Teaching as improvisational art using learning as the pallet

Bird Droppings December 12, 2018

Teaching as improvisational art using learning as the pallet

 

I wrote the basics of this article nearly fourteen years ago and at the time was thinking of an artist friend now a computer programmer who was trying to define her art as well as searching for her own meaning in life. My friend often reflected her political views and emotions through her art. It has been a few years my family had a family game night at the request of one of my nephews and his wife, inviting us all over to play various board games, computer games and eat of course. It seems in all family gatherings eating is an integral part and perhaps a socializing aspect that gets overlooked far too often. Perhaps one day I will write on the socializing aspects of a family get together and the intertwining of food. But a Trivial Pursuit question I did not know the answer to caught my attention. “What Impressionist painter started an art community just prior to committing suicide?”

 

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others” Vincent Van Gogh

 

By chance the answer was Van Gogh. When I first read this I started to think about an ear coming in a box, and how unromantic that is. Perhaps sending body parts while you are alive is an art form. But trying not to be sarcastic, many aspects of our lives could be construed as an art form, such as love, teaching, and caring. Each goes beyond a simple definition. Within each are pieces that you do not learn in class. I am sure if Vincent Van Gogh showed a picture he drew or painted during one of his manic spells, the art teacher would have told him to take art lessons. Today those same paintings are considered classics of impressionism. I am sure Picasso was laughed at, somewhere along the line for drawing women in cube form or simply as a splash of color upon his canvas.

What defines an art form versus simply reality? I would not pay millions to have a Picasso or Van Gogh even if I had the money lying around. Perhaps for me I would prefer to see and experience rather than to own. It seems those who pay millions are often more about the publicity than the art.

 

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.” William Faulkner

 

Defining the moment in words, paint or sculpture, perhaps even a bit of broken glass is art. I saw a in a tiny chapel outside Atlanta stained glass windows many years ago created by a renowned artist, an elderly Trappist monk from Conyers. This was his last work at the age of ninety two. The brilliant abstracts in the windows were in reds and purple depicting the Christian sacraments. The windows were literally alive as you sat in the chapel bathed in the brilliant light from the windows.

“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.” Henry James

 

I was thinking about Faulkner’s idea of art. How we can take a piece of life and preserve it. Artists are in many ways taxidermists each working within their own medium so to speak. Is love simply that special moment carried further as a reminder of what once was? Could teaching simply be a passing of pieces of reality to another who will have those pieces at some point in time? Even in the painting of Van Gogh is his art just the capturing of an image. Interesting how we do so easily now with digital cameras, scanners and computers. Even in my own photography playing with color and movement as I capture images.

 

“Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.” James Joyce

 

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” John F. Kennedy

“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” Henri Matisse

 

Nearly five years ago Mel Brooks was honored at the Kennedy Art Center for his contributions. I found myself drawn to these writers’ quotes today especially as I read this statement by Henry Matisse. There is a secret hidden within Matisse’s words, for all forms of art. We are so often limited by our history and previous experiences, be it love or an art form, for Matisse then each love, each new piece of art should be new. Each should be special. It is in trying to categorize and synthesize that we lose the true essence and aspect of love, and of art. When we try to define and label the box of love do we lose pieces as we can in art? Teaching is in a very similar situation. Far too often teachers try and teach each lesson as they taught the last. First you have to forget all the classes that were ever taught, a difficult task for any teacher.

 

“If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.” Grandma Moses

 

“Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colors.” Pablo Picasso

 

It has been nearly ten years ago that a student brought in several dozen photos she and her sister had taken of each other. One of the photos caught my eye. Neither of the girls saw any significance as do very few others when I see things in photos. But for me that one photo caught the personality of the student and I put it on my wall in my class room. That is art for me. Recently one of the sisters came by to visit and noticed the picture was still there and how much that meant to her. Where and how does it become art for everyone? How does teaching become energized to a point that it is art?

It has been some time since I wrote a rather long email to a dear friend who is a pastor in Pennsylvania. I used the word empathy several times. An artist in whatever medium they choose has to have empathy. A pastor is an artist dealing with the spirituality of parishioners and so much more. As I researched art many paradoxes seemed to crop up even within the definition.

 

“A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.” “A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer. “ Dictionaery.com

 

Art is nonscientific yet it is also very specific in other ways. I find art perhaps more scientific than science. It is interesting in art we attach theory to reality and in science we try to attach reality to theory. Teaching in and of itself is taking reality and attaching theory to it. We have a block of information that by various means we have to interpret to a student and hopefully they will come close to what we are actually trying to teach. For several days I have been discussing or mentioning symbols and recognition of symbols as how we understand our reality. It is through symbols we convey information about reality.

 

“To impart knowledge” Dictionary.com

 

“Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. An artist recreates those aspects of reality which represent his fundamental view of man’s nature.” Ayn Rand

 

I was thinking back several years to a teacher searching the closet for teacher’s manuals and transparencies to teach a subject they had taught for forty years. I was a bit taken back. How do you teach a subject for forty years and now get stressed over a manual and transparencies. You should know the material and it should not be the exact same for every class. The delivering of the material is the key issue here. I was curious as I watched and observed the mounting stress for this teacher as no teacher’s manual and transparencies could be found. Fortunately for the students their regular teacher made it back in time.

 

“There has to be one how did anyone teach this class before me.” A former teacher

 

That same week I watched a teacher take the same subject and walk into class dressed as a knight, maybe it was a goat herder, with literally a virtual reality game. This was in a history class and it came alive. The teacher divided the room and each team was given various attributes such as being near water, having fertile soil, possessing seeds or goats etc. One group was given a gold mine and nothing else. There was a bit of reflection and a bit of thinking for the students. Then the essential question was asked, how are you going to develop your civilization? I am curious which group learned more about the start of world civilization, from the forty year experienced teacher or the lowly goat herder. Art is an interpretation. In teaching we often interpret ideas and events. It is also providing the opportunity for the student to interpret and learn from that thinking process.

 

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Augusto Rodin

 

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about. He’s not interested in how things look different in moonlight.” Jahal-Uddin Rumi

 

“Not even the visionary or mystical experience ever lasts very long. It is for art to capture that experience, to offer it to, in the case of literature, its readers; to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.” Salman Rushdie

 

We each can be artists in our own field, and perhaps empathy is the key. It is being able to reach that inner spark in others so they can feel what you feel what you see and hear and understand what it was that inspired you.

 

“Great art is never produced for its own sake. It is too difficult to be worth the effort.” George Bernard Shaw

 

“What distinguishes a great artist from a weak one is first their sensibility and tenderness; second, their imagination, and third, their industry.” John Ruskin

 

Ruskin has perhaps defined what constitutes a great artist, be it in whatever medium used, or whatever pallet you choose. I wish we could as easily declare peace throughout the world. I wonder if we can bottle and sell empathy then maybe peace could be a reality. I worked a bit in my herb garden yesterday trimming dead branches and stems. I had been watching the sky and the afternoon sun setting. I was listening to the quiet of my back yard walking about this was very soothing. I wonder can growing herbs be considered an art form? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

 

I wrote the basics of this article nearly fourteen years ago and at the time was thinking of an artist friend now a computer programmer who was trying to define her art as well as searching for her own meaning in life. My friend often reflected her political views and emotions through her art. It has been a few years my family had a family game night at the request of one of my nephews and his wife, inviting us all over to play various board games, computer games and eat of course. It seems in all family gatherings eating is an integral part and perhaps a socializing aspect that gets overlooked far too often. Perhaps one day I will write on the socializing aspects of a family get together and the intertwining of food. But a Trivial Pursuit question I did not know the answer to caught my attention. “What Impressionist painter started an art community just prior to committing suicide?”

 

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others” Vincent Van Gogh

 

By chance the answer was Van Gogh. When I first read this I started to think about an ear coming in a box, and how unromantic that is. Perhaps sending body parts while you are alive is an art form. But trying not to be sarcastic, many aspects of our lives could be construed as an art form, such as love, teaching, and caring. Each goes beyond a simple definition. Within each are pieces that you do not learn in class. I am sure if Vincent Van Gogh showed a picture he drew or painted during one of his manic spells, the art teacher would have told him to take art lessons. Today those same paintings are considered classics of impressionism. I am sure Picasso was laughed at, somewhere along the line for drawing women in cube form or simply as a splash of color upon his canvas.

What defines an art form versus simply reality? I would not pay millions to have a Picasso or Van Gogh even if I had the money lying around. Perhaps for me I would prefer to see and experience rather than to own. It seems those who pay millions are often more about the publicity than the art.

 

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.” William Faulkner

 

Defining the moment in words, paint or sculpture, perhaps even a bit of broken glass is art. I saw a in a tiny chapel outside Atlanta stained glass windows many years ago created by a renowned artist, an elderly Trappist monk from Conyers. This was his last work at the age of ninety two. The brilliant abstracts in the windows were in reds and purple depicting the Christian sacraments. The windows were literally alive as you sat in the chapel bathed in the brilliant light from the windows.

“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.” Henry James

 

I was thinking about Faulkner’s idea of art. How we can take a piece of life and preserve it. Artists are in many ways taxidermists each working within their own medium so to speak. Is love simply that special moment carried further as a reminder of what once was? Could teaching simply be a passing of pieces of reality to another who will have those pieces at some point in time? Even in the painting of Van Gogh is his art just the capturing of an image. Interesting how we do so easily now with digital cameras, scanners and computers. Even in my own photography playing with color and movement as I capture images.

 

“Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.” James Joyce

 

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” John F. Kennedy

“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” Henri Matisse

 

Nearly five years ago Mel Brooks was honored at the Kennedy Art Center for his contributions. I found myself drawn to these writers’ quotes today especially as I read this statement by Henry Matisse. There is a secret hidden within Matisse’s words, for all forms of art. We are so often limited by our history and previous experiences, be it love or an art form, for Matisse then each love, each new piece of art should be new. Each should be special. It is in trying to categorize and synthesize that we lose the true essence and aspect of love, and of art. When we try to define and label the box of love do we lose pieces as we can in art? Teaching is in a very similar situation. Far too often teachers try and teach each lesson as they taught the last. First you have to forget all the classes that were ever taught, a difficult task for any teacher.

 

“If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.” Grandma Moses

 

“Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colors.” Pablo Picasso

 

It has been nearly ten years ago that a student brought in several dozen photos she and her sister had taken of each other. One of the photos caught my eye. Neither of the girls saw any significance as do very few others when I see things in photos. But for me that one photo caught the personality of the student and I put it on my wall in my class room. That is art for me. Recently one of the sisters came by to visit and noticed the picture was still there and how much that meant to her. Where and how does it become art for everyone? How does teaching become energized to a point that it is art?

It has been some time since I wrote a rather long email to a dear friend who is a pastor in Pennsylvania. I used the word empathy several times. An artist in whatever medium they choose has to have empathy. A pastor is an artist dealing with the spirituality of parishioners and so much more. As I researched art many paradoxes seemed to crop up even within the definition.

 

“A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.” “A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer. “ Dictionaery.com

 

Art is nonscientific yet it is also very specific in other ways. I find art perhaps more scientific than science. It is interesting in art we attach theory to reality and in science we try to attach reality to theory. Teaching in and of itself is taking reality and attaching theory to it. We have a block of information that by various means we have to interpret to a student and hopefully they will come close to what we are actually trying to teach. For several days I have been discussing or mentioning symbols and recognition of symbols as how we understand our reality. It is through symbols we convey information about reality.

 

“To impart knowledge” Dictionary.com

 

“Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. An artist recreates those aspects of reality which represent his fundamental view of man’s nature.” Ayn Rand

 

I was thinking back several years to a teacher searching the closet for teacher’s manuals and transparencies to teach a subject they had taught for forty years. I was a bit taken back. How do you teach a subject for forty years and now get stressed over a manual and transparencies. You should know the material and it should not be the exact same for every class. The delivering of the material is the key issue here. I was curious as I watched and observed the mounting stress for this teacher as no teacher’s manual and transparencies could be found. Fortunately for the students their regular teacher made it back in time.

 

“There has to be one how did anyone teach this class before me.” A former teacher

 

That same week I watched a teacher take the same subject and walk into class dressed as a knight, maybe it was a goat herder, with literally a virtual reality game. This was in a history class and it came alive. The teacher divided the room and each team was given various attributes such as being near water, having fertile soil, possessing seeds or goats etc. One group was given a gold mine and nothing else. There was a bit of reflection and a bit of thinking for the students. Then the essential question was asked, how are you going to develop your civilization? I am curious which group learned more about the start of world civilization, from the forty year experienced teacher or the lowly goat herder. Art is an interpretation. In teaching we often interpret ideas and events. It is also providing the opportunity for the student to interpret and learn from that thinking process.

 

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Augusto Rodin

 

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about. He’s not interested in how things look different in moonlight.” Jahal-Uddin Rumi

 

“Not even the visionary or mystical experience ever lasts very long. It is for art to capture that experience, to offer it to, in the case of literature, its readers; to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.” Salman Rushdie

 

We each can be artists in our own field, and perhaps empathy is the key. It is being able to reach that inner spark in others so they can feel what you feel what you see and hear and understand what it was that inspired you.

 

“Great art is never produced for its own sake. It is too difficult to be worth the effort.” George Bernard Shaw

 

“What distinguishes a great artist from a weak one is first their sensibility and tenderness; second, their imagination, and third, their industry.” John Ruskin

 

Ruskin has perhaps defined what constitutes a great artist, be it in whatever medium used, or whatever pallet you choose. I wish we could as easily declare peace throughout the world. I wonder if we can bottle and sell empathy then maybe peace could be a reality. I worked a bit in my herb garden yesterday trimming dead branches and stems. I had been watching the sky and the afternoon sun setting. I was listening to the quiet of my back yard walking about this was very soothing. I wonder can growing herbs be considered an art form? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

It is the small pieces that seriously matter

Bird Droppings December 11, 2018

It is the small pieces that seriously matter

 

Today just a short thought I am working on a vocabulary list for a biology benchmark test.

 

“Until you can clearly see each piece of the puzzle you will never be able to understand the whole.” Frank Bird, grandfather, teacher and ponderer

 

I am sitting here on my computer writing while many of my friends are either as I am going to school two hours late or not at all due to winter weather advisories. Between Georgia is a long way from my birth place and even where I spent most of my youth in Pennsylvania. I have traveled many pathways, spiritually, educationally, emotionally and physically as I journeyed. It has been many years since a vision of a jig saw puzzle woke me from my sleep. Over the years I have used that image of puzzle pieces and a whole puzzle in explaining life and its intricacies. My son added to my collection of ideas along the way nearly seventeen years ago with a line from an Aerosmith song.

 

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

 

I peeked outside earlier and weather not to bad but cold. More than likely no sunrise today. Just cold, fog and dreariness I am getting tired of this it is a bit much. So actually looking to past years for a sunrise image today.

 

As I drove about yesterday coming home from school several ideas kept hitting me in the head.  Literally every day I hear from a person and that could be a former student, a total stranger who read something I have written, a friend I have not seen in fifty years, maybe a member of a group I am in on Facebook, a cohort member from graduate school offering a thank you for a thought I shared or idea given. It is not about major successes but the small ones, one at a time, the pieces that often float by unnoticed. I shared a little book with a friend who is retiring today. The Sacred Tree, written by a group of indigenous educators who wanted to help native youth regain the spiritual essence of their culture.

 

I find as I listed my somewhat ambiguous titles with the quote above grandfather first and at first that seemed just the right thing to do. As I sat back and pondered as I tend to do often it became the not only right thing but job one. It is we elders who provide wisdom and understanding even if in small ways to those who come after. In todays hectic and helter-skelter world moments get lost just like pieces to the puzzle.

 

So today as I do every day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and all give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

Frank Bird, grandfather, teacher and ponderer

 

Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

Bird Droppings December 7, 2018

Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

 

In a roundabout way several earlier readings on the internet got me thinking and pondering as I do. So often we take our technology for granted.  It has been about twelve years since we moved into this house and a brand new dishwasher. About a four years ago the drain pump went out and it decided to die on us. In thirty four years of marriage we have had only four dish washers not counting rental houses along the way you might say these dishwashers become a part of the family. We waited on Frigidaire to send a repairman, we need our dishwasher and you now have to make appointments usually several weeks in advance. I recall my trips to various supply and parts places and new numbers of more places to call they were always eventful even synchronistic so to say. I find interesting people every time I go anywhere for that matter. After a week or two we did go get a new dish washer and after six months it decided to breakdown which was covered by warranty. It took nearly six months of wrangling to get a repairman out to inform us there was water damage in switchboard. It seems in a dishwasher that uses steam heat as a component, does not have a vapor barrier initially installed. While it was fixed and did not cost a penny you become quickly aware of how we depend on simple technology. Key board lasted six months and went out and we were told to dry our hands before pressing sealed key pad. So for two years we have been safe until now again.

 

Thinking back to that first repair and the fellow after a brief computer check of circuits and such and a screen and using his manuals it seemed to be showing the culprit was a main drive motor. After calculating labor and parts we would have to spend nearly three hundred dollars to fix our dishwasher but if we choose to get a new one, we get this visit off our purchase. Essentially it cost sixty five dollars to tell us our washer is broke

 

“Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other.” Carl G. Jung

 

It is often easy for me to pull out Jung thoughts and ideas and get motivated for the writing ahead. As I went out to sit and think earlier, this all rolled through my mind. I am amazed at how carefully planned and developed our technology is. No matter how good you take care of or do not take care of machines last a certain amount of time regardless. The term planned obsolescence is often bantered about. We are a throwaway society.

In an issue of National Geographic a few months back they were on one of the far flung Hawaiian Islands cleaning up. Sadly literally tons of debris washes in ranging from fishing nets, trash, TV’s, all sorts of stuff and sadly tons of it. Animals get caught up in the muck and often perish. One photo was of the contents of a baby albatross that had starved to death with a full stomach. The baby’s parents fishing in the currents had picked up numerous bits of trash either mixed in with the tiny fish they catch or that had been eaten by the fish and the babies stomach was full of plastic pieces that did not pass through literally full of trash that kept its stomach full and it would not or could not eat enough to live.

 

It was nearly fifty years ago Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady at the time started a cleanup campaign on our roads and highways. There were signs against littering and signs posted showing the fines for littering which were imposed and slowly we started cleaning up. But still we trash our environment.

 

But as I thought about it there is another side, as I look at this in a spiritual manner. People who live off the land hold their lands sacred honoring and revering the world about them do not seem to have this issue. Often using each aspect of a given animal or plant harvested for use while we discard so much. I have seen dumpsters in Georgia with deer carcasses all but the head thrown in. A few months back a deer was dumped at the high school antlers sawn off. There is a scene in the beginning of the movie “Last of the Mohicans” where Uncus, Nathaniel (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook shoot a deer. They honor the deer with prayers and ask forgiveness for killing the deer and say it will sustain them in the days ahead; there were no reality cameras filming and no bragging about eating what they kill. (Granted it was in a movie)

 

I watch churches locally in a similar manner. A situation I am very familiar with goes like this. Years ago members of a particular church were major donors to the growth and support of that church and were visited often by the pastors. As the days went by and illness befell these members and new pastor came to be the money was not flowing as it was previously and the family was never even visited. Where the money was, not where the need was, became the calling card of the church. I look a few lines up to Jung’s words of how different love and power are. Who do we look to as great so often in society any more sadly it is those with wealth and power? Wisdom, love and honor seldom play a part any more.

 

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.”Dietrich Bonheoffer

 

As a people we have lost so much. We take as we need from each other and from others. So often we subsist only in that world immediately around us. WE ARE focusing only on that which we can see feel and touch, even in this world of instantaneous news and views. We have made ourselves disposable. How many times have you heard the phrase at work or in a workplace “no one is indispensable” essentially we are all disposable. As I ponder it used to be we learned a craft through apprenticeship and years of experience and you became a master craftsman.

 

Yesterday I was looking on the internet at Native American art. A plains survival kit made by Black Eagle an Osage medicine man eighty years old was selling for $2,200.00 it consisted of several pieces of bone and sinew. Essentially it was a primitive kit for a hunter in the prairies of ancient North America. The various pieces included several scrappers, needles and sinew and they were stored in a fringed elk skin bag. Back in the day Black Eagle would have given it to you if you needed it. Now it is a collector’s item being sold by an art store. I am wandering today perhaps caught still in the fifty percent off and buy one get one free and the throwaway society we live in. It is so sad we have become spiritually and physically disposable.

 

One of my favorite disposable sayings is “once saved always saved” regardless of what you do after that point you are ok. Searching for words and meaning in a world so intent on camouflage. I have kids who wear it to school daily and you can even get camo underwear. Although I haven’t quite figured that one out yet wearing camo underwear that is. When you go to the store is it oak tree or standard or tree bark and that depends on your quarry. We have grown so much in so many ways yet our capacity for others seems to lag behind.

 

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.” Mark Twain

 

Over the years I have read many quotes books and papers. There is a passage from a website on Native American quotes and stories I have thought about many times and it is so true.

 

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children. “Ancient Indian Proverb

 

I happened by a Barnes and Nobles bookstore yesterday and as I do often when there have certain shelves I check and found a small book in the Native American section. It was a book written in 1984 to work with rekindling the spiritual side of Native youth. I read the book as I sat in the bookstore and this one passage stuck with me. I was looking for a book to read to my grandchildren and this little red book was sort of sticking out. I did take it home with and so I share a passage from The Sacred Tree.

 

Respect:

Respect means “to feel or show esteem for someone or something; to consider the well-being of, or to treat someone or something with deference or courtesy”. Showing respect is a basic law of life.

 

  • Treat every person, from the tiniest child to the oldest elder with respect at all times.
  • Special respect should be given to elders, parents, teachers and community leader.
  • No person should be made to feel “put down” by you; avoid hurting others hearts as you would avoid a deadly poison.
  • Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially sacred objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.
  • Respect the privacy of every person. Never intrude on a person’s quiet moments or personal space.
  • Never walk between people who are conversing.
  • Never interrupt people who are conversing.
  • Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of elders, strangers or others whom special respect is due.
  • Do not speak unless invited to do so at gathering where elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).
  • Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.
  • Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, plant world and animal world. Do nothing to pollute the air or soil. If others destroy our other, rise up with wisdom to defend her.
  • Show deep respect for the beliefs and religions of others.
  • Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they say is worthless. Listen with your heart.

 

The Sacred Tree

Produced by Judith Bopp, Michael Bopp, Lee Brown and Phil Lane Jr.

Four Worlds International Institute

1984

 

I wish we could live each of these honestly and openly and remember there will be leave a place for those after us why not leave the world and people better than we found them. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and peace my friends and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Example is such a simple lesson plan

Bird Droppings December 5, 2018
Example is such a simple lesson plan

 

“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans

 

I have over the years looked to the wisdom contained in Kent Nerburn’s writings many times. In a recently completed graduate school project I used a similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words “children learn what they live”. They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them.

”One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl G Jung

 

I have been a Carl G. Jung fan for many years. As I was reading through several of his ideas earlier this morning I found that this thought stuck out. Perhaps it is being a grandpa and watching a little one absorb every element around her. Perhaps it is as a father watching my sons now all grown each choosing pathways in life and wondering at times if we at least gave decent directions along the way. I am finding as I grow older it is the example we set that is the most powerful educational tool available. Better than any curriculum or text series, better than the greatest speaker, and much better than anything that can be planned for. It is about the warmth of our souls and passing this to our children and grandchildren.

 

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear

 

“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan

 

As so often happens when several educators get together the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up and with me often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education the topic will become education and learning. Yesterday afternoon sitting in my mother in laws house we were talking about teaching and working with special needs children. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail sometimes we forget that simple things can aid in how to learn, how to study, and how to open our eyes to that which is around us.

 

“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller

 

There has been much research done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Developmentalists have written and been written about, numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.

“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

 

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

 

We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

 

Sitting in a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Asking why is even more interesting.

“Whatever”
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”

These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed.

 

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

 

Several years ago in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention and as I read I realized I too have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries McJob has been described as a meaningless job, a job with no direction and very little in requirements and McDonald’s has sued to have it removed stating that jobs at McDonalds are meaningful and do have direction. I do know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in Business School now and owns his own Starbucks. Ray Kroc many years ago before he passed away got his start selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow in her will did leave, one and a half billion dollars to charity all based on working in McDonald’s.

 

Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with literally nothing but an idea and hard work. Depending on whose history or movie you read or see he was a bit devious as well. It was not apathy that built McDonalds and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self-empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.

 

“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was causal and commonplace. The Indian lived in every sense of the word from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

 

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some graduate schools and I had data showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat several who actually have difficulty reading the test I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However imagine the self-esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a master’s program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45.

I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people except some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.

SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East become more difficult with each moment it seems. With sunrise only hours away please always give thanks for what you have namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Have YOU been Naughty or Nice?

Bird Droppings December 3, 2018

Have YOU been Naughty or Nice?

 

I have a friend doing acts of kindness currently. She committed to an act of kindness every day. I try and live my life that way and I do make mistakes. But each day now she posted her act. At first I was somewhat skeptical but as she has gone each day if we do log even for a week our kindness maybe it will embed in us and we can carry it forward. A former student who works at a fast food store happened to be in the drive through last night and had three in a row pay it forward until the one lady pulled up who ordered three cookies and was complaining the woman ahead of her took so long. Her three cookies had been paid for and she was complaining. A few minutes later the woman who “took so long” came back she had forgotten to order fries and she paid it forward again so my former student at least had a good ending to her story.

 

“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.” William Wordsworth

 

One day when you look back and try and remember what was that act I did or when did I do it, you may not remember but the person to whom that small act of kindness was paid will. I recall a certain visit from Santa Claus as he does every year visiting the family gathering for Christmas Eve. Coincidently a he had with him a letter of sorts more of a naughty and nice list. At the top of the naughty list of course was Uncle Frank along with several other Uncles and my grand niece’s daddy. At the top of the Really Nice list was my granddaughter of course and several grandnieces and a brand new niece in law. Several years back we had our oldest niece come over and with Santa they looked at all the names as I read them to her. She was so excited about two of them. Of course she ran around the room showing everyone. What was so funny was it was her daddy’s name on the naughty list that intrigued her. She knew why exactly, her daddy scolded her a few days before. It is funny the list was a total after thought yet my niece took it home that year. As I sit here thinking back just a day or two and my granddaughter was mad at her daddy and told him he would be on the naughty list.

 

Every once in a while I will run into to someone in person or on line who had met my father over the years. It has been a number of years since he last spoke publicly, back in the day as my youngest son says. He taught numerous Red Cross courses along with his actually teaching, as a professional in the field of Industrial Safety and Loss Control. Many people mentioned how his Red Cross first aid class saved a life here and there or some interaction with another where he did this or that changed their life. Occasionally when I would mention to him he would remember the event but often it was simply his way of living how he went about the day.

 

A favorite story I recall is one about my father from South Africa about thirty years ago. He was there teaching and lecturing for the Chamber of Mines and one of the senior officers of The Chamber lent his personal driver and car to Dad while he was there. A young black South African, a member of one of South Africa’s many distinct tribes; this young man had come into the city to earn enough money so he could go home and marry. Many young men would leave their homes some for as long as twenty years to earn enough money to go back to their villages and marry. Dad spent eight weeks in South Africa on every trip and on this trip much like others traveling to many of the mines around Johannesburg and in the back country. This young man was always ready always on time and kept Dad on time many times getting him to numerous meetings and functions in this foreign country all in a day.

 

When it was time to head home Dad had really come to like this young man and as he dropped him off at the airport Dad tipped him the remaining South African money he had, about five hundred equivalent US dollars in their currency. He came later to find out that was equivalent to three years of work or so. Dad got a telegram as soon as he got home from his good friend in South Africa asking what my father did to his driver.  As soon as he got back from the airport he quit his job and went back to his tribe. It seems Dad had given him enough money to go home and be married; a seemingly small act of kindness, a tip to this young man changed his life.

 

“Once in a century a man may be ruined or made insufferable by praise. But surely once in a minute something generous dies for want of it.” John Masefeild

 

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

 

Scattered about in our lives are the bits and pieces events we often do not remember but that person to whom we responded kindly or in a way that helped them will remember forever.

 

“The flower of kindness will grow. Maybe not now, but it will someday. And in kind that kindness will flow, for kindness grows in this way.” Robert Allan

 

“Is there any one maxim which ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life? Surely the maxim of loving kindness is such: Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.” Confucius, from the Analects

 

Interesting this statement sounds so familiar it was first written nearly 500 BCE by Confucius in China in his Analects, a series of statements and stories, repeated many times then in other cultures and religions and even prior in words of others.

 

“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” Fredrick W. Faber

 

“If you were busy being kind, before you knew it, you would find you’d soon forget to think ’twas true that someone was unkind to you. If you were busy being glad, and cheering people who are sad, although your heart might ache a bit, you’d soon forget to notice it.” R. Foreman

 

There are far too few cheerleaders in the world although there are days I would say too many, especially with all the drama with the cheerleaders at our high school over the years. At school many times the cheerleaders come by my room, it seems I am the one taking photos at events and Mr. Bird’s wall of fame is a focal point for many students coming to see who has been added. One cheerleader in particular has never once had a frown; she is always excited and happy. She is always saying a good word to friends. I have never seen her gossip or speaking badly of another person and amazing I have never heard a bad word about her. So often in the morning as I observe the hallways her personality is contagious. When she is walking down the hallways with others soon all are laughing.

 

“A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.” Washington Irving

 

“He was so benevolent, so merciful a man that, in his mistaken passion, he would have held an umbrella over a duck in a shower of rain.” Douglas WilliamJerrod

 

“To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.” Samuel Johnson

 

It is seldom that someone will complain about another person being nice to them. Maybe Dr. Seuss’s character the Grinch, but even he fell sway to the little Who, Cindy Loo Who. Kindness can win battles. Kindness can win a war, or prevent a war. Random acts of kindness can provide the catalyst for world change.

 

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.” Mother Theresa

 

“If someone were to pay you $.10 for every kind word you ever spoke and collect $.05 for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?” Nonpareil

 

Many times as I sit and write each morning I wonder if anyone is reading or hearing what is said. Daily I get notes and emails; I know today this word or that word touched someone. How many words need to be spoken or need to be emailed to have world peace? If it is a hundred million let’s start now if it is a hundred billion then again let’s start now. We all know there is a number and we all know one day we will attain that goal. One day maybe I will never have to end Bird Droppings ever again this way but with a Georgia State Patrolmen shot in the line of duty last night after a car chase not today, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird