A morning meandering while the moon is glowing

Bird Droppings February 28, 2018
A morning meandering while the moon is glowing

Later today I will be tutoring a student trying to get caught up and return to public school. My first thing this morning was reading through several old emails from my doctorate and graduate cohort friends as some are defending their dissertations in the coming weeks. In another set of emails based on an article on teaching memory that was reviewed by several teachers there were several comments on how these particular readings provided insight into successful educational adaptation of this program. I found I actually had enjoyed the readings and it made me recall a teaching principle I learned in from my father who used it in the steel industry many years ago and I actually was taught this concept in a Red Cross course for instructors in 1968. It is called the FIDO principle, hence Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over again. If you repeat something, often enough it will sink in. Granted in today’s educational system of teaching to the test we might be using FIDO a bit too much.

“I believe that the school is primarily a social institution. Education being a social process, the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own powers for social ends. I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed, The School Journal, Vol. LIV, No.

I look at John Dewey’s ideas from nearly a hundred years ago and how we still call those ideas progressive education it amazes me. With all of the educational materials out now, many are only a few years old they are still called traditional when comparing to Dewey. One of our topics was looking at performance versus social support. I am of course leaning in the social support direction as this is an integral part of my day when I am teaching even with general education students. This is how I see kids and deal with kids. I go back to my idea in one of the postings I read earlier today of getting away from a swing of the pendulum and going in the direction of a pulse, no swing either way but a steady beat or energy.
We should try and steer away from that concept of right or left swing and go towards what is best for the kid not always for the society. I have worked with a large number of kids from a certain low income housing area nearby. Many are very bright and all are very poor. The sixteen hour syndrome as I call it is alive and well in that area. As I go by often several times a day between my mother’s house and my own, I see kids I have had and often new ones but always similarities.

As I look back at the last twelve years of teaching EBD students I have had more kids from that one spot in the county than any other specific spot. Sadly in actuality many are marrying within that small community. There are more kids being born, coming from that environment. Many are on the fringe of society. Many of the kids are anarchists, punkers, suffering from divergent behaviors, drug addicts, alcoholics, and few if any have jobs. I wondered why as I drove by thinking of past kids from this enclave. Several are serving serious hard time; some have escaped and moved away, many will be going to our newest high school down the road next year. I wonder if anyone in that community was approached about their participation in the greater good.

Interesting as I am having a difficult time getting started this morning wandering off a bit as if I had just driven by that community. I am always trying to stay up with youngest son thinking back I recall a day he decided to do a Godzilla marathon of the old Godzilla movies. I did not make it through the first one. When I got up the next morning the video was still on and he crashed somewhere after five this morning watching the twenty eighth movie featuring the man in a monster suit. He just found the latest installment which features every major other monster and a walk on by the computer generated Godzilla. I often wonder if there is a hidden meaning to Godzilla the powerful beast who always eventually has a weakness. Sort of the David and Goliath of nature and humanity, and my youngest of course came to the rescue offering that the original concept of the monster was an antinuclear effort.

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Van der Post

For many years I have been intrigued by this man whom I had not heard of prior to finding a quote several years ago and yet he has written literally hundreds of books and articles on Africa and numerous other countries. He was raised by an African Bushman woman and taught their ways and his philosophy of life. His writings are permeated with nature and the thoughts and aspirations of this primitive people. Van der Post was knighted by the Queen many years ago and actually is the Godfather to Prince William. He is the only non-royal to have ever been given that honor.

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennett

“What is to give light must endure the burning.” Victor E, Frankl

As I sit this morning so often it is conversations and happenings of yesterday that drive the thoughts that inspire me as I write. Yesterday I was talking with some friends of where they had been and where they were going, adversity is a good word as we spoke. It is about looking the lion in the mouth and walking away knowing you have survived. Only a few days ago I was talking with a former student. She was a graduate of a respected associates program and was floored at one point by her rejection at a four year school. She had gone to the two year program on a full athletic scholarship and suffered grade wise in order to play on a nationally ranked junior college team. As time to graduate came close she had to quit softball and actually lost her scholarship in order to raise her grades and put more time into studying. She had conquered her adversary and now was trying to move on. She was after graduating with a four year degree in business still working as a waitress but just a few days prior to our talking had been interviewed and got a job she had been dreaming about.

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” Maori Proverb, the Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand.

“Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.” Laurens Van der Post

“The chief condition on which, life, health and vigor depends on, is action. It is by action that an organism develops its faculties, increases its energy, and attains the fulfillment of its destiny.” Colin Powell

Overcoming adversity begins with action, with a step forward, with realizing shadows are cast by light with knowing that growth comes from effort. It is difficult to cross a stream if you never take the first step. In borrowing from the Zen teachings “You can never cross a stream the same way twice”. I was sitting here remembering old stories and thoughts in the past we would hike up a stream in north Georgia the Toccoa Creek and in that hike transverse about 500 feet up hill over rocks and boulders and such climbing up the creek. In the process of course water is continually flowing against you and depending on the rainfall it could be a good bit. Cracks and crevices abound and more than several times you actually swim in rock channels ten feet deep and eighteen inches wide all uphill but at the top is a water fall.

“The view at the top is always worth the climb” Sir Edmond Hillary

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

Wet and dreary as I ponder educational genocide and or NCLB, norming children, only leaves the best

Bird Droppings February 27, 2018

Wet and dreary as I ponder educational genocide

and or NCLB, norming children, only leaves the best

 

I was huddled in my blanket as I went outside to sit and think a bit earlier granted I was barefooted. The air was still except for some dripping still from yesterday’s rain dripping from the branches and pine needles rustling with the breeze. All in all it was so very quiet this chilly wet morning even our dog was silent this morning sitting on the porch waiting for me to let him back in while I was there staring at the sky thinking. It might have been too damp and dank for our dog to bark and yap as he does most mornings.

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Sitting Bull

A good friend once emailed about a conference he was going to hold in Georgia. It is funny how ideas often co-mingle in the cosmos. At that same time I had a mother and co-teacher needing help with a son and she had been finding answers in my friend’s books. Along with that several students I was working with at the time needed assistance. But as I read this note from the great holy man and war leader of the Sioux nation so many years ago I was intrigued. Sitting Bull wasn’t looking at the now he was looking ahead, “What life we can make for our children”. His own was cut short as he held his grand child’s hand. Legend has it as the Native American marshals were arresting him for instigating a ghost dance ritual they thought he was going for a weapon and shot him. As the story goes his grandchild dropped a toy and he was picking it up it was not a gun.

“I do not wish to be shut up in a corral. All agency Indians I have seen are worthless. They are neither red warriors nor white farmers. They are neither wolf nor dog.” Sitting Bull

It was many years later that Kent Nerburn wrote a book borrowing from this comment entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog. The book was the editing and recording of the words of an elderly Sioux man who felt the need to relate the Indian view of reality and life for others to read.

In recent days as End of Course tests and Graduation tests results have been published and passed out and as I deal with children who have issues we tend to look at test results based on norms. As it is I love bell shaped curves sarcastically, we want everyone to fit in this percentile or that. But the interesting thing about a bell shaped curve everyone does not fit in on both sides there are extremes and legislative fiascos or endeavors such as No Child Left Behind do not allow for that 12.5% on each end who are on the extremes of the curves, that is twenty five per cent of the population. There is no magical cut off point. This child is in and this child is out yet we have imposed these boundaries through legislation.

We have stripped away individualism and seek to make all children equal and fit in the same mold, and the same parameters. Recently I saw an entrance requirement for a class in vocational studies requiring a certain level of math. Many students who could have benefited are now out. The funny thing I believe it was back in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s when specific requirements for existence be it hair color and skin color became issues for international debate and war and history and yet we now are instituting educational cleansing by weeding out children who cannot pass tests and or be accepted in a charter school.

I know a student now a mother and in the work force who five times when taking the end of course test in science missed passing by a total of ten points combined and several of those times by only a point. By chance I read graduation tests for some special education students and for instance question seventy on the test used a few summers back was of a nature no answer was correct technically. The answer was essentially to be a logic oriented response yet hidden within was an answer that in actuality was correct but only if students watched a Disney movie on Desert Life made in 1963 they would know the real answer. Semantics played in and what is so sad the question was probably worded wrong. I questioned the testing board and the question is not out there anymore. But what if that was one of the questions the little girl missed who missed five times what if she failed to graduate because of a faulty question no one caught five times? We have normed out of the parameters so many children.

In recent months I have watched students withdraw because of tests or because of standards. I have watched select students get credit and others not for the very same issues. Perhaps we are practicing educational genocide maybe somewhere there is a conspiracy to eliminate from the gene pool students who cannot pass this test or that one. A school I have great faith in has dropped its undergraduate special education major. With current laws for highly qualified most special education teachers are being delegated to assisting regular education teachers. We are setting aside disabilities and or assuming they are not there and working on deficits only, the symptoms. It is funny how it may be the disability that caused the deficit, albeit educational genocide. Sitting here playing with NCLB, Norming, Children, Leaves the Best, what a society we have.

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing” Chief Joseph

It has been a few months since I last listened to critiques unfold of recent test results and listened to teachers criticized for low test results it is sad that we put so much emphasis on a paper and pencil operation. Today FEDEX was on the news for losing an entire high schools ACT test protocols. The students have to retake and many have missed early admission deadline as a result. Teachers are facing many of the same situations Native Americans faced hundreds of years ago be it treaties, or laws and many are literally meaningless. We won’t and don’t use test results and yet teachers are being called to attention and only the test is taken into account the demographics of a group of students is only looked at after publicly posted test results are out.

“It does not require many words to speak the truth” Chief Joseph

It did not take long for the great chief of the Nez Perce to understand and realize talk from Washington was often meaningless and only fulfilling for those that initiated the talk generally those in Washington and or their friends. In 1974 we passed laws to allow for mandatory education for all children and now we are saying all children should be educated exactly the same and all children should pass the same tests and all children will be the same by 2014. Georgia now has received a waiver based on proposed educational evaluations that will still be done but of a differing nature.

“You might as well expect rivers to run backwards as for any man who is born free to be penned up” Chief Joseph

For most today this may be meaningless gibberish as I wander in my thinking today. I recall my first visit to a residential treatment facility in 1969 or so. Of that I recall the smell first, then the hollow gaze of residents who had lived their lives in isolation and away from normal society. It was several years later I did another internship this time from a spiritual aspect as part of my seminary experience in 1974 and 1975 again at a residential facility and while in another state the smell and gaze were the same. It has been many years since big cats were at the Atlanta Zoo and back in the day, The Cat House as it was called, held numerous species of large cats from around the world and all had a gaze about them as they paced steel cages staring off into the distance. I wonder as we commit educational genocide are we pushing back to days gone by in the name of progress taking us back to 1974 and before when we only took children who would be able to pass tests and allow them into schools and programs. I truly wonder sometimes. 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 find a window can be a chore if you do not know where to look

Bird Droppings February 26, 2018
Trying to find a window can be a chore if you do not know where to look

 

I woke up very early today as our dog was barking to go out. I walked out on my back porch only to catch a glimpse of the rain falling along the tree line; a light drizzle was slipping in below the trees. It was just a coincidence that my dog wanted out exactly as rain subsided a bit and dashed out of sight in the back yard. I tend to view life as a series of interactions each interdependent upon the next and each interwoven with the previous. A good friend and I often through discuss Carl Jung and synchronicity. Those interwoven pieces of life that intertwine all that is and seem to be so “connected” and keep us all in place.

 

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

As I meet people and try to understand where and why about each one I find so often many who are still seeking to understand themselves not clearly knowing who or where they are in relationship to all else about them. This is not to say I am searching for who I am daily.

 

“A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.” Albert Einstein

 

I was talking with a group of students working on projects for their class on learning how to teach a few months back. They worked with a preschool class, each high school student works with a four year old on words, colors and all sorts of fun things. We were talking and a former student of mine came to mind. It has been nearly forty five years since I took a picture of this child. He was about five years old and severely autistic. He was nonverbal and spent much of his time simply staring ahead. On a spring day much like yesterday he was looking out the window of the school which was in an old house in Paoli Pennsylvania in 1970. I went out the back door with my camera ran around the front to his window and took a picture. He had his nose pressed up to the window staring out. I often wondered what he was seeing as he stared straight ahead. Over the years as I look at that picture I find myself thinking he was trying to find a window. Even as he looked out the window he was still searching for a window that he could see through.

 

“I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I watched him as he approached the window, it was not the view he wanted but the temperature, the coolness of the pane of glass against his cheek. I was seeing a window and he was feeling a moist pane of cool glass. I was pulling out various books and ideas as I talked to this group of students who worked with little students a few days ago. I shared author Shel Silverstein and a copy of The Giving Tree with CD, and also William Stieg and CDB a whimsical word puzzle(CDB – see the bee), and as I looked and thought many memories flooded back. Of working with children who probably still do not speak. Of searching for my own windows through in my life and occasionally only feeling the cool glass pane

 

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

 

As I think back over my discussion a few days ago with these teachers to be we started talking about people we would like to meet. Somewhere in an internet profile or such I wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, I added Gandhi the other day as we spoke. Most of the students were choosing contemporaries and most were celebrities. I thought over the years how our views change. For youngsters trying to find a window can be a chore not knowing where to look or maybe not even being tall enough to see out once there. As we get older the rules change we know where to look but have we drawn the blinds. We are tall enough to look out but do we really want to? Or are we content to simply press our nose to the glass and feel the coolness, never even attempting to see what lies beyond. It is a clear morning finally, although it is cold as stars fill the sky and a slight wind is blowing through the pine needles. A new day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

What is a students desire for freedom?

Bird Droppings February 24, 2018
What is a students desire for freedom?

 

“Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom and dignity. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed, merely to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. Human nature needs to breathe the precious air of liberty.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 

In life as I look back humans also while seeking freedom also seem to have an urge to subjugate others as well. When I was riding down to Emory University’s Oxford campus a quite a few years back to drop my youngest son off for a summer workshop we were talking about people who need to feel in control, in power, to be in charge. So often people take teaching jobs subconsciously for that reason I have found over the years as I observe teachers. In talking with my wife about the same topic she was looking from a medical stand point and as I so often do, looking from a psychological view.
We each in our own way see the idea of freedom perhaps in differing lights and lenses. While attending a wedding shower recently in a subdivision in another part of the local community I was definitely not a free person. In my existence I tend to be somewhat monastic picking and choosing times to be social and spending much of my day by myself reading, writing, and pondering uninterrupted by the where and whys of social interaction.

 

However last night watching a rerun of House and a blogger who laid her life out in minute detail in her blog while living in somewhat isolation communicated and interacted on a level that was in many psychological terms very social. At this shower I was lost in a crowd of people that I did not know or really care to be among and eventually walked outside after sitting for nearly an hour and a half talking to my cousin who was the father of the groom to be. But as I look at my first paragraph I had no control of the situation.
Does this apply to learning and education most assuredly as we place children so often in places where they have no control and they have few if any liberties? Often the response is one of flight or of negative behavior as we define the norm and allow only what we as teachers deem appropriate. Freedom is just another word was the song from the early 1970’s and mid 1960’s written by Kris Kristofferson. Working with children who have Emotional problems and whose affect is impacted for whatever reason has me looking at the kids I work with differently than most teachers may even attempt.
But in my own research the past few months I found that in the early 1950’s a group of educational psychologists came up with several learning domains. One of these aspects or domains is the affective domain.

 

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

 

These are the five areas of that domain outlined above, so what does an affective domain have to do with freedom? What do bossy people have to do with either? Literally we set ourselves up for failure so often in life. Internally a desire for liberty confounded by structure in societal entities, school, work, social organizations and such where we are told what to do by a teacher, boss or president. So many years ago I recall listening to someone discussing business and management back in the day my son would say. I had dinner with my father and the great management guru Peter Drucker at a management meeting in Chicago.

 

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” Peter Drucker

 

As I read the great business author Peter Drucker’s thought and pondered how often is teaching much the same. I reworded the statement a bit with, could it be then that so much of what we call teaching consists in making it difficult for students to learn. But it was later when discussing that this thought I remembered another quote from a book my father wrote a number of years ago.

 

“It is not about telling workers (students) what to do, it is about asking them to do it and further if they believe it is their idea and they take ownership of that idea far more will be accomplished” Frank E. Bird Jr., Practical Loss Control Management

 

In educational research students having empowerment and ownership increases significantly the level to which they will achieve. I have seen this premise work in industry many times as workers take ownership of an idea and turn a company around in safety programs. I have seen students who have input in a classroom light up and move forward so much more so than when manacled by a dictator like teacher. In my own research and studies as I work on my dissertation in The Foxfire Approach to teaching the number one Core Practice states the following.

 

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

 

As I have been involved directly or indirectly now for nearly forty five years in training and teaching when a learner be it adult or child has ownership of the idea so much more is accomplished. Work goes from tedious to enjoyable. Success becomes the norm rather than failure. As teachers how do we give ownership to students of material such as Algebra or US History? How can we take student ideas and intertwine with mandated curriculum? These are not simple questions and there are not simple answers. It does take effort and work and often not being totally in control to allow this to happen and to flow.
As I thought a bit more I wonder if by accepting an inherent desire to be free as stated by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Vinson’s idea of an affective domain and building upon that we might just end up have successful students and workers. Imagine if we could build upon this in schools and improve schools because kids want to and not because of federal standards and demands. This concept is essentially the premise behind democracy in the classroom and much of John Dewey’s work on education and democracy in our own country. Every major politician is now for or against specific policies and each has a differing reason but I find it still necessary to end as I have now for nearly fifteen years. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. For so many years as I look back and each day find in harm’s way goes so far beyond the wars and tribulations of man. Several friends have battled cancer and won and as I look even at within my own family over the past few years the emotions and heart wrenching in harm’s way is a rather broad term. We need to be looking behind each corner and searching our hearts and keep as humans uplifting rather than tearing each other down. The potential for man is so great but we continually allow ourselves to be sucked into the vacuums of greed and denial. How do we rise up and offer a hand? How do we become a nation of people rather than of profit? It takes understanding and it takes as Dr. Vinson offers we need to be in the affective domain.

 

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

 

So another week ahead and I sit pondering what might I bring to the table today as a teacher. Hopefully something that will impact students in a positive way and I close as I have for nearly fifteen years please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Getting over the speed bumps

Bird Droppings February 23, 2018
Getting over the speed bumps

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” Hannah More

Perhaps ahead of her time Ms. More wrote in abundance in the later 1700’s and early 1800’s. She was writing in a time when women should have been sitting at home according to customs of the time. She had her goals and she daily strived to achieve them, and several middle and high schools around the country still bear her name. When I am driving about the countryside I think back to days gone when the wonderful speed bump was purely a southern thing sadly they are now used across the country. Often we are taken by surprise upon approaching a stop sign or cross walk and even sometimes some grocery stores will mark pedestrian walk ways with those wonderful often unseen obstacles. They are put there to slow us down in our hectic lives.

When Hanna More wrote that line however speed bumps were many years ahead and she was looking more at life metaphorically. We tend to as we journey in life to become complacent and begin to slack and it is at those times when obstacles become frightful. I used to drive into Atlanta on a regular basis to take things to my son at Georgia Tech before he graduated. There is a stretch on North Avenue where you literally look down the hill and of course look up. When in a lazier mood it is fun to see how fast you can coast down and then see how far up the other side you can go without using the gas petal. Obviously hoping all the red lights are green through your free fall and ascent of the hill.

By chance several months ago when down town going to Piedmont Park I was thinking how hard it must be to walk up and down that hill. Even in a car as you begin up the hill after the momentum wears off you have to increase the pressure on the accelerator. Life is very much the same way and living can appear more difficult when we lose focus and become bewildered. I was thinking about learning and education as well which I in my earlier days I would wander aimlessly for semesters at a time losing focus, beyond staying out of the draft college had little other meaning for me at the time. I floundered around for several years.

Today in teaching I stress context as well as content which give meaning to the learning to my students.

“It is not so important to know everything as to know the exact value of everything, to appreciate what we learn, and to arrange what we know.” Hannah More

Ms. More was perhaps more methodical than I am and even her contemporaries claimed she was a Methodist. Methodist was the word used to describe John Wesley, founder of The Methodist Church and his friends because they were methodical in their teachings and beliefs. At that time the word Methodist which for The Anglicans, the Church of England, was sometimes a dirty word or one of jest depending on who they were referring too.
But this second quote knowing the value of everything, and appreciating what we learn it is giving that learning context, meaning, and substance. This is what true education should be about and better yet when we do as parents and teachers provide context so that learning lifts us over obstacles and carries through our lives. It is that extra pressure on the accelerator we need to climb all the hills on North Avenue that we have in life. Please my friends provide context and content and keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds as we go out and about our business today and always give thanks namaste. Peace!

 

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

I was listening to the stillness of a morning, the sunrise, and or sometimes we need a window and not a mirror.

Bird Droppings February 22, 2018
I was listening to the stillness of a morning, the sunrise, and or
sometimes we need a window and not a mirror.

 

 

I was sitting alone this morning as I do often, trying to get a few photos of the sunrise. Today it was mostly cloud cover and little else. The ambient temperature is almost warm enough for tree frogs and peepers to be calling. There may have been some morning sounds down in the bottoms along the stream or towards the field. The air was not moving save for a single car leaving our subdivision early this morning. Our dog would come by periodically as he prowls the back yard searching for signs of voles his new nemesis and my most hated adversary. Seems voles like plant roots and one has found its way to my herb garden and I have lost several plants already. Fortunately our huskie has some hunting instinct left and he caught the culprit.

 

I was thinking as I sat meditating some might say letting my mind float listening to the stillness. When I came home yesterday and walked around the back yard the previous cold is keeping any new flowers from poking up. However I saw my first robin of this year so who knows maybe spring is near. My rosemary hopefully will survive the cold and daffodils are starting to poke through. Hopefully it will be just a few weeks from now that our azaleas will start in and color will surround our home.

 

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” Henry David Thoreau

 

Sometimes we do not look and listen carefully enough and miss pieces of what is so close. It was last year a baby anole most people call them chameleons which is a little green or brown lizard we find on shrubs and around the house was on our porch about two inches long it nearly escaped observation. His bigger father greets visitors as they come onto our porch at about six inches long he usually sits on the door post in the later afternoon sun weather permitting. But I mentioned listening today I was sitting and talking with a student last week before break listening and arguing till something hit me. My student was seeing a different world than I was and beliefs and understandings were different. I was explaining from my own perspective and he was trying to assimilate into another world. A comment was made and my student’s response was not of a teenager but of a small child which is so difficult to explain. A comment was made and as I listened a light bulb went off I was using terminology and understanding that was in a different galaxy compared to what he had experienced in life. This was not about intelligence and or ability but beliefs, experiences, understandings and perceptions.

 

“If all I was seeing was a sunrise I would have missed the intricacies of the clouds.” Frank Bird grandfather, teacher, photographer, and ponderer

 

In working with modern day high school students conversation often consists of daily one up man ship and listening to the constant chatter about who has what phone, purse and or what shoes. I was finishing up testing before our pep rally and a group of students in my room asked Mr. Bird do you have Facebook and I responded of course.  One of the students a cocky young fellow was commenting about all of his pictures and how he had probably more than anybody on Facebook. I quickly one upped and said I would say I have more albums than you do pictures. His response was you do not have more pictures of yourself than me I have 982. As I thought about one upping again I said no you do beat me in that I have pictures of other people not me. He went on to how he was a model and clothes he wears and hair stylist and failed the test not of class work but humanity.

 

So I thought about our self-focusing young man and how is that impacting the reality we have. My wife and I went out for lunch a few days back using a gift card given to us by our son and daughter in law. While we talked I shared my little photo discussion and how it made me think. My wife mentioned a news story from the day of a teenage girl who somehow took a selfie with a dead body. Our conversation drifted to teaching and classes we both teach college and a comment about class size and state funding. I went to school all through school with thirty or more in classes. That is not a good thing but we made it. I was thinking of a student teacher at our high school talking with his instructor in the staff copy room when I walked in and pieces of conversation I overheard. It hit me how many educators of educators have been in a sterile environment in academe and today’s class room is radically different than even five years ago. When I first started back teaching nearly seventeen years ago I did not have iPhone to contend with and notebooks to teach from instead of books.

 

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.” Henry David Thoreau

 

“Conversation was never begun at once, nor in a hurried manner. No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

I began to listen to the stillness when no talking was occurring just observing my student thinking about a word I may have said, imagination. What if we have a limit to our imagination? What if you were much like a tape recorder and could only imagine what you had taken in? Most of us do this anyhow with a bit of whimsy we can alter and add to and delete from and create anew. So this is a big what if, you could not add to and delete from only use what you had on tape. I recall reading a book, Thinking in Pictures, by Dr. Temple Grantin that best describes what I am saying. Dr. Grantin is autistic. It has been nearly seven years since I read about a young man, Jason McElway, who is autistic and was the star of his high schools last home basketball game. At that time he has been approached by numerous Hollywood production companies including Walt Disney to make a movie of his life. As I thought more listening to stillness this morning we all have autistic tendencies.

 

“I photographed a massive oak tree easily seven foot in diameter that once stood by a house as a chimney is just behind it. In my own readings the tree of life has much significance to Native peoples this came to mind as I photographed this great tree. As I thought it came to me that even this great tree was only a few minutes from someone’s saw, cut and lying on the ground.  Frank Bird grandfather, teacher and ponderer

 

 

“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Henry David Thoreau

 

What if rather than 1 in 500 children having symptoms of autism that those only who have more severe autistic symptoms were recognized as it was when I started teaching in 1970. Technically the American Psychological Association in its latest manual is changing the definition again and going back to the older view. Actually I think we all have the tendencies. This is a difficult explanation. As I sat listening today it was so quiet, I was able to think to imagine to dream. When I sat down today I started on this topic and in the back of my mind I recalled a test for creativity. I recalled reading about how Temple Grantin had to teach herself how to respond to emotional stimuli. As I read my morning messages and blogs in facebook and WordPress it hit. The tendencies are universal and vary significantly.
I was trying to explain from my world view an idea that was so alien to the student I was talking with on Friday. I was painting in oils with a student who was used to crayons and pencil. It was nearly five years ago that a little girl on American Idol and yes I do get caught up in the frenzy still or I should say we do here at our house, each picking favorites. This little country girl was as cute as a button and was explaining being in LA and going out to eat and having squid or calamari. She as she tried it was making cute faces and such. But having never had squid before there was no basis for her to even consider it. But if she had been from Italy, Mexico or Asia where squid is prepared as a standard fare it would be different. To those folk’s boiled okra would have been just as gross. Boiled okra by the way is far worse than squid.

 

“It was necessary to live through, and establish, a presence of stable consciousness within the world before it was possible for the detachment to gradually emerge which would permit that other, objective reality to connect with the conscious.” Dr. Karl Gustav Jung

 

What if someone has to experience an event to understand it? What if the limitations of those individuals make up do limit imagination and the ability to assimilate intangibles? I can explain an idea so clearly to me anyone could understand yet a person who needs experience needs to tape record that idea would not have the data to deal with it. What if belief is this way as well, faith or trust for example? The great educational philosopher John Dewey addresses experience and the ability to build from experiences past and present in his writings quite often.

 

“John Dewey’s significance …. Lies in a number of areas. First, his belief that education must engage with and enlarge experience has continued to be a significant strand in informal education practice. Second, and linked to this, Dewey’s exploration of thinking and reflection.” The Encyclopedia of Informal Education

 

Enlarging experience is not all that easy. What if a person is limited to their experiences only? What if they cannot enlarge that realm and are stuck within the confines of a limited reality? I am getting deeper than normal but it revolves around my discussion with that student the other day. Hearing myself listening to the words and explanation I was trying to do and then hearing a response that was limited and in being limited by certain parameters also confining. This is a significant piece we as teachers need to consider. I will expound another time the morning is closing in on me and I still have my daily sojourn to Kroger to go. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

A series of paradoxes and bewilderment

Bird Droppings February 21, 2018
A series of paradoxes and bewilderment

 

I received the following in an email several months ago. A friend of mine sent it out and as I read the first time it was humorous. However as I pondered then as a teacher I read deeper into what was being said. I listened by coincidence to a few words from a former Georgia Congressman and former Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. I recalled about eleven years ago early in the morning as I by chance I hit the AM button in my car. It was obviously a very conservative talk show and on the extreme conservative side. But the comment was “If a Democratic Congress gets in they will spend the first two years investigating the last two years of the current administration and then raise taxes and…”, and he went on. It interested me that is he saying something has been done wrong that needs investigating and then we go right back investigating now in a reverse situation. The news stories daily seem to imply that or are they just trying to stir up conservatives to get out and protect their money. Anyhow my email forward from a friend:

 

“Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s: Teaching Math in 1950’s – a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit? Teaching Math in 1960’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit? Teaching Math in 1970’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit? Teaching Math in 1980’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20. Teaching Math In 1990’s a logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.) Teaching Math in 2005-6 un hachero vende una carretada de madera para $100. El costo de la producción es $80”

 

As I read this I wondered if this is really what the general public thinks. Of course most of my conservative friends are against illegal immigrants yet still eat vegetables and buy cheap chicken. There are numerous books out on the dummying down of America. No one ever mentions we are one of the few countries with free public education to all children regardless of race, sex, disability and or income and in turn the only one trying to hold accountable educational systems for getting everyone to the same level. Each of the eras above has issues in its systems. However let me add I took a general biology course in my second year of college and the current general biology text for ninth graders at our high school is significantly more in depth and has numerous subjects and information not even conceived of in 1968.

 

So I look at the above email and see 1950 all was well, 1960 we are concerned about fractions, 1970 we are concerned about semantics, 1980 we are now worried about correct underlining too much Christmas treeing of answers on standardized tests and in the 1990’s we are concerned about environment and each other and asking why and how come questioning and wanting to perceive how this as wrong. I was amused at math in 2000’s and how it was touchy feely sort of kind of thing. They left out math in 2010 where a forester pays poachers in the rain forest of South America to strip a piece of land unregulated by an laws and sell to him at a dirt cheap price and then wander off so literally we have a near 100% profit.
In 1919 John Dewey was using reflection as a teaching tool very successfully he was considerably ahead of his time. Sadly reflection and discussion take time away from memorizing and with teaching to the test as we are now. Our students have to memorize volumes of material in every subject and many teachers do not have the time or they at least think they do not to offer context. Then looking back at 2005-2006 math comments and inferences to diversification it was not too many years ago women could not go to school and or hold positions in many companies and such. Even today woman are stereotyped into certain positions.
A friend who recently passed away was writing her dissertation on gender biases in administration in public schools. Sadly all the public hoopla in one arena is about immigration. I still recall a parent conference ten years ago when a good old boy wearing scruffy shorts no socks, boots untied, and a dirty white T-Shirt explained it so eloquently to me. It seems he was out of work as he was a construction worker and at that essentially a gofer. He would be the one toting boards and bricks whatever. I was filling in forms since he did not read or write and his son was about to end up in the alternative school. I asked what he did for a living and he informed me he couldn’t get work. Obviously I was aware of the construction situation in our area of very few houses being built. However his answer took me by surprise. He commented with a few expletives “The @#$% Mexicans work too #$@% hard.” For him it could have been Afro Americans, Native Americans, Eastern Europeans, and or Hispanics, it was anyone who was actually willing to work and different than or not like him. Did I mention he did not smell very good sort of like a few old beers and cigarette stale smoke a paradox of sorts?
And so why am I bewildered we so often complain and whine and criticize and often only because we do not understand or lack of information. Simply put it is ignorance among the so many wonderful reasons. Parents expect wonders from teachers and many times we do deliver but years ago I wrote about the sixteen hour syndrome. Teachers have kids for eight hours and are expected to work miracles only to go home to parents, TV, video, friends, drugs, and many other misc. other distraction and they have sixteen hours to undo all they learned in those eight. It is sort of a losing battle in many situations.

 

“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.” Black Elk

 

As I read this thought from Black Elk a Lakota Sioux holy man written some years ago I was intrigued how we adults take these innocents and make them adults today losing all of their innocence. I watch the four year olds around school from our demo school they are inquisitive and wondering and yet in a few years they will be blank eyed and listless stripped of all of their joy and purity by our cultural efforts to make automatons and provide vehicles for the productivity of our manufacturing and corporate greed. This could be why I am bewildered that we have come to this in a free society and in reality are more imprisoned than many so called third world countries. We are imprisoned by our self-serving, self-centeredness and greed and watching calmly as monopolies are forming again and the big three oil companies are the only oil companies and ma bell is soon to be in charge again. I am paraphrasing and borrowing from an old folk song, where have all the steel mills gone or where have all the textile jobs gone. It is very simple they have gone to countries ever where. Then the chorus, oh when will we ever learn, oh when will we ever learn.
Paradoxes and complexities bewilderment and wonderment, I look at Black Elks words and wonder why can we not learn from children and maybe get back some of our lost innocence. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird