How do we find democracy?

Bird Droppings October 18, 2018
How do we find democracy?

 

I was three years back I was still recovering from a slight change in medication for my blood pressure. I went home from school and dozed off for three hours afterwards. Immediately the next day we were rushing around with our heads cut off trying to get caught up from a day of testing. I am not sure why that day or two sort of popped up being retired and all. It could be that I do not worry about testing any more.

 

I walked out earlier and still no frost on the windshield of the car although temperature and one of coolest nights of this fall hovering around fifty five degrees. Judging by the clouds there will be a sunrise making its way through the overcast, a new day is dawning. For a split second this morning our dog did not want to venture outside. As I turned back inside only to find as I stepped why my dog did not need to go out, a wonderful surprise I was standing in. My dog is still alive though I did threaten his life in various means in under my breath incantations. Funny how dog senses things maybe he felt rain was coming and he quickly retreated to the kitchen and then went and laid down on my wife’s chair where she was working on her computer sort of smiling at me. What you going to do now?

As I do so often each morning as I am looking in one place and find another direction another thought. I have several of Dr. James Sutton’s books. Dr. Sutton’s lectures around the country on Conduct disorders and Oppositional Deviant Disorder, an interesting combination and as a teacher I saw them all the time. Parents see some and in the work place many corporate issues and political issues stem from childhood issues such as these. I was looking through Dr. Sutton’s book,  101 ways to make your class room special and found a website of Dr. Marvin Marshall Promoting Responsibility and learning, Dr. Marshall has developed a Hierarchy of Social Development. We need to send this to Washington as a reminder.

 

“A is for anarchy, B is for bullying, bossing around, C is for cooperation, conformity and D is for democracy – Level A is never acceptable, Level B is someone who needs to be bossed, level C is external and D is Internal” Dr. Marvin Marshall

 

One of the difficulties is many teachers and or leaders are they want their group to be a Level B or Level C because they want the authority and in doing so limit that groups ability for input. Many teachers strive only for conformity and trying to go beyond that level is then difficult and or nearly impossible for the people under that type personality.

 

“At Level C, a person is not acting from an entirely genuine desire to be kind or respectful, tolerant, etc. Rather, at Level C, a person acts due to the presence or influence of someone else. Although this level is certainly acceptable (and even many adults never move past it in their own development), it is important for young people to understand that this is not the highest level of personal or social development.” Dr. Marvin Marshall

 

I think we all can relate to this level of socialization. I use a story from psychology where in an experiment a group of monkeys is trained to refrain from going after some bananas. It takes only a short time to have group influence on new members to the group. In the monkey story this is the level the monkeys operated on where the influences of others is the driving force and the limiting force. So often in society we place level C at the top and never mention anything better or higher.

 

“…it is important for young people to understand that this is not the highest level of personal or social development.” Dr. Marvin Marshall

 

By not telling and not disclosing an alternative allows for certain types of leaders and teachers to perpetuate their ideas and survive. Watching national politics unfold often the rules are made and remade to keep this type of system going even at a federal government level. When a malfunction occurs we quickly change the rule and always external reasons are the driving force.

 

“At Level D, a person is kind, (or tolerant, respectful, diligent, etc.), because he/she is motivated INTERNALLY. A person operating at this highest level of development acts        kindly (tolerantly, respectfully, with diligence, etc.), WHETHER OR NOT someone is watching or supervising. At Level D, there is no desire to impress, be rewarded, or even be noticed. When operating at this very high level, a person acts in a kind, tolerant, respectful or diligent way without any EXTERNAL incentive to do so.” Dr. Marvin Marshall

 

I am sitting here sadly most people simply say no way it is not possible. It is way too mushy or no one acts that way. Yet educational leaders keep throwing it out. John Dewey in the early 1900’s proposed democracy in the class room. Back even further Thomas Jefferson wrote extensively on the issue enough that we remade the nickel for him of course on the other side is a buffalo which is a herding animal. Maybe that was the true hero of the coin and going back further to ancient Greeks democracy is a powerful word and tool when wielded. From Dr. Marshall a key thought for educators.

 

“When operating at this very high level, a person acts in a kind, tolerant, respectful or diligent way without any EXTERNAL incentive to do so.” Dr. Marvin Marshall

               

“We escape from a discipline driven environment to a self-motivating and stimulating structure. ….a person of the highest character is motivated INTERNALLY to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do.” Dr. Marvin Marshall

 

“Although Level C operation leads to decent relationships with others, a decision to operate more consistently at Level D naturally leads to EXCELLENT relationships and, additionally, a strong sense of self-esteem. By focusing on the benefits of operating at Level D (the great feelings of inner satisfaction that come from knowing that you are an authentic and genuinely motivated individual), I have found that young people become inwardly motivated to WANT to reach for this highest level of personal development more and more often.” Dr. Marvin Marshall

 

I have observed many times young teachers and industry leaders come in and feel they can build a level D in their class room and in their job. In a manner of weeks usually within six months they are steadfastly operating at level C. I mentioned fear over the years as a possible cause but it may be deeper than that. It is easier to function at a level C and easier to walk away and go home each night. The parameters are more clearly defined and established I was drawing an illustration from sheep production. I can build an electric fence that will confine my sheep. If I build it right and it will be a deterrent to predators as well so movement in and out will curtail. However what if and this is a big if I develop, train, raise, and or educate self-motivating sheep. Each morning they vote on which pasture to graze and when to return to the barn and on how long to stay out and other sheep issues. We become a level D sheep flock and no sheep dog is needed and many issues involving new sheep training can be done on a basic discussion level, bahhhh! One of the reasons level D is so hard to attain and even consider is so many leaders in the world look at people as sheep and will say they cannot do this so instead the following exist.

 

“Cooperates – Does what is expected – Exhibits self-discipline, kindness, responsibility, reliance, etc.–when someone else is present to provide the motivation” Dr. Marvin Marshall

 

Good little children all in a row all are coloring with a red crayon just as I ask. It takes a renegade or an instigator to mix up desks and to offer other colors. But with a little thinking and a little confidence in the resources of mankind it is possible and students employees can achieve.

 

“Develop self-discipline – Show kindness to others – Develop self-reliance –     Demonstrate responsibility – Do good because it is the right thing to do.” Dr. Marvin Marshall

 

Attaining a democracy is truly not all that hard it takes a bit more humility and a bit more concern for your people or students, “because it is the right thing to do.” Today is a new day a wonderful day I went out earlier and it was still cool this morning although so I did not sit on my porch and listened to the morning crickets as most were quiet and few were out. I did record the chorus last night so on the cool mornings ahead I can replay. Today I had to only imagine and sat down to write so 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

 

 

We are so missing Creativity

Bird Droppings October 16, 2018
We are so missing Creativity

 

It was another quiet morning as I wandered out although a bit too chilly for crickets and frogs. Yesterday afternoon as it warmed up however several tree frogs visited around the house. The air was still, not a breeze as I sat in my old wicker sofa on the front porch. I was listening to the stillness and quiet something about the lack of hum of air conditioners just before we all turn on our heating systems. I enjoy my morning chorus yet today perhaps with numerous ideas running through my head quiet was good for a change. I was thinking about students and how to deal with issues that are confronting several. I was thinking of my own children growing up and a wedding anniversary and baby dedication in next weekend for my youngest son and all that encompasses. I was thinking selfishly about directions for life and future, so many thoughts and so little time.

I have always been amazed at creativity and often the lack thereof in some student’s maybe we strip it away in favor of repetition and memorizing of bits and pieces and then say someone is so creative for repeating exactly what was plugged in during class.

 

“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 considered the idea perpetuated by Piaget of stages of development in children as they learn as a basis for many aspects of human life and the development of creativity is a crucial one.

 

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” Edward De Bono

 

A number of years ago my youngest son was recommended for the gifted program in his elementary school. The various testing consisted of achieving beyond a certain point in three out of four areas and one was creativity. After he was tested, the person testing commented he went off the charts in creativity. It is so easy to stifle creativity throughout our lives we are trained to conform often in ways we never really understand.

 

“The creative person wants to be a know -it -all. He wants to know about all kinds of   things: ancient history, nineteenth -century mathematics, current manufacturing techniques, flower arranging, and hog futures. It is because he never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later or six months, or six years down the road. But he has faith that it will happen.” Carl Ally

 

Years ago I would read encyclopedias cover to cover and always I wondered why. Why things were as they were and so much more. As I look at my thinking on Piaget, often time’s children are held back in thinking by a parent or teacher and miss a stage, so to say, in their development. It could be it intellectually, spiritually or even physically and often not intentionally.

           

“First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in             my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” Robert Cecil Day-Lewis

 

“Creativity is essentially a lonely art. An even lonelier struggle. To some a blessing. To   others a curse. It is in reality the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.” Lou Dorfman

 

I see every day students that have been limited in their ability to achieve. A teacher here did not look beyond a failing grade, due to a reading issue, and labeled that student. A parent perhaps, never home never provided emotional guidance to their child. A pastor’s words perhaps, far too critical pushed a child away from faith. It may have happened in stages, or steps in development process and so pushed away or torn away in some cases, leaving blanks, hollows, difficult to fill.

 

“The legs are the wheels of creativity.” Albert Einstein

 

“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.” Anna Freud

 

I agree to a point with Ms. Freud eventually a creative mind will push through but when we so diligently hold them back irreparable damage can occur. I watched a young man working on a project in my class room he had been labeled by many as incorrigible and a slow learner. He was working in a project that required much hands on creativity no other student measured pieces quite to the extent he has on this project. As he was setting up templates and measuring guides as he worked and he was several days behind others not because he is slow but in deliberation and perfection.

 

“Most people die before they are fully born. Creativeness means to be born before one dies.” Erich Fromm

 

“Because of their courage, their lack of fear, they (creative people) are willing to make            silly mistakes. The truly creative person is one who can think crazy; such a person knows full well that many of his great ideas will prove to be worthless. The creative person is flexible — he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are.” Frank Goble

 

Maybe that is the difference and that might be flexibility, a creative person is flexible.

 

“The desire to create continually is vulgar and betrays jealousy, envy, ambition. If one is something one really does not need to make anything –and one nonetheless does very much. There exists above the “productive” man a yet higher species.” Fredrick Nietzsche

 

“The person who can combine frames of reference and draw connections between ostensibly unrelated points of view is likely to be the one who makes the creative breakthrough.” Denise Sherarjian

 

Many days ago as I was reading Yahoo news a story came across and as in Yahoo news was only there a brief second or two and a new story more important came over the internet. The movie Rain Man was based on this man from Utah, a magna savant, which is a person whose memory and intelligence is increasing as he grows older. NASA had been studying his development. He had read over 9000 books and could pull from them any passage instantly and precisely. He is fluent in and on a genius level in 15 subjects yet cannot dress himself or find his way home. For this person memory is all and yet there is little or no potential for creativity quite a paradox.

 

“Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” Robert Wieder

 

If only we could always encourage creativity. If we only we were not afraid so many times of creative people. If only we would lift up ideas and thoughts and try not to stifle new thinking. I wonder would we progress as humans perhaps but it sure would be interesting trying. As I think back in history so often those in power have stifled creativity wanting to keep to the status quo. It has been a number of years since I received an invitation to a solo art show unfortunately in New York City from a friend. Creativity has kept her soul growing and expanding some will love her style and art and others will walk away. I was thinking back to impressionists who many distained in their life times and now bring literally hundreds of millions for paintings. Another friend writes and her writing has changed as she is changing. She went into teaching and this opened windows for her ideas and flow of thoughts. Working with children tends to make us creative just to keep up. A new week and new season upon us as the cool weather brings color to the trees and stillness to the mornings. I wonder what this world would be like if we taught creativity in all grades. What if we looked for rainbows rather than simply black and white? What if we tried in see in a kaleidoscopic view rather than in a microscopic? I wonder but for now please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thank namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Do great teachers truly use intuition?

Bird Droppings October 14, 2018
Do great teachers truly use intuition?

 

I have mentioned over the years I can tell when a child has emotional issues most of the time after observing a few minutes and listening. Granted observations are part of most evaluations but I was referring to an intuitive aspect of observation. Something we learn perhaps as we experience and live life. John Dewey would point to learned experiences that provide us with the ability to build on present and future expereinces.

 

Over the years several children I have worked with I have recommended additional involvement and unfortunately also got to say I told you so in future. I got up in the middle of the night to work on some ideas preparing for an IEP later today. I am going to my niece’s daughters IEP to offer my advice in what seems to be a child being under served. My printer is rolling out 300 plus pages of Georgia Kindergarten standards for some light reading this morning. My point this is we have data, black marks on a page and yet often this is insignificant if interpreted without intuitive wisdom as a filter or guide.

 

“Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” Edwin Hubbel Chapin

 

As I was discussing the final class debriefing as it is called at a foxfire teachers training several years back. A thought hit me as to why some teachers can do more than others. Why some teachers succeed where others flounder, intuition, a simple thought and a difficult concept to teach to another. This is an area most education classes forget. I have for many years considered teaching an art form. There is an aspect of teaching that separates great teachers from poor teachers. There midst the volumes of educational lore are very few that get into the concept of intuition.

 

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” John Steinbeck

“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” Michael Burke

 

Knowing what to do at a specific moment intuitively is not easily taught in a classroom it has to be experienced and understood at a deeper level.

 

 

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” Dr. Benjamin Spock

 

“Instinct is untaught ability.” Bain

 

In a teacher training session on grading I listened to seasoned teachers discuss how they would do this or that, then one said “do you have that written down” What is your starting point. How much planning time do you allow and as I watched and heard in disbelief in this situation that was one of a teachable moment slip away by the way side. The person speaking turned around stunned as I was and said I really do not plan it takes ten minutes to jot down a daily note to my students and each day they experience new things and we build on that.

 

“Instinct is intelligence incapable of self-consciousness.” John Sterling

 

I began thinking of key words in teaching, intuition being a good starting point. Always when teaching anachronisms help and I found, IESP, Intuition, Empathy, Sympathy and Perception. These are all aspects of a good teacher and a good parent and a good person as well.

 

“Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” Dr. Joyce Brothers

 

In doing research on intuition in years gone by, many psychologists believe we have stored experiences and concepts that we do not even recall that are the basis for intuition.

 

“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.” Florence Scovel Shinn

 

There are other researchers who consider aspects yet undiscovered as a basis for intuitiveness and intuition.

 

“A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action.” Jawaharlal Nehru

 

So many years ago Nehru was the first Prime Minister of an independent India and as well a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

 

“Instinct is the nose of the mind.” Madame De Girardin

 

I saw this note and it intrigued me. Instinct being a door opener and perhaps starting point, a beginning it could be possibly even one of our senses.

 

“I would rather trust a woman’s instinct than a man’s reason.” Stanley Baldwin

 

I do not know exactly what this entity is we call intuition. I have observed many teachers and parents, workers and managers. Some know answers and others have to understand and solve the issues. As I was thinking and pondering the past few days I always seem to come back to a favorite quote.

 

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

 

One of my red neck buddies responded, “what the h— does that have to do with intuition”? Some of us have a goal a destination but the journey the getting there is as critical and crucial as the end result. Each aspect of the pathway is essential rather than simply the end of the trip. When you are looking as you go you see so much more. I recall a long trip as a child and we would play games looking for animals. If you choose to look only for red tailed hawks, it would be miles and even hours between birds. If you choose birds and how many different ones you can see we up the chances of every few seconds or minutes seeing something. Open that to all animals and now every few seconds and you are looking for details in the road side and trees and grass. Life is so similar some people are looking for specifics so minute they seldom find what they are looking for. Others see every nook and cranny. Intuition is in the crannies I think.

 

“The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.“ Anonymous

 

I wish I had said that or who said it. 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

 

How do you feed the wolves?

Bird Droppings October 11, 2018
How do you feed the wolves?

 

I walked outside very early this morning to a sky filled with clouds leaving and a brisk wind. Crickets were almost silent chirping slowly in the unusually warm weather. My morning started long before sunrise today and the sounds as I walked to the car caught my attention. Nearby a coyote was calling and an owl’s call added to the moment. Numerous constellations were visible through drifting pieces of clouds. I sat my goal to get to go to Kroger early so I could spend some time writing today and with so many thoughts going through my mind I sit down as listening to an old track on iTunes. Bob Dylan’s, Blood on the Tracks is considered by many to be one of his best albums. I picked up my phone and a note was visible on the lock screen. It was a thank you comment from a former student from eleven years ago what a great start to my morning.

There are times when it is hard to put into words whether it is because of confidentiality or emotions maybe even words truly do not describe well enough and yet pictures are not suited to define or describe as well either. A large display of Georgia Bulldog marketing materials, cups, flags, caps and stuffed bulldogs reminded me of a past trip. It was several years ago I went to Kroger after school to pick up a few things to make spaghetti, the universally excepted meal in our house. The parking lot was packed from one end to the other so I parked about twenty miles from the door. I read that is a good thing to do for exercise adding a few more steps to your day. After finding all I needed and visiting with at least half a dozen friends I bumped into I started up the book aisle which is sort of habit. It was packed and everyone was in line. A rather assorted bunch of folks were standing in what appeared to be a line.

I carefully went back and went down another aisle to head for checkout and as I reached the front of the store there were several men in black suits standing almost at attention beside a table stacked with books. My initial thought was it was Sarah Palin’s book signing but I knew she would have been in a more strategic location than a Loganville Kroger and while she is popular there were a lot of people here. Then I see this old man who is still pretty spry for an old codger sitting shaking hands and signing his latest book. I had forgotten today was Vince Dooley day at Kroger. Dooley is somewhat of an icon in this area. Vince Dooley was the former head coach and athletic director of The University of Georgia Bulldogs. Where else but in Loganville would thousands of people swarm a grocery store to get an autograph from Mr. Bulldog himself. Being an avid Georgia Tech fan I walked by nose in the air and paid for my groceries.

But the events of the week so far and thinking back had me recalling an old email I received nearly ten years ago. The story goes something like this. One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a debate that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” I received this note from a parent of a former student.

As I thought back and read over this simple story again I was thinking about how children respond to various situations and we adults then commend or condemn them. Those two words are so closely spelled yet so far apart in meaning and understanding. Yesterday morning a young lady came in and was visibly upset but more of a moping kind of upset. Seems her boyfriend and she were sort of at odds. I shared the Thomas Merton quote I have hanging on my wall and have used here so many times.

 

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we see in them.” Thomas Merton

 

I asked the young lady to look up Merton and see some of his other writings and who he was which she did before school and then she left with a copy and a Kent Nerburn book, Calm Surrender. As we talked I thought of this quote about the wolves inside of us and how we all are fighting as she told me of conflicts in her life and in her boyfriend’s life as well.
Several days back my wife and I were discussing kids as we tend too and the topic of learned behavior came up. We teach kids through our actions and inactions and yet we then punish them for the same exact thing. An attorney was on TV saying parents who knew kids were drinking at a party at their house should not be held responsible for any actions of drunken teenagers. The discussion was on a point, counter point discussion and then the other side mentioned that the person who was involved in the accident had been arrested previously for DUI and the parents knew that so there was a history established. So I sat listening to this back and forth, an underage drinking party led to a teenage driver killing a child. The underage drinker who was driving had left the party at that particular parent’s home with their knowledge he was drunk and had been drunk previously, both parties were found guilty. On the one hand the defense attorney was saying kids will be kids and on the other a dead child.

So often in life we are faced with what ifs. We have knowledge of behavior that is construed as dangerous or potential dangerous and yet we tend to shrug it off. A headline yesterday caught my eye where industry is turning its nose on incidents that do not cause major damage or injury. Coming from an industrial safety background it was these incidents that lead to major break -through in safety and loss control. A headline down was about women not getting mammograms anymore till fifty and on the news many women were up in arms who had breast cancer and whose family members were saved by early detection. I recall a young man I worked with back in the 1970’s and how on many occasions I had requested an evaluation and was told keep out of it the young man was Learning Disabled only. After I married and moved to Loganville I actually let him spend the summer with me and work on our farm. Sadly a few years’ later things changed and he was arrested and sentenced to three life sentences. He had killed a woman and her two kids wanting to return to Central State Mental Hospital. Commend and condemn so similar yet differing in the meaning.
I look back at the story which wolf is being fed. We are responsible as parents, teachers, friends and we and others need to be more actively involved in keeping such situations from happening. Whether it be teenage love or teenage drinking there is harm being done around the corner and often under our noses. 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

A chilly morning observation

Bird Droppings October 12, 2018
A chilly morning observation

 

I spent the better part of yesterday avoiding my direction so intent on the moment I was missing cues to the past and future. As an empathetic human being I get caught up at times in the emotions and feedback of the present. When I allow my wisdom to kick in and help determine pointing the way so to say I can be a formidable teacher and advocate. John Dewey writes about experiences past, present and future and how they are interrelated and interchanged often. I am working on a notion of curriculum that is continuous not finite as most teachers try and do in practice. William Pinar discusses curriculum as running the course that it is ongoing it intersects each aspect of life and time. So as I sit here today pondering my previous day, present moment and future I see the interplay that so easily can be hidden in focusing solely on the moment. So a swig from my meditative mug of strong chai tea and into today’s thoughts.

 

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

 

My wanderings in general are the expanse of my almost sixty nine years of life experiences over several days of traveling, thinking and observing mankind. Just a few nights ago my son and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature was only a few feet away in its wildest. I was walking this past Sunday morning just in my back yard. I have been away from my quiet spot due to some developer work and bush hogging near my home in Between Georgia. Around me birds would occasionally fly into and out of the trees but most of the time without a sound. I was essentially alone sitting listening while everyone else was inside. Only a few hours earlier I had a wonderful experience watching nearby my house as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.

Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. It has been a few weeks since we drove home from a quick trip to see my son and his wife and our grandbabies we noticed nearly fifty hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground.

 

Clearly we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

 

Only a few years back we have been through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter election campaigns I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads were the vast majority of all from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with after the election and even then that was questionable. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”. I received a copy of a book in the mail from a friend in New York after he published. I had known the title for months prior but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today. Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

 

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all experts liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

 

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the newly legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past year lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. I grew up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions. Even more significant is my son still in nursing school who is over twenty five but is covered with new health care law. If not for that not sure where we would be after his accident in May of this year with over three hundred fifty thousand in medical bills that were covered.

 

I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

 

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

 

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai who is a seven note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage of a clear sky and quiet surrounding the trees. I had to stop listen to the music and see this quiet still image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house. As I turned from observing I noticed a flat tire on my son’s truck which brought me back to reality and the moment.

To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

What is that piece you cannot teach teachers?

Bird Droppings October 10, 2018

What is that piece you cannot teach teachers?

 

“Studies suggest that instructional and management processes are key to effectiveness, but many interview and survey responses about effective teaching emphasize the teacher’s affective characteristics, or social and emotional behaviors, more than pedagogical practice.” James H. Stronge, Qualities of Effective Teachers

 

I have been a student in classes with, and have heard over the years many great teachers. If I was to put a characterization on those individuals it would be they could communicate and relate to their students. There was an affective, emotional and social interaction that brought relevance to their teachings. I first gained a serious enjoyment of literature from a professor at Mercer University in Macon Georgia who stood up on a desk and began reciting Shakespeare in his overalls. He had studied Shakespeare in Great Britain and acted in Shakespearean theatre while there. I was enthralled and for the first time in four or five years of college received an A in a Literature class. This professor went on after his tenure at Mercer to work with indigent farmers in rural Georgia which was his true passion.

 

“Why does everyone seem to have a story about how one special teacher got through to them, and reshaped their life forever? Could it be that teaching is just about the most important job in the world? And could it be that in the end, the challenge of fixing Americas schools comes down to putting great teachers into classrooms and giving them the tools they need to do what they do best.” Karl Weber, editor, Waiting for Superman

 

I am sitting here in the wee hours waiting on rain from Hurricane Michael. I have been up for some time pondering several ideas. My son is heading out early and I knew my wife would be going to work so no one around to wake me up if I doze back off. I went outside into the seventy degree oddly warm morning to listen to tree frogs. There were no stars and nightly silence was nearly deafening. I could imagine early people on this spot hundreds even thousands of years ago looking up and seeing and hearing even smelling what I was experiencing. But my experience does have some implication to my topic today as to what it is that in inherent ingredient in a great teacher.

 

“If we can’t identify the best teachers by comparing their credentials, we face an obvious and crucial question: How do we define a good teacher.” Karl Weber, editor, Waiting for Superman

 

It has been nearly thirteen years since I finished my Specialist degree at Piedmont College. I was introduced to the cohort idea in teacher training and on that first day we were presented with a thirty or so page document that at that time was labeled STAR. This was to be the basis for our degree program. Basically it was a rubric to determine whether or not you as a teacher were proficient, excellent or distinguished and so forth. The rubric was loosely based off of work done by educational consultant Charlotte Danielson who now heads up the Danielson Group based in Princeton New Jersey. I have read articles arguing the merits of Danielson and Stronge but I see good points in their work. I do have issue with some of the bastardization school reformers have done with their words.

 

“An effective system of teacher evaluation accomplishes two things: it ensures quality teaching and it promotes professional learning. The quality of teaching is the single most important determinant of student learning; a school district’s system of teacher evaluation is the method by which it ensures that teaching is of high quality. Therefore, the system developed for teacher evaluation must have certain characteristics: it must be rigorous, valid, reliable, and defensible, and must be grounded in a research-based and accepted definition of good teaching.” Charlotte Danielson, Danielson Group

 

“When teachers engage in self-assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversation, they become more thoughtful and analytic about their work, and are in a position to improve their teaching. Evaluators can contribute to teachers’ professional learning through the use of in-depth reflective questions. By shifting the focus of evaluation from “inspection” to “collaborative reflection” educators can ensure the maximum benefit from the evaluation activities.” Charlotte Danielson, Danielson Group

 

The major goal of the Specialist program was for each of us to leave Piedmont as Distinguished Teachers. Somewhere I actually have a medal on a blue ribbon showing that I am a distinguished teacher. There is a catch to this being a great or distinguished teacher does not stop the day that it is anointed on you. This is literally who you are not a degree or piece of paper. But what makes a great teacher different and what is it that gives us these great teachers? According to the Danielson framework there are some specifics.

 

The Framework for Teaching:
Components of Professional Practice
Domain 1: Planning and Preparation Domain 2: The Classroom Environment
§  Demonstrating Knowledge of Content
and Pedagogy Demonstrating

§  Knowledge of Students

§  Setting Instructional Outcomes

§  Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources

§  Designing Coherent Instruction

§  Designing Student Assessments

§  Creating an Environment of Respect and   Rapport

§  Establishing a Culture for Learning

§  Managing Classroom Procedures

§  Managing Student Behavior

§  Organizing Physical Space

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities Domain 3: Instruction
§  Reflecting on Teaching

§  Maintaining Accurate Records

§  Communicating with Families

§  Participating in a Professional

§  Community

§  Growing and Developing Professionally

§  Showing Professionalism

§  Communicating with Students

§  Using Questioning and Discussion

§  Techniques

§  Engaging Students in Learning

§  Using Assessment in Instruction

§  Demonstrating Flexibility and   Responsiveness

From Danielson Group website:

 

So often we need to confine our ideas to lists too easy to understand bits and pieces so we can check off what we have done or will do. Danielson’s four domains are significantly more than most twenty minute walk through that are the standard in Georgia. But still there are pieces that cannot be pinned down so easily. James Stronge in his book, Qualities of Effective Teachers has a few that stand out.

 

“Effective teachers care about their students and demonstrate they care in such a way that their students are aware of it.”

 

“Effective teachers practice focused and sympathetic listening to show students they care not only about what happens in the classroom, but about students’ lives in general. These teachers initiate two way communications that exudes trust, tact, honesty, humility, and care.”

 

“Effective, caring teachers know students both informally and formally. They use every opportunity at school and in the community to keep the lines of communication open.”

 

It might sound a bit silly but I am bothered when a teacher says they could not live in the community they teach in. How do you ever know your students if you only see them and experience what they experience eight hours a day? So often it is hard for teachers to break through the shell of teacher student barriers that are presented and held in place by tradition and often school policy. Teaching is not just standing in front of a group of students and lecturing for two hours. Generally most are asleep within the first ten minutes. Relationships need to be developed and cultivated that can bridge gaps. Emails to parents, communications with students and parents to let them know you are concerned. In all of my undergraduate and graduate years I only seriously remember one very bad professor. He would come in put the text book on his podium and then read it to us. When the bell would ring he would fold his book closed and leave. His office when open was rather cold. One girl I recall went to him for some help and came in sat down and he stared at her for twenty minutes and never said a word.

 

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed.  Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block, Ethics and Curriculum

 

Perhaps it is remembering that worst case scenario of bygone years and multiplying it over and over in our heads to help us conceive of and develop what is the way things should be. I think I came to my idea of what makes a great teacher by comparing the worst and best and seeing the vast difference in learning that occurs. I did not need research and data to see kids were reading who used to be illiterate. I did not need a check list to watch people come away from a great teacher with the conversation still going and carrying it to lunch in the commons at Mercer or over dinner at Piedmont or Georgia Southern.

 

“Passionate teachers organize and focus their passionate interests by getting to the heart of their subject and sharing with their students some of what lays there – the beauty and power that drew them to this field in the first place and that has deepened over time as they learned and experienced more.  They are not after a narrow or elitist perspective, but rather a depth of engagement that serves as a base for branching out to other interests and disciplines.” Robert Fried, The Passionate Teacher

 

It is so easy to throw out the word passion and try and point to ourselves and say we are passionate teachers. But you can see quickly the difference between the also run and the passionate in life. As I wander today I have been a fan of Savannah College of Arts Literature Professor Mary Aswell Doll’s thoughts and have used them numerous times as references in papers on curriculum and education. This illustration of an electric current running through us combined with Fried’s passion and these are components of a great teacher.

 

“Curriculum is also … a coursing, as in electric current. The work of the curriculum theorist should tap this intense current within, that which courses through our inner person, that which electrifies or gives life to the persons energy source.” Mary Aswell Doll  

 

You have got soul. Many the time, I have heard that remark in reference to or about someone. One of the experts on soul is Thomas Moore who has written numerous best sellers about this often ambiguous subject.

 

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves.  It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance.  I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality.  When we say someone has soul we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

 

Soul cannot be taught it cannot be bought and it cannot be traded for. Moore uses some words here going a bit beyond Stronge’s qualities of a great teacher. Depth value, relatedness, heart and personal substance these are attributes are also pieces of who a great teacher is. A great teacher has soul might be my next point. Over the numerous years of teaching I have heard teachers say they have been called to teach. I sort of wandered back into teaching. Finding it was where I was meant to be. Parker Palmer offers to teachers that there is sacredness in our undertaking.

 

“The Community of truth, the grace of things, the transcendent subject, and the “secret ”that“ sits in the middle and knows – these images emerge, for me, from my experience of reality as sacred and of the sacred as real.  Others may arrive at similar understandings from different starting points.  But I believe that knowing, teaching, and learning are grounded in sacred soil and that renewing my vocation as a teacher requires cultivating a sense of the sacred.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

 

Maybe I should have stopped a few hours back but being in my sanctuary here upstairs and totally quiet save for Brewer and Shipley for a couple of hours and I get a bit carried away. I want to stop with a thought that no door can remain closed. We as teachers need to be about self-improvement, becoming students as well as teachers learning and reflecting so that we can always become better at our undertaking. We are critical links in our societal endeavors and it is crucial we hold up our end.

 

“I used to think that any door could be opened. Some stood freely open, some could be opened easily; some were harder to penetrate. Sometimes you had to knock, sometimes bang, sometimes charge; but always the door could be opened.” Susan Thomas Anthony, Walk With Spirit

 

I started this many hours ago and here I am bringing to a close an unfinished work. Hopefully over the next few days I can address this idea of what makes for a great teacher but until that time 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

 

Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

Bird Droppings October 6, 2018

Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

 

It seems lately the pressure of old age has been weighing on my mind. Today is the first day in some time I felt pretty good it could be it is fall break and next week my grandkids are coming over. It was last year on a spur of the moment while grocery shopping I bought two pumpkins for my grandkids to paint. That turned out to be a great success along with a herbed pork loin I recall cooking that evening. With the chills setting in my days of getting flower pictures and spiders are numbered. I will be gathering in my plants that do not enjoy the cold this weekend a mountaineering festival and maybe a day of photos and reading Saturday.

I am a member of the National Association of Educators and receive their weekly publication. An article caught my attention in a past issue. In Georgia we had Standards that drive the curriculum throughout the state in line with federal and state mandates. Essentially the article was about teaching to the test.

“Preferring concrete guidance, teachers make what is tested their de facto focus. The unfortunate result is that tests become the curriculum. And because tests are filled with multiply choice items that do not adequately reflect important higher levels of cognitive demand, instruction becomes less rich that it should be.” Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard, Standards are not enough.

As I thought I recalled a quote I have used many times before and how it applies to education.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

It was last night as I was working on pulling some files together and books for my ideas that this Wayne Gretzky quote popped up again. Considering that I had played ice hockey in college and most my life it was sort of cool. Gretzky is a hero to hockey kids just like Michael Jordan is to basketball players. Gretzky’s records cover several pages of HHL record books, he holds or shares 61 NHL records. As an example a recent ESPN top twenty five sports records that will never be broken had Gretzky’s feat of 2857 points (goals and assists) right near the top since number three player, Gordie Howe at 1850 holds the longevity record as well and number two is 1887 points. But what does this have to do with the price of beans or with education?

“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their own learning and in democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of Children. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, retired Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College

Proactive is a good word. “Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty” is how Dictionary.com explains the word proactive. A good friend has the Gretzky quote up on his wall, I gave him a copy nearly nine years ago and it still is in use. I first used this quote over nine years ago when my friend was principal at our high school. He has moved on but Gretzky’s words ring true, be it in Ice Hockey, teaching or in life. I have expectation as a key element though in this quote, be where the puck is going to be not just where it is. Be thinking ahead rather than thinking in stagnation.

“For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much – if he lives and uses that in hand day by day — shall be full to running over.” Edgar Cayce

“Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” Richard M. DeVoe

Much of Cayce’s reading can be a bit much but these are good words and our daily outlook does mold where and how our day will be.

“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” Orison Swett Marden

Marden was the founder of Success magazine and is considered to be the founder of the modern Success movement.

“We lift ourselves by our thought, we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere – your ideal of what you long to attain – the ideal of health, efficiency, success.” Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924)

I am always amazed at teachers who will have few expectations for students. Research has shown time and time again that students live up to the expectations of the teachers. Teachers literally set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little that is what you will get and conversely expect much and you will receive. A bit of a paraphrase of Gretsky.

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is” Frank Bird

As I thought this morning teaching is much like any other activity you plan you implement and you have expectations. If we only teach to where learning is soon you find you are truly going nowhere. For years I will at times use words far beyond operational vocabulary of students, my response is always “look it up and learn a new word”.

“By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible.” Giovanni Niccolini

 

“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” Ben Sweetland

I really liked this concept so often we teach the use of a teaspoon, I do it too, and thinking that this kid will never learn that or this kids reading level is too low. Sweetland writes about expectations and offers this.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” Ben Sweetland

When that difficult student succeeds you as a teacher succeed and your path is brighter . Years ago I worked with severely disabled students and a simple movement often would warrant a celebration. So often I use the quote from Aerosmith’s song, Amazing.

“Life is a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler

As I was reading this morning Ben Sweetland either listens to Aerosmith or Steven Tyler reds Ben Sweetland’s books.

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland

After looking up publishing dates Steven Tyler read Ben Sweetland’s book. Many of which were published in the 1960’s. If we as teachers impose parameters on learning, if we set goals far to low and or do not teach to lofty goals we set, we in effect are the issue not the student. Maybe every teacher needs to tack over there door as my dear friend, the now Georgia Principal of the year at Osborne High School has.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

Let us set some records now, records of learning of successful students and children in our communities. As I went out into the chill of the morning a bit earlier to walk my dog as I looked to the southeast the constellation Orion was clear as a bell over me. I could not help but notice that today was the first day in months it was silent in the morning. No tree frogs, crickets, cicada’s absolute silence. I have often wondered as to the abient temperature for silence in the morning. I was reading in a small book written between 1953 and 1954 by a Trappist monk, Thoughts in solitude and a passage struck a chord in the silence.

“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.” Thomas Merton

Perhaps I was not listening close enough as I went out just a few minutes ago when I said it was silent. I stepped out again with my other dog and a great horned owl was calling there is always more always knew if we constantly adjust thoughts and perceptions. Merton was a prolific writer and his works have stood the test of time he died in a small hotel in Southeast Asia in an electrical accident protesting the war in Vietnam back in the late 1960’s and as I ponder this morning please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts namaste.

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