A chill in the air but not in the heart, thank you Maya Angelou

Bird Droppings January 17, 2019

A chill in the air but not in the heart, thank you Maya Angelou

 

For several weeks now we have been balancing between warm and cold weather in the early mornings which still is too cold for the crickets and tree frogs who need an ambient temperature a bit more warm, maybe high fifties low sixties. So for today my orchestra was silent as a near freeze not only permeated but encompassed our back yard and today was one of quietest of this year at the house. I keep recalling why I like Georgia it is supposed to be warmer. Last night I watched a couple of minutes of news and I am concerned about things to come.  Walking through the house earlier today I could not get warm it seemed the cold was seeping in the house. Now as I am sitting here writing it dawned on me I may have left the dampener open from our new fireplace insert which is electric and doesn’t need it the night before in the chimney. However over the years I have found warmth in reading and pondering as I call it. It seems I can always find the right words when I turn a page or two.

 

“A bizarre sensation pervades a relationship of pretense. No truth seems true. A simple morning’s greeting and response appear loaded with innuendo and fraught with implications. Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.” Maya Angelou

 

As I move my thinking to students and people in general we balance our lives in a series of trust and distrust often a teeter totter or see saw effect. Often we become jaded and calloused through constant distrusting and soon we respond as Angelou indicates in a sterile manner. About once or twice a year I will pull my old guitar out and play. My fingers at first feel each string and after a while pain will tear through my finger tips from the pressure of strings on flesh. Eventually after several days I will callous my fingertips back.

Rock legend has it perhaps even urban rock myth it should be called is that the late great guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn during a concert super glued his calluses back on when his fingers began to bleed. As I read this first quote, we can become callous we can become sterile but much more is involved. I also sense a similar relationship to my own use of the Hindustani word namaste, both a sterile hello or goodbye for some and for others one of reverence and humility. It is in the eyes and ears of the receiver and the giver. Today I learned a new phrase, sat shree akal that is Punjabi and means truth is the ultimate God and or truth is timeless.

 

“Achievement brings its own anticlimax.” Maya Angelou

 

 “All great achievements require time.” Maya Angelou

 

Maya Angelou writes of paradox of achievement and anticlimax. As I sit and think achievement is an attainment of a goal and with that attainment is a realization of a new goal a new mountain to climb perhaps it is that awareness of the anticlimax and yes most definitely time is always a factor.

 

“All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.” Maya Angelou

 

Maybe most men are prepared would be better. There are many who will still sit on their posteriors. Sitting today reading Angelou’s thoughts is a series of how to and why’s. I have listened many times to Dr. Angelo read her works or discuss topics on talk shows. Her words while calming are twice as meaningful listening to her speak them. There was a passion about her spirit and soul.

 

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Maya Angelou

 

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” Maya Angelou

 

“Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.” Maya Angelou

 

She was philosopher, poet, writer, activist, educator, humanitarian, civil rights leader, and the list goes on but always children are at the center of Angelou’s thinking and thoughts. Any book that can form a habit of reading is good. What a powerful statement in a society that would ban many books in schools and libraries? While not on the news now periodically we have this or as in a nearby county once upon a time, putting disclaimer labels in science books. I often wonder how when opening a book and a label states what you read in this science book may or may not be true is a good way to start a science lesson.

 

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” Maya Angelou

 

“Education helps one case cease being intimidated by strange situations.” Maya Angelou

 

Two words that seem to permeate Dr. Angelou’s writing are courage and education. These two words are constantly mentioned described and eluded to. Perhaps the explanation is in the first of the two statements above, “without courage you cannot practice any other virtue”. As I ponder, education requires courage it is that willingness to achieve to go beyond where you are it requires first courage to make that effort and then education to do it.

 

“I believe that every person is born with talent.” Maya Angelou

 

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.” Maya Angelou

 

As I saw this I thought of two individuals far apart historically and in many ways yet similar, George Washington Carver and Bill Gates. Both men through vision and fantasy transformed our realities possibly beyond the actual dreams they originally had.  My morning would be totally different if not for these two men many of the items used in the kitchen reflect ideas from Dr. Carver and my laptop computer and internet use are directly related to Mr. Gates.

 

“If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” Maya Angelou

 

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Maya Angelou

 

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” Maya Angelou

 

We are the beginning and the end of the circle. How we live and interact with others continues and perpetuates the circle. I have never been able to understand why this is so hard for people in general to understand. We seem to be having greed as a human trait. How sad that is to inherently assume man is greedy by nature. Animals only keep what they need for survival. Man is the only creature that hordes and amasses wealth.

 

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.” Maya Angelou

 

Caring and concern begins at home and then spreads out from there. It is not about the face you put on when you need to but that which you truly carry in your heart and live and breathe daily. I enjoy Dr. Maya Angelou’s words. The few times I have watched her on TV and in reading her books that are in my own library. She is a person of concern and of caring. She is trying to do her part in her corner of the world for all of humanity. It is for each of us to try and do likewise where we are in the world.

 

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” Maya Angelou

 

So I end another morning as I have now for some time till everyone listens to Dr. Angelou’s thoughts that ring in my heart today let me repeat this last quote one more time.

 

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” Maya Angelou

 

It brings tears to my eyes as I sit knowing I need to continue ending my daily meanderings as I have for so many years, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind  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

 

 

 

Examining the threads of life

Bird Droppings January 16, 2019
Examining the threads of life

 

“Man did not weave the web of life he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, 1854

 

It has been a few years since I read a National Geographic article where the lead in photo was a superimposed image of goats hanging from spider webs. Genetic engineering was in the process of producing in goat milk the proteins from spider silk webbing. Spider web silk happens to be one of the strongest natural occurring fibers known to man. The biggest problem being there is not much of it. On some mornings as I go out to sit and think many issues are pressing it may be a busy day ahead, or a paper due later electronically, or papers to grade. I generally start my morning listening through the darkness I could hear my dog rustling as he does through the bushes trying to find the elusive chipmunks and whatever other great creatures he hunts in our back yard. A car alarm broke the semi silence and was quickly silenced more than likely someone rolled over and as I do often accidentally hit remote panic button.

Rain and cold will be returning to the area and although warm temperatures during the day my aching body can feel the weather change. I seem every morning to check for a sunrise to the east today I was alone and the center of my world. On some mornings, when temperatures allow, silken strands find their way from grass stem to weed stem literally covering hundreds of feet. It is an interconnecting web of life. Perhaps that is what drew me to this statement from Chief Seattle. So often we go about life as being the center of the universe only seeing that all revolves around us. In medieval times this was the cause for much debate being that to them man the center of all that is. I find it amazing that civilized people have a difficult time with this. In most indigenous cultures more primitive people see themselves as merely a cog a thread in a great machine or web of life.

 

“This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected” Chief Seattle, 1854

 

There is much controversy as to actual words spoken by Chief Seattle. Some say the translation written by a friend was not truly what was said and since recording devices were in their infancy and only transcribed translations are available we are left with the words as they are. It is said many were moved to tears as he spoke these words. So many times as I sit outside my room observing students and teachers pass by I see many view life from the center not as a part of all that is.

 

“That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. The end of living and the beginning of survival.” Chief Seattle, 1854, these lines are attributed to early 20th C. historian and ethnographic writer, A. C. Ballard added after many years

 

I was intrigued as different versions of Chief Seattle’s speech seem to be recorded. There is one version that has even been suggested as having been written for Hollywood and a movie. I read the end of the speech which is the line above and perhaps Mr. Ballard did add these lines many years later but the last line interested me. “The end of living and beginning of surviving”. How far have we come in civilization to go from living off the land to trying and surviving on it? Back in the day not that long ago a family could live and do well on a small farm raising what they needed how fast quickly things changed. I recall a scene from a recent movie “The Missing”. A farm family in the west raising horses and cattle the oldest daughter goes to town to see all the new-fangled contraptions to make life easier, at a fair. Perhaps it is here we changed from living to surviving. Was it when we stopped making what we needed and started buying things to make life easier?

Soon we needed things to do with time freed up and leisure become a major part of our day. Interesting how we now need to make more income to enjoy our leisure and surviving becomes more than just food and clothing but being able to afford having a “good” time. The film was about a clash between old and new in some ways in old faith and new science. There was the under lying clash of change from living to surviving and from freedom to dependency.

 

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Mother Teresa

 

It is hard to feel at times that what we do is of significance perhaps never noted in meetings or from friends but each step each whisper each smile is carefully noted down by someone and it is meaningful to that person as they go through life. How many thousands of times did Mother Theresa feel like that drop in the ocean as she held the hand of a leper in a back street of Calcutta. How much easier and safer is it for some of us to live our lives as we do not paying attention from one point to another.

 

“Oneness is all inclusive. Nothing nor no one is exempt; that is the way it always has been; that is the way it is; and that is the way it always will be.” Chief Seattle

 

We are all connected, intertwined and each a piece of the web, a thread, a drop and yet all meaningful pieces to this great puzzle of life. 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

 

 

Reconciliation of trust

Bird Droppings January 15, 2019
Reconciliation of trust

 

“It’s the examination of conscience. Unless you examine your conscience, you don’t know what you have to be sorry for and what to confess” Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., Ten Tips for Better Confessions, The Gift of Reconciliation

 

Sort of difficult beginning a dropping with a vocabulary word and one we seldom actually use. I do think we perform the process but somehow never understand what it is we are doing when we do. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has for its definition of the word reconciliations the following:

 

“The state of being reconciled which is based on reconcile or to restore to friendship or harmony” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

 

It has been a long time since I was called up to the principal’s office for supposedly writing a note for a student to go home, something I would not do and did not do. This student was someone I had trusted and now had seriously betrayed that trust. The following day I asked my own students to write about what would they do if someone betrayed their trust, not referring to the incident that had occurred? Many of my students often feel betrayed as a part of their own disability. They have a difficult time dealing with trusting anyone and betraying that bit of trust that they may have is so hard to even accept that it hits them very hard.

Some of the examples are; “I would never speak to them again”, “I would consider them no longer existing”, one student went so far as “I would kill them”. I was hoping that was a figurative term only. When I look back a few lines to Webster’s thought reconcile is a “restoring of harmony”. Not being able to trust, affects my own existence in how I perceived each person that I now came into contact with. Often being on guard, wary, not a sensation that I liked or even the effort of being cautious.

 

“Trust is a firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing. It is a reliance on something in the future; hope. The condition and resulting obligation of having confidence placed in one: One in which confidence is placed.” Dictionary.com

 

Trust is a simple word as I looked for definitions and a bit more understanding can be had in words such as reliance, confidence, hope, integrity, and character. These are all words used in defining trust. By going a bit deeper, trust is synonymous with belief and with the word faith. When we trust someone we have faith in them, believe in them. To tear this down is a serious issue and difficult to repair. This is perhaps why my students had such a difficult time with pondering what you do when someone betrays your trust. It was from that point I wondered if we can reconcile.

Within most of the world’s religions forgiveness is paramount to any attempt at moving forward. It is about being able to forgive and to reconcile. Within some religions as in my first quote that is based on reconciliation. Within the Catholic Church where reconciliation is a sacrament there is a restoration on the most part for many people. In religion that restoration is often with God or the church, but deeper when that reconciliation is between two people there is a “restoration to friendship and to harmony” as Webster’s so eloquently states.

 

“The man who trusts men will make fewer mistakes that he who distrusts them” Conte di Cavour, Camillo Benso

 

That state of distrust is uncomfortable for me. When I trust in life it flows and moves so easily from point A to B. In a state of distrust and looking back over my shoulder continually not only does my neck get tired but my soul as well? Perhaps this is why I find working with students who do not trust so easy. Many teachers prior to my room do not trust and I do till proven wrong.

 

“All our progress is an unfolding, like the vegetable bud, you have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

It is so much easier to function in life in a state of trust than in distrust, perhaps this is why reconciliation is such a powerful tool bringing back that harmony that smoothness in life, restoring faith in others in yourself. I came to school after that incident in a state of distrust and as the day went on really not sure which direction to go. Walking to my room the student who betrayed my trust came up to me and asked if we could talk, after school I said. There was desperation in the voice a need for reconciliation a need to restore harmony and friendship. School went by and the day ended, I was literally oblivious to my conversation earlier of talking after school. This student comes in and tries to explain, tears so close to welling up, “I am sorry”.

It is amazing how several days of pondering what to do is melted away so easily with three words. The days of should I do this or that or should I do that are wiped clean, reconciled and harmony is restored. My good friend Emerson compares to a bud. Nearly fourteen years ago I found a pin, one of those simple metal stick pins with a slogan on it. It was given to me on my twenty third birthday by a dear friend in a youth group I worked with, a 1970’s pin as it goes, “Bloom where you are planted” with a flower or two around it. I affixed it to my ID badge lanyard. What a simple message, from days gone by, that still carries impetuous. It is still so true and still for me is what teaching is about. It is helping students bloom where ever it is that they are and more so about life in general. We all should be trying to bloom where we are planted. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Is it counting knuckles, or is it no child will be left behind, doing what we want and that is considered totally normal.

Bird Droppings January 13, 2019

Is it counting knuckles, or is it no child will be left behind,

doing what we want and that is considered totally normal.

 

One of my students asked a few years back what day of the month the following Friday would be and I responded January 30. Just as quick another said he thought it was the first. I said no it was the thirty first and he proceeded to count his knuckles, “a knuckle has 31 days”, he said. He figured it was the thirty first. Later on I watched as we did math computation tests and he was using his fingers as a portable calculator, I was intrigued. Perhaps it was that I also knew the personality of this student and how he comes off as being such a bad dude that intrigued me. But in a lighter moment with no planning his other side comes out. It is sad because this side of him actually does try to succeed. However so often even for me he will shut down and sulk away to where ever he chooses and vegetate. I am not listening, you cannot make me listen, or I don’t care and best of all just give me a zero, will spill from his mouth. These are the students w let slip through the cracks and potholes of standardized education.

 

I was thinking how great if you could plan your day around the moments a student is willing to count fingers and knuckles maybe call it “knuckle time”. Those moments when being embarrassed or ashamed of your own capabilities are gone and you can move ahead even if only in micro steps. We all experience this at some time or another. As I watch and listen to students I see pieces of myself in others. How we go about our days those little things we do to survive the onslaught of society. Some of us have enough to make it throughout the day and others have only counting knuckles and when the task goes beyond that capability then frustration and defeat self-imposed. “Give me a zero”. Maybe I as a teacher need to find a way to stop giving zeros. Have I pondered enough why this kid chooses to do nothing?

 

I used a trick of sorts to get extra time out of students the one day. Biology questions were two to three per page and very simple with tricks so to say true and false sort of questions at times but answers might alter true and false to false and true. So the student did have to read and think about questions and answers. Some students made it through level two others to level four before difficulty set in. Today we will do more and the goal is for students to be successful throughout the process, till they reach a level of discomfort and then set up the programming and planning of lessons accordingly. Unlike many situations these students face adjustments and or modifications and they can be made.

 

So often in school we want every child to fit parameters we establish as teachers and further up the line as curriculum gurus, experts and specialists. All ninth graders should do this and tenth graders this item. I was listening to questioning of the Secretary of Education yesterday. So many issues with this person, not including absolutely zero experience or understanding of public education. Perhaps her first piece of legislation might be, No child will be left behind who does what we want and is considered totally normal should could be the legislative name of the bill. NCLBWDWWWAICTN might be too long of an acronym so we can shorten it to ENDED.

 

However what about the exceptions in life? Years ago I found myself as an exception. It was in fourth grade and I was sitting getting my paper back and the teacher had given me a C on my paper in which I had four wrong. One of my friends next to me had four wrong and an A so definitely I was confused. Day by day this continued and I asked my mom about it. She went in for a conference and the teacher told her I wasn’t working up to my potential so she graded me differently. Guess what happened I quit. No more extra reading for school work although I did still read volumes for fun, no more extra credit. I got left behind because a teacher failed to see I wasn’t fitting into her parameters.

 

I once saw a peg board with round holes and all the pegs were square and did not fit. Children would try and then after hitting did not work finally quit. The demonstration was actually a psychological test with young children. Funny thing is we do this all the time in school and on the job as teachers. We want people to fit our standards our peg board.

 

“Children love and want to be loved and they very much prefer the joy of accomplishment to the triumph of hateful failure. Do not mistake a child for his symptom.” Erik Erikson

 

I watched the paradoxes of our federal mandate of No Child Left Behind, where frustrated kids quit school because of so called graduation tests. As things progressed for example in Georgia kids who did not graduate years ago because of a Graduation Test score could now get diplomas. Lives were altered and some even shattered. Is a wonder that frustrated teachers are leaving due to being judges on students taking standardized tests. What about being the teacher of a math class where your entire class failed the prerequisite for your class and now is in your class since prerequisite is no longer offered and you have an end of course test that measures your teaching ability and sixty seven percent fail. No one looks at pretest scores and posttest scores and significant improvement and learning that occurred. All that matters is that end of course tests score and the failure rate shows you are not teaching. A whole class and teacher get left behind.

 

I found this quote well over five years ago and thought it would be a good one to toss out. I think someone retrieved it from his trash can since he has proven he really does not believe this.

 

“I think the law is too punitive, too prescriptive, it’s led to a dumbing down of standards, and it’s led to a narrowing of curriculum. We need to fix all of those things. We have to reward success, reward excellence, and look at growth and gain, not just absolute test scores. We have to be much more flexible.” Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, beforehe was secretary of education

 

As I watch how politics interferes and then create havoc in education and in so many areas I wonder why we have politicians at times. It makes me want to count my knuckles and see if the answer is correct and that is knowing I do not have enough knuckles for this problem.

 

“We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.” B. F. Skinner

 

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

 

Maybe we forget this, maybe we want education to be this neat package we can take off the shelf and spoon feed to our students and the students get or do not get and we go on leaving behind the ones that don’t get it. What about the kid with three knuckles? My son had a friend who lost a finger in childhood he would be at a disadvantage counting knuckles.

 

“Every acquisition of accommodation becomes material for assimilation, but assimilation always resists new accommodations.”  Jean Piaget

 

I wonder if we did pretests and posttests in congress and in the Senate on ethics and on performance if our elected officials would pass the grade or be left behind. No Congressman left behind now that is a bill I could get behind. 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

 

 

Sitting thinking of a circle

Bird Droppings January 12, 2019

Sitting thinking of a circle

 

I am looking through various providers of shows, movies and miniseries for, Into the West, and one of these days I will find on one of the providers. The series starts and ends with a circle of stones with a line going east to west and one going north to south through the circle. In the back area of our yard we have been off and on building a memory garden. It is basically a rock garden with numerous succulents and sedums planted among the rocks that are special to us. The garden when finished will be a circle. Each quadrant has a space which eventually will be filled with young trees. A Japanese cedar was given to us when my wife’s father passed away by my friends at the high school and now stands nearly forty foot tall. Another will eventually honor my father at the opposite side as we finish our project hopefully one day. We side tracked with a rock garden pond, planted with sedums and various other plants, some aquatic.

 

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk Ogallala Sioux Holy Man

 

It has been nearly fifty years since I wrote a short poem of shorts. At that time perhaps it was self-analysis or a self-description, “One little circle – alone – unopened”. It has been nearly sixteen years since I headed towards Piedmont College to start my graduate studies and I thought is the circle alone, and or unopened. I had grew very close to the people in my cohort. As I attended graduate school I found I became a much better teacher as I became a better student. Henry David Thoreau was a teacher until he realized he must be a learner first. He needed to be a student again and in doing so he became a better teacher.

 

As I look at the circle I have in my own education and it is only the beginning not the ending and the circle of friends and fellow learners in my cohort at Piedmont and now as I continue my education at Georgia Southern and the teachers at my own school all touch unto that circle and in effect keep it spinning and evolving. Black Elk an Ogallala Sioux holy man using nature to define this circle nearly a hundred years ago and Follow the Buffalo, holy man of the movie series “Into the West”, who was sitting in the sacred circle in the North Dakota hills throughout the movie addressed the white man with various other characters. My son once told me of a circle’s definition in geometric terms borrowing from Wikipedia.

 

“In Euclidean geometry, a circle is the set of all points in a plane at a fixed distance, called the radius, from a fixed point, called the centre.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

As I sit here thinking pondering my circle has grown and furthering my education. My circle includes all I have met, emailed, talked with in grocery stores, schools, colleges and numerous other places around the world. The circle continues and grows with each step, each word, each sensation and each breath I take while I am privileged to live. Please as you think about your own circle keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

We are neither wolf nor dog

Bird Droppings January 10, 2019
We are neither wolf nor dog

 

It has been some time since I first read a book by this name written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. In much of his writing Kent Nerburn addresses the spiritual significance and depth of life of our Native Peoples. While to some this is never an issue for others it is very much so and perhaps equally we as a nation have reelected a nontraditional president who happens to be of a different color than what many so called Americans would prefer and are afraid to say they are. So easy for some to say “I am not racist but his church affiliation cannot be over looked.” Many who put aside color will go for religion, or birthplace, and or who his friends are as reasons to dislike yet underlying the rhetoric is race. I was listening to several of my students discuss politics and always the other reason our president is not liked somehow gets mentioned. Listening to polls and news similar rationales seem to prevail although cloaked in political dribble be it Republican or Democrat. While shrouded in history and idealistic notions racism towards native and or nonwhites has been a large portion of our culture.

 

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, (Tatanka Iyotake), Lakota Medicine man and chief

 

This great warrior and holy man died in 1890 shot by his own people as fore told in a vision he had many years before. At the time the federal government was concerned with his affiliation with the ghost dance cult, which was sweeping the reservations. Armed Sioux officers were sent to bring him in and as legend goes he was reaching for his grandson’s toy and the officers perceived a gun and shot him multiple times. Sadly most of the officers themselves were killed in mysterious ways the next year or so. Some will say karma but to the Sioux killing a holy man is a death sentence in and of itself. Perhaps the officer’s deaths were retaliation for the killing of a great leader from the Sioux nation. Perhaps it is the paradox of the Indian wars.

 

It always seems interesting to me how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians and yet the statement “I would die for my people and country,” is a very patriotic statement we still hear from American patriots continually down through history. Today around the world we are witnessing similar events in many countries. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and who is the enemy.

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

 

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

 

Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of wilderness to conquer as I watch world events. Even the underlying rumor mill is word that Haiti now is a possible new territory for the US. Do we need another General Custer and another battle of the little Big Horn? I was thinking back in my own time and war, Viet Nam, and to the Malai massacre but those folks had no weapons and were only standing around not fighting back. I am always amazed that Custer was a hero and yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle outnumbered and was slaughtered. Perhaps it was the fact the Native Americans had the newest weaponry, repeating rifles and Custer’s men still had breech loading single shot rifles. Interestingly enough word had it the unit was offered the new weapons but felt the old ones were good enough for what they were doing. There is a petition going around the internet to recall the twenty medals of honors awarded to some of Custer’s men. Wounded Knee was only a few months before, Custer’s men only days before killed women and children and by chance came into confrontation with the large army assembled under Crazy Horse and directed by Sitting Bull at Little Bighorn.

 

“What white man can say I never stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet they say that I am a thief. What white woman, however lonely, was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet they say I am a bad Indian.” Sitting Bull

 

I went to school for a semester in Texas in 1968 and experienced racism I had never seen before to that degree. Hatred for Native Americans nearly one hundred years after the wars were over. Geronimo and Chief Joseph were both refused on their death beds by sitting presidents to return to their sacred lands for fear of up risings. Nearly eight years ago on Monday a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch Texas.

 

In 1973 I met the contingency of Creeks who were working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends and I was honored to be invited to partake of medicine at the Green Corn dance. Nearly 150 years earlier under Andrew Jackson’s orders the Creeks were taken from Georgia to Oklahoma, the now infamous Trail of tears. With the Creeks gone all the land became available. I found searching for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother an article about my great, great grandfather George Niper who lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old and was the last living person to have voted for Andrew Jackson. I found it interesting Jackson was a Democrat. The Trail of Tears was not a liberal act by any means for those who use historical references of Democrats.

 

“Now that we are poor, we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die, we die defending our rights.” Sitting Bull

 

I wonder what slogans were used in the 1880’s in presidential elections, Grant wanted a third term and Garfield supported Grant interesting how Garfield’s speech for Grant got him the nomination over Grant and elected. Tariffs was the main issue, high tariffs was what Garfield backed and possibly that which he was assassinated for. The plight of the Native American was a small issue during the years recovering from the governmental corruption of Grants time. Government seems to be by nature corrupt. We watch as senators and congressmen argue over health care and yet they have universal health care for life. Maybe if on equal footing legislation would be different and maybe if the threat of you could lose yours was on the table things would be different.

“A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. I was hostile to the white man…we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.” Crazy Horse, Tashunwitko

 

Interesting how an invaded people fought back yet we condemned them and how history changes the views. I have been reading a book that I titled today’s wandering about entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn, an interesting book about an old man’s effort to explain who his people really are. Nerburn was invited to bring the words of an elderly Native American, a member of the Sioux nation, to the world and to explain why and how. One day maybe someone will offer explanations for the issues of today that go beyond the political views of warring parties and ideologies as we wander today 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

Finding a way to forgive

Bird Droppings January 9, 2019

Finding a way to forgive

 

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

It was a little over eight years ago I spent the morning on a field tip of sorts for a graduate school class. We visited the MLK Jr. Memorial Center on Auburn Street in Atlanta. 1968 seems so far away as I think back. I was in school 1968 at West Chester State college now University, a black man was shot by a white man in Memphis Tn. In the days ahead throughout the nation there was mourning, sadness, riots, laughter from some, pain, heart ache, jokes, and a range of emotions. Today that entire pallet of emotions continues. As we walked from the parking lot to the King Center a statue is in directly in front of you. As I stood taking a few pictures of a statue of a man who was shot in 1949 and was modeled in later years by the man shot in 1968, a fellow started talking to his wife. “I think this was the guy who invented those sandals that are so comfortable.” I wondered how we as a society have survived to this point. I could see students I have asking the same question. The statue was of Mahatma Gandhi.

 

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

As I thought about the inscription on Gandhi’s statue I wondered why we do not teach more about this man in schools. “Nonviolence to be a potent force (I found myself as I went from photo to paper writing weapon) must begin with the mind.” Even I, and I have studied Gandhi evidently not enough used the term weapon thinking about a man who abhorred violence. A single man who died violently because he believed in peace to the marrow of his bones, and through his actions changed a nation. Watching our society today this line hit me hard.

 

“Many people are afraid to forgive because they feel they must remember the wrong or they will not learn from it. The opposite is true. Through forgiveness, the wrong is released from its emotional stranglehold on us so that we can learn from it. Through the power and intelligence of the heart, the release of forgiveness brings expanded intelligence to work with the situation more effectively.” David McArthur & Bruce McArthur

 

When I started early this morning I was going in one direction and as events transpire I end up shifting gears heading another direction. Forgiveness is psychologically sound as a remedy for traumas that befall mankind and yet so often we aggravate and sustain the issue through thoughts of or actual revenge. The McArthur’s hit on a key point as they address the emotional stranglehold we so often fall into when an event comes upon us that we deem wrong or evil in some cases. Starting this topic of forgiveness today came from a number of situations and occurrences that have played out over the past weeks. But the culmination was in the visiting of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center and Museum back six years ago.

 

“I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note–torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.” Henry Ward Beecher

 

“Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregoes revenge, and dares forgive an injury.” E. H. Chapin

 

“We are all on a life long journey and the core of its meaning, the terrible demand of its centrality is forgiving and being forgiven.”  Martha Kilpatrick

 

There are many differing views of forgiveness and this concept of varying aspects has always struck me as being somewhat interesting. From a religious standpoint Christianity uses forgiveness as a base for its religious activities yet over the years has somewhat confused the issue with such famous theological terms as once saved always saved which eludes to an initial salvation sealing forever your ability to do wrong and get away with it. However a famous biblical line from a stoning outside the city gates of Jerusalem back in the day when the leaders had convicted a woman of adultery and were getting ready to stone her. A young man was questioned about the act. He knew it was a political trap. He drew a bit in the sand a few words in ancient Aramaic and turned to the group and asked, “Who among you is without sin should cast the first stone. “ Slowly the group dissipated and the woman came to him asking what she should do and his response was “go and sin no more”. Too many people seem to forget that part of the biblical scriptures.

 

“When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, and we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.” Louis B. Smedes

 

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”  Louis B. Smedes

 

“Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control… to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare.” Lance Morrow

 

I have watched all the gangster movies on TV and in every one the evil, murderous, and always scandalous leader on his death bed asks for forgiveness from the priest. I have always wanted to see the priest say sorry not good enough or tough beans and who knows what else. Forgiveness is an aspect of living not death. It is who we are and why we are on a daily basis. I sit today listening to words from a great man who gave his life for what he believed the introduction to Dr. Kings Nobel Peace prize written by Mahatma Gandhi read by Dr. King.

 

“We are all on a life long journey and the core of its meaning, the terrible demand of its centrality is forgiving and being forgiven.” Martha Kilpatrick

 

“Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.” George MacDonald

 

As I read earlier today forgiveness was discussed as an aspect of love. Forgiveness is the highest form of love both to be forgiven and to forgive. That is a hard idea to understand in our world of greed and corruption. It is hard to understand when everyone seems to be diametrically focused on them.

 

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Robert Quillen

 

“Forgiveness is the final form of love.” Reinhold Niebuhr

 

“One forgives to the degree that one loves.” Francois de La Rochefoucauld

 

“The most tender part of love each other is to forgive.” John Sheffield

 

I have always been a fan of Reinhold Niebuhr and his Serenity Prayer. This great theologian of the late 1950’s was on the far edge of theology in his time. He had a firm belief that faith had to visible as well as a matter of inner peace. Your life needed to reflect what you claimed in your heart. This concept has been controversial since the Middle Ages when some would simply do good works occasionally to gain forgiveness. Niebuhr was about setting the example showing that you could live as you said. While walking around the King Center I saw Niebuhr’s name as someone Dr. King studied.

 

“Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again.” Dag Hammarskjold

 

“Forgiveness is choosing to love. It is the first skill of self-giving love.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

“We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck . . . But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.” Ellen Goodman

 

So a day of pondering and wondering about various views of forgiveness and one last quote for today. I am sure I will ponder more with an interesting book, Way of Wakan: Reflections on Lakota Spirituality and Grief by David J. Mathieu Ed.D. that I have read several times now and will begin again.

 

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Louis B. Smedes

 

A long day and a week ahead and to end as always 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

 

  1. “Don’t judge each day by the harvest but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Looking in a direction to start the morning

Bird Droppings January 8, 2019
Looking in a direction to start the morning

 

“Beginnings start in the east – from where the sun rises we begin a new dawn. Each day is a good new day with a fresh beginning, a new start. East is the direction of the physical body and newness including children and newborns. It is the time of change for all is a new beginning, new ideas and seeing the light. The color yellow is the path of Life, to begin the walk as a warrior, to shine in all that you do. The sun rising in the east empowers each of us. The energy to do and to begin the action of the mind and heart is there. Animals of wings and flight are from the east include the hummingbird, the owl, and the hawk. Our words are given to the east that the smoke in the air or the voices in the air may be carried to Spirit.” Tree Song

 

I was outside much earlier this morning than usual, and in driving to the store I thought I had a low tank of gas. It turned out just I recalled filling my wife’s car and was looking at wrong digital read out. There is still 423 miles left to go at 35 mpg. I saw 35 and thought may need to run to gas station as well.

 

Before I left for the store I was listening to the sounds of morning. The spot where I have been sitting now for nearly twelve years in our backyard facing an open field is now in the back yard of the new model house and all the trees are gone. Fortunately the sounds are the same. Many sounds are just beginning to awaken as the sunrises each morning. The stillness and solitude of early morning, on some occasions is sometimes broken by a rooster calling in the distance or generally more likely starters for the morning are crows and mockingbirds. Today it was a mockingbird that came to visit as I sat listening. It has been some time since I have heard a rooster crow from my door step maybe seventeen years now.

 

“Sioux Morning prayer – Let your voice whisper righteousness in our ears through the East Wind at the break of day. Let us be blessed with love for all our brothers & sisters on Earth so we may truly live in peace. Let us have good health mentally & physically to solve our problems and accomplish something for future generations. Let us be sincere to ourselves and make the world a better place to live. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin” Unknown Author Traditional Sioux prayer

 

The Sioux end prayers and meditations with the phrase, Aho Mitakuye Oyasin, which means, All My Relations. Many will questioned or wonder why end with such a vague phrase? But to the Indian all about is part of who they are and it is to all that they offer this Morning Prayer or thought.

 

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau

 

The other day my mother gave me copy of her notes on my growing up childhood years. One is a story of how when very small around three years of age I ran away. I actually only went across the street into the woods. I will offer the entire story one day but since I was young I have enjoyed the solitude of the woods and nature. Most recently in another dream I was again on that same path leading to a small cave where a medicine man was sitting. There have been many times in the various pathways of my life where I would find places to go and be alone with nature. Seldom have I been confined long in a place where I cannot escape to the calls of the wild and sunrise. Recently a friend posted photos of Cumberland Island which lies along the Georgia Coast and is protected. It is considered a wilderness area and off limits to most exploitation. Sunrise on Cumberland with no one for miles can be pretty spectacular. You have to camp on the island however to see a Cumberland sunrise. While I started with the east today it is about direction that I am writing.

 

“I am always doing things I can’t do; that’s how I get to do them.” Pablo Picasso

 

I raised the question of purpose recently with a student and in an email last night an idea had me thinking. A dear friend said four people had raised the issue of purpose in life recently and she is going through a time now seeking her purpose. Before I went out I wrote back to her, for me it is not what is my purpose, as much as I have purpose and knowing you are significant in each aspect of what you do, borrowing from the Sioux again, Aho Mitakuye Oyasin. Over the years I always thought I would one day open my eyes and see “My purpose” and I have come to understanding it is not a destination that is my purpose it is very much a journey.

It has been many years ago that I experienced a vision or a dream of a giant jig saw puzzle falling in place that sorted it out for me. I could not see the puzzle front every time I tried and look it would turn away revealing the gray backing. I had to be content to know it was falling in place piece by piece and each piece was more intricate than the last. As we seek direction on our journey as I thought and we have a powerful friend in our faith. Doors will open as they need to. I spent nearly two years sorting out where I was to go, working with indigent families and receiving enough barely to cover cell phone and mileage. A door opened in teaching and even then I was presented with tests. It was five times that my name was presented by a principal who wanted me teaching and four times I was turned down. On September 11, 2001 I was allowed to go back into teaching as a long term substitute. Funny thing I started back to teaching again on December 3, 2018. So here I am a special education teacher going back to work on, International Day of Persons with Disabilities. December 3 is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. I Never heard of it before coincidence and or synchronicity.

I have used the illustration of a puzzle often over the years and throw the word purpose about every now and again. There is an aspect of our journey we are directly involved in and that is direction, which way are we facing as we take that next step.

 

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy; a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lays disaster. The other fork of the road, the one less traveled by offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” Rachel Carson

 

I was looking this morning for words dealing with direction each time I tried mapping and directions came up. My oldest son finished his certification in GPS many years ago. He was working with an Environmental Science class at the high school mapping trees and positioning using GPS devices for a project and it hit me how so focused and reliant we have become on technology. We are at a point in our technology where we can ascertain that Sumatra moved 20 centimeters in the huge earthquakes of years past. But so often we have a hard time determining where we are going today let alone in life.

 

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

 

I can always find a spot for a Dewey quote. Dewey is not the easiest read in the world, often his thoughts are in details we are not used too. Far too often teachers look for an easy fix to a complicated issue. In life far too many times we take the easy road.

 

“Instead of looking at life as a narrowing funnel, we can see it ever widening to choose the things we want to do, to take the wisdom we’ve learned and create something.” Liz Carpenter

 

“You don’t have to buy from anyone. You don’t have to work at any particular job. You don’t have to participate in any given relationship. You can choose” Harry Browne

 

For many they see life as a funnel, a narrowing down rather than a spreading out. It has been many years since I walked the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia. Often when walking up a mountain, there are switch backs that would be used rather than a direct ascent. A switch back is a path that cuts back and forth up the mountain rather than straight up, and with a heavy pack a direct route is often impossible. In physics displacement is the straight line distance between two points few could do that in the mountains.

 

“The way to activate the seeds of your creation is by making choices about the results you want to create. When you make a choice, you activate vast human energies and resources, which otherwise go untapped. All too often people fail to focus their choices upon results and therefore their choices are ineffective. If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz

 

So often in life it is the first step, or that opening of the door is so difficult. When I did go back to teaching, I could have stopped at first rejection. I applied at five or six schools. I was not certified, and in order to get provisional certification you have to be employed, an interesting paradox. For some reason a principal thought I might work out and kept pushing, and at the board meeting I was hired, then called back, my sister had been hired who I recommended and so I couldn’t work there. Then my name did not make a meeting and second effort was defeated and a third and fourth. Finally a teacher had a nervous breakdown and was out indefinitely and a long term sub was needed and eventually a teacher. The board made allowances for my sister and I started on September 11, 2001.
It was many months later when the principal was putting a list together that I was asked what day I started and I couldn’t remember, it was the week after labor day and a Tuesday because approval was needed on Monday. The first step is the roughest many times.

 

“You are the person who has to decide. Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; you are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind. Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar. Or just be contented to stay where you are.” Edgar A. Guest

 

“When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.” Dr. Scout Cloud Lee

 

Dr. Lee is a motivational speaker, author of twelve books, a singer, song writer, University professor and former cast member of the survivor series on CBS. She was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Oklahoma State University in 1980, and Oklahoma’s Outstanding Young Woman in American in 1980. In 2002, Lee was honored to carry the Olympic torch exemplifying the theme of “Light the Fire Within”. Perhaps this is a good place to stop today Guest states “you have to decide” and Dr. Lee offers “we participate in the creation of a new world”. I’ll end up with a line from an Aerosmith song

 

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

 

Perhaps ending with a Steven Tyler quote is a good one since he is now one of the judges on American Idol. Maybe he will exemplify his song and provide direction for some young people on their journeys in life. So please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Why should there be no teasing?

Bird Droppings January 7, 2019
Why should there be no teasing?

 

“Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, and is it true, does it improve on the silence?” Hindu proverb

 

So often I speak first and clean up afterwards many times simply walking away quiet generally leaving whoever I am conversing with confused and bewildered. Having a long weekend ahead and hoping to get some serious writing in later today I was cleaning up my email when I found one from a dear friend from nearly fifteen years ago. It was the first one of that day and was about a subject we both were deeply involved with working with high school students.

 

My friend was a youth leader here in Atlanta area and an organic gardener as it goes several years back we discussed teasing and its effects on children. How what is said can often be more potent than any physical contact especially with teenagers. My friend Anna Evans offers this check on teasing and three things to look for.

 

“I have always said you recognize “teasing” if three things are present: There is a shred of truth to what is said, someone has their feelings hurt, you wind up saying …’I was only teasing’. We can’t take those moments back and they are often some of those life changing moments, often not for the “good” Yea, we humans need a 10 second delay like TV so we can adjust what we say…sure would make for a kinder world.” Anna Evans

 

With another Superbowl around the corner for those of you old enough to recall I wonder if Janet Jackson would take her ten seconds back from that Superbowl slip up.

 

“Jests that give pains are no jests.” Miguel de Cervantes

 

As I was wandering about the internet I came upon a website for The Center for Effective Parenting, they offer information for parents and often that same information can be totally applicable to teachers as well. We as teachers often see children for more hours awake than parents do sadly. The Center for Effective Parenting, offers a possible guide:

 

“Parents should try to find out from their children some specifics. For example, parents should try to find out what the teasing is about, who is doing the teasing, where the teasing is occurring, how their children have reacted to different episodes and what occurred afterwards. Parents should try to keep track of such information for a few days to find out what precipitates teasing, if there are things their children may be doing to encourage teasing, and if there seems to be some pattern to it.” TCEP, website

 

“ Teach appropriate responses, Ignore it, develop a quick tongue, Practice, Provide lots of love and encouragement, Discuss it with teacher or day care provider” Kristen Zolten, M.A. and Nicholas Long, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

 

As I look at the expert’s rationale it is a simple ABC’s, the Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence scenario which I have brought up many times in looking at behavior. As I was reading this morning and thinking about zero tolerance for bullying that is in effect for most schools I came upon an interesting website, author and ideas.

 

“Every minute spent in school handling interpersonal problems is a minute taken away from education. Students are all-too-eager to get away from academics. When they discover their teacher is willing to stop what he’s doing to deal with social problems, it is child’s play to fill up the school day with problems.” Izzy Kalman, Bullies to Buddies

 

As I think back to my own teaching style I redirect, ignore often and comeback. Very seldom do I slow down to let teasing take the fore front. Izzy Kalman borrows heavily from old adage of “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”. Kalman takes an opposite view to many educators in that aggression is not learned but genetic. It is an active part of the human condition and so should be dealt with in that manner. Many books and articles and doctorial theses have been written about bullying and teasing. The TABS, which is the Teasing and Bullying survey is produced by The Mental Research Institute and can be a good resource and tool for teachers and parents.

As I sit here pondering listening to the water running in my aquarium by the window and R. Carlos Nakai on the seven note cedar flute hauntingly playing on my hearing aids which on most days I can crank up a bit louder than normal while at home. This issue of bullying is real it is in us and maybe far too often we sidestep and look away as kids tease each other.
I look back to that first statement from so many thousands of years ago, “Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” We can choose what we say that is not genetic that is learned and an active ongoing behavior subject to ABC. We can set an example for children, and that too is learned and not genetic. So in effect if we sat an example can we change the world and maybe through natural selection down through time do away with teasing and bullying. Research is still out but I am still willing to put in an effort. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and regardless of your political followings there are people hurting and dying in Haiti who need our prayers and help and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

 

Decontextualizing – Learning is a journey strewn with boulders

Bird Droppings January 6, 2019

Decontextualizing – Learning is a journey strewn with boulders

 

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

 

For nearly two weeks we had many inches of rain. Now a cold front and clear skies, it has been cold in the mornings. Today I made my first ever cheese grits and I am happily surprised, excellent. It has been interesting early in the morning clear and so far no precipitation including hopefully no snow storm, although we are had so much rain lately with cold front who knows. My wife has to drive in the dark to work as do my oldest son and I each morning. Today we had a few clouds hiding the closing of the moon.

 

It has been many years since I first brought up that we as educators need context to complement the content in education. I have been a fan of Alfie Kohn’s work for nearly eighteen years since I first read a book in a book club meeting held by our then principal now a RESA director. As I read this earlier today and used as a status for my Facebook page the idea of decontextualizing interests me. Real learning involves context and if we constantly are decontextualizing essentially we are unlearning what we are trying to teach.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

If we substitute educators and or students for navigators an interesting situation occurs. Any journey needs a starting point and how we find where that is often is the hard part in education. A journey starts at the beginning, where it is going is wherever and whenever but it does start somewhere. As a teacher helps students find a starting point and then provides tools to navigate the journey. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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