Building Sandcastles drip by drip

Bird Droppings December 31, 2017

Building Sandcastles drip by drip

 

It was nearly sixteen years ago when I was physically attending classes in graduate school nearly every day and before switching to Internet classes and WebCT. This took some getting used to going to school and then going to teach school. I was teaching from 7:20 – 3:00 students who have had difficulty with a subject and then driving an hour to graduate school from 5:00 – 9:30. Going from teacher to student my day made for an interesting schedule. It was a time of flux for me also getting used to a new computer and new administration changes in our school it really made life interesting.

 

However it was also around this time my middle son was tutoring several students who had failed chemistry during the regular school year and now had to pass in summer session. I found it most interesting watching him working with these students. Several times he would help me break bridges in a physical science class I was teaching while he was helping with tutoring. In that particular class we built twenty one inch bridges of popsicles sticks and white glue only and then we would see whose bridge design could hold the most weight. It was very interesting the many differing designs ranged from zero to over eighty pounds in breaking weight.

 

I also had a side experiment on building pyramids which involved a sand box and in the course of having my sand box set up as I do for this project I built a sand castle albeit a small one. I went back to teaching and as I watched one of my students smashed my three inch drip castle not because I built it just because it was there. Later that same person smashed several of the broken bridges and as I watched observing simply to break them no real reason other than that. It really made me think in light of all that happened that day as I looked back. Some people are capable of creating new ideas new concepts for others to see and also follow. My mind wandered a bit or to complete those ideas and concepts as I was thinking to the great cathedral in Barcelona that will not be completed until 2026. Sadly in among those people are others who see an idea or a concept and simply tear it down not because of what it is or isn’t literally without thought or reason simply to tear it down.

 

It surprisingly saddened me to watch my tiny three inch castle smashed not through some random wave or step or misstep by a passerby but a deliberate effort. I came back to a thought I used in class many times and in writing my droppings over the years from Kent Nerburn who by education was a sculptor. He writes about when we are born and have a piece of marble to sculpt some create marvelous works of art others drag this block behind and some simply smash the marble into gravel. Last night as I sat thinking it might have been a recent trip to see my son and his wife and our granddaughter that had me reminiscing about that summer school class. It might be thinking about upcoming classes and pondering my day ahead and into this new semester. It is sad the limits that students have imposed upon themselves only to tear down smash into gravel never ever to see their work shine upon a pedestal, a finished piece of art work . One of my students did not turn in a project I knew was complete and failed because of it. I try and figure why?

 

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” Thomas Jefferson

 

In among our daily journeys we are faced with individuals who choose only to tear down and who would rather simply relish destruction than creation who do not understand lifting up yet we need to continue to try and show there is more to life.

 

“It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curious of inquiry. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.”  Albert Einstein

 

So maybe it is a miracle as Mr. Einstein says even for my castle destroyer to simply be in school for he chooses to be there he was not forced. Who knows maybe just maybe something will rub off and one day I may find him sitting by a sand box thinking drizzling sand between his fingers into a drip castle instead of just smashing them. So a simple thought for a simple day and as we go about this day, during the holidays we hear less of our friends and families in harm’s way, they are still there thousands of miles away we need to keep them in our thoughts. Sadly politics plays into what is deemed significant for news and far too often that is the case. There are people hurting here in the US and even here locally that we tend to bypass and pretend not to see. So please keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and so have a glorious day today 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

 

 

PS – A few New Year’s resolutions: Finish my doctorate by end of summer 2018, Get back to teaching college and volunteer work with elementary high risk students. See my grandbabies more, a family trip with everyone along, more time with my mother, and more reading, writing and understanding of where I am going.

Setting an example is such a simple lesson plan

Bird Droppings December 29, 2017
Setting an example is such a simple lesson plan

“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans

I have over the years looked to the wisdom contained in Kent Nerburn’s writings many times. In a recently completed graduate school project I used a similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words “children learn what they live”. They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them.

”One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl G Jung

I have been a Carl G. Jung fan for many years. As I was reading through several of his ideas earlier this morning I found that this thought stuck out. Perhaps it is being a grandpa and watching a little one absorb every element around her. Perhaps it is as a father watching my sons now all grown each choosing pathways in life and wondering at times if we at least gave decent directions along the way. I am finding as I grow older it is the example we set that is the most powerful educational tool available. Better than any curriculum or text series, better than the greatest speaker, and much better than anything that can be planned for. It is about the warmth of our souls and passing this to our children and grandchildren.

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear

“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan

As so often happens when several educators get together the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up and with me often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education the topic will become education and learning. Yesterday afternoon sitting in my mother in laws house we were talking about teaching and working with special needs children. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail sometimes we forget that simple things can aid in how to learn, how to study, and how to open our eyes to that which is around us.

“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller

There has been much research done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Developmentalists have written and been written about, numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.
“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

Sitting in a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Asking why is even more interesting.
“Whatever”
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”
These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

Several years ago in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention and as I read I realized I too have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries McJob has been described as a meaningless job, a job with no direction and very little in requirements and McDonald’s has sued to have it removed stating that jobs at McDonalds are meaningful and do have direction. I do know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in Business School now and owns his own Starbucks. Ray Kroc many years ago before he passed away got his start selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow in her will did leave, one and a half billion dollars to charity all based on working in McDonald’s.

Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with literally nothing but an idea and hard work. It was not apathy that built McDonalds and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self-empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.

“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was causal and commonplace. The Indian lived in every sense of the word from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some graduate schools and I had data showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat several who actually have difficulty reading the test I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However imagine the self-esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a master’s program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45.

I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people except some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.

SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East become more difficult with each moment it seems. With sunrise only hours away please always give thanks for what you have namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

A chill in the air but not in the heart

Bird Droppings December 26, 2017

A chill in the air but not in the heart

 

For several days the now we have been at or below freezing in the early mornings which totally silences the crickets and tree frogs who need an ambient temperature a bit more warm maybe high fifties low sixties. So for today my orchestra was silent as a near freeze not only permeated but encompassed our back yard and today was one of coldest of this year at the house. I keep recalling why I like Georgia it is supposed to be warmer. Last night I watched a couple of minutes of pro football and I am looking forward to one or two more games yet to play. Walking through the house earlier today I could not get warm it seemed the cold was seeping in the house. Now as I am sitting here writing it dawned on me I may have left the dampener open from a fire the night before in the chimney. However over the years I have found warmth in reading and pondering as I call it. It seems I can always find the right words when I turn a page or two.

 

“A bizarre sensation pervades a relationship of pretense. No truth seems true. A simple morning’s greeting and response appear loaded with innuendo and fraught with implications. Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.” Maya Angelou

 

As I move my thinking to students and people in general we balance our lives in a series of trust and distrust often a teeter totter or see saw effect. Often we become jaded and calloused through constant distrusting and soon we respond as Angelou indicates in a sterile manner. About once or twice a year I will pull my old guitar out and play. My fingers at first feel each string and after a while pain will tear through my finger tips from the pressure of strings on flesh. Eventually after several days I will callous my fingertips back.

Rock legend has it perhaps even urban rock myth it should be called is that the late great guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn during a concert super glued his calluses back on when his fingers began to bleed. As I read this first quote, we can become callous we can become sterile but much more is involved. I also sense a similar relationship to my own use of the Hindustani word namaste, both a sterile hello or goodbye for some and for others one of reverence and humility. It is in the eyes and ears of the receiver and the giver.

 

“Achievement brings its own anticlimax.” Maya Angelou

 

 “All great achievements require time.” Maya Angelou

 

Maya Angelou writes of paradox of achievement and anticlimax. As I sit and think achievement is an attainment of a goal and with that attainment is a realization of a new goal a new mountain to climb perhaps it is that awareness of the anticlimax and yes most definitely time is always a factor.

 

“All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.” Maya Angelou

 

Maybe most men are prepared would be better. There are many who will still sit on their posteriors. Sitting today reading Angelou’s thoughts is a series of how to and why’s. I have listened many times to Dr. Angelo read her works or discuss topics on talk shows. Her words while calming are twice as meaningful listening to her speak them. There was a passion about her spirit and soul.

 

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Maya Angelou

 

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” Maya Angelou

 

“Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.” Maya Angelou

 

She was philosopher, poet, writer, activist, educator, humanitarian, civil rights leader, and the list goes on but always children are at the center of Angelou’s thinking and thoughts. Any book that can form a habit of reading is good. What a powerful statement in a society that would ban many books in schools and libraries? While not on the news now periodically we have this or as in a nearby county once upon a time, putting disclaimer labels in science books. I often wonder how when opening a book and a label states what you read in this science book may or may not be true is a good way to start a science lesson.

 

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” Maya Angelou

 

“Education helps one case cease being intimidated by strange situations.” Maya Angelou

 

Two words that seem to permeate Dr. Angelou’s writing are courage and education. These two words are constantly mentioned described and eluded to. Perhaps the explanation is in the first of the two statements above, “without courage you cannot practice any other virtue”. As I ponder, education requires courage it is that willingness to achieve to go beyond where you are it requires first courage to make that effort and then education to do it.

 

“I believe that every person is born with talent.” Maya Angelou

 

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.” Maya Angelou

 

As I saw this I thought of two individuals far apart historically and in many ways yet similar, George Washington Carver and Bill Gates. Both men through vision and fantasy transformed our realities possibly beyond the actual dreams they originally had.  My morning would be totally different if not for these two men many of the items used in the kitchen reflect ideas from Dr. Carver and my laptop computer and internet use are directly related to Mr. Gates.

 

“If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” Maya Angelou

 

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Maya Angelou

 

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” Maya Angelou

 

We are the beginning and the end of the circle. How we live and interact with others continues and perpetuates the circle. I have never been able to understand why this is so hard for people in general to understand. We seem to be having greed as a human trait. How sad that is to inherently assume man is greedy by nature. Animals only keep what they need for survival. Man is the only creature that hordes and amasses wealth.

 

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.” Maya Angelou

 

Caring and concern begins at home and then spreads out from there. It is not about the face you put on when you need to but that which you truly carry in your heart and live and breathe daily. I enjoy Dr. Maya Angelou’s words. The few times I have watched her on TV and in reading her books that are in my own library. She is a person of concern and of caring. She is trying to do her part in her corner of the world for all of humanity. It is for each of us to try and do likewise where we are in the world.

 

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” Maya Angelou

 

So I end another morning as I have now for some time till everyone listens to Dr. Angelou’s thoughts that ring in my heart today let me repeat this last quote one more time.

 

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” Maya Angelou

 

It brings tears to my eyes as I sit knowing I need to continue ending my daily meanderings as I have for so many years, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind  and in your hearts 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

How we perceive is often the beginning of the discussion

Bird Droppings December 24, 2017
How we perceive is often the beginning of the discussion

 

A dear friend brought up a conversation with a flat earth believer the other day. This person he had been talking with essentially disavowed science in many areas. My son offered is Mars visibly round from a telescope and or for that matter any other visible planet? Interesting and as usual religion can so easily pop into discussion.

 

“I love a people who have always made me welcome to the best that they had. I Love a people who are honest without laws, who have no jails and no poorhouses. I love a people who keep the commandments without having ever read them or heard them preached from the pulpit.” George Catlin (1796-1872), Artist and Chronicler

 

“People only see what they are prepared to see.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I can remember growing up seeing the fascinating prints of George Catlin’s paintings of American Indians throughout the US. Many of his images are all we have of tribes that in later years were decimated through disease and slaughter by white soldiers. Catlin saw a different people than did most. So often we all tend to misuse our perception we see only what we want to see and not what is really there. Perhaps it becomes difficult to tell the difference as we tend to push our own ideas on others.

 

“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.” Richard Dawkins, Evolutionary Biologist

 

This is an interesting outlook from one of the world’s leading biologists. It still becomes how we each see this amazing world. Some will go at life seeing how much they can squeeze from the earth much like an orange being put through a juicer. Others see as Dawkins does “a sumptuous planet sparkling with color”. Many of the authors that reflect on Native thought look at the interconnections and how they are so critical to our continued existence.

 

“I know that our people possessed remarkable powers of concentration and abstraction, and I sometimes fancy that such nearness to nature as I have described keeps the spirit sensitive to impressions not commonly felt, and in touch with unseen powers.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Eastman, Santee Dakota, Medical doctor and author

 

In the movie Wounded Knee, Dr. Eastman is depicted being trained as a physician in the late 1800’s one of the first Indians to go through medical school. Dr. Eastman was the attending physician to the survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre. His views were conflicted by his immersion in the white culture and yet as he grew away from this his writing tried to show the other side, the Indian side. Yesterday I was sitting in my co-teaching class of ninth grade biology we were going over the idea of various forms of evolution. The lead teacher flashed an image on the wall one of an owl sitting in a tree and I listened to the various comments from the group as to what they saw. Ideas varied and often would be more about a color or shape that they were reminded of. It became evident to me that as we talked it became evident that our ideas come primarily from our experiences. Even the teacher of the class being a seasoned teacher with limited experiences was limited in what she was adding to the talk.

 

I saw a duality as I viewed the picture of an owl. Using native thought in which from tribe to tribe owls are viewed differently. My dear friend who is Creek believed owls to be a harbinger of death. Other friends from western tribes see the owl as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. So in my own thinking I see wisdom and fear as parallels running along together never quite touching but also flowing in a symmetrical pattern that ties the two together.

 

“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castaneda

 

Being a fan of Carlos Castaneda even though controversy surrounds his writing I recall several stories in his books of various times when his mentor kept after him to look deeper not just what was presented. He might being seeing an owl sitting on a post but what Don Juan his guide would say would be to look into the owl beyond the owl what is there that is meant for you to understand. As my friend feared owls I came to embrace the calls at night often calling back to the great horned owls that would nearly surround me in the early morning hours calling to each and to me.

 

“All civilization in a sense exists only in the mind. Gunpowder, textile arts, machinery, laws; telephones are not themselves transmitted from man to man or from generation to generation, at least not permanently. It is the perception, the knowledge and understanding of them, their ideas in the Platonic sense, that are passed along. Everything social can have existence only through mentality.” Alfred L. Kroeber, The Superorganic

 

A very deep thought and as I ponder this morning perhaps the novel of a group of young boys marooned on an island comes to mind. All civilized thought seems to pass away and instinctual and survival modes kicked into gear. It is the thinking processes that are passed on. As I watch students in school one comes to school already reading and one is not even ready to read and when you look to the family each child came from you see one where education is a key and the other where it is simply mandated. I was talking with an assistant principal at one of the local high schools yesterday about just this thought. We teachers are often considered the bringers of education, morality, normalcy, commonality and who knows what else when we only have one third of a day for less than two hundred days a year. It is that sixteen hour syndrome of another perception that so often dislodges any sort of attempt at helping a child find a way in life and so often then carries into school especially in older years. In thirteen years of teaching and working with emotional issues at a high school I have yet to find a student who also did not have some sort of contributing factor from home.

 

“There is, perhaps, one universal truth about all forms of human cognition: the ability to deal with knowledge is hugely exceeded by the potential knowledge contained in man’s environment. To cope with this diversity, man’s perception, his memory, and his thought processes early become governed by strategies for protecting his limited capacities from the confusion of overloading. We tend to perceive things schematically, for example, rather than in detail, or we represent a class of diverse things by some sort of averaged “typical instance.” Jerome S. Bruner, Art as a Mode of Knowing

 

As I read again this thought from Bruner it makes more sense we tend to after several experiences establish a mean and mode of experiences and then treat each new experiences based upon the average. Rather than embracing a new experience we simple take it as what has happened previously and soon you find students saying I am bored. We as teachers have not expanded the perceptions of our students to see the details that are presented. In a hurry to teach and get through a specific amount of material in a given time we too form averages and then teach to averages and soon a world full of simply averages exists and there is no longer a bell shaped curve but we are flat lined.

 

“Every man feels that perception gives him an invincible belief of the existence of that which he perceives; and that this belief is not the effect of reasoning, but the immediate consequence of perception. When philosophers have wearied themselves and their readers with their speculations upon this subject, they can neither strengthen this belief, nor weaken it; nor can they show how it is produced. It puts the philosopher and the peasant upon a level; and neither of them can give any other reason for believing his senses, than that he finds it impossible for him to do otherwise.” Thomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

 

Sadly so sadly as I finish my journal for today this statement is true. We all tend to so strongly believe in our own perceptions we disavow the possibility of any other even when we know it is so. But our perceptions are based only on the experiences previously held and if those are limited by averages as in paragraph above then rather than a “a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life”, as Richard Dawkins so eloquently describes we have just a boring façade that never changes and never goes anywhere. I wish for each of you to exceed the mean and mode of what you presume to be your perceptions and for a day or two try and see more and hear more and do more. As I end my daily sojourn as have for nearly fifteen years now 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

 

 

 

 

 

A dear friend brought up a conversation with a flat earth believer the other day. This person he had been talking with essentially disavowed science in many areas. My son offered is Mars visibly round from a telescope and or for that matter any other visible planet? Interesting and as usual religion can so easily pop into discussion.

 

“I love a people who have always made me welcome to the best that they had. I Love a people who are honest without laws, who have no jails and no poorhouses. I love a people who keep the commandments without having ever read them or heard them preached from the pulpit.” George Catlin (1796-1872), Artist and Chronicler

 

“People only see what they are prepared to see.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I can remember growing up seeing the fascinating prints of George Catlin’s paintings of American Indians throughout the US. Many of his images are all we have of tribes that in later years were decimated through disease and slaughter by white soldiers. Catlin saw a different people than did most. So often we all tend to misuse our perception we see only what we want to see and not what is really there. Perhaps it becomes difficult to tell the difference as we tend to push our own ideas on others.

 

“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.” Richard Dawkins, Evolutionary Biologist

 

This is an interesting outlook from one of the world’s leading biologists. It still becomes how we each see this amazing world. Some will go at life seeing how much they can squeeze from the earth much like an orange being put through a juicer. Others see as Dawkins does “a sumptuous planet sparkling with color”. Many of the authors that reflect on Native thought look at the interconnections and how they are so critical to our continued existence.

 

“I know that our people possessed remarkable powers of concentration and abstraction, and I sometimes fancy that such nearness to nature as I have described keeps the spirit sensitive to impressions not commonly felt, and in touch with unseen powers.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Eastman, Santee Dakota, Medical doctor and author

 

In the movie Wounded Knee, Dr. Eastman is depicted being trained as a physician in the late 1800’s one of the first Indians to go through medical school. Dr. Eastman was the attending physician to the survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre. His views were conflicted by his immersion in the white culture and yet as he grew away from this his writing tried to show the other side, the Indian side. Yesterday I was sitting in my co-teaching class of ninth grade biology we were going over the idea of various forms of evolution. The lead teacher flashed an image on the wall one of an owl sitting in a tree and I listened to the various comments from the group as to what they saw. Ideas varied and often would be more about a color or shape that they were reminded of. It became evident to me that as we talked it became evident that our ideas come primarily from our experiences. Even the teacher of the class being a seasoned teacher with limited experiences was limited in what she was adding to the talk.

 

I saw a duality as I viewed the picture of an owl. Using native thought in which from tribe to tribe owls are viewed differently. My dear friend who is Creek believed owls to be a harbinger of death. Other friends from western tribes see the owl as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. So in my own thinking I see wisdom and fear as parallels running along together never quite touching but also flowing in a symmetrical pattern that ties the two together.

 

“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castaneda

 

Being a fan of Carlos Castaneda even though controversy surrounds his writing I recall several stories in his books of various times when his mentor kept after him to look deeper not just what was presented. He might being seeing an owl sitting on a post but what Don Juan his guide would say would be to look into the owl beyond the owl what is there that is meant for you to understand. As my friend feared owls I came to embrace the calls at night often calling back to the great horned owls that would nearly surround me in the early morning hours calling to each and to me.

 

“All civilization in a sense exists only in the mind. Gunpowder, textile arts, machinery, laws; telephones are not themselves transmitted from man to man or from generation to generation, at least not permanently. It is the perception, the knowledge and understanding of them, their ideas in the Platonic sense, that are passed along. Everything social can have existence only through mentality.” Alfred L. Kroeber, The Superorganic

 

A very deep thought and as I ponder this morning perhaps the novel of a group of young boys marooned on an island comes to mind. All civilized thought seems to pass away and instinctual and survival modes kicked into gear. It is the thinking processes that are passed on. As I watch students in school one comes to school already reading and one is not even ready to read and when you look to the family each child came from you see one where education is a key and the other where it is simply mandated. I was talking with an assistant principal at one of the local high schools yesterday about just this thought. We teachers are often considered the bringers of education, morality, normalcy, commonality and who knows what else when we only have one third of a day for less than two hundred days a year. It is that sixteen hour syndrome of another perception that so often dislodges any sort of attempt at helping a child find a way in life and so often then carries into school especially in older years. In thirteen years of teaching and working with emotional issues at a high school I have yet to find a student who also did not have some sort of contributing factor from home.

 

“There is, perhaps, one universal truth about all forms of human cognition: the ability to deal with knowledge is hugely exceeded by the potential knowledge contained in man’s environment. To cope with this diversity, man’s perception, his memory, and his thought processes early become governed by strategies for protecting his limited capacities from the confusion of overloading. We tend to perceive things schematically, for example, rather than in detail, or we represent a class of diverse things by some sort of averaged “typical instance.” Jerome S. Bruner, Art as a Mode of Knowing

 

As I read again this thought from Bruner it makes more sense we tend to after several experiences establish a mean and mode of experiences and then treat each new experiences based upon the average. Rather than embracing a new experience we simple take it as what has happened previously and soon you find students saying I am bored. We as teachers have not expanded the perceptions of our students to see the details that are presented. In a hurry to teach and get through a specific amount of material in a given time we too form averages and then teach to averages and soon a world full of simply averages exists and there is no longer a bell shaped curve but we are flat lined.

 

“Every man feels that perception gives him an invincible belief of the existence of that which he perceives; and that this belief is not the effect of reasoning, but the immediate consequence of perception. When philosophers have wearied themselves and their readers with their speculations upon this subject, they can neither strengthen this belief, nor weaken it; nor can they show how it is produced. It puts the philosopher and the peasant upon a level; and neither of them can give any other reason for believing his senses, than that he finds it impossible for him to do otherwise.” Thomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

 

Sadly so sadly as I finish my journal for today this statement is true. We all tend to so strongly believe in our own perceptions we disavow the possibility of any other even when we know it is so. But our perceptions are based only on the experiences previously held and if those are limited by averages as in paragraph above then rather than a “a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life”, as Richard Dawkins so eloquently describes we have just a boring façade that never changes and never goes anywhere. I wish for each of you to exceed the mean and mode of what you presume to be your perceptions and for a day or two try and see more and hear more and do more. As I end my daily sojourn as have for nearly fifteen years now 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

 

 

 

Naughty or Nice

Bird Droppings December 22, 2017

Naughty or Nice

 

“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.” William Wordsworth

 

One day when you look back and try and remember what was that act I did or when did I do it, you may not remember but the person to whom that small act of kindness was paid will. I recall a certain visit from Santa Claus as he does every year visiting the family gathering for Christmas Eve. Coincidently a he had with him a letter of sorts more of a naughty and nice list. At the top of the naughty list of course was Uncle Frank along with several other Uncles and my grand niece’s daddy. At the top of the Really Nice list was my granddaughter of course and several grandnieces and a brand new niece in law.

 

Several years back we had our oldest niece come over and with Santa they looked at all the names as I read them to her. She was so excited about two of them. Of course she ran around the room showing everyone. What was so funny was it was her daddy’s name on the naughty list that intrigued her. She knew why exactly, her daddy scolded her a few days before. It is funny the list was a total after thought yet my niece took it home that year. As I sit here thinking back just a day or two and my granddaughter was mad at her daddy and told him he would be on the naughty list.

 

Now I have electronic means of determining naughty or nice. An app on my phone with a simple press of a finger makes some noise and eventually gives a reading. My granddaughter will check every time she comes by and of course it is always reading you are an angel. If only life wee that easy.

 

Every once in a while I will run into to someone in person or on line who had met my father over the years. It has been a number of years since he last spoke publicly, back in the day as my youngest son says. He taught numerous Red Cross courses along with his actually teaching, as a profession in the field of Industrial Safety and Loss Control. Many people mentioned how his Red Cross first aid class saved a life here and there or some interaction with another where he did this or that changed their life. Occasionally when I would mention to him he would remember the event but often it was simply his way of living how he went about the day.

 

One of my favorite stories about my dad is one from South Africa about forty years ago. He was there teaching and lecturing for the Chamber of Mines and one of the senior officers of The Chamber lent his personal driver and car to Dad while he was there. A young black South African, a member of one of South Africa’s many distinct tribes; this young man had come into the city to earn enough money so he could go home and marry. Many young men would leave their homes some for as long as twenty years to earn enough money to go back to their villages and marry. Dad spent eight weeks in South Africa on every trip and on this trip much like others traveling to many of the mines around Johannesburg and in the back country. This young man was always ready always on time and kept Dad on time many times getting him to numerous meetings and functions in this foreign country all in a day.

 

When it was time to head home Dad had really come to like this young man and as he dropped him off at the airport Dad tipped him the remaining South African money he had, about five hundred equivalent US dollars in their currency. He came later to find out that was equivalent to three years of work or so. Dad got a telegram as soon as he got home from his good friend in South Africa asking what my father did to his driver.  As soon as he got back from the airport he quit his job and went back to his tribe. It seems Dad had given him enough money to go home and be married; a seemingly small act of kindness, a tip to this young man changed his life.

 

“Once in a century a man may be ruined or made insufferable by praise. But surely once in a minute something generous dies for want of it.” John Masefeild

 

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

 

Scattered about in our lives are the bits and pieces events we often do not remember but that person to whom we responded kindly or in a way that helped them will remember forever.

 

“The flower of kindness will grow. Maybe not now, but it will someday. And in kind that kindness will flow, for kindness grows in this way.” Robert Allan

 

“Is there any one maxim which ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life? Surely the maxim of loving kindness is such: Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.” Confucius, from the Analects

 

Interesting this statement sounds so familiar it was first written nearly 500 BCE by Confucius in China in his Analects, a series of statements and stories, repeated many times then in other cultures and religions and even prior in words of others.

 

“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” Fredrick W. Faber

 

“If you were busy being kind, before you knew it, you would find you’d soon forget to think ’twas true that someone was unkind to you. If you were busy being glad, and cheering people who are sad, although your heart might ache a bit, you’d soon forget to notice it.” R. Foreman

 

There are far too few cheerleaders in the world although there are days I would say too many, especially with all the drama with the cheerleaders at our high school over the years. At school many times the cheerleaders come by my room, it seems I am the one taking photos at events and Mr. Bird’s wall of fame is a focal point for many students coming to see who has been added. One cheerleader in particular has never once had a frown; she is always excited and happy. She is always saying a good word to friends. I have never seen her gossip or speaking badly of another person and amazing I have never heard a bad word about her. So often in the morning as I observe the hallways her personality is contagious. When she is walking down the hallways with others soon all are laughing.

 

“A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.” Washington Irving

 

“He was so benevolent, so merciful a man that, in his mistaken passion, he would have held an umbrella over a duck in a shower of rain.” Douglas WilliamJerrod

 

“To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.” Samuel Johnson

 

It is seldom that someone will complain about another person being nice to them. Maybe Dr. Seuss’s character the Grinch, but even he fell sway to the little Who, Cindy Loo Who. Kindness can win battles. Kindness can win a war, or prevent a war. Random acts of kindness can provide the catalyst for world change.

 

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.” Mother Theresa

 

“If someone were to pay you $.10 for every kind word you ever spoke and collect $.05 for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?” Nonpareil

 

Many times as I sit and write each morning I wonder if anyone is reading or hearing what is said. Daily I get notes and emails; I know today this word or that word touched someone. How many words need to be spoken or need to be emailed to have world peace? If it is a hundred million let’s start now if it is a hundred billion then again let’s start now. We all know there is a number and we all know one day we will attain that goal. One day maybe I will never have to end Bird Droppings ever again this way but with a Georgia State Patrolmen shot in the line of duty last night after a car chase not today, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts 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

Understanding the symbols of life

Bird Droppings December 21, 2017

Understanding the symbols of life

 

“Symbols express and represent meaning. Meaning helps provide purpose and understanding in the lives of human beings. Indeed to live without symbols is to experience existence far short of its full meaning. Ways of expressing and representing meaning include the symbol systems of mathematics, spoke and writing language and the arts.”

This quote is from a book developed by the Four Winds Development Project – The Sacred Tree (1984) Editors: Phil Lane, Lee Brown, Judy Bopp and Micheal Bopp

For several days I have been pondering this simple paragraph. It has bothered me in more than a spiritual way. What if a human being does not understand symbols? I am sitting thinking in terms of education the inability to move through existence without understanding? I see this as a significant issue in education. We tend to facilitate achievement in a given subject not based on understanding but based on acknowledge of symbols not understood.

I recall a comment from a math teacher as I questioned a certain problem. We do not need them to know why, simply know this equation creates this graph. That was several years ago. Math curriculum and testing has become a joke in many parts of the country. Numbers of failures have increased. I started thinking especially in math. We seem to be at an early age wanting the correct answer and not to know why it is correct. When the math becomes more difficult how is it a student will solve the problem without someone or something (calculator) showing an answer. We are teaching math wrong was my corresponding thought. We need to go back and teach the symbols.

I more often than not find my discussion on a spiritual level more so than on an educational curriculum subject although the bulk of my education has been in curriculum and education. Understanding the symbols is a key component of understanding our existence and place in the world. This applies to reading to art, and to written language. Teach the symbols first when children can understand the symbols they can piece together the parts of the whole. Without the pieces the whole is insignificant. I watch students graduate frustrated because they know little of what has been taught. They have simply been doing the minimum to get to next level and the next and out of school. I watch school systems pushing students along. They are missing the pieces along the way and can never truly see the whole puzzle presented.

So today just a thought for more thought. How do we really teach the symbols. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts as you proceed through this weed and weekend ahead and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Is there topsoil left midst an erosion of soul?

Bird Droppings December 20, 2017

Is there topsoil left midst an erosion of soul?

 

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil

 

“The need for roots,” I saw this idea earlier as I web surfed thinking and pondering this morning or perhaps as I was scrolling through thoughts I had saved over the years along with all of my young herb plants sitting beside me near the window and the concept caught me, to be rooted. Out in the garage I have root stock from several medicinal plants I ordered that I need to get into soil soon along with seeds. In a world where family ties are eroding away faster than we can reconnect we find our roots need topsoil.

 

“There is a longing among the young of my nation to secure for themselves and their people the skills that will provide them with a sense of purpose and worth. They will be our new warriors.” Chief Dan George

 

I have been intrigued with students recently have had little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma if that. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp. I am doing a substantial amount of work with The Foxfire concept and so much of that in its origin is based on roots on history and family. After several years of looking I found a copy of the Red Lake Chronicles, a history of the Red Lake Ojibwa reservation, edited by Dr. Kent Nerburn an author I do enjoy reading and whose focus has been Native Indian Spirituality.

 

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

 

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots, your past or your history but traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep these people going. In a discussion with a young man recently talking about a brother in jail again and sister in trouble maybe separating from roots is necessary at times. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence while nearly polar opposites. I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to their heritage and to traditions; they are not grounded or anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be to escape, to wanting to be away from or distant from as Lawrence advocates.

 

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

 

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead, noted anthropologist

 

Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have been stripped away by our constant boxing up and categorizing. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society. If we go back to talking about society and people and using the analogy I have of plants most plants without roots are parasitic. As I look out at how we have set up our world is this not maybe a good comparison we have set up for parasitism among people.

 

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

 

Many years ago in a tenth grade literature class that would be about 1965, we read at that time a very controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”. You were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried to destroy family and traditions and roots. They have been always stripping away the top soil, laying bare to the hardpan of a man’s soul. But within it all still with some people persistence, vigor, and desire was still there.

 

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

 

This is not just a modern day issue, Confucius raised questions over two thousand years ago and used a simple word to explain, integrity. For Confucius it was the integrity of the home and perhaps this is the key to roots. Solid roots can be found in the integrity of a family and home. Is it possible to look at people and judge there character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family, or by their genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow. Back in the day we used EPD’s to judge the quality or potential quality of a breeding animal. I used to know what that meant but specifically in cattle it is the performance data that has been gathered for generations many times and potential for that animal based on that gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given traits you are looking for.

 

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

 

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I find there are answers. EPD’s work because someone cared enough to check to save the information and data. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of on a daily basis I see in real life. I walked into a local convenience store and noticed a lady standing at the counter I had seen her at the high school arguing to a point of being removed from the school. She was giving the store attendant a hard time and I felt immediately she is not a happy camper. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately I have found. So where do I go in this round about effort especially on as we head into so many various holidays for many.

We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding and often with little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today maybe even a happy holiday greeting. It may be a hug or kind word or ear to listen. But take some time to share to care and 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

 

Can teachers use learning as their pallet?

Bird Droppings December 19, 2017

Can teachers use learning as their pallet?

 

I wrote the basics of this article nearly thirteen years ago and at the time was thinking of an artist friend now a computer programmer who was trying to define her art as well as searching for her own meaning in life. My friend often reflects her political views and emotions through her art. It has been a few years my family had a family game night at the request of one of my nephews and his wife, inviting us all over to play various board games, computer games and eat of course. It seems in all family gatherings eating is an integral part and perhaps a socializing aspect that gets overlooked far too often. Perhaps one day I will write on the socializing aspects of a family get together and the intertwining of food. But a Trivial Pursuit question I did not know the answer to caught my attention. “What Impressionist painter started an art community just prior to committing suicide?”

 

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others” Vincent Van Gogh

 

By chance the answer was Van Gogh. When I first read this I started to think about an ear coming in a box, and how unromantic that is. Perhaps sending body parts while you are alive is an art form. But trying not to be sarcastic, many aspects of our lives could be construed as an art form, such as love, teaching, and caring. Each goes beyond a simple definition. Within each are pieces that you do not learn in class. I am sure if Vincent Van Gogh showed a picture he drew or painted during one of his manic spells, the art teacher would have told him to take art lessons. Today those same paintings are considered classics of impressionism. I am sure Picasso was laughed at, somewhere along the line for drawing women in cube form or simply as a splash of color upon his canvas.
What defines an art form versus simply reality? I would not pay millions to have a Picasso or Van Gogh even if I had the money lying around. Perhaps for me I would prefer to see and experience rather than to own. It seems those who pay millions are often more about the publicity than the art.

 

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.” William Faulkner

 

Defining the moment in words, paint or sculpture, perhaps even a bit of broken glass is art. I saw a in a tiny chapel outside Atlanta stained glass windows many years ago created by a renowned artist, an elderly Trappist monk from Conyers. This was his last work at the age of ninety two. The brilliant abstracts in the windows were in reds and purple depicting the Christian sacraments. The windows were literally alive as you sat in the chapel bathed in the brilliant light from the windows.

“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.” Henry James

 

I was thinking about Faulkner’s idea of art. How we can take a piece of life and preserve it. Artists are in many ways taxidermists each working within their own medium so to speak. Is love simply that special moment carried further as a reminder of what once was? Could teaching simply be a passing of pieces of reality to another who will have those pieces at some point in time? Even in the painting of Van Gogh is his art just the capturing of an image. Interesting how we do so easily now with digital cameras, scanners and computers. Even in my own photography playing with color and movement as I capture images.

 

“Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.” James Joyce

 

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” John F. Kennedy

“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” Henri Matisse

 

Nearly four years ago last night Mel Brooks was honored at the Kennedy Art Center for his contributions. I found myself drawn to these writers’ quotes today especially as I read this statement by Henry Matisse. There is a secret hidden within Matisse’s words, for all forms of art. We are so often limited by our history and previous experiences, be it love or an art form, for Matisse then each love, each new piece of art should be new. Each should be special. It is in trying to categorize and synthesize that we lose the true essence and aspect of love, and of art. When we try to define and label the box of love do we lose pieces as we can in art? Teaching is in a very similar situation. Far too often teachers try and teach each lesson as they taught the last. First you have to forget all the classes that were ever taught, a difficult task for any teacher.

 

“If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.” Grandma Moses

 

“Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colors.” Pablo Picasso

 

It has been nearly ten years ago that a student brought in several dozen photos she and her sister had taken of each other. One of the photos caught my eye. Neither of the girls saw any significance as do very few others when I see things in photos. But for me that one photo caught the personality of the student and I put it on my wall in my class room. That is art for me. Recently one of the sisters came by to visit and noticed the picture was still there and how much that meant to her. Where and how does it become art for everyone? How does teaching become energized to a point that it is art?
It has been some time since I wrote a rather long email to a dear friend who is a pastor in Pennsylvania. I used the word empathy several times. An artist in whatever medium they choose has to have empathy. A pastor is an artist dealing with the spirituality of parishioners and so much more. As I researched art many paradoxes seemed to crop up even within the definition.

 

“A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.” “A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer. “ Dictionaery.com

 

Art is nonscientific yet it is also very specific in other ways. I find art perhaps more scientific than science. It is interesting in art we attach theory to reality and in science we try to attach reality to theory. Teaching in and of itself is taking reality and attaching theory to it. We have a block of information that by various means we have to interpret to a student and hopefully they will come close to what we are actually trying to teach. For several days I have been discussing or mentioning symbols and recognition of symbols as how we understand our reality. It is through symbols we convey information about reality.

 

“To impart knowledge” Dictionary.com

 

“Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. An artist recreates those aspects of reality which represent his fundamental view of man’s nature.” Ayn Rand

 

I was thinking back several years to a teacher searching the closet for teacher’s manuals and transparencies to teach a subject they had taught for forty years. I was a bit taken back. How do you teach a subject for forty years and now get stressed over a manual and transparencies. You should know the material and it should not be the exact same for every class. The delivering of the material is the key issue here. I was curious as I watched and observed the mounting stress for this teacher as no teacher’s manual and transparencies could be found. Fortunately for the students their regular teacher made it back in time.

 

“There has to be one how did anyone teach this class before me.” A former teacher

 

That same week I watched a teacher take the same subject and walk into class dressed as a knight, maybe it was a goat herder, with literally a virtual reality game. This was in a history class and it came alive. The teacher divided the room and each team was given various attributes such as being near water, having fertile soil, possessing seeds or goats etc. One group was given a gold mine and nothing else. There was a bit of reflection and a bit of thinking for the students. Then the essential question was asked, how are you going to develop your civilization? I am curious which group learned more about the start of world civilization, from the forty year experienced teacher or the lowly goat herder. Art is an interpretation. In teaching we often interpret ideas and events. It is also providing the opportunity for the student to interpret and learn from that thinking process.

 

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Augusto Rodin

 

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about. He’s not interested in how things look different in moonlight.” Jahal-Uddin Rumi

 

“Not even the visionary or mystical experience ever lasts very long. It is for art to capture that experience, to offer it to, in the case of literature, its readers; to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.” Salman Rushdie

 

We each can be artists in our own field, and perhaps empathy is the key. It is being able to reach that inner spark in others so they can feel what you feel what you see and hear and understand what it was that inspired you.

 

“Great art is never produced for its own sake. It is too difficult to be worth the effort.” George Bernard Shaw

 

“What distinguishes a great artist from a weak one is first their sensibility and tenderness; second, their imagination, and third, their industry.” John Ruskin

 

Ruskin has perhaps defined what constitutes a great artist, be it in whatever medium used, or whatever pallet you choose. I wish we could as easily declare peace throughout the world. I wonder if we can bottle and sell empathy then maybe peace could be a reality. I worked a bit in my herb garden yesterday trimming dead branches and stems. I had been watching the sky and the afternoon sun setting. I was listening to the quiet of my back yard walking about this was very soothing. I wonder can growing herbs be considered an art form? 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

It is the small pieces that seriously matter

Bird Droppings December 18, 2017

It is the small pieces that seriously matter

 

“Until you can clearly see each piece of the puzzle you will never be able to understand the whole.” Frank Bird, grandfather, teacher and ponderer

 

I am sitting here on my computer writing while many of my friends are awaiting the last day of school Thursday, before the Christmas holiday. Between Georgia is a long way from my birth place and even where I spent most of my youth in Pennsylvania. I have traveled many pathways, spiritually, educationally, emotionally and physically as I journeyed. It has been many years since a vision of a jig saw puzzle woke me from my sleep. Over the years I have used that image of puzzle pieces and a while puzzle in explaining life and its intricacies. My son added to my collection of ideas along the way nearly seventeen years ago with a line from an Aerosmith song.

 

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

 

I went outside to get a few shots of a sunrise and battling a runny nosw the fog and dreariness was a bit much. So actually looking to past years for a sunrise image today.

 

As I drove about for a few minutes several ideas kept hitting me in the head and with my runny nose right now that hurts. Literally every day I hear from a person and that could be  a former student, a total stranger who read something I have written, a friend I have not seen in fifty years, maybe a member of a group I am in on Facebook, a cohort member from graduate school offering a thank you for a thought I shared or idea given. It is not about major successes but the small ones, one at a time, the pieces that often float by unnoticed. I shared a little book with a friend who is retiring today. The Sacred Tree, written by a group of indigenous educators who wanted to help native youth regain the spiritual essence of their culture.

 

I find as I listed my somewhat ambiguous titles with the quote above grandfather first and at first that seemed just the right thing to do. As I sat back and pondered as I tend to do often it became the not only right thing but job one. It is we elders who provide wisdom and understanding even if in small ways to those who come after. In today’s hectic and helter-skelter world moments get lost just like pieces to the puzzle.

 

So today as I do every day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and all give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

Frank Bird, grandfather, teacher and ponderer

Should children be left behind?

Bird Droppings December 17, 2017

Should children be left behind?

 

           

“I believe that our own experience instructs us that the secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained, and he only holds the key to his own secret. By your tampering and thwarting and too much governing he may be hindered from his end and kept out of his own. Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of nature. Nature loves analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude. But I hear the outcry which replies to this suggestion: – Would you verily throw up the reins of public and private discipline; would you leave the young child to the mad career of his own passions and whimsies, and call this anarchy a respect for the child’s nature? I answer, – Respect the child, and respect him to the end, but also respect yourself. Be the companion of his thought, the friend of his friendship, the lover of his virtue, – but no kinsman of his sin. Let him find          you so true to yourself that you are the irreconcilable hater of his vice and the        imperturbable slighter of his trifling.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago one of my heroes Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke about his idea of education and fortunately for me he wrote it down. Over the last twelve years I have been directly involved in an educational program, Foxfire, which is based around John Dewey’s ideas on education. I was talking last Friday just over lunch with a fellow teacher and a local representative from PAGE, Professional Association of Georgia Educators, about education of all things. We discussed the idea of teaching top down as we in Georgia are being directed to do with new national common core standards. Here is where we are going and now how do we get there? That is more of real questions than why did you not get where you are supposed to be? Interestingly enough this first statement is what Emerson and Dewey were talking about. As we talked I mentioned Foxfire and how it was in effect how good teachers teach without even knowing. Really it is not something new and outlandish it is just putting a name on good teaching habits and providing a frame work of ten core practices to work with.

 

Coincidently my friend who was involved in the discussion had retrieved from the discard book cart some old Foxfire books. Periodically our media center discards old and or tattered books for teachers to get first crack at before throwing out. It seems that I have built a library on discarded books. My friend had salvaged four old Foxfire books from the cart earlier in the day.

 

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. I believe that the school must represent present life-life as real and vital   to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground. I believe that education which does not occur through forms of life, or that are worth living for their own sake, is always a poor substitute for the genuine reality and tends to cramp and to deaden. I believe that the school, as an institution, should simplify existing social life; should reduce it, as it were, to an embryonic form. Existing life is so complex that the child cannot be brought into contact with it without either confusion or distraction; he is either overwhelmed by the multiplicity of activities which are going on, so that he loses his own power of orderly reaction, or he is so stimulated by these various activities that his powers are prematurely called into play and he becomes either unduly specialized or else disintegrated.” John Dewey

 

Learning is not a time limited, space limited, and or school building limited activity as many teachers think. It is not tied to a specific curriculum and text. Real learning is alive, ongoing, continuous, actively participatory and an integral part of societal involvement. As I looked at the Foxfire core practices it becomes apparent these are good teacher practices, these are good life practices, and this is where learning can truly occur.

 

1 • From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.

2 • The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.

3 • The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.

4 • The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.

5 • Active learning characterizes classroom activities.

6 • The learning process entails imagination and creativity.

7 • Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.

8 • The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.

9 • The work teachers and learners do together includes rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.

10 • Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.

Foxfire fund Inc.

 

 

What intrigued me from my first involvement with Foxfire was how even the approach to learning our school system is using which is called Learning Focused Schools is within these eleven principles. This past summer in my research I found most good and great educational ideas actually incorporate or parallel these simple practices. Literally hundreds of good teachers in actual practice helped develop this concept over a long period of time. Emerson and Dewey were thinking along the same lines long before most of us were born. This is not a new fad it is simply good teaching. It is interesting, I recall long before I read Dewey or Emerson and or anything about Foxfire which was little more than a mountain word for a glowing fungus on a hillside. I have been in graduate education classes learning from teachers who taught in this manner, and have watched students learning as they were involved in this approach to education. So why is it so hard to get across to teachers of today? Could it be because it takes more work from the teachers to implement? You will see the word rigorous in Foxfire quite a bit and it is. But good teaching is rigorous. It is dynamic not static.

 

As I am working on my dissertation and researching about The Foxfire Approach to teaching I find teachers telling me they prefer to teach in this manner but often are criticized by peers and administration for not following curriculum maps and guides. An article in NEA’s weekly newsletter pointed to how so many new teachers are coming into the ranks with little or no true training in education and often a point and click mentality is all they have. They are bodies filling a space and pushing kids through. I have met several great teachers who have come through alternative approaches to teacher training, myself sort of although I did have a minor and major in education along the way I just never student taught. I switched my major to psychology along the way at the last minute to avoid taking a foreign language which was required for education majors at Mercer University in 1974.

 

I would suggest we need to instead of more new curriculums instill more adrenaline in teachers. Perhaps we could install a super energy drink machine outside of each teacher’s classroom and just prior to starting class require every teacher to get a caffeine jolt. Energy can be a very powerful thing in so many ways especially when it involves the passion for teaching. I have wandered and pondered enough for one day and will get off of my soap box for today but please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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