read each morning and bits and pieces hit me my slant tends to be towards education and learning and I do see that there is a tremendous responsibility lying in the laps of teachers. Throughout the world teachers have daily more input into students’ lives than any other human being. As I finished a paper on technologies nearly a year or so ago I saw how impact on youth, actual human contact is dwindling daily.

“Preserve the fires in our hearts… Our world needs teachers whose fire can resist those forces that would render us less just, less humane, and less alive.” Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, editors Teaching with Fire

I found this book several years ago on a Borders trip. The two editors have taken poetry that means something to teachers and with explanations from those teachers as to why this poem means so much created a book, Teaching with Fire. Over the years I have had similar questions asked. It has been only a few days since another a teacher asked me, had I ever hit my own children, and I said no. I was looked at funny, “you have never hit your children?” I in all honesty could not remember ever hitting/spanking my own children. Perhaps I have blocked out the dark side of my personality. Several weeks ago I was asked similar, your kids never hit you or your wife or did this or that, and again “no” was my answer then as well. “Well I guess you just are not normal” was the answer both times.

“Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from.” Jodie Foster

As I wonder at how others see the world like Jodie Foster’s thought. Several weeks ago when first asked about my children hitting me I asked my son on the way home what he thought about it and his response was “normal is what you are used too”. I thought back to a graduate school discussion of philosophy about Foucault and how he defines normal after he finishes defining abnormal.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Albert Einstein

It is up to us somewhere, somehow we as teachers and parents must set an example to the children. Looking at various books such as, Teaching with fire, The Passionate Teacher, The language and thoughts of a child, and I see that surround me as I write, maybe answers are here. The answers are right among us, we are the answer. It is not some big secret. Several times over the past few years I have shared Dr. Nolte’s 1970’s idea of “Children Learn what they live”. I tried to use that with the discussion trying to explain to the teacher asking me about hitting my kids, and that teacher had a difficult time seeing the point.

“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

Looking back historically, Gandhi had a difficult time selling nonviolence, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a difficult time selling nonviolence and both were killed for it.

“Man is not logical and his intellectual history is a record of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on to what he can in his old beliefs even when he is compelled to surrender their logical basis.” John Dewey

As a teacher, the position I was in each day is one of being on a pedestal being watched seen by hundreds of students each day. As a parent seen by my children each day or when they are home now with grand kids. Each of us is seen and understood in context of perceptions and understandings of that moment. Over the past week while out and about I have seen several students wearing t-shirts that are banned in dress code rules, because of racial over tones. When you ask students why they wear t-shirts that are illegal, answers are always vague and noncommittal never because of race. One of my favorite is always “only shirt I had” so you will get kicked out of school for your shirt because it is the only one you had is my general response.
Two events several days ago made my day. The first a simple one, I made the comment I was pissed off at a student for something, another student said “Mr. Bird I never heard you cuss before”. Actually I do not swear and did not consider pissed off as swearing either, however in that person’s context it was. But the remark they never heard me swear is what caught my attention, I had been setting an example and did not even know it. The other comment came as an email. A remark as to my wisdom, I wrote back that wisdom is fleeting and only momentary, as you teach wisdom is transferred and soon you must learn more to be wiser.

“We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. The time is always right to do what is right.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We are the pathway and the direction and the example for others to see. Never should anyone question hitting another person and try to justify it. Never should a person even in a small way feel doing harm to another in any way is justifiable. As a teacher, parent, or friend go out and show in your life what is, normal. Running parallel through religions worldwide is a rule, a guide, a talisman for some just a thought, treat others as you wish to be treated. It is about Teaching with Fire, teaching with example. Learning what we live and trying to live it and see what impact can be made. Today as we all sit down please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. Harm is a large word and covers so many be it the passing or illness of a loved one, a friend overseas fighting a war for freedom, a relationship that is abusive, a child too hungry to raise their head, let us be thankful today and try and ease the harm in the world if only one act at a time namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Within the circle of life, a new life

Bird Droppings November 29, 2017

Within the circle of life a new life coming

 

Resurrection

By Susan Thomas Underwood

 

The universe is energy in constant motion.

There are ebbs and flows;

Outcomes and income,

And change…… Always change.

 

The physical world reflects this motion

In the cycles of life,

There is spring and fall, winter and summer,

Birth and death; and rebirth…

Resurrection!

 

Einstein proved that even time is relative

In his theory of relativity,

All is relative …. All is change

You can count on it.

 

Be then as the willow;

Learn to bend with the wind!

Always dream, though your dreams may change.

Always produce, though your product may change.

Always love, though your love may change.

Always live, though your life will change.

You can count on it!

 

Susan Thomas Underwood is a native Oklahoman, Shawnee, and author. I saw her book of thoughts, Walk with Spirit on Amazon.com and thought I might take a look. This will be a rather busy week for me and my family. We will be celebrating a sixth birthday for our first granddaughter; daughter of my youngest son and his wife who live in Winder Georgia.   Then our second granddaughters fifth birthday is later next week as my middle son and his wife who live in Southern Pines North Carolina. Add to this and now six years ago roughly my middle son asked his girlfriend of over a year if she would marry him and she accepted and their anniversary is near. My nephew and his wife celebrate their son’s sixth birthday and for an extended family so many blessings these next few days to remember and more to come.

 

As I read this first entry in Underwood’s book I thought to my own existence these past sixty plus years and changes I have been through, as a son, parent, husband, father and now a third time grandfather.

 

“The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, the summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me. The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning, the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me. The strength of the fire, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me and my heart soars.” Chief Dan George

 

I find myself quoting Dan George many times. Dan was a Salish chief from Canada and an accomplished actor later in his life. Some may remember him from the movie Little Big Man or Outlaw Josie Wales. But he was too an eloquent speaker and poet. He often spoke of nature but also of the intertwining of life. He would speak of the roads we each travel and cross many times. I spent most of the past week watching, observing, holding and photographing my grandchildren and helping my wife get the house ready for the holidays while she ran around hunting for bargains. It is hard to recall a tiny newborn four years ago when each gesture and smile was first for her. I am so happy on how we as family responded and have encouraged her as she is learning daily. It seems even for a teacher watching my grandbabies learn daily I am amazed.

 

As a teacher being a grandparent becomes our teaching job number one, not so much to have them belief or think as I do but to provide pathways for them to walk and learn on her own. Our journeys in life are not always smooth going and it is being able to offer a hand when needed. I recall three years back watching my granddaughter and my son as we went for blood work the bond that has been made in a few short hours is one of a lifetime. Watching her mother hold and talk softly whispering as she was carefully touching her eyes, nose and cheeks is a bond that is impossible to break. During a brief moment or two, I was peering through the lens of my camera as my granddaughter in a matter of seconds in her grandmother’s lap made a series of facial expressions almost as if she knew I have grandma wrapped around my ever so tiny finger now. As the orator and actor Dan George stated so many years ago, “they speak to me and my heart soars”.

 

It is a new week and grandbabies birthdays on the way it is all happening so fast. May peace be with you all in the coming days and may we all keep those in harm’s way on our hearts and on our minds and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Listening to a philosopher

Bird Droppings November 27, 2017

Listening to a philosopher

A beautiful sky this morning as I walked out and actually not too cold which is surprising as the sky was clear. I cannot wait again for a night when the moon is reflecting across from the west lighting up the sky and white billowing clouds present a surreal picture for me as I walk out in the morning. I was reading in National Geographic an article on possible life somewhere out in the universe and all of the possibilities that continue to pop up. It has not been long since I fancied myself a philosopher of sorts. Perhaps it was my graduate work that got me truly entrenched in philosophical meandering that led to this conclusion or trying a million times to formulate a philosophy of teaching while it evolved before me. Actually I think it is because I enjoy pondering way too much. I seem to find time to wonder and think about all that is around me as I journey through life.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

“How people keep correcting us when we are young! There is always some bad habit or other they tell us we ought to get over. Yet most bad habits are tools to help us through life.” Friedrich Nietzsche

As I looked for a starting place for my daily writing I was interrupted to run into town to get a few things and then I could get back to my writing. As I went up and down the stairs and walked out into a sky as wonderful as it is this morning I recalled a period in my life when I would get up every morning early and walk several miles discussing philosophy, theology and other relevant issues with a very good friend of mine. It was an interesting time and actually many concepts that I hold now came to fruition during those walks. Over the years as I look back and truly most things considered that I consider “bad habits” I had given up in the days past however they do provide tools for pondering ideas further and pushing thoughts beyond where they were. I have found however many people simply get mired in that bad habit or two and it becomes part of their life not merely a stepping stone or tool but a crutch and support. Perhaps even a cast of sorts locking them into that point in time.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” C. Everett Koop

Most folks won’t even recognize the name of Dr. Koop former Surgeon General of the United States and former head of pediatric surgery at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. As I thought of Nietzsche’s quotes and while not taking a walk today I did go and walk dogs twice outside so my wife and son would not have to get up as the holiday is officially over and we all are back at work today. I started writing a bit later today then I thought I would. Nietzsche as you read his work is often self-focused and negative and perhaps in some ways I like looking to his thoughts for contrast for adding a back drop to a brighter thought. Somewhere I started writing about Dr. Koop.

Dr. C. Everett Koop was instrumental in the anti-cigarette laws and anti-tobacco laws. On a personal note he was the surgeon for my younger brother many years ago when we lived in Pennsylvania. My father used to tell a story of Dr. Koop, his staff and my father all gathered together around John, my brother who was born with cerebral palsy and later developed encephalitis’s who was approaching surgery. Dad would say having been in the Navy medical corp. and around death in WWII so much the aura around Koop was different, he exuded life he thrived on life and when he asked all to join hands and pray around John he made my father’s day.

 

But one thing that has stuck with me from dads conversation with Dr. Koop was a quote very seldom seen, “Having worked with terminally ill children and seriously ill children for many years in all of those years I have never seen a parent of one of these children who did not have faith”. As I think back and remember bits and pieces, Dr. Koop’s comment and discussions with my father he wasn’t referring to religion as much as to faith. Faith also parallels trust and it was in that trust in Dr. Koop and or trust in the hospital that parents would have faith and hope. Dr. Koop was a man of hope, of future, and of faith.

“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ending on the idea of faith as I enter into a day filled with students who question and students who refuse to question often in both cases based on faith. I am ending with a simple idea for another day or actually several ideas to ponder and mull over as we ascend the plateau to view the vista. Tomorrow a new month ahead my friends have a glorious day today, build for tomorrow and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your thoughts and to always give thanks namaste.

Today I will venture out to give thanks and send thoughts of healing to several friends.

My friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

How capable do we need to be?

Bird Droppings November 25, 2017

How capable do we need to be?

 

What a contrast to only a few weeks ago as the sun was shining and the moon was full as I went out in the wee hours with a crystal clear sky. There was a gentle wind blowing, wind chimes ringing peacefully and a beautiful harvest moon gazing at me between the pines and oak trees. I had to stand in the chill and just look at the stars and moon and listen to our chimes from the back yard for a moment as I took our dog out. Life is a wonderful thing and what we make of it is literally up to us. Today I will try and get some sunrise photos a bit later in the morning. It is still a few weeks till day light savings kicks in and the sun does not come up till I am on bus duty at school.

 

I stopped at my favorite spot for getting sunrise photos yesterday and nothing I was a bit too late so I headed into town and then to write and take care of a few errands. As I was looking out of my rear view mirror a sunrise was exploding across the sky. I did a quick U-turn heading to my spot a gray sky again. So I began to think and ponder from my wonderful start to that day. As I thought back to a few days back and missing a Sunrise or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time had I not been in such a hurry I would have caught another beautiful sunrise. I addressed moments yesterday and here I am not listening to my own words two more minutes sitting and I would have witnessed a beautiful sunrise. I chose to go for the bigger picture and ignore the moment. So I am one for three this week on sunrises. This does not make me a very capable sunrise chaser.

 

I started watching an Australian fiction movie almost documentary of Aboriginal culture, “Charlie’s Country”. I finished it this morning. Charlie is an elderly Aborigine. He lives on what we would call a reservation and receives government subsidy to survive. He makes an effort to go back to the bush where he was born, living off the land. Eventually he gets sick and is transported to the hospital in Darwin. He gets jailed for buying alcohol for banned Aborigines. Banned meaning they cannot have alcohol. Eventually he finds his way home and is asked to teach the old ways to the children who were losing their culture. Needless to say the movie made me think about so many things.

 

As always random ideas get me pondering. When applying for a job and that could be any job, does not capability come into play. When discussing this I am assuming that capability is the ability to do that particular job. Several events have taken place over the past few days and one from several months back. It has been some time since I received a sheet of paper with six questions, a voluntary questionnaire on diversification. I answered honestly and do feel diversification does not get the best person for the job. Are we effectively teaching about cultures when we mandate diversification?

 

It is interesting in that my own lineage of Pennsylvania Dutch and welsh miners diversity has never come up. Nor has it with my great grandmothers tribe the Leni Lenape, part of the Delaware Nation. Perhaps they are not significant enough although very unique cultures though they may be. So I am with mixed emotions on one hand listening to a former student teacher who feels social studies is the place to combat racism in high school and then my own conviction that I still consider rednecks an ethnic group provides for great discussion . How do we challenge racism?

 

My wife came home and said she had a patient who said she would only go to American, (meaning white) doctors. So this morning before I ran over to the school as I sat on my porch the breeze was cool blowing through the trees, I thought wondering what is it that drives us. I read a Facebook blog recently indicating racism is genetic. I would argue that point strongly it is learned period.

 

“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” Franklin Thomas

 

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

I answered my questionnaire and even wrote on the back until we begin hiring the best person, go to the best health care provider, and stop thinking, as this statement so clearly states stop looking, at the amount of melanin in our skin or not. Are we not all homo sapiens? We are not different species.

 

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it.” Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

 

“To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.” William Faulkner, Essays, Speeches and Public Letters

 

Over the years I have read numerous books and articles on Native American culture and one in particular has hit deep, the book Neither wolf nor dog, by Kent Nerburn. Nerburn edits the words of an old Lakota Sioux who feels compelled to express the differences between the Native Americans and whites, hence the title neither wolf nor dog.

 

“Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.” Author Unknown

 

“Racial superiority is a mere pigment of the imagination.” Author Unknown

 

How do we entangled out realities to a point where we become so embroiled in differences and how is it we forget to treat each man as a brother. Where do we get this hatred? Many consider racism a learned behavior and to date I have not read anything in research that ascribe racism to a genetic code and or DNA. Therefore it is learned and if so can be unlearned and modified.

 

“I am working for the time when unqualified blacks, browns, and women join the unqualified men in running our government.” Cissy Farenthold

 

“Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.”  Desmond Tutu

 

Arch Bishop Tutu meeting with The Dalai Lama happened several years ago and that is something I really would enjoy to hear and see. These two great human beings at one place and one time speaking and discussing. I missed an opportunity to hear Desmond Tutu when he was in Atlanta as a quest lecturer at Emory University several years back. Having had ties business wise to South Africa for nearly forty years we often had inside information on the happenings there. I recall my father coming home and relating happenings at a check point between Zimbabwe and South Africa and how he was coached as to what to say when rebels stuck automatic weapons in the car windows. I recall reading an article recently about the rise of aids in South Africa and a comment my brother made after a recent trip. He said he was told that left as it currently is the aids epidemic will wipe out blacks in South Africa in ten years. Sort of makes you wonder about conspiracy theories however in the days since foundations from around the world have turned the tide on Aids and while still a serious threat slowly getting some control.

 

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

 

In 1968 I was in Texas going to college and at that time in that place racial hatred was not against blacks but Native Americans. I saw it rampant as comments were made and people responded. It was a carryover from the old west and the Indian wars. Even as recently as 1992 when traveling in Oklahoma I witnessed firsthand the racism against those who were here first.

 

“Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.”  Merry Browne

 

“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.  The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”  Ralph W. Sockman

 

Listening to comments from a student teacher recently about how we need to do this and that and show this and that and then thinking to my reading of this questionnaire on diversity. You learn racism if that is a given then you also learn tolerance. You also learn to accept others, I recall from years gone by a story of a man injured on his journey.

 

“A certain man went down from Lawrenceville to Atlanta, and fell among car jackers, which stripped him of his clothes, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain preacher that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Lawyer, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain man of another color, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on peroxide and gave him some drink, and set him in his own car, and brought him to an emergency room, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two hundred dollars, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said the teacher unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Borrowing from my seminary days a slight paraphrase, Frank Bird III Ed.S. D.D.

 

A bit of paraphrase a bit of whimsy but not really how many times have headlines shown people standing by as someone is mugged or even murdered. We are all neighbors, we are all brothers, we are all equal in this life and as the sign as you leave the Ocmulgee National Park in Macon Georgia states that we are all connected. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

For all my relations

Wa de (Skee)

bird

A spiritual side to teaching

Bird Droppings November 24, 2017

A spiritual side to teaching

 

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it’s never living apart from one’s self. Not about absence of other people – it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” Parker Palmer

 

Dr. Parker Palmer is an innovator, speaker, retreat leader, author, and traveling teacher. He is a senior associate of the American Association for Higher Education and senior advisor to the Fetzer Institute. Parker Palmer received his Ph.D. from the University of California. I was first introduced to his writing in 2001 by a friend who happened to be my principal at the time. He recommended his book, The courage to Teach, to me and I have given away several copies now over the years.

 

“Teachers choose their vocation for reasons of the heart, because they care deeply about their students and their subject. But the demands of teaching cause too many educators to lose heart. Is it possible to take heart in teaching once more so that we can continue to do what teachers always do – give heart to our students.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

 

I have been back in teaching sixteen years and have watched teachers some burn out and other fizzle out. There is a slight bit of difference between burn and fizzle. Someone who burns out is putting there all into what they do and someone who fizzles out is taking up space and probably should not have been there to begin with. I have watched creative teachers starting out like gang busters succumb to teaching blues and boredom. They come in full of zeal and within a semester are borrowing premade transparencies from their next door neighbor because they do not have the time anymore to create new ones.

 

“Bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching – and in the process, from their students. Good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life.” Parker Palmer

 

I have for many years considered teaching an art form. I do think it is a place where a person’s soul is bared for better or worse as you teach whatever subject you happened to be teaching. If you truly want to connect with your students you open your heart as palmer indicates and this is difficult for many to do. I honestly think it takes a special person to be a good and effective teacher. Parker Palmer in his writing discusses how teaching is a community effort. My thoughts reflect back to John Dewey and his revelations of education as a social event and more critically a necessity.

 

“As I make the case that good teaching is always and essentially communal, I am not abandoning my claim that teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Community, or connectedness, is the principle behind good teaching, but different teachers with different gifts create community in surprisingly diverse ways, using widely divergent methods.” Parker Palmer

In my own journeys in life and I use a word whose connotation is plural discussing my journeys in life since I have been in several directions prior to where I am now. I have found that it is in happiness and solace we find peace with ourselves. The quote I started with today reflects on solitude which for me is a few moments each day in a spot I have selected away from the house with a view across a large pasture. I can sit and reflect on my day or my day ahead and I ponder sitting listening to the sounds about me. I claim this spot as sacred and some will scuff how you can say that, it does not have a church or any religious affiliation. I titled my writing today as a spiritual side to teaching and these two words for me intertwine as I look at them and ponder further.

 

“Sacred means, quite simply, worthy of respect.” Parker Palmer

 

In the several years that I have come back to teaching it has been about respect and trust. I have gone about this through building relationships with students. In my own opinion that is one of the most critical aspects of the teaching process. It is not simply a curriculum and a book or several books, it is relationships. I see what I do each day as a spiritual endeavor bringing new ideas to students who may not have had the chance previously to understand or even experience in any way this knowledge. It was nearly thirteen years since I wrote a trust scale for a human development course I was taking. It follows along a similar concept that I had read about in Dr. James Fowler’s book, The Development of Faith. We start out as totally trusting and soon learn not to trust and eventually return to a total trust. It takes good and great teachers to help along the way. Thinking about a new week ahead and few days left in this week the positive and negative that will come my way. I tend to choose to embrace the positive and not spend as much time considering the negative. I do hope each of you can take a moment to reflect and to 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

Families and Friends

Bird Droppings November 22, 2017
Families and Friends

The holidays are getting here soon, tomorrow is turkey day, and this semester of graduate school is drawing to an end. My grandkids all have a a week off for Thanksgiving and we will be getting together with family. This is a time when celebrations abound, a time to enjoy family and friends. It is a time traditionally to be thankful. It is a time for families and friends.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.” Anthony Brandt

“The family is the nucleus of civilization.” William Durant

We read and hear so much about how families are having problems in our world today. Yet within it all there are families that are together and that are strong and will persevere. As a teacher I know I need to set an example and provide a haven for some of these kids who are struggling because of family issues and time at home.

“My family begins with me; your family ends with you.” Iphicrates

“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.” Thomas Jefferson

As I am getting ready to spent the better part of the next three or four days with family it is energizing for me to sit and pondering here this morning. A vast array of happenings coming up, my wife and I along with our sons travel to Warner Robins to celebrate Thanksgiving and Saturday is the big game of the year Georgia Tech and The University of Georgia one off the greatest rivalries in the southeast. So along with it all the family gatherings, lots of good food, watching football games, playing video games, driving to and from all the activities and just being with my family makes the next few days exciting.

“In every dispute between parent and child, both cannot be right, but they may be, and usually are, both wrong. It is this situation which gives family life its peculiar hysterical charm.” Isaac Rosenfeld

I personally grew up in a tightly knit family and have cousins as friend’s not just relatives that are situated somewhere on a map. Growing up we all had a special time as we gathered for reunions and holidays. I am still in close contact with my high school friends of now over forty years ago, still emailing friends around the country keeping tabs on their families.

“If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love friends for their sake rather than for our own.” Charlotte Bronte

“Friendship is the only thing in the world concerning the usefulness of which all mankind are agreed.” Marcus T. Cicero

As I looked for quotes today and read, so many are bias and self-centered both in references to family and friends. What do we have to gain rather than a sharing or a caring attitude, actually it was difficult as I read. So often I have found we have as people become so hardened as to others. There is a series of little books by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal entitled Small Miracles that is a reminder not everyone is hardened.

I read a story from one of their books a number of years ago. The story was of a young Jewish man who was frustrated with life and his current condition. He left his family to seek enlightenment in India and for years studied under various holy men and such in India. One day a friend from New York City came through the town he lived in and informed him his father had died. In all of his travels he actually thought one day he would make amends with his father. He gave up his spiritual journey in India and went to Israel to try and reconcile his feelings and felt his ancestral home would be a good start.

He asked a stranger as he walked into Jerusalem, where is a good place to start? He was directed to the Wailing Wall. In all the cracks of the wall were tiny slips of paper with prayers and dreams written, stuffed in by the thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands and some perhaps thousands of years old as the tradition went back many years going back to the temple built by Herod the Great which the wall is part of. He tearfully wrote a note, a prayer to his father asking forgiveness for all he had done to him leaving and denouncing his faith and family. He went to the wall and as he went to place his tiny scrap of paper in a crack one fell out.

He went to replace and it fell again and then a third time till he was compelled to read the note that continually was falling out. He carefully unfolded the tiny piece of paper and it was a prayer, it was from his father. Written nearly a year ago asking forgiveness from his son for him not believing in him and wanting to apologize for all the bad words. Needless to say he fell to his knees and sobbed for many hours. This is such a powerful message and a true story as written down by the authors of Small Miracles.

Why even bring this up? For many years I have felt we are all here with purpose and reason. So often we forget and side step our journeys and travels. Actually if you get a chance look up this series of stories in Small Miracles, all are true. But as you journey and travel along the road try and mend fences not tear them down, try and lift up rather than knock down, try and enlighten rather than darken lives and as a elementary teacher from many years ago told me always smile. Today as we head into a holiday and holiday weekend for many people keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind. Peace be with you all.

My friends

I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird