Looking for reasons for why kids go bad

Bird Droppings March 31, 2018                                                                                                      Looking for reasons for why kids go bad

“Come; let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children.” Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux

Nearly sixteen years have passed since I did a research paper on the causes of various emotional issues with children. When I first started back to teaching it really was not all that much different from the early seventies when I last taught. When I wrote the paper I was looking for commonalities among children who had more serious issues in school and in life. I listed drugs use, alcohol use, jail time, probation, age, sex, drivers licenses, wealth, social status, child hood illnesses and whatever else I could find measurable numbers or information on. I did not question students, this was on their school and public record. As I looked deeper at my students and most were still children I concluded that most with problems were made they did not just happen. Indirectly we created each of the issues that manifested it. I found an article in Divorce Magazine entitled Help for Generation. They listed statistics that in 1970 seventy two percent of adult population is married and in 1999 only fifty nine percent. This was an interesting statistic and furthermore the number of divorces granted is down per one thousand people but up per number of new marriages.

As I researched years ago in that group of students that I was using for my data only two out of twenty eight lived with their biological parents, I should say both biological parents.

“It seems that the divorce culture feeds on itself, creating a one-way downward spiral of unhappiness and failure.” David Brenner, New York, July 14, 1999, Associate director of the Institute for American Values

“There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” Leon R. Yankwich

Before Netflix and other streaming services I was hooked on reruns of Law and Order, SUV, the hit TV show which now runs it seems all day long in one form or another. I am captivated by the errors and flaws within our society it seems. As I watched old reruns similarities to former student’s families came out.

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Michael Levine

As I researched deeper in reasons children having issues often I found issues were learned and the examples were set at home. It could be drugs, abuse, alcohol and literally any of issues presented had been directly related to home situations. “Children learn what they live”, both positively and negatively as Dr. Laura Nolte, a favorite of mine, a leading psychologist, writes extensively about and which is featured in her Children Learn what they live poster of the seventies, and programs for children.

Yesterday the news was filled with stories of teenagers, young people who had gotten into trouble and teenagers who are trying to make a difference. Thinking back over fifteen years to an event in Minnesota where a young man killed nine people in a shooting spree at his school. For whatever reason this incident seldom is mentioned in schools shootings. Elsewhere drug arrests and gangs make the news, several young black men unarmed have recently been killed in shooting by police.

I recall several years back when I was walking outside my room and a student came up sheepishly and hugged me and apologized. I am so sorry for what happened it was only a few weeks prior this student was in a fight with another student in the cafeteria and I was pulling them apart. It was a strange feeling being thanked for breaking up a fight by one involved. In that same time period I was at a basketball game and parents were yelling at each other over and about their kids in front of the audience to a point a resource officer was involved. It really is no different than forty plus years ago when I coached basketball in Macon Georgia and the kids liked this old crude gym better than the new gym. I finally asked why and all the kids said parents could not fit inside and kids could just play basketball with no parents yelling at them.

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

I never met the man but my father always spoke highly of him as he was my brother’s physician in Philadelphia back in mid-1960’s when my brother John was at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital.  In later years Dr. Koop was Surgeon General of the United States and one who was always looking for answers midst all the questions.

“Children are curious and are risk takers. They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous. A child initially trusts life and the processes of life.” John Bradshaw

Perhaps it is the breaking of trust that causes issues to arise. Years ago I did a graph on the development of trust. Stages in how trust evolves with a child and then into an adult. We are born with a universal trust as an infant sort of you instinctually trust we then learn to not trust and eventually come full circle learning to trust again.

“Trust evolves. We start off as babies with perfect trust. Inevitably, trust is damaged by our parents or other family members. Depending on the severity, we may experience devastated trust, in which the trust is completely broken. In order to heal, we must learn when and how trust can be restored. As part of this final step, if we cannot fully trust someone. then we establish guarded, conditional, or selective trust.” Dr. Riki Robbins, PhD, The Four Stages of Trust

I have over the years read a book by Dr. Temple Grantin, Animals in Translation. Dr. Grantin’s unique view is she is autistic and provides insights as she looks at animals in a different light than we normal do and she can understand and operate on that instinctual level. She stills functions in a world of trust and maintains trust. In a family setting what more so than parents leaving could display trust in a child let alone destroy trust and then want them to lead normal lives.

“When a parent is consistent and dependable, the baby develops sense of basic trust. The baby builds this trust when they are cold, wet or hungry and they can count on others to relieve their pain. The alternative is a sense of mistrust, the feeling that the parent is undependable and may not be there when they are needed.” Eric Erikson, Eric Erikson’s Eight Stages of Life

Sitting writing here in my writing area in our grandkids room look at pictures of my three sons who are all adults now, it is so easy to say no problem but that would be lying. Then I click to Yahoo News and as I described the event in Minnesota those years ago the Red Lake shootings and headlines of this or that as to why a 15 year old would kill nine people and himself.

“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux, Holy man

In 1973 or so I met a young man in Macon Georgia at that time he was a year older than me and still is from last I heard from his brother a few weeks back. His tribal name translates to Red Clay, he was and is an artist. My family has many of his pieces of sculpture, drawings and paintings. In 1975 or so he went through a divorce right after his wife miscarried their first baby. Every day that I have known him he had been drinking. Once he was the most requested teacher in Bibb County now retired he has been an itinerant carpenter and professional feather dancer. Although I have been told he recently retired from dancing and is now a lead drummer in Pow Wow circles. But a comment that stuck with me and an image he had painted a small acrylic painting that my mother has hanging in her office area. It is of three burial platforms in the prairie. The platform in the foreground is one of a chief or man of importance, the second his wife and the third a small infant burial platform. His unborn baby from so many years ago. He told me nearly forty years ago he would not live past forty he is now almost seventy. As I look back and think of how we respond and how we set that example for our children.

I started reading Kent Nerburn’s books several years ago. He taught at te Red Lake High School in Minnesota and you can find his editorial and blog about this event on his website. As today as I wandered in my thoughts please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks namaste.

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

Gratitude is more than a word it is an action

Bird Droppings March 30, 2018
Gratitude is more than a word it is an action

 

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

Chief Seattle, 1854

 

Back in the preretirement years on most mornings I would be driving to school about five thirty or so in the morning. However being in retirement my mornings have changed somewhat. I still get up at forty thirty make breakfast for everyone, pack lunches, get gas for my wife, and other assorted duties but I stay home. So it is six forty five in the morning and I am sitting writing. I by chance got a photo of a brilliant red maple tree shining in the rising sun a few days ago. Red maples of course are red in fall but in spring their seeds are red as well and before dropping to float away as maples seeds do the color is wonderful. I have been lucky now for nearly a week since daylight savings time and enjoy the sunrises a bit later when they have been around between rain drops.

 

It is a powerful time of day as the sunrise appears, it is though you can watch and listen to the awakening of everything. When I was at school I could step out to bus lane standing facing east to take in the full effect of the sunrise, cars and business sounds humming and popping around me might distract some but I could always focus on the rising sun. So for today according to weather I should be able to enjoy and listen to the world awake that will be nice.
It has been a few weeks since I was photographing and literally drove nearly sixty miles around the area looking for images of the sun coming up at one point a lone bird started chirping and soon another and within minutes I was visually and auditorily committed to a new day.

 

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Meister Eckhart

 

It is only a few days ahead that as I will be waking up the morning and most others will be sleeping in for spring break. With the Easter holiday near and the religious connotations I was thinking about gratitude. When I saw Eckhart’s quote about a month ago my first thought was to use it on Thanksgiving Day but literally after reading further should most prayer or for nonreligious folk thinking be one of thanks rather than supplication. But I really think it goes beyond a single day of giving thanks and Spring break, Easter weekend, springtime is a point of reference in cultures worldwide of thanks. Winter has ended and it is time to plant the new crops.

 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

 

“Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.” Northrup Christine

 

Being grateful opens doors and allows people in. We live in such a protectionist society and reality. We are always trying to protect our own area of influence and self. However gratefulness can lift you up and take you beyond where you are now to another level.

 

“Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” French Proverb

 

“It is another’s fault if he is ungrateful, but it is mine if I do not give. To find one thankful man, I will oblige a great many that are not so.” Seneca

 

Gratitude requires giving and in giving we are also offering of ourselves and building up within ourselves.

 

“The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.” Ethel Percy Andrus

 

“It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.” Richard Braustein

 

Life is about giving, sometimes what you offer to others is simply how and where you are placed in life and many times that provides the vehicle for your journey deeper and through life and offers direction for others. Sadly we live in a world of hedonistic self- centered people who pride greed over all else. Profit at any cost is a driving force. No concern for anyone other than money. I watched the president brag about his business prowess and then lawsuits come forth based on venders being paid less than contractually agreed. Bragging about how that is good business negotiating right to final payment even after project is completed. Small businesses going under who couldn’t take monetary hit. Bragging about renegotiating on fighter planes and Air force one. Both deals had already been done. Children see this type of behavior and accept as normal. If you have power do what you want, period. Ethics morality becomes a mote point.

 

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” Flora Edwards

 

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran

 

So often we think of giving as money or food, as we saw families begging at the shipping center yesterday. A family stood in front of a store asking for money for food and rent, while playing the accordion and singing. However in reality giving of oneself, that is the hardest and the most rewarding. I recall listening to war stories my father would tell. These would be heart wrenching stories of World War II and his own journey in life. I have read many books and heard others tell of their service and time serving our country. It is in caring about people and sharing through offering of one’s life that is much harder than simply providing a dollar or a can, the gratitude comes back within and through our hearts.

 

“He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.” Lao Tzu

 

“A handful of pine-seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forests. I too will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high.” Fiona Macleod

 

As I am pondering the words from The Art of War, written thousands of years ago and from another more recent Scottish author and writer William Sharp who wrote for a number of years as Fiona McCleod I am reminded of so many childhood friends who in serving died. As I think of the warriors who have given their all, at times in controversy and often only because they believed they were doing what is right. It is the memories and pain we carry that gives us hope. When forester’s timber areas, often they will leave several healthy older trees to seed the remaining land. I have been in areas where clear cutting save for a few tree, has occurred and several years later a new forest has begun. But it is so important to plant seeds and to scatter them as to be a friend and to let friendships grow. When I can I do tell the stories told by my father and I do recall and tell of my friends exploits. I tell stories of warriors of old who fought and die for what they believed fighting for families and country. I give thanks each day as I walk and greet the sun.

 

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Teresa

 

“The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.” Brian Tracy

 

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton

 

I remember a candlelight service so many years ago, one person carefully started with a lit candle and handed their light to another’s candle and each in turn went through the room lighting another’s and soon the room was filled with light. We are much like a candle light service if we share our light and love, and pass it on to the person next to you. It is to say thank you when you receive from another and offer always to another. I will end with a simple thought and prayer for a day of honoring all warriors past, present and future.

 

“When you were born, you cried, and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” White Elk

 

So often life hands us unexpected surprises, gratitude extends and magnifies those times. Please as we get into this coming holiday season 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

 

Is it only a bird dropping?

Bird Droppings March 29, 2018
Is it only a bird dropping?

 

“If we consider the eagle feather with its light and dark colors, we could argue that ‘the dark colors are more beautiful and, therefore, naturally more valuable,’ or vice versa. Regardless of which colors are more beautiful, or necessary, or valuable, the truth is the bottom line: Both colors come from the same feather, both are true, they are connected, and it takes both to fly.” Dr. Michael Garrett, Medicine of the Cherokee

 

A seemingly inconsequential event that of a bird dropping, not the white speck on your windshield but a feather, found along the way by someone like me or you. I am always amazed at how special that moment becomes. Maybe back when I started this morning venture of rising early to journal, read and write for me it was a way of dropping feathers and it seems nearly every day one or two emails reinforce my thoughts.

 

“All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with human beings. The reason WakanTanka does not make two birds, or animals, or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by WakanTanka to be an independent individuality and to rely upon itself.” Shooter, Teton Sioux

 

It has been several years ago we had several large ferns on our front porch and I was checking the fern and forgot about the nest of purple finches who had adopted our ferns and front porch, three babies sat there looking at me as I checked the fern for moisture surprising me as much as I them. There were three tiny babies sitting huddled in a fern basket all expecting breakfast and it was only me. As I think back I am not sure who was the most scared, me by the shock of three hungry mouths gaping or those tiny birds with a big hand poking in checking the moisture of the fern.

 

“We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit.” Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker

 

It has been several years since my first trip to Piedmont college and I am sure there will be many more to come as I am working on my doctorate in conjunction with several faculty members at Piedmont. However that first trip was one of meeting the Dean of Education for acceptance into the School of Education where I was working on my master’s degree. It seems I had forgotten getting accepted into the education department and that aspect of my journey, something you are to do first rather than last, be accepted into the education school. As I left the education building walking to the parking lot a flock of geese met me walking along weeding as they do across lawns at Piedmont back before the lake was drained. There were fifty or so Canadian geese scurrying about looking for tender shoots in the morning coolness. As I walked a bit of down crossed my path a tiny feather. I picked it up and my immediate thought was of Forrest Gump sitting on a bench waiting for a bus and the feather that starts and ends the movie.
I thought deeper as I saved the feather and still have it pressed in a book on my shelf. So often that little bit that tiny piece of fluff that we often miss it doesn’t have to be a feather it could be a kind word a hand shake a certificate from first grade for spelling everything right, it can provide the catalyst for the next day and for some a lifetime. As a teacher, parent, and or friend many times we are the ones who have to drop a feather now and again a tiny piece of fluff to keep another person going. I watch and read stories of how we can prevent the next school shooting by listening and understanding those pushed to the corners. As a education and psychology major and counselor for so many years in school and out I often have gone out of my way to offer a hand. I have literally given both literal and real feathers to students, teachers, and many more as tokens of courage and friendship.

 

“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.” Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

 

In primitive societies a feather can be a very sacred and holy thing. The Aztecs made the cloak for the king from Quetzal feathers emerald green and iridescent, no one else could even own one of these feathers under penalty of death. Native Americans would use feathers as signs of bravery and honor awarding an eagle feather for counting coup which is not killing your enemy simply touching and riding away and other great acts of bravery. I am intrigued as we now wage war often from an office with drones and smart bombs. What a battle that must have been back in the day to see a brave ride in touch a few people and ride out.
We have come so far in today’s world we “nuke em” no need to touch no need for honor for a bit of fluff blowing along the ground. As I walked about my yard a few nights back getting some exercise along with my wife who was checking her plants to see if any bulbs were sprouting and a feather caught my attention. It was a black tail feather from a crow. My day was made as I placed it on my desk with a hawk feather and owl feather from previous walks. It is the tiny pieces that count on our journeys. So for today 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

 

We need LOVE

Bird Droppings March 27, 2018
We need LOVE

Sometimes we so easily use the word love. It gets used daily by many folks and yet do we truly have any conception of what it is we speak. I was just in a conversation and the word love came up, I responded how we each have our own understanding and definition of love. One of my favorite actors for many years has been the late Chief Dan George. He was a very devout man with a powerful faith and belief. I would like to share with you a passage in his words.

“My friends, how desperately do we need to be loved and to love. When Christ said that man does not live by bread alone, he spoke of a hunger. This hunger was not the hunger of the body. It was for bread. He spoke of a hunger that begins down deep in the very depths of our being. He spoke of a need as vital as breath. He spoke of our hunger for love. Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we become weak and faint. Without it our self-esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we can no longer look out confidently at the world. We turn inward and begin to feed upon our own personalities, and little by little we destroy ourselves. With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it and with it alone we are able to sacrifice for others.” Chief Dan George

I will always remember this great man for his role as Lone Watti, side kick to Josie Wales played by Clint Eastwood in the film, The Outlaw Josie Wales. I was reading an email in our high school group website several years back and I recalled this message from one of my former classmates. He was speaking about his father and his father’s death at 46 many years ago, and how he remembered now even though he is 56, his father always as being older then himself. I was thinking back to my father who was in his eighties when he passed away and yet if I was asked to recall an image it would be in Pennsylvania many years ago I was maybe twelve or so and my father and I raced around the house. So many years ago and he was younger than I am now at that time.
It has been a few years since closed a portion to a year of graduate studies at Piedmont College. We were sitting around a room reflecting, a very powerful tool for teachers and non-teachers alike. Dr. Julie asked us to respond to cards we had written nearly a year previous. There were twenty in our cohort group. One by one she would read the cards we wrote those many days ago. We were to reply with our thoughts today. Had they changed? What was different? As a rule I tend to be very monastic. I do little socializing outside of family. For the past few years my spare time has been in graduate school but even aside from that I tend to not seek others company. But in reading and communicating that day to responses and often tearful ones at that so much had happened within our group in a year’s time. I go back to Chief Dan George’s words:

“With love we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it and with it alone we are able to sacrifice for others.” Chief Dan George

It is so easy to say love. But it is far more difficult to truly show it. We went from a group of various assundery individuals to a very creative, tireless, and willing to sacrifice for others cohort. Was it love that bound us together? I put together a slide show for a presentation. I said in my ten minute talk such things as friendship, philosophy, and cohort, all big words in and of themselves. But as I look at the effects of a year’s interaction I do believe Dan George had it right it takes love.
I was sitting earlier outside wondering about the next few hours and moments, thinking about the days ahead and beyond. It was quiet outside virtually no sound and no breeze so still. I could hear my own breathing and almost hear the smoke from my sage and sweet grass floating off towards the sunrise. It has been many years since a friend left me a gift of a smudge stick essentially incense, made of sage and cedar which got me started. I was watching the smoke waft for lack of better terms it would go up and then circle and then almost pause with no wind or air current it hung near almost in a protective sort of way. I would blow on the embers and in doing so move the smoke.
I had started writing this today before I went outside but as I thought love is like that smoke it is there awaiting our interaction, our acknowledgment and acceptance. However it is through our example others than can experience love. I am wandering a bit pondering as usual. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart Namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

 

Teachers! We should always be near the edge.

Bird Droppings March 26, 2018
Teachers! We should always be near the edge.

 

I recall taking groups hiking in North Georgia and always there is that one person who has to be at the edge of a gorge or edge of the trail dropping two hundred feet down looking over and nearly falling. A few summers back my oldest and middle son went to the Grand Canyon and of course many images over the edge. Granted they were beautiful but. I Often wonder if maybe they were adrenaline rush junkies. It has been some time since I would edge my canoe off a rapids occasionally not knowing what lay ahead. I have gone off some pretty good size falls not paying attention. One of my favorite memories of canoeing is a good friend was with me and as we approached a ten foot drop he stood up to check it out. I was catapulted out of the canoe and he was pinned under it. We survived but a great life lesson for both of us. For him never stand in a canoe in rapids and me never go canoeing with him again.

 

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” Soren Kierkegaard

 

I often wonder if I had chosen differently at various times in my life what would be the outcome and where would I be. What if I had not left teaching so many years ago would one of my former students perhaps have changed directions and not be serving three life sentences currently. I was aware of issues back then over forty years ago but I was just a kid working with kids.

 

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

 

It is through experience that the highest form of learning occurs and it is learning that will stay with us as we move through life. I can describe how to tie a square knot and I can show pictures all day long of a square knot but until you physically tie a square knot with a piece of rope you will not recall the intricacies and methods.

 

“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap?” Cynthia Heimel, Lower Manhattan Survival Tactics

 

I recently did a timeline of my life showing what I call coincidence points where a slightly different twist, trail, or take would have altered my life. People I have met, things I have done or not done all altered by a moments choice somewhere along the line.

 

“I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I’m not afraid of falling into my inkpot.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have been a fan of Emerson for some time and as I read this line I recalled several comments from a friend who is an artist and very independent drawing a comparison to the former TV show and Dr. House. He was an arrogant extremely brilliant physician who offends everyone and seemingly solves unsolvable medical mysteries. My friend is a graphic artist and has learned the game of preparing art boards for clients; she will always do several and sort of over emphasize the one that she feels is best. You are giving your customer choice and options yet controlling the situation for the better. This is a Dr. James Sutton trick for working with Oppositional Deviant children. My friend has a customer who never picks the best one always the wrong one and now without just being obnoxious directs the customer to the best art work.

 

“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Frederick B. Wilcox

 

So often life presents us with challenges or with trails to follow do I go left or right do I take the steeper one or the easy pathway. Over the years hiking in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia and North Carolina you would come upon switch backs where the trail rather than going straight up would be a series of switches back and forth a bit more distance but an easier incline especially when encumbered with a heavy backpack. Some people want to charge forward and I had a few who would allways make a beeline for the top of Blood Mountain and avoid switch backs and about half way up the rest of us would catch up to them exhausted and bruised and bloodied from rocks and falls. Often there is wisdom in experience. Still those of us moving up the mountain maybe in a slower pace but would still finish ahead of them.

 

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” Frank Scully

 

I remember picking apples and crawling out a bit too far on a limb nearly falling going for the best ones. Learning the limits of your environment can be beneficial and help you get the best possible of what you seek.

 

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky

 

I first used this quote nearly seventeen years ago putting a copy on my then principal’s door. Interesting that sheet of copy paper made the move to a two new schools and is still hanging in his Regional over ten counties, RESA director’s office.

 

“I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.” G.K. Chesterton

 

I have never been one to back down from a challenge and Chesterton’s words are true so often people sit and languish sadly literally molding away.

 

“The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one’s self to destiny.” Napoleon Bonaparte

 

In Risk Management you terminate the risk, you tolerate the risk, and you treat the risk and or transfer the risk which equates to the four T’s of Risk Management, Terminate, Tolerate, Treat and Transfer.

 

“This nation was built by men who took risks – pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, business men who were not afraid of failure, scientists who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of progress, dreamers who were not afraid of action.” Brooks Atkinson
It was the vastness of the frontier that truly gave us the American Dream. I have been working on papers dealing with the development of education historically and it is interesting how the frontier paid such a significant role. Europe had reached a point where every corner and every nook was owned and possessed and a totally new atmosphere occurred when the colonists came across the ocean. It was a vast un-chartered frontier.

“Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.” Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, 1759

 

So many times in history because of various limitations imposed by religion and by rulers because objections hold the society in limbo.

 

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy

 

I recall the day Bobby Kennedy was killed and football Hall of Fame great Rosie Greer who had been helping with security knelt beside the still body a tear on his cheek. Greer was one of the great all time linemen, in pro football and was crying holding Kennedy’s head in his hands. As the news started a picture came across the media. The photo was the huge Rosie Greer bent over a fallen Bobbie Kennedy with tears in his eyes. Shortly thereafter news carried the words word that Kennedy had died. He knew the chances but believed in what he was trying to do. Two Kennedy brothers killed by gun violence before it was news worthy.

 

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” Seneca

 

Nearly 3000 years ago these words were uttered by the great Greek philosopher and today they hold as true as they did back then.

 

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” Robert H. Schuler
Pastor Schuler was never one to limit himself such as in building one of the largest church congregations in the country and the largest TV audience of all time.

 

“Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 

I am amazed as to how perception changes as conditions change.

 

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The old adage of getting back on the horse when you fall off still holds clout.

 

“Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” Ray Bradbury

 

Every day some of us live this way waiting till the last minute and thriving on the adrenalin but not everyone can function in this manner. I sit back and recall my father going over the four T’s of risk management in a conference so many years ago and how applicable that still is not just in industry but in school, education, families, and life in general. Some people need a moment or two to catch their breath to ponder and make the wisest and sometimes safe choice. So today 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

 

Can we find answers to our questions?

Bird Droppings March 25, 2018
Can we find answers to our questions?

 

Several years ago I would have said there were answers to almost any question that could be asked. Today sitting here I wonder granted first you have to ask what is the question or questions but I have a different attitude now sort of one that is allowing for an unanswerable question. I did not watch yesterday’s march speeches live but last evening and this morning I did watch several from each side. I listened to Dr. King’s granddaughter beg for action. Her grandfather a victim of gun violence. Sir Paul McCartney as well addressing how he lost his best friend near the site of the march to gun violence.  I saw videos of counter protesters exercising their right to bear arms parading with AR-15’s behind police picket lines.

 

When I was researching yesterday and reading about W. Edward Deming’s and his quality solutions which was a rather simple solution to most quality issues in life. Deming believed in quality first and as I ponder education is it too pie in the sky to try and do such a good job that there are no questions no need to check (assess) at the end of the line. Is it too high and mighty to offer that there is no need to inspect or challenge and or no need to test if the quality is built in? I got to thinking t gun issue and schools why are we answering questions with simply more of the same. More guns will stop guns. Current US gun ownership by any group’s information is the highest in the world. One article indicated two hundred million guns in US. Roughly 90 guns per 100 people. The same article pointed to twelve billion rounds of ammo.

 

I was once doing counseling work with a gentlemen who had fifteen guns and thousands of rounds of ammo. I found out after the fact of beginning working with him. He ended up receiving disability for psychiatric reasons. As I think back to this fellow. He lived in a resident motel and would sleep with his door open a crack. Several times I would go to check on him and he would be in diabetic shock unconscious. The owner had him put guns in a locked locker and or start locking his room door. He chose to put in locker.
While thinking about march I am sitting pondering, eating a ham, cauliflower and cheese omelet and sipping a real strong black tea with agave nectar over ice and waiting on the rain to slack off a bit to pose such a question. A bit disappointed no sunrise with the cloud cover. But Deming’s ideas keeping coming back to me and I will diverse a bit in my thoughts as I wander to a discussion that came up yesterday with a regular education teacher a good friend who has concerns as well on education.
I was working on an idea on using academic achievement to address issues with Learning Disabled students by using a rubric which in and of its self is a way to provide quality versus simply quantity to an evaluation. This sort of led into as I headed toward school a discussion. As I sat driving around yesterday after discussing with another teacher the subject of autism and dealing with where do these kids go after school is over? On a more critical note what is even available? I had a brainstorm which was in part due to the thoughts that came out in our discussion. Over and over again parents were concerned about how their child’s life was being directed by people who did not know their child. Often changes in staffing will occur and parents do not even know. For nearly seventeen years I have recommended teachers of some students track students more effectively perhaps including group meetings of staff up and down the line who will have or have had that student. More often than not we deal with a cold folder of someone else’s opinion. Knowing a kid can make the difference so many times between success and failure. This concept ties also into the current discussion of educational issues being decided by non-educational people with our state and federal legislators. I reflect to a recent IEP meeting I sat in on as an advocate.
I met several years back at a conference a care giver who provides daily living assistance for several Asperger’s syndrome and autistic young men in a group home sort of setting. One of the young men who lived in this facility was also involved in the discussion. (This fellow lives essentially on his own and not only has Asperger’s syndrome which is a high function form of autism but is legally blind as well. Sadly for years the visual impairment concealed the pervasive disorder). The care giver who works for an organization that is involved with disabled adults who need some assistance referred to knowing the person well, many times. He and this young man have a language many would not understand actually part of this young man’s disorder idiosyncrasies that the care giver has learned to understand.
So often in schools and workplaces we want all the ducks in a row and someone who is a bit different doesn’t fit in so push them aside. Charter schools the big reform answer in and of its nature limits what students can come to that particular school with its charter. I could not help but think of IEP’s and such and even further to Deming’s ideas. My day yesterday was pondering achievement, a rubric and Deming. It has been a while since I sat as a student in class but I can’t count the times education professors have said we need to think outside the box. Yesterday as we talked two teachers I had walked the hallways of knowledge discussed opening the box. So often we limit as I think Deming’s pointed out when we have “the inspection” we only really get what we ask for. This has actually been researched in industry numerous times if you want to find twenty percent defective parts you will get twenty percent defective parts. My mind jumped to those students for whom seventy percent is passing and we get seventy percent from many.
I have watched meetings in which the group set IEP goals of eighty percent compliance on a behavior in such areas as not swearing at authority figures. I would have liked that myself back in several of my high school and college classes. That translates into two out of ten times I could swear and it is ok since I am achieving my goals. This is literally exactly what Deming’s is saying, you get what you ask for. So how do we imply quality and success without setting limits and or parameters? How do we measure achievement without providing a box even within the confines of a rubric? How do we measure friendship without having parameters to measure from? Hopefully the last one perhaps is one of the easiest to escape from we measure friendship hopefully not in some testing situation and not in some box ready format but we measure friendship in love and in emotion which often is not a measurable and quantitative form it is in simply knowing. Why do we have a difficult time in education? Far too often teachers do not know students. A school identity number and seat on a floor chart and we are off to educate.

 

“Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.” Dr. W. Edward Deming

 

This can apply in so many different fields including education but it will take some effort to teach teachers how to know students. It will take a different mindset for teachers to look for quality rather than quantity. It will take using innovative ideas to evaluate learning rather than standardized tests that so often are not even valid in the context of what they are testing. How valid is a test that students can score about the same in the beginning as in the end? I have not proved this point but I would wager on most High School Graduation tests if given to ninth graders they would come close to passing in effect if they are capable of passing the test in eleventh grade. I have similar thoughts on End of Course Tests. Sadly the difficulty is in developing within students and workers another of Deming’s thoughts.

 

“Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service…” Dr. W. Edward Deming

 

Listening to parents over the years always makes me think. We seriously need to address perhaps differently children and even each other so often we come at life in general rather than looking for specifics in an individual. We approach each aspect as from past experiences which are still important and do not let that experience of the moment have its way for that person. We lose individuality in mass production even in our own view of things. I am always reminded of first impressions and first impressions are based on past experience and not on anything to do with this person far too often. We need to see and hear who this is before passing judgment and we need as those parents offered over and over to get to know the real person not just the symptomatology. I sit here trying to figure out how to create an open ended rubric some method of scoring that has no parameters and no limits and that is an interesting venture for the day ahead and week ahead planting, gardening, mowing and reading. 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

 

 

Seeking perfection in a world full of mud

Bird Droppings March 24, 2018
Seeking perfection in a world full of mud
“I have found there are those who can write and speak fluently and yet do not have anything to say and then there are those who have something to say who may not be so fluent. The big question is who do, you listen too?” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.
On Friday I overheard a conversation about grammar and how poorly students in school are at grammar. The consensus was we need to drill them in grammar, correct sentence structure, syntax, complex compound sentences, covalent bonds, distorted warped lines, rational equations and retroactive participles. Oh brother and the list continue on. The word hablar, translated from Spanish means to work. In Spanish classes we also learned to conjugate that verb in thousands of ways and I can’t remember any of them. So I guess I can’t say to work in Spanish in masculine past tense future. So what is my point maybe an illustration a story of sorts before I go on?
Once there was a young man who went to a great educational institution far away he was a smart child and knew much of life, he too was an athlete and a very fast runner strong and powerful was he, as he came to the school he saw an opportunity to became a member of an elite group of athletes that were participating in a sport he knew well. The throwing of a disc and scoring points which goes by the name in laymen’s terms of ultimate Frisbee. He proceeded to try out but the team was skilled beyond his knowledge in the ways of technique and plays, precision ruled as the players each knew where to be for play 234 and executed exactly time and again. He was not allowed to play with them. He searched for a team and soon found himself with a group who at first did not want him because he was young and unproven, however soon in his strength he prevailed and was the leading scorer, and soon the team he joined was numero uno and the prefect team was not. They had not won a game. All of their plays were prefect and every player was where there were to be but the other teams were elsewhere scoring.
“If a man should happen to reach perfection in this world, he would have to die immediately to enjoy himself.” Josh Billings
I am not against learning how to do something correctly even perfectly but if that consumes you in your endeavor and you fail to move forward then you are lost. When crossing a stream and you finally start and after much preparation your shoes are exactly right and water proof shirt and pants just in case. As you step to the first rock carefully measuring and gauging your steps for the next and so forth soon you attain rock two. Maybe you will cross the stream and maybe being so intent on the destination and your effort to get there you miss the journey and all around you is so much more.
“You can spend a lifetime, and, if you’re honest with yourself, never once was your work perfect.” Charleston Hesston
“The only nice thing about being imperfect is the joy it brings to others.” Doug Larson

Perhaps I have gone slightly over board, would I want to be on a surgical table with a surgeon who was not perfect or really in any field would it matter. The issue becomes what is perfect? Was it the poor guys whose plays are flawless but cannot respond to another team’s changes, they will never succeed? Could it be the writer who has errorless form but not a single thought, that person will never write a story. Perhaps it is the surgeon who is perfect and yet can’t talk to a patient to explain what is going on and then what. Life is filled with paradox.
“I have always suspected that correctness is the last refuge of those who have nothing to say.” Friedrich Wasiman
“The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life, or of the work, and if it takes the second must refuse a heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.” William Butler Yeats
As I sit here this morning spinning ideas out, we should truly seek to learn to know to understand, how to try and be perfect in what we do yet always be able to see past and never look down on those who may not know what you know. As I sit reading back over my sentences interspersed with thoughts ideas and ramblings, punctuated with dashes and words and many time no capitals I wonder. Recently I questioned a friend about her emails where she leaves the word I always I, a small i and what is funny it spell checks it large so I assumed it was a deliberate effort on her part to do, an artsy sort of poetic thing turns out she just was lazy and didn’t push cap key.
“It is only imperfection that complains of what is imperfect. The more perfect we are the more gentle and quiet we become towards the defects of others.” Joseph Addison
“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” Angelique Arnauld
“Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable.” Lord Chesterfield
I guess my issue my point is we can be perfect and still make sense and you can make perfect sense and still not be perfect but it is how you go at it if you have done your best and continue to try and improve your direction is good, or as Lord Chesterfield said many give up because perfection is so unattainable they think. I recall one of my favorite lines, “CHOOSE WISELY” said the old knight in Indiana Jones and the search for the Holy Grail, and now I will continue my day here on an Easter Sunday seeking perfection in the mud of an imperfect world, I shall go onward and forward. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and please have a glorious week as we march into April tomorrow and spring has sprung and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Inability of surmounting learning difficulties

Bird Droppings March 23, 2018
Inability of surmounting learning difficulties

 

It has been a few days since my last post. I have been extremely occupied with surgery Tuesday and recovering past few days. Last week I had several doctor appointments, ultrasounds, blood work, and more doctors made it a crazy week. It seems my bladder has got the best of me. Now I am electrified and can no longer go through a metal detector.  Hopefully I will get a bit more back on track in my writings.  In what theoretically was one of my last IEP meetings the student was reaffirmed, yes you do have a deficit in math. However choosing to not do the work and or even try is choice. As a Junior wanting to graduate next year you have to choose do you want to get out of school or not. There is nothing I can pull out of my bag of magic tricks I explained.

 

Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites.” John Dewey, Experience and Education

 

“There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them.” Phyllis Bottome

 

An interesting start to a morning thought process after a wonderful experience last night. I was trying to get some sleep my first night with no pain meds, and had an epiphany sitting thinking of columns of numbers and manipulating data. This can be whatever I want depending on wording and what variables I apply. I have often come to this conclusion when looking at research. Ever since I was told a reading program was data based and I called asking for the demographics of the research. The sample was so small and biased the data was in no way viable. But schools were buying the program in leaps and bounds. As for my thoughts and opening quotes, one from John Dewey and the other a British novelist with over thirty four books to her credit. Working with at risk kids so often in life I find in general we tend to avoid difficulties, we walk away, we steer clear, and we postpone and or we argue.

 

“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.” Isak Dinesen

 

Many years back I was watching a student working on what for some was a quick assignment merging several different graphics and or creating graphics into a calendar during a project. Each student went in totally different directions. One in a matter of minutes had created a Mario brothers calendar based on old Mario Brothers clips each significant to him. One was on deer hunting there was even a Care Bears focus. However one fellow was taking each frame and altering photos in a photo program eliminating back grounds and only using specific aspects of each image. Each day he would accomplish only a small portion of what others were doing yet he was totally immersed in his task. In the end he will have a really nice artistic piece but many hours are involved.

 

“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.” John Holt

 

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill

 

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

 

There are times when a student procrastinates and I have had several who are world class procrastinators but watching this student work at his project meticulously detailing each image is not procrastination.

 

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

 

What intrigued me with this project was that this student was normally lazy but this project became of interest to him. Each photo that he had taken in that past semester was being edited and formatted in minute detail and had literally become an obsession. He got in trouble in another class and asked if I would get him out of ISS so he could work on his project. As I looked at the Dan Rather quote I wondered if when he started that he knew he would lose two days’ work when he tried to download to a floppy more than it would hold and crashed. Or that editing a photo pixel by pixel takes time.

 

“It is surmounting difficulties that make heroes.” Louis Kossuth

 

“Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.” Carl Gustav Jung

 

What amazes me is that this student has begun to grow. In many ways he still is very lazy and often will start an assignment in great zeal only to stop before it is completed and be content with a 70%. His attitude is one of I am passing and so what.

 

“You can’t fly a kite unless you go against the wind and have a weight to keep it from turning a somersault. The same with man. No man will succeed unless he is ready to face and overcome difficulties and is prepared to assume responsibilities.” William J. H. Boetcker

 

“For every difficulty that supposedly stops a person from succeeding there are thousands who have had it a lot worse and have succeeded anyway. So can you.” Brian Tracy

 

As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark, that trick, that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an n email story the other day that was a tear jerker. Granted it probably does not pass the fact check and such but still a good story. Let me share this story with you whether you are a teacher, parent, student and or just a friend.

 

“There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her fifth grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.” His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’ laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. And she paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class, and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.” A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you for much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” A boy named Teddy, Author Unknown

 

I would like to hope I can be like Mrs. Thompson and sometimes all it takes is a teacher or a friend that cares.

 

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

 

I am sitting here finalizing my thoughts to teach an existential lesson, as I joke about so often being an existentialist. Yesterday as I walked down my hall with another teacher we were commenting on how many teachers had been here six or more years and it was more than half. Last night I ran into a teacher who no longer teaches at our school from our hall. The teachers who are gone had learned those that remain are learners interesting as I think back and forward reading Hoffer’s thought. Hoffer was a self-educated man, a philosopher coming from the docks of New York City his first book True Believer was written in the early 1950’s in his middle age and he never slowed down till his death in 1982.

 

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

 

So today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not be simply learned. 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

Religion is what you make of it

Bird Droppings March 21, 2018
Religion is what you make of it

 

“A poor devotee points to the sky and says, ‘God is up there.’ An average devotee says, ‘God dwells in the heart as the Inner Master.’ The best devotee says, ‘God alone is and everything I perceive is a form of God.’” Ramakrishna

 

Ramakrishna was a spiritual leader in India in the early and mid 1800’s. He had a belief in the unity of God, an oneness of existence, the divinity of all living things and a harmony of religions. He felt religion was simply a means to accomplish a goal. I receive numerous emails of an inspirational nature each morning and this quote from a Hindu email I receive struck me. How often do we want to place our faith somewhere away, up there, out there, anywhere but here? How often do we limit our faith to a Sunday morning worship service? How often is our religious experience simply mouthing the traditional words in a traditional ritual?

 

“We also have a religion which has been given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. It teaches us to be thankful, to be united, and to love one another! We never quarrel about religion.” Red Jacket, Seneca orator

 

“We know that the God of the educated and the God of the child, the God of the civilized and the God of the primitive, is after all the same God; and that this God does not measure our differences, but embraces all who live rightly and humbly on the earth.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, Santee Sioux

 

I have read extensively in Native American and Eastern philosophies and I have seen many similarities between the Eastern thought and Native American beliefs and philosophies. I am not trying to advertise but a good inspirational book “The Wisdom of the Native Americans” which is an edited volume of Native thought is edited by Kent Nerburn. The book is a collection of thoughts and ideas that can give wonderful insight into a new day.
I walked out and watched the moon and stars this morning sitting and listening as the light came into the world with a slow rising plume of smoke from a sage leave as a companion. I wish I were more awake I am still recovering from the pollen and a cold. Several mornings back around three in the morning a loud bird was singing off in the distance, a few doves were cooing and calling nearby. Around four that morning owls and whippoorwills joined in as well as a few tree frogs. By five that morning as I pulled into the school there was a chorus of crickets, frogs, birds, and who knows what else but nearly melodic. Always interesting as I pull into school with no one here it is quiet and peaceful for a few hours before the deluge of students and teachers arrive.
I went into school that day to sort and clean my room, feed critters and work on research for various projects for graduate school and for my classes that I am working on. I have been developing for several years my own collection of writings and spend a few moments in-between as a break working on those as well. Mornings are a good time for me to think and write as my thought processes seem more keen and sharp. One of my “friends” tells me it is old age, as by afternoon I tend to forget names.
It has been many years since I was youth director of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Macon Georgia. I had my 23rd birthday in that capacity so many years ago, forty five years now. Sitting on my shelf at the house is a Living Bible I received as a birthday gift, as I look back how appropriate in its name. This book is alive with notes, thoughts, and pictures from people along the way, even phone numbers and under lined verses with various kids’ autographs as they would select their favorites. Occasionally I will open this old bible and spill out the tidbits and reflect on days gone by, on philosophies changed and evolved. It had been many years since I called one of the numbers in the inside cover written nearly forty years ago. Back then Katharine was a high school student and a regular in our group. She is the one that gave me that bible for my birthday those many years ago. That call was a spur of the moment thought. I found she was in Europe at that time doing work in Bosnia for a mission board based out of Africa. As I opened up my emails a day or two later I read through and sorted deleting spam and junk messages and how this one caught my attention.

 

“I am in Dili, East Timor now still working with Catholic Relief Services. In this rather “gypsy” life I lead of moving in and out of remote and often isolated places, it is very nice to know that I still have links with people I have known for more than 30 years. However, as it happens, in this life we also face challenges with email communication … I love getting the Bird Droppings daily, but with the very limited access we have here to send, download and receive, I am afraid that I am going to have to ask you to take me off your list-serve. I can only get to email about once a week and downloading large documents that come daily really does slow down the whole system. I work and pray daily for peace and healing… please hold that thought for me. A note now and then would be fine and appreciated. Wishing you all the best and peace.” Katherine Pondo

 

We now keep in touch through a blog I write to. I speak often of the puzzle of our lives falling into place piece by piece each little intricate facet interconnecting to the next. Today as I sit writing and thinking of all the pieces over the years all the lives intertwined I offer this morning that when you get a chance to keep the Katherine Pondo’s of the world in your hearts and thoughts as often they are on the front lines of humanity trials and tribulations. Looking back over my wanderings today this is a small world and we so often try and segregate, delegate, and relegate belief. Over the past years religion has sparked political battles and upheavals. I honestly do not think Ramakrishna as he thought of harmony among religions would have foreseen the drama and often fighting that exists because of religion. So today please as always keep those in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.
“Aho Mitakuye Oyasin ” is a simple yet profound statement. It comes from the Lakota Nation and means all my relations. It is spoken during prayer and ceremony to invite and acknowledge all relatives to the moment. To most of us today, relative means a blood relation or another human in the family lineage. We have not been taught that an entity, other than human, could be a relative. Understanding this simple statement and contemplating it, could change your outlook on life forever. If you love and honor your relatives, you would be loving and honoring most of what is on this earth, if you lived by this meaning of “relative.” What a different world we would be living in!

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

docbird

 

 

Can we teach again a love of learning

Bird Droppings March 19, 2018
Can we teach again a love of learning

 

This has been a perplexing time of my life. I recall an event, a car wreck in which a young man was killed and his passenger who was a good friend of my youngest son was severely injured. My thoughts rambled back to when I drove to my son’s accident site and watched as medics pulled him out of his car and life flight took him to Grady Memorial Hospital. We were called to a staff meeting first thing and told of one of our teachers who had been in an accident and there were fatalities. She was ok but in the other car two died. Lives were changed radically in a brief few minutes as I read posts in Social Media. I co-teach with this teacher and went ito class unsure of what to say and do. I shared my heart yesterday and most walked away as they do so often with blank stares, ear phones plugged in and or giggles about a friends texting. I saw the apathy we as adults have taught so well.

 

It has been a few years back when a young lady who happens to work in a western wear store had on a Dixie Outfitter’s shirt. One of the issues with the Dixie Outfitters clothing line is the confederate flags which adorn the T-shirts. Most schools today have dress code rules against defamatory and or controversial logos and or slogans. Malcolm X shirts and Dixie Outfitters are actually listed in most dress code rulings. This shirt looked like a Dixie Outfitter shirt same colors and sequence of colors but no confederate flags. The interesting statement on the back was to the effect you can ban the symbol but not the meaning or colors. I watch the politics play out and the colors are there for sure.

 

“The greatest glory in living lies not, in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Nelson Mandela

 

I recall a year or so ago and a stubborn student. We had been trying to look at why do we have a dress code which was again based on a student wearing a Dixie Outfitters sweat shirt and my students reason was as to why wear a shirt you know is against dress code, whatever or because. How he responded was that he knew he could get suspended since he had been warned numerous times. However the larger issue is how children at such a young age quit learning and quit questioning life. Why are they suppressed and defeated to a point of using whatever as an answer. Whatever is a quitter’s statement. Had that student answered with arguable statements from the rightwing Dixie Outfitters website I would have known there was thought behind the action and not ignorance.

 

“From an early age we all question. As children grow, their questions are often answered, explained, and rationalized until their natural curiosity begins to be submerged. Yet sensitive persons, at one -time or another, find themselves again asking those same questions: “Where did I come from? What is the meaning of life? What happens when I die? Why is there so much hatred and violence? Who am I?” Zenson Gifford Sense, Abbot of the Northern Zen Sangha

 

I had another student stop in and thank me for lending them Kent Nerburn’s book Small Graces and as we talked for a few minutes she asked “Mr. Bird you love learning don’t you” I am not easily sat back but I had to think for a moment and somewhere between the two quotes is an answer. I have never being satisfied with an answer always seeking, looking and enjoying the search to find out more about whatever it is I was pondering. I responded to her question with several answers, I basically said yes, but that is the hardest thing to share a passion for learning. Robert Fried’s book “The Passionate Teacher” is a good example as he discusses sharing a passion for learning.
How do we re-instill the questioning? In 1962 Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for life for questioning the then current government of South Africa and was released from prison in 1990 to become the first black elected in a general election, and to the office of President of South Africa. Mandela could have quit and had he succumbed to his captors desires and been released. He chose to stay in prison nearly twenty seven years.

 

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. “ Nelson Mandela

 

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” Nelson Mandela, ‘A Long Walk to Freedom

 

Mr. Nelson Mandela was awarded the Noble Peace prize and helped South Africa in their start towards real democracy. He did this through persistence and never quitting and always questioning.

 

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. “ Albert Einstein

 

Why children stop questioning and stop desiring to learn I am not quite sure. Perhaps it is their home life. Perhaps for some it is boredom. Perhaps they have all they need to feed and clothe themselves and that is enough.

 

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Maybe it is just too easy to follow the path each day and walk where others have tread. Years ago when I would regularly get into the woods looking for wildlife we would find rabbit trails and deer trails worn by constant use. Children do the same simply following in the footsteps of the one in front one after another.

 

“People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I guess I have a difficult time with people sometimes seeing them as ignorant when they use “because” as an answer as it is used so often. Perhaps second in usage is “whatever” from teenagers and so many people when they choose to not answer a question.

 

“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sitting around waiting for “luck” or the sky to fall which ever comes first. As a child I remember the story of Chicken Little and the sky is falling soon the whole barn yard was afraid of the sky falling all because an ignorant little chicken got hit in the head with a pebble and assumed the sky was falling and enough others listened.

 

“But education is more than schooling. It is a cast of mind, a willingness to see the world with an endless sense of curiosity and wonder. If you would be truly educated, you must adopt this cast of mind. You must open yourself to the richness of your everyday experience — to your own emotions, to the movements of the heavens and languages of birds, to the privations and successes of people in other lands and other times, to the artistry in the hands of the mechanic and the typist and the child. There is no limit to the learning that appears before us. It is enough to fill us each day a thousand times over. “Kent Nerburn, On Education and Learning

 

I have used this passage before but I have also used the FIDO principle before too and never can we emphasize enough when offering an idea especially a good one. It has been nearly fifty years since it was conceived, the idea of Frequency, Intensity, Duration, and Over again hence the anachronism, FIDO. Continue questioning never stop become a child again in learning these are things we need to do. When I was asked do I love learning what should have been asked is what got me questioning again? That is the secret what gets us back to that place where we crave learning and we love learning as we did when we were small children and every aspect of life was a question and answer. Please keep all in harms way in your hearts and on your mind namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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