Bird Droppings June 6, 2018
I am always thinking about where I am going
Two years ago this time it was hectic. I drove down to Savannah to present my portion of a new book coming out edited by Dr. Bill Reynolds, Forgotten Places: Critical studies in rural education. The book is based on critical education in rural settings. The chapters focus on the idea of rural and how different is education in rural areas. This past weekend was grand babies for a night and two days and I crashed and woke up from a vision of sorts. I am finally sitting down and organizing my thoughts after getting out of bed and jotting thoughts down. Over the years I have often done things backwards. I first read Thomas Moore leading to James Hillman which led to Carl Jung. Each was a student of the previous. In all of their writings there is a thought of purpose underlying their ideas. I even did something similar in religion starting with the Methodist church then Anglican and married Catholic. Somewhere in there studied to be an Anglican Priest for a bit. Now basically a heathen by most standards.
“Sooner or later something seems to call us onto a particular path… this is what I must do; this is what I’ve got to have. This is who I am. It’s important to ask yourself, how am I useful to others? What do people want from me? That may very well reveal what you are here for. “James Hillman
One piece of my day is that I am always wondering, am I where I am to be at this particular moment. Each day’s various coincidences lead me to say yes on an ongoing basis. In a casual conversation I found out one of my students in my new adventure in co-teaching I knew from ten years ago. Having been back to teaching now for seventeen years I can honestly say I am where I need to be right now even retired and thinking about what is next. A number of Saturdays ago I was dropping off my car for some servicing and by chance a restaurant was within a few steps so I walked over to get a salad and taste their fried cheesecake. Out of the door comes a former high school student yelling Mr. Bird. As it turns out we talked about education for nearly an hour as it was slow at the restaurant. Was it meant to be or simply by chance I was late getting to the service station or that this student had chosen to work an early shift which she normally doesn’t do.
“Just stop for a minute and you’ll realize you’re happy just being. I think it’s the pursuit that screws up happiness. If we drop the pursuit, it’s right here.” James Hillman
I remember not that many years back when I closed a business, one I had been in for twenty three years and never thought I would be doing anything else. My business failed and I had no other choice but to close. Thinking back I recall trying to find similar work in the publishing trade and being turned down and or not able to get in due to being overly qualified and or too old. At one point I actually went to work for eight dollars an hour at a large copy shop as a customer service representative.
“I don’t think anything changes until ideas change. The usual American viewpoint is to believe that something is wrong with the person.” James Hillman
“As Plotinus tells us, we elected the body, the parents, the place, and the circumstances that suited the soul and that, as the myth says, belongs to its necessity.” James Hillman
James Hillman has come up in my readings over the years. I was reading, Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore nearly twenty years ago and he referenced quite a bit of Hillman and it turns out that Moore studied under Hillman and of course Carl Jung is referenced by both Moore and Hillman who studied under Jung and actually was in charge of the Jungian Institute for a period of time. Author James Redfield references all three in his writings as he developed the Celestine Prophecies. The overriding question is, do we have purpose and I have found we ponder this question over and over. For many years I have searched in my thinking, research and reading that there is some grand plan and then I find it could be just that smile in the morning when the students first walk and it brightens their day.
I spent yesterday and some of today when not writing pondering and thinking about teaching school. There was an email from a friend who is teaching in Korea, another from a parent of an autistic child and her purpose in life. Each moment all through the day yesterday and today each aspect of my weekend seemed directed. Be it thinking about since it is raining mowing grass, playing Lego with my granddaughter, trimming the bushes, getting ready to watch Tech football in a few weeks or reading for grad school and in all I pondered purpose. In the coming weeks ahead I have so many anniversaries of many things for me including coming back to teaching. It is easy to remember the bad things this date brings forth but a true memorial is looking at the positive. As I am listening to various news stories and interviews while the destruction of the Twin Towers was a horrible event and one I wish had never happened it has created and evolved all of us into who we are now. Seventeen years ago I started teaching again after a twenty three year layoff.
“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Charles A. Beard
I do recall that first day of class years ago September 11, 2001, as much of it was spent in lock down and most of us were confused as to what was really going on. It was many days later I really thought about what day I had come back to teaching. Charles Beard was a historian and often a controversial one at that. Commenting that Roosevelt brought the US into World War II for economic recovery was a pretty strong statement in its time. Interesting historically that has been the case several times over. When I first looked at his quote I was thinking about little children being afraid of the dark and night time and several times when out with youth and trying to ease fears of darkness I would use stars as a focal point and it does have to be dark to see the stars. But in life so often we lose sight of the stars until trials and tribulations show in contrast and we again can view our own stars. Folks they are there today with all going on it is often hard to see the shining stars but rest assured they are there and they will be shining when we need to see them.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
Sometimes it does take shifting gears, so often I watch parents and teachers simply approach an issue just as it occurred sort of like fighting fire with fire and generally the flames just get bigger. Technology is a great tool and many teachers are still fighting to avoid or to prolong their lack of certification in technology.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein
As I talk with teachers it is not so much the task of manipulating a digital camera or power point but the imagination that is required to put it into action. How can I use this in class? Is the most asked question. I ask how can you not which should be the real question?
“Men are only as good as their technical development allows them to be.” George Orwell
“Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute.” J. G. Ballard
It was not that many years ago some teachers argued against white boards versus black boards and for a long time chalk dust ruled. We have access to tools for education that can enhance and multiply learning often they are simple tools. Here at LHS it is now iPads that are the norm.
I had a student who is functionally illiterate yet could in a few moments generate powerful PowerPoint presentations on most any subject pulling from his own stash of photos and knowing where to go to find more. I have had several teachers argue is he really learning? I recall many years ago I had an essay as an assignment 250 words he stopped at 181 and asked if that would do. When I first met him years ago when I first asked for an essay his two lines of type were a different language. He could read it back to me which was strange in and of its self and for a while I found I could decipher his words but we worked on it. He found to get to point B on a computer you had to be able to read this essay of 181 words I read and anyone could have read and I still have it filed away to remind me that maybe I am in the right place. I credit his reading teacher as well who had been working with him but now reading has context for him.
“However far modern science and techniques have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.” Lewis Mumford
Years ago I recall my father telling me if we could think of it, it was possible. We need to embrace that notion in education and in learning because it is true. Limitations often our simply those placed on a child by a teacher somewhere along the way. They can’t do it is a challenge or should be to prove that person wrong.
“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius
“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius
We tend to allow others to provide our own interpretation of the world albeit teachers in a class room. Teachers need to be the most imaginative and open people alive. I enjoy this quote of still waters reflecting. Often I refer to setting the example, students can become a mirror image of what they see and hear and can limit their own intake of reality on what they have been shown and seen.
“The way we imagine ourselves to appear to another person is an essential element in our conception of ourselves. In other words, I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” Robert Bierstedt
I hear fifty times a day; I am stupid in classrooms and or in the hallways. Even in the lunch room occasionally you will hear that statement. Many times students feel that from teachers. My immediate response is generally since when or as compared to whom. Then I get serious and ask why they think that. Several years ago during a summer school session one student caught my attention. For several sessions and during regular school classes I had emphasized vocabulary in the science classes I taught. The goal of “the not yet” program was to get 60-69 percent grade students passing in two weeks of intense classes. They had one class mine and only could get to a 70 percent on their transcript in this program. But they would get credit and not have to retake the entire course. All students took a pre-test and post-test which was each of the various departments’ final exams. In three years everyone passed who my attended classes most with very good grades and we concentrated on vocabulary. Every day I would do a pre-test of that days words and every afternoon a post-test.
In four years never a student who did not improve till this one he would get a 20 in the morning and a 21 in the afternoon everyone else would average about 80. I tried talking and he had a very low self-esteem about school. I tried different approaches and one day technology using a LCD projector and a power point of our vocabulary words. That day he looked at power point several times when he had a chance and his afternoon quiz was a one hundred percent. Each day there out as I used power point as a tool for him all other grades went up as well is that a simple solution, but perhaps in how he sees or perceives that bigger version made a more of an impression.
“Pictures help you to form the mental mold…” Robert Collier
Each person is unique in how they perceive and see the world
“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream. I can remember this very clearly.” Dr. Temple Grandin
Dr. Grandin is considered to be one of the leading authorities on animal handling in the world. She has designed and engineered 75% of the commercial livestock handling facilities for commercial packers in the United States. She has been recognized by animal rights groups for her ethical treatment in design and development and has written college texts on animal science. She also is considered a world leader in autism as Dr. Grandin is autistic herself.
“People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet. I was very lucky to receive very good early intervention with very good teachers, starting at age 2 1/2 years. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher. A good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. Some teachers just have a knack for working with autistic children. Other teachers do not have it. If you find a good teacher, hang on to him or her tight.” Dr. Temple Grandin
Going back to my student who through Power Point learned vocabulary, it is using ideas and imagination in dealing with students. It is about opening doors finding that one thing that works in that one instance and looking for other solutions as well constantly. “There is no single magic bullet” as Dr. Grandin states. But if we keep our eyes and ears open we can find another and another and all children can have the opportunity to succeed. So as I search for my own purpose in life and we remember all those who lost their lives this day I ask as always to 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,
(We are all related)