Can we change things?

Bird Droppings October 28, 2018
Can we change things?

 

“Therefore the shortage of effective teachers is not a problem that can be solved by a new structure. It is caused by how we train and manage teachers, and can only be solved by improving the way we do this, no matter what the structure of the school. Teachers who are effective managers will be effective in any school setting, but they will less effective if they are managed differently from the way they manage students. The good teachers we remember should be especially revered because in most cases they had the strength to manage students far better than they themselves were managed.” Dr. William Glasser

 

I opted Saturday to do some computer work searching my files for sources and citations. My wife and I ventured out to search for a sesame street t-shirt for Halloween at her office.  It was about five years ago I went on a road trip with two of my sons and one of their friends to the Colombia South Carolina Reptile Expo to look at snakes and lizards and such. I will say eight hours in the car and taking pictures of King Cobras and Eye lash vipers makes for an exciting day. My youngest son was nonstop nearly six hundred miles cracking jokes or at least getting the joke started and reminiscing over old times was fantastic.

 

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychiatrist

 

Change is something we are faced with daily and often it is change we do not want to bear. This morning as I had someone ask me why I take sunrise pictures. I could have answered cynically because no one else does, or perhaps because I like to send one to my wife each morning, or even gotten into a spiritual leaning aspect of the sun rising in the east, a sacred direction in native tradition.  The other day as I rode out to get sunrise photos I was thinking was it daylight savings time yet? I noticed my car clock did not automatically change last time as did my iPhone. So I am thinking daylight savings is purely a manmade deal nothing to do with nature and or reality. Perhaps I should consult my Jung texts on my dream of a red tailed hawk in my old back yard from my childhood. Jung was a great believer in dreams and dream analysis. I have been torn on the idea of change, what part we can play in this great cosmic drama, can we alter our minute part. What if we redirect the lines and switch characters in midstream.

 

“Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time.” Marcus Aurelius

 

There are two basic premises in reality one we are the center of the universe that each of us is a focal point and many people do feel that way. The other is we are simple a small piece of a large puzzle, one insignificant little piece yet without it the whole is not complete.

 

“The men and woman who make the best boon companions seem to have given up hope of doing something else…some defects of talent or opportunity has cut them off from their pet ambition and has thus left them with leisure to take an interest in their lives of others. Your ambition may be it makes him keep his thoughts at home. But the heartbroken people — if I may use the word in a mild, benevolent sense — the people, whose wills are subdued to fate, give us consolation, recognition, and welcome.” John Jay Chapman

 

A deep thought though I would beg to differ. Maybe it is how I read the passage yet I cannot help but think of Albert Switzer and Mother Theresa who gave up promising careers to help others. To me this far supersedes any success that might have been met in their other possible pathways. Giving in to fate I do not see these two great humanitarians as such but as embracing life and leaving self aside so they can help others. Perhaps it is our own definition of what is real and significant that matters.

 

“Whatever limits us we call fate.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I do think we become limited by semantics by words that try and define and offer parameters to perhaps limitless ideas and thoughts. We all seem to want parameters to whatever we do. I watch teenagers setting boundaries and limits and barriers every day. Some will be cultural and societal, others closer to home perhaps religious and spiritual. We want definition in our lives we want to be able to say well this person is this or that. We like stratifying and categorizing in our lives. I was working with a student on test scores trying to explain two people could have tested exactly the same on a personality test and still be totally different people. While a test is normed and validated it still has limitations that change with each person taking that test.

Some people see far more in a Rorschach inkblot test and details while a less artistic person may only see a face or a rabbit. Picasso saw myriads of color and shapes and we see a hodge podge of paint and call it abstract or cubist for lack of better terminology to define and delineate his work. Maybe we should simply say it is Picassian unique to an artist who saw differently than we other mortals.

Even in writing as I enjoy reading Edgar Allan Poe and had the experience of talking with and assisting in publishing an author’s work years ago who confessed to being the incarnation of Poe, ridiculous as it may sound. It was a bizarre period in my own life as I spent many hours on the phone and in reading his work. First of all he looked like Poe and he was an idiot savant. He could spin words and phrases instantly. When he would meet you he would literally immediately give you a poem often handwritten in beautiful calligraphy of the acronym of your name. He would write a poem each line starting with a letter from your name spelling out your name and literally analyzing your personality. While working with this fellow as weird as this sounds crows would literally flock to my yard, hundreds of crows, all day at my house which was in a pasture. When I sent the last of his work to him the birds went away.

 

“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” Carl Jung

 

Reading over the years I came literally by accident one day upon a book, I was floundering business wise and saw an ad for a free business analysis. I called and was assured it was free and would I sign to use this consulting firm if all went well in the analysis. I signed and for two days a gentlemen came and informed me I should close my doors. Not really a shock since my largest customer had changed from print to software and was a major part of my business. After submitting his business thoughts he told me about a book he thought I should read “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. It is sort of a new age book he said. He wrote the name and author on a piece of paper which I stuck in my wallet for my next trip to Borders. It was several Borders trips later and I forgotten about the book and while walking down an aisle a book fell and hit me in the head literally. Surprisingly enough guess which book. The book contains nine supposed insights recorded in ancient times and written in an archaic ancient language not used in 3000 years. Anyhow the point is here is the fourth insight from Redfield’s book.

 

“The Struggle for Power – Too often humans cut themselves off from the greater source of this energy and so feels weak and insecure. To gain energy we tend to manipulate or force others to give us attention and thus energy. When we successfully dominate others in this way, we feel more powerful, but they are left weakened and often fight back. Competition for scarce, human energy is the cause of all conflict between people.” James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

 

As I read this earlier all the struggles and attention seeking of students versus teachers, and of Carl Jung teachings sort of fell into place. Amazingly as I looked to my starting passage from Dr. Glasser administrators do this as well. It is about drawing power from teachers. We draw energy from others to replace energy we are lacking. We are lacking because we are not generating but simply using sort of a parasitic relationship. I have over the years developed a chart on student teacher feedback which could as easily be people to people feedback. One the lowest most primordial level is parasitism, where we feed off others energy. The second level is symbiosis and this is where each one needs the other independently of each other and yet inseparable. The third level is osmosis, where energy is freely given and exchanged back and forth. I have been using bits and pieces of this idea as I develop my dissertation.

Albert Switzer and Mother Teresa worked in this way; they never sought energy but received it in the giving to others in an ongoing exchange. I see daily students and teachers who exhibit bits and pieces of each of these forms of human interaction. Going back to my starting quote, understanding where you are and why is paramount to changing, and the ability to growth and truly being able to help others and yourself. I went out into the rain a few days back, a drizzle of sorts and cold. Rain has a way of quieting the air and forest. It was literally silent, muffled by the rain and heavy air. Our dog does not like the rain and scurried back inside, curling up on her blankets as soon as she was back in her room. I sat down unsure of which direction I would go today and wandering as I do often. But perhaps my point is we need each other, we do need interaction and we can change. We are not at the mercy of fate and or some cosmic puzzle unless we choose to be, yet we are all part of that puzzle as well.

 

A paradox of sorts as is so much of life. 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

Learning is a journey strewn with boulders

Bird Droppings October 29, 2018

Learning is a journey strewn with boulders

 

“In a word, learning is decontextualized. We break ideas down into tiny pieces that bear no relation to the whole. We give students a brick of information, followed by another brick, followed by another brick, until they are graduated, at which point we assume they have a house. What they have is a pile of bricks, and they don’t have it for long.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’S, Praise and Other Bribes

 

For nearly a week now I it has been either cold and or wet in the mornings. It has been interesting early in the morning clear or semi-clear. Today we had a foggy sky and mist hiding the remnants of the moon. It has been many years since I first brought up that we need context to complement the content in education. I have been a fan of Alfie Kohn’s work for nearly fourteen years since I first read a book in a book club meeting held by our then principal. As I read this earlier today and used as a status for my Facebook page the idea of decontextualizing interests me. Real learning involves context and if we constantly are decontextualizing essentially we are unlearning what we are trying to teach.

 

“Who, then, shall conduct education so that humanity may improve?” John Dewey

 

A very deep and broad question, I was thinking back to my own community and associations. We elect school board members who hire teachers and principals, they decide on schools to build and a place to build them and rules to govern schools. In Georgia recently several school systems have lost and or been put on probation due to school boards inappropriate behavior and the politics of those school boards that took away from education. The new kid on the bock charter schools is impacting public education and private schools still thrive here in the Bible belt. In any situation where elected officials are running the show and especially where there are few requirements for the job and it pays little if anything what should we expect? So I turn to my hero, what and how does Dewey the great educator answer his own question?

 

“We must depend upon the efforts of enlightened men in their private capacity. ’All culture begins with private men and spreads outward from them. Simply through the efforts of persons of enlarged inclinations, who are capable of grasping the ideal of a future better condition, is the gradual approximation of human nature to its end possible…. Rulers are simply interested in such training as will make their subjects better tools for their own intentions.’ Even the subsidy by rulers of privately conducted schools must be carefully safeguarded. For the rulers’ interest in the welfare of their own nation instead of in what is best for humanity, will make them, if they give money for the schools, wish to draw their plans.” John Dewey

 

We are manipulated and educated as pawns in a society for the societies own perpetuation and many top educators across the country believe this. There are times when I believe as well, watching new teachers come and teach in a manner that has been that way for a hundred years, as we develop curriculums that are what was and will always be and or design a program simply to sell books much like the integrated math program curriculum in Georgia that is after about ten years being done away with because test scores were significantly dropping and over eighty thousand students failed end of course tests it is always about tests. Occasionally a bright note a light on the horizon, a student of education or two sees a different view a different point and follows a different path. Here I am thinking and routine keeps popping up.

 

Today as I do every day I let out Timber our Husky stray that has been around for four years now. It is funny back in the day we had Moose our yorkie, and Lil girl our westie and the two could not be in the same space together even though they were raised for several years together. We moved along the way and they could not decide who was boss after the move. Then I go to my computer and write trying to catch up on emails. What is of concern as I think is that this is a trivial item to be concerned about? We want things to be smooth to run efficiently and effectively and “OUR WAY”; the further up the chain of command the bigger the “OUR WAY” is.

 

“The new idea of the importance of education for human welfare and progress was captured by national interests and harnessed to do a work whose social aim was definitely narrow and exclusive. The social aim of education and its national aim were identified, and the result was a marked obscuring of the meaning of a social aim.” John Dewey

 

Teachers and administrators like routine, sameness I call it and easy to be canned and or bottled. Borrowing from Sydney J, Harris “easier to stuff a sausage than cultivate a pearl” The student effectively gets lost in the mandated and regulated manipulations of society.

 

“Is it possible for an educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted, constrained, and corrupted?” John Dewey

 

I find irony in the concept of a democratic classroom which I do believe can be successful. I find paradox in our efforts to be so democratic in our own country and yet we tend to bow to where majority wants even at the expense of free thought. We say individualism on one hand yet want the seemed majority to rule and to dictate. As I was watching the election process in Iraq previously these concepts seemed to be exemplified. One faction has won and another literally did not vote in protest.

 

As I look at education and our own country how often do we do this and then when that which we did not elect nor even cared about happens we whine. We complain and we are faced with a journey that has provisions we do not want nor need. We can be often on that journey in a wrong direction for several years till another change, or pathway appears. Far too often we dictate direction in a top down scenario.  On the path the one on the journey is being told go this way and go that and should be the one directing the effort. It is so easy to raise an issue; following through with ideas is the more difficult aspect. Where in should the direction be set for example in education? I approach students in a manner that may be contradictory to some and way wrong to others. I offer here is where we need to go and ok class how do we get there. At first that is a difficult proposition, many want a map, a guide, a compass at least. The teacher can be that, facilitating in a guiding manner. But for learning to happen students have to be engaged and interactive in the journey each day.

 

“To get where they’re going, navigators first need to know where in the world they are.” Dragonfly web site

 

If we substitute educators and or students for navigators an interesting situation occurs. Any journey needs a starting point and how we find where that is often is the hard part in education. A journey starts at the beginning, where it is going is wherever and whenever but it does start somewhere. As a teacher helps students find a starting point and then provides tools to navigate the journey. 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

Hearing an owl

Bird Droppings October 25, 2018

Hearing an owl

 

“If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator.” W. Beran Wolfe

 

Within this life many people want to feel as if they are pursuing happiness. Many people feel that this aspect, happiness, of who we are is illusionary and so many times as I look at various students, former students, and friends and associates it may be. Is it the peer pressure perhaps, the group psyche coming into play and molding that which we see and what we are perceiving others seeing into a common thread or weave though it may be purely in our minds.

 

For me however happiness is an individual entity, it is something from within not a transitory effort to have or to be like everyone else. I have become a fan of few television shows but have taken to watching NCIS lately and Gibbs, the main guy is always building a boat in his basement by hand even though we never know how he gets them out. It is while he is working with his hands on his boat you generally see a smile on his face.

While reading emails and looking through other electronic mailings and postings I happened to read one about how the ideal guy would wear specific clothiers or have specific hair color, eye color, or even physical build. Sadly nowhere it seems do we look deeper. We seems to want the trappings and it is this outward appearance and back to my first paragraph that is what seems to bring happiness to far too many. We want this ideal person to be who we want to be, and who we want to be around.

 

As I do so many mornings walking out into the darkness listening to the sounds of the night and or morning as today seemed to be. I had awakened from a very vivid dream and gathered myself and let my puppy out only to encounter two owls calling across the stillness and still chilled from another night of coldness. It was not raining fortunately and the crickets and the tree frogs were silent from the chill. Perhaps the owls were on the hunt, my oldest son tells me often of being awakened by the owls hearing them at night out here in the country. I too hear them often but have never been awakened by them however this was my first experience hearing them as close as I went out.

 

The dueling owls went back and forth for several minutes in the stillness. As I sit here thinking and pondering still trying to recover from a cold, in my imagination so many myths and legends of owls. For some cultures there is great magic in owls for others they are harbingers of evil and death. But as I listened to the two back and forth mimicking calls perhaps territory perhaps a pair hunting perhaps the visages of spring have sparked a more sensual meaning to their calls.

 

For me there was not a fear but a sense of grandeur as the sounds soon dissipated. I wondered why tonight or I should say this morning as the crescent of moon gleamed in a clear sky about 4:30 AM or so. I pondered reading this simple quote that I started with by author Wolfe and then searching further.

 

“One important source of unhappiness is the habit of putting off living to some fictional future date. Men and women are constantly making themselves unhappy because in deferring their lives to the future they lose sight of the present and its golden opportunities for rich living.” W. Beran Wolfe

 

Perhaps the owls were a reminder of things needing to be done or of stopping the procrastinating. For there is joy in life for each of us now, it is not a distant event to be reached when the right clothes, job or thing is finished done or bought. Happiness, true happiness is now with us if we choose. It is in the contentment of knowing you have succeeded and you are where you need to be right this minute, this second. It is that all you have done in your life has been to get you here to this point. Wisdom is about accepting what and where you have been and are learning from this now. Happiness, true happiness is being content, and most of all it is about being alive. I am sitting here writing as the water from ten or so tanks flow in my room at school providing a relaxing venue for which into ponder.

 

I had wanted to work  in the garden a bit more this week but between cleaning up and Dead Pool I have put it off. It always amazes people when I say some of my happiest times have been sitting on the mower going in circles thinking, imagining, pondering and assuredly content for that moment. Please dear friends keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

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

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

I am always finding where community exists

Bird Droppings October 24, 2018

I am always finding where community exists

 

I am sitting listening to Allman Brother’s Fillmore East CD on a Tuesday morning a full moon hidden in our infrequent lately clouds outside. As I drove to school today I had several thoughts streaming through my head. How do two people see the same thing or read the same thing and still walk away with totally differing views? At the corner store a comment was made about humor and clowns and IT hit me. I can use the idea of a clown and half the room will think Steven King, the other half Ringling Brothers Circus. Another thought, Wounded Knee is considered in most history books the last great battle of the Plains. In Indian history it is considered a massacre.

 

As I got near the end of my doctorial course work I was involved in a class on educational ethics which featured nine texts all of which have an under lying current of caring and relationships as keys to education or I should say successful teaching. One of the books entitled Dreamkeepers by Gloria Ladson-Billings, focuses on the notion of that a teacher is giving back to the community. Over the past few years I have heard numerous teachers discuss not wanting to be seen by students outside of school and literally not being a part of the school community. Yesterday we got into a debate of sorts at school on this concept. Is it possible for a teacher to be a successful teacher and not be a part of the school community?

 

On my last trip to Barnes and Noble bookstore this past weekend I was looking for a book by J. Garrison, Dewey and Eros: Wisdom and desire in the art of teaching, which focuses on some philosophical ideas from John Dewey, considered being by many one of the great minds in educational thought. As I went to the bookstore I ran into a student from my high school that had transferred to Georgia Southern University.

 

“In every integral experience there is form because there is dynamic organization. I call the organization dynamic ….. Because it has growth….William James aptly compared the course of a conscious experience to the alternate flights and perchings of a bird…. Each resting place in experience is an undergoing in which is absorbed and taken home the consequences of prior doing… If we move to rapidly, we get away from the base of supplies – of accrued meanings – the experience is flustered, thin and confused. If we dawdle too long after having extracted a net value, experience perishes of inanition.” John Dewey, Art as Experience, 1934

 

I thought back a few years and many conversations on synchronicity and a trip home from a class actually after a midterm in Advanced Behavioral Techniques; I was hungry since I had not really stopped since early in the morning. I knew one of my former swimmers from the high school team worked at Taco Bell and sure enough she was working and I said hi, coincidently the same student who I ran into at the bookstore this past weekend. As I pulled out of Taco Bell my sweet tooth struck and I ended up at Brewster’s, as close to homemade ice cream as you can get at fast food, sounded good and there two of my former advisees were also getting ice cream. We talked for a while about uptight teachers and who was not, an interesting subject. Why do teachers get so uptight or anybody for that matter? Brings to mind an interesting thought why so many teachers are on psych drugs for varying conditions?

 

As I talked several more students and former students pulled in I met girlfriends and boyfriends of each and such, coincidence perhaps but an average day for me it seems.  So often I mention the word coincidence and try to explain it. Recently in a letter to a friend I used the term of we are where we need to be right now at this moment and when we realize that all of a sudden so much more becomes clear. James Redfield an author refers to coincidence frequently and the idea that when you begin noticing coincidence it happens more often as you become attuned to it. Essentially as you become aware of your place in the puzzle the pieces all seem to fit better and more clearly.

 

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Gustav Jung

 

Carl Jung was of the nature there was purpose in all that happened and he and his former partner Sigmund Freud disagreed to an extent on the whys of this. Jung coined a word synchronicity to explain his thoughts in the early 1900’s. Events and things happening at a specific time, specific people seemingly appear by chance but obviously not.

 

“His (Jung) notion of synchronicity is that there is a causal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception.” Skeptic.com

 

“Some scientists see a theoretical grounding for synchronicity in quantum physics, fractal geometry, and chaos theory. They are finding that the isolation and separation of objects from each other is more apparent than real; at deeper levels, everything — atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, people — participates in a sensitive, flowing web of information. Physicists have shown, for example, that if two photons are separated, no matter by how far, a change in one creates a simultaneous change in the other. “A Wink from the Cosmos, by Meg Lundstrom (Intuition Magazine, May 1996)

 

How does synchronicity tie into community? Somewhere in and among ideas and thoughts are answers. Some people seek answers through religion some seek answers through pure science others assume there are no answers and sit on a rock. Going back to my first thought I see teaching as a community and that in that community we are integral pieces and do interconnect many times and as for me today and yesterday in many differing places. I find throwing myself into that community as significant as walking into my class room on a school day. Each time I bump into a student it adds to their appreciation of my time and effort and gives me a piece of their puzzle too help deal with any issues that may come up when I have them in class.

 

Each of us can choose our direction and flow as humans, as friends, and as teachers if that is our chosen lot in life. The actual point I was making was when we are aware of our interactions with others that each moment we spend with a person affects not only that person but the next person they see or talk too as we too are affected. It is in this way community is built. I came away that night and yesterday, happy having talked with some folks that I had not seen in several weeks even several years and hopefully they too went away a bit happier. This is how life works and if we are aware of this imagine the effect and impact. If I know I will be affecting people beyond my contact with someone I will be more aware of how I affect them and so forth. I recall many years ago from I believe Dr. Glenn Doman, the old credence of leaving the person you are talking with smiling will affect ten others is true. If you involve the idea of coincidence, fact or fancy who knows but it sure happens a lot. So as I wander today through differing ideas please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

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

 

Have we sold our souls for a few trinkets?

Bird Droppings October 23, 2018
Have we sold our souls for a few trinkets?

 

Morning is a special time for me always a new beginning. That might be far too easy of a way to say what I am trying to say. Today I went out a bit early from the house to take out the garbage and just stand in the silence for a moment. As I walked out from the house an owl was sitting on the road and flew away as I took bag of trash to the curb giving me an interesting start today. But for me several aspects of that start to the day almost are routine taking our dog out, going to corner store, then sitting down for writing and reading each has become a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coolness of perhaps the end of our summer as we finally succumbed and turned on the heat. Across the sky clouds drifted blocking the half moon and masking some of the stars. The stars were crystal clear in spaces between clouds in the morning darkness and the moon barely a glowing around edge of the clouds here and there a peek through a veil of darkness.

 

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

 

Yesterday I got into a discussion about a Bird Dropping from a few days back dealing with sacredness. In the course of the discussion I began to realize how much we have in our hedonism, given away. I wrote a paper on the stripping of soul from students as we demand and seek higher test scores as a means of showing learning. I listened last night to update on the years ago shootings at Virginia Tech and history of a young man and his anguish and angst that lead to it. They pointed to his observations and experiences with the hedonism of our society. He in his questioning and counseling was mentioning over and over in his rants the materialism of our society. I began seriously thinking have we sold our souls for a few mere trinkets?

 

“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth

 

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

 

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words perhaps meaningful written pictures that may have significance. I emailed several people last night just touching base opening discussion about this idea of sacredness. But as I thought the interactions and intertwining of life that occurs daily, those we seemingly miss and ignore. I was talking with several high school students about how life is much like a puzzle interlocked one piece to the next and we tend too often miss seeing the tiny yet needed interconnections.

 

Watching the news and each new report bits and pieces of how and why the events of the past few days have spilled out around the world. I recall many years back when I suggested psychiatric treatment for a student and was told not my call. Six years later he is sentenced to three life sentences for killing a young mother and nearly killing two children he baby sat for. Sometimes those at the top may need to listen to those of us doing the labor at the bottom.

 

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

 

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

 

As I moved through the day yesterday sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort to those in need other than keeping them on our minds and in our hearts. Most people as the day finished never missed a stride I am sure around the world there was tears from family, friends and those that are experiencing hardship and harm. But as I tried to explain even in tragedy there is purpose and meaning. That concept is difficult to explain to people who live in a materialistic world view.

 

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

 

I have used this quote several times and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness. Life is seeing beyond the tangibles and foibles of our existence. Life is not the shirt, shoes or coat we wear. Life is about what is in your heart. Life is about your soul.

 

“It’s not how long life is but the quality of our life that is important.” Roger Dawson

 

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Charles Dickens

 

I am working on a project for my mother typing and saving her handwritten notes and journals. One I recently input was the days following the death of my younger brother. In 1996 he passed away and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had built our lives around my brother. He was severely disabled and our being in Georgia was directly related to him. As we celebrated his life reviewing the intricate webs that were laid each moment and the many people touched and lives affected what seemingly had been was now an enormous out pouring of life. Every day a new piece of that puzzle falls into place. It may be another teacher of special needs children, another person recalling the time spent helping with John’s rehab and how it impacted their life. Within our difficulties and disasters always there is hope.

 

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

We each approach the morning in a different way I embrace the day and begin with my writing seeing each moment then unfold trying to understand each tiny piece. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys and as I look back each has had meaning and direction and led me to now. I told a dear friend while I am always wondering where I am to be next it is not because I do not enjoy what I am doing but because I may be needed elsewhere. It is about making and experiencing the journey.

 

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler

 

Several years ago I received a call from my nephew that a close friend had been in a car accident and as the night proceeded I spent that night in the Athens Regional Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving. We were all hoping that the numbers on the dials would change, they did not. When I arrived home on my computer there was a sticky yellow note from my oldest son, this Steven Tyler quote from an Aerosmith song. As I think even farther back and as I was discussing sacred yesterday with a student, in 1968 as I left for Texas for college I received a book from my parents which reads on page 596.

 

“To everything there is season, and a time, To every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

 

Many years ago the late Pete Seeger a folk singer and environmentalist wrote music and borrowed the words, a song was born “Turn, Turn, Turn” soon to be released by how appropriate “The Byrd’s”. “To every season turn, turn, turn there is a reason turn, turn, turn and a time for every purpose under heaven” the song became a hit.

 

“Nothing is beneath you if it is in the direction of your life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Robert Frost

 

So often a poets words offer comfort or give direction back to a journey set off course one moment. There is no filling of a void yet when looking at life and all that has been, when looking at the journey to now there truly is no void. There is a turn in the road a new direction all that has led to this point has not changed and is there behind us lifting us guiding us strengthening us as we continue our experiences. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia already sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across. He clambered stone by stone crossing the stream and a favorite Zen saying I often attach to the photo.

 

“You can never cross a stream the same way twice.” Zen Saying

 

We all can cross in our own time and there are times when a hand is welcome. Years ago I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website, “Friends are never alone”. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

 

What about adding to our current reality TV: The great teachers of America?

Bird Droppings October 20, 2018
What about adding to our current reality TV: 
The great teachers of America?

I am back in grad school and finishing my twelve yearlong doctorate, today working on writing. A time ago I had been set up to teach several new college classes when I received notification of a reduction in force just before I started on a new syllabus and lesson plans, that got me thinking. Last night when I got home I was sitting mesmerized by the night sounds when the kitchen door opened and our dog poked his head out I am sure wondering what I was doing. I was not in the mood for TV and the sounds of darkness seem to calm me ng this has not been mentioned in nearly two yearsafter a seriously crazy week, too much going on. Off in the distance a owl was calling to one near the house and crickets tree frogs and an occasional coyote chimed in. It was an exceptionally human free intrusion on a quiet night since few people influenced noises were present. I found myself thinking to the idea of; I wonder if this is what it sounded like hundreds of years ago just the various birds, crickets, frogs and owls. A heavy dew was dripping from pine needles nearby adding to the ambiance. I gave thanks and headed to bed.

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Our former federal education program No Child Left behind was about lifting standards to a higher level to make the United States number one in education. In the news literally daily the idea of raising the bar in our educational process was suggested over and over again. I find it interesting this has not been mentioned in nearly two years. We need more students to succeed so we will change/raise the standards and graduation rates. So to say raise the bar educationally. The theory is that more students will succeed with higher standards for teachers and students. However changing of teaching methods, changing delivery, and even changing standards does not raise the ability or desire of a given student.

I can’t help but think of high jumping when the idea of raising the bar came up. Let us use as acceptable a height of currently thirty six inches and tomorrow we will raise the bar to sixty inches and you will succeed. It is all because we have a new way of telling you how to jump. We will use a megaphone now, and just as you jump we will yell “JUMP”. As silly as this sounds this little exercise which is akin to many educational programs is more how not to succeed than before. Before raising the standard did we look at why the students could not clear thirty six inches? Was it the teaching method? Was it the physical ability of the student? Was it the shoes they are wearing? Perhaps the surface of the run way to the jump pit is too soft or slippery? Was there a wind that knocks the bar off as they approach?

 

In education time after time the mention of zip codes and test scores comes up and in today’s jargon that’s why we need these charter schools run by businesses who know what to do. So in my naiveté, I wonder how does a real estate mogul or software genius know how to teach or seemingly increase knowledge and cognition over say a teacher? Even more interesting is many of so called experts have not succeeded in school and or did not go through college. But they know what it takes to help poor kids or failing kids how to raise the bar. More recently a continued amount of corruption and failure rate in these for profit charter schools. There are some being successful my granddaughter’s county system officially is a charter.

Basically in any type of medium if a person cannot jump thirty six inches moving to sixty inches will only assure failure. However with practice and time sixty inches is possible but several factors have to be in place and a key one is the desire and attitude of the person doing the jumping. The coach can be the greatest in the world but if the student is content on failure they will fail. A few years back I watched the induction of John Madden into the NFL hall of fame. Madden has been one of my favorite commentators and coaches of all time.

 

“Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” John Madden

 

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” Ara Parasheghan

 

Coaching and teaching are often synonymous in many ways. It was a number of years ago I raised and showed horses. I had a very good Appaloosa gelding we affectionately called “Spot” and with me riding Spot would be third or fourth but always place. Funny thing was with my trainer on board Spot would win. I once asked about this phenomenon and was told the following.

 

“You put a ten horse, and by ten I mean on a scale from 1-10 out with a 1 rider again on a scale of 1-10 and you have a 5 ride, however you put a 10 horse and 10 rider out and what are your odds” Earl Burchett, trainer and judge of Appaloosa and Quarter horses

 

As I thought of my horse days quote, teaching and coaching are similar. A good teacher can get more out of a poor functioning group of students and a poor teacher will get something out of great students. For thirty five years I have asked how do we distinguish who are the good teachers and or coaches are from a mediocre ones. I always questioned why a good friend and I who co-taught together would always get classes made up often eighty percent at risk and special education out of thirty two students or so. We continued to produce test scores that were often better than other regular classes. I would joke we were only class that went out for example in biology. We provided context to kids who could not learn from content.

 

“Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.” Don Shula

 

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Vince Lombardi

 

Commitment is a key word in selecting a great teacher and or coach and the ability of instilling that commitment in their students and players. Over the years few coaches have been compared to the great Vince Lombardi who is perhaps the greatest of all coaches.

 

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi

 

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.” Vince Lombardi

 

The ability to succeed is based on hard work desire and determination these are skills that great teachers and great coaches can instill in students and players.

 

“The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else” John Madden

 

Far too often we only see the champion and how many folks can remember who finished second or third in the national championship game. This may be a fault in our society that we settle for only the greatest only the best. We live on a bell shape curve and only a few will ever be the best but it is in the trying and it is motivating students into trying that as a teacher is to excel. It is so easy to succumb to the down side of that curve. Fifty percent will not succeed and that mentality is often so powerful that so why should I try harder.

 

“One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.” Knute Rockne

 

A slight paraphrase of this great quote from the great Notre Dame Coach, “One teacher teaching is better than fifty saying they do”. This is what it is about; it is about truly teaching, motivating, instilling determination, and desire. It is about coaching and succeeding rather than failure. I hear every day, but I have a seventy percent I am passing that really makes me upset that a child concedes to a seventy percent. Who gave out seventy percent passes but we do it all the time. Can a thirty six inch jumper clear sixty inches? Many years ago a so-so high jumper changed his form. He was also a student of physics and as such and he noticed jumpers were leading with their foot and the body following. He changed his form and lead with his head and torso and high jumping changed forever. Shortly thereafter a world record and Olympic gold went to Dick Fossberry and the Fossberry flop as it was called is now the jumping style of all record holding high jumpers. Funny thing is, today all high jumpers lead with their head a matter of physics getting the heaviest part over first and those muscles pushing it over last which takes less effort and the world record keeps going up. It is about ideas, determination and commitment and any goal can be accomplished.

Can this apply to teaching and learning? Most assuredly we can, but we have to make an effort and we have to look for the means of accomplishing our goal. Federal standards called for research based programs in educational settings yet there are only a few the field is narrow and the difficultly is doing new research which requires guinea pigs and too many teachers and programs do not want to fail. Teacher’s jobs are at stake as well as administrators and so we in trying to improve may actually have boxed ourselves in by limiting improvement to a narrow window of research proven programs, which in reality may or may not work. Are they researched n the same demographics as the students you teach or will be teaching is always a question? Has this program truly been tested on a large enough group? Is there room for improvement and progress within the program?

From personal experience I have watched administrators then limit programs due to their own limitations in imagination and creativity. One of my favorites is the notorious word wall. A teacher must have six inch letters of vocabulary words on the wall and that is it. So an electronic version that is available at home anywhere on computer is not a word wall or a well-designed graphic as a lead in for a students working notebook in class is not a word wall, a set of personal flash cards is not a word wall, t-shirts with vocabulary, sky writing vocabulary words these are not word walls it has to be six inch red letters not yellow or blue. Teaching gets defeated by limits, impositions and parameters imposed by lesser imaginative administrators and legislators.

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I went out walking to my quiet spot before posting today sitting at home. I sat in my quiet spot giving thanks for all that has transpired in the past week for each element good and bad makes all involved a better person. I shared with a friend last night how each person we interact with gives us a piece of our life’s puzzle and  shared my business card which is covered in puzzle pieces and they smiled and said it makes sense now. The pieces are all falling in place. So I end my writing for today and get back to the grind of educating the masses and getting phone calls made and computer forms filled in but still the hard part is keeping all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and always giving thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

 

 

 

Am I a Weginahsa?

Bird Droppings October 19, 2018
Am I a Weginahsa?

 

“The work of a teacher – exhausting, complex, idiosyncratic, never twice the same – is at its heart, an intellectual and ethical enterprise. Teaching is the vocation of vocations, a calling that shepherds a multitude of other callings. It is an activity that is intensely practical and yet transcendent, brutally matter of fact and yet fundamentally a creative act. Teaching begins in challenge and is never far from mystery.” Dr. William Ayers, To Teach: the journey of a teacher, 2010

 

It was just barely four o’clock in the morning and I miss having my granddaughter waking me up. They had been living with us till they were able to get into their house a few years back. My son is a nurse now and my daughter in law is in her last semester of nursing school. Study time is minimal with a seven year old red head and five year old little boy. Our husky needed to take a run outside to do his morning thing. Lately he has slept most of the night but today after I had gotten up and rambled around the kitchen in the wee hours he started barking and I went and took him out. It was cool again we and yet several owls s were calling through the pines and a crazy mockingbird has been up literally round the clock lately calling away. It is unusual to hear a bird calling at this hour. But maybe he was calling for some warm weather to come back I have been hoping for myself so music and song made for a wonderful morning awakening.

 

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done …. Men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

 

I have always been a fan of the great developmentalists, and the process of each piece leading to the next and so forth. Piaget while well respected in educational fields did his research on his own children. I still find that a bit weird. Although watching my grandchildren growing up I do very much the same watching the interactions with parents, other children and with me. However his ideas seem to be sound in many aspects even though his demographics are a bit shallow.

 

“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.” Anatole France

 

In our age of standardized testing and how much we can force feed into our students so they can pass a test I had to think twice as I read France’s quote. We constantly test for content daily in our school systems and wonder why we still lag behind. “Education Weekly featured an article on science programs in other modern nations and how they were so far ahead of ours. Every program featured context over content. John Dewey one hundred years ago preached context.

 

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” William Yeats

Every day I drink several liter bottles of water after my morning tea. I never started drinking coffee till recently and then only mixed with my tea and Starbucks is the wrong direction in the morning for Chai Tea with a shot or two of espresso. Although I do brew my own which is nice but it takes a few moments to heat up. For several years the liter bottle has reminded me of how we teach. For so many teachers it is simply trying to fill a liter bottle period. I visited a museum in the mountains of North Georgia and was looking at an old moonshine still when it hit me. We need to teach kids to distill information. Concentrate on the important and the pieces that can lead to other pieces. Stop trying to cram it all in to a confined space.

 

“The farmer channels water to his land. The fletcher whittles his arrows. And the carpenter turns his wood. So the wise direct their mind.” Dhammapada

 

Many years ago there was a folk song entitled “If I were a carpenter”. As I read this passage this morning from a Hindu text that song popped in my mind. I used a similar passage many months ago from another great thinker, of our time.

 

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

During the folk song era which probably in some circles including my own, still exists, Pete Seeger was very famous. He would sing songs borrowed from Woody Guthrie’s hobo and dust bowl days, songs of the depression. He would borrow from various other current and past sources for his songs. He wrote music for and developed one song that was made famous outside folk circles by a group called “the Byrd’s”, entitled “Turn, turn, turn”. This song was based on words from a book in the Old testament Ecclesiastes to be exact, “To everything there is a season, a time to be born a time to die”.

As I sit here writing this morning I got thinking about the late great Spike my bearded dragon, a former resident of my class room who had passed away a few years ago on a Friday after five years in my room and how he would spit out grapes. He must not have liked seeds in his grapes. I was thinking back to Independence Day and flags flying from telephone poles, draped over tables, emblazoned on T-shirts and paper cups celebrating our independence. I am reminded of what and who we are as Americans. By the constitution of the United States all people are equal all are entitled to certain liberties and the pursuit of happiness.

As we go about today remembering we need to also think of in being free and being able to speak, and worship freely we should not impose our ideals and beliefs on others which was the founding fathers key tenet. That is so easy to say but I was reminded many months back of the innocence of youth as I sat at lunch with my youngest son at a Chinese Buffet in Loganville. The owner I have known for many years and she had her three boys there with her.

The Chinese restaurant owner’s sons were sitting playing at the next booth. As they talked, some was in English some in Chinese as the chattered back and forth and giggled playing games as small children do. The boys were between 3 and 5 years old. One of the boys using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted said I am a Chinese boy now. As I sat and thought about how there were so many possible meanings to that. I know his family, both his mother and father are from mainland China and very active in cultural awareness programs in local schools and the community. So was this an example of an innocent child’s color blindness or was it a slight to his heritage. I would like to think it was simply youthful innocence. “There is a time to ever season”, we cannot choose the road of our genetics but we can choose the directions and pathways we take with it. We can choose the words and actions we exhibit. Earlier today I read a post wondering about genetic preference for music and I responded it is deeper than genetics. Spiritual is the energy tying all together.

Several years ago as I wrote the word black indicating race I was reminded that it is politically correct to say Afro-American. I was intrigued, I am still called a white person within the context of the discussion not a Welsh, English, German, Irish, Native American, Hebrew, Scottish, Amish person. After a moment or two I came up with WEGINAHSA that would work. I wonder if I called someone a Weginahsa if they would be upset or if I could get that listed as an ethnic group. I could list it under other. I am a Weginahsa pronounced Wee – jean – A – house – a. I am no longer just white I am a proud weginahsa, if I can spell it correctly and pronounce it the same twice in a row. I am reminded of another politically correct nomenclature Native American. The late Russell Means asked a reporter who was speaking about Native Americans where he was born. He responded in New York and Means said you too are a Native American and then said I prefer to be called Indian.

We choose the roads and pathways we choose the words and implications of those words and the attitudes that formulates them. I was thinking back to Piaget and theories of development of children and at what age do we see color? At what age do we begin to find differences in humans? Pondering and looking again at Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, as he made the comment about a street sweeper. It is our choice as to how great or how little we are and it is our choice whether we truly are free or not. That is not in the devlopmentalist guide book that is ours to decide. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are and that we are able to think act and be free, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and a key is to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird