My pedagogy is evolving as I learn, see and listen more

Bird Droppings March 31, 2019
My pedagogy is evolving as I learn, see and listen more

 

“We would do away with examinations. They measure the inconsequential type of learning. We would do away with grades and credits for the same reason. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks the end or a conclusion of something, and the learner is only interested in continuing the process of learning.” Carl Rogers

 

Sitting at home reading several essays by Carl Rogers made for an interesting start to my morning just after picking up stuffed animals and fun stuff from a couple days with grand kids. In our world of No child Left Behind and whatever other acronym the federal government and state education departments throw out, teaching Special Education for me, I see the ones that tend to get left behind. As I read this thought from Rodgers I enjoyed the thought of no tests and no grades. Over the years in one graduate class after another the idea of a portfolio following the student through their school career has always intrigued me and in my own resource room I have done such while in a that resource setting.

 

As I thought this morning would not some sort of portfolio or culminating, or I should say ongoing project indicate mastery or development of learning better than a multiple choice test done with a number two pencil on a scantron answer sheet. Of course in chemistry we might have a few explosions if learners were not listening along the way. In my understanding of the Dewey based Foxfire program what is now Core Practice eight developed into the Foxfire magazine for Elliot Wiggington’s students at Rabun Nantahochee School in 1966. I find it fascinating how often great teachers follow parallel routes albeit different wording and yet seem to find the same ideas. Going back to John Dewey and his premise that experience is the best teacher.

 

“The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.” Foxfire Core Practice eight

 

“Learning doesn’t stop at 3:15. You can help the teacher do a better job by encouraging your child to show you something he’s working on at school, suggests Ron Martucci, who teaches fourth grade in Pelham, New York. It doesn’t have to be a big deal: ‘Ask him to demonstrate how he does long division or to read his book report out loud,’ says Martucci. ‘Every time your child gets a chance to show off what he knows, it builds confidence.’” Good Housekeeping, Hearst Publications

 

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

 

Pulling together my first thoughts this morning as I unravel the essential Bird Pedagogy, previous or past experiences of the learners is a key starting point as I discussed yesterday to a degree. Building on that as the learner progresses trying to find ways that truly show how the learner is developing rather than static limited tests and grades. I like the idea of Rogers about how grades and tests are end points and should be simply points along the line rephrasing a bit as I go. Education is more of a continuum than a finished product. It is sad that so many want to have education be a period at some point. Even as I accumulate degrees I find I am learning constantly not focusing on that end point but where do I go from there.

 

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” John Dewey

 

“The potential choice of a man at any time, therefore, represents all the final choices of his past life. Each link in the chain of violations, from the present back to his first exercise of choice, has involved these elements.” Dr. James Mark Baldwin, Professor University of Toronto, Handbook of Psychology, 1894

 

I am sitting in my writing nook at home this morning a quiet day, visitors have headed home and spring break ahead I can my time pondering. As I think ahead this week of driving back up to visit Foxfire hopefully see some spring in the mountains. I started thinking about what I was going to write today as a continuation of my previous efforts. My thoughts took me back to a question on my Doctorate Comprehensive exams offered to me by one of my professors and then how I responded. Out of John Dewey came two streams of thought although intertwined, that of experiential constructivist thinking and or art and aesthetic based learning. I answered or should say started to answer yesterday using Aldus Huxley who had published a book in 1932, Content and Pretexts.

 

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley, Content and Pretexts

 

As I read this simple line by Huxley I could not help but go back to my readings on John Dewey and his direct influence on educators and education past, present and future. Dewey saw education as the basis for society.

 

“I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race. This process begins unconsciously almost at birth and is continuing shaping the individuals powers saturating his consciousness forming his habits training his ideas, and arousing his feelings and emotions.” John Dewey Pedagogic Creed

 

In my classroom I try and tie to contextual aspects of where we are in the content oriented material that students are being taught. An example would be the word taxonomy that came up a last semester in our biology class. Most students had no clue what this word meant and by some prompting we made a comparison of sheep and goats, one of the student’s families raises goats and we learned about taxonomy. We could show differences and similarities which is how we classify living organisms, or do taxonomy in terms of biology. One of my favorite examples of context and content is going back many years to listening to my father explain tying a square knot you learn best when you actually do it rather than simply hear it explained.
As I explore my own pedagogy I am drawn back to my earliest college and work in psychology. Dr. Abram Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs that I have used over the years many times showing an idea of how people relate and understand in this world of ours. Maslow started with five needs and over the years added some additional clarification.

 

“Maslow’s five needs:
Physiological needs are to do with the maintenance of the human body. If we are unwell, then little else matters until we recover. Safety needs are about putting a roof over our heads and keeping us from harm. If we are rich, strong and powerful, or have good friends, we can make ourselves safe. Belonging needs introduce our tribal nature. If we are helpful and kind to others they will want us as friends. Esteem needs are for a higher position within a group. If people respect us, we have greater power. Self-actualization needs are to ‘become what we are capable of becoming’, which would our greatest achievement. Maslow added over the years three more needs. These are the needs that are most commonly discussed and used. In fact Maslow later added three more needs by splitting two of the above five needs. Between esteem and self-actualization two needs were added. Need to know and understand, which explains the cognitive need of the academic. Also added was the need for aesthetic beauty, which is the emotional need of the artist. Self-actualization was divided into, self-actualization, which is realizing one’s own potential, as above and transcendence, which is helping others to achieve their potential.” Maslow and Lowery, 1998

 

As I move towards a defining point in my essential Bird Pedagogy bits and pieces of Rogers and Dewey along with Foxfire are intertwined with Maslow’s ideas. We need and seek socialization we are a social animal. We seek recognition and want to be secure in our lives. Maslow in adding cognitive which Rogers uses and aesthetic which Rogers alludes to and Dewey as well as Elliot Eisner build on this. Each day as I sit pondering reflecting on what is my pedagogy my ideas seem to flow a little more freely. I do believe pedagogy is an individual entity and has fluidity to it. There is not an end point or limit or rather there should not be since we need to be ongoing learners and thinkers. Perhaps I will as the week progresses resolve my own ideas and be a bit more definitive in what my personal pedagogy truly is but for today please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Is it passion or just obsession?

Bird Droppings March 30, 2019
Is it passion or just obsession?

 

“All games have an important and probably decisive influence on the destinies of the players under ordinary social conditions; but some offer more opportunities than others for life long careers and are more likely to involve innocent bystanders.” Dr. Eric Berne, The games people play

 

This past week while emotionally difficult I had many moments of solitude sitting and pondering. I had a thought. Why are we passionate about our jobs, friends, families and perhaps life in general? I started thinking and yes perhaps I think and even obsess too much. I use the word ponder as I call it, often over trivial thoughts for some meaningless dribble, little shadows that many simple never see. Can we be passionate about something any other way?

 

Fourteen nearly fifteen years ago today I filled in a form for a young man who was very obsessive in so much of his life. He was and still is obsessive to a point of distraction from reality many times. If you would mention Jeff Gordon’s number or name and his eyes would light up and immediately, in a torrent of language almost as fast as most people can understand there would be statistics, information on this NASCAR race or that and this sponsor or that and soon you would wish you never mentioned Jeff Gordon. I bumped into his mother a few days ago at her job.
With Obsessive compulsive individuals changing the subject often will solve the immediate symptoms. I used Jeff Gordon to pull him back from another subject or thought that he would have been obsessing on that was less reality focused while in my class fifteen plus years ago. Obsessive compulsive Disorder, OCD, can be manifested so many different ways often crippling a person with routines and rituals that have to be fulfilled. As I sit here I see passion in that obsession. Perhaps there is obsession in passion.

 

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. 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, recorded by Dr. Henry Smith, 1854

 

So often in life we do or say things that seemingly are independent thoughts random utterances that mean only a bit to us as we pass in that moment. Yet the ripples, the effects and flow of direction from that utterance can carry and evolve far beyond that moment and place. As in a game where one person manipulates a piece and often the other parties involved are unaware of strategy and plan and soon there is nothing left. I think back to that obsession and what may be said in meaningless thought and or pursuing a thought or an idea that is driven from some physiological mechanism we do not control. Is passion mistaken for that an errant whisper and dream? Could passion be an obsession on a simple concept that is mistaken as true passion for that concept?

 

“Passion and prejudice govern the world, only under the name of reason.” John Wesley

 

“Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, when some mightier touch than their own may have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the calm content, the marble image of happiness, which they will have imposed upon her as the warm reality.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

It was perhaps John Wesley’s obsession that leads to his passion. Wesley was one of the founders of the United Methodist Church. Wesley was an Anglican Priest who was methodical in his thinking often having communion 30 times in one day. He would be often on his knees in prayer for hours on end or composing hymns and music as did his brother Charles. The web of life has so many strands, woven in and about. Was John Wesley a man obsessed or was he passionate about his calling?
Hawthorne sees a different picture of man. He sees one of seemingly change of personality, differences and varying capabilities. Emerson’s ideas I find often in my thinking as I do and in his ideas there is a close kinship between obsession and passion. Passion is very much a powerful spring but it is so difficult to regulate.

 

“Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” Amiel, Journal, 17 December 1856

 

“Passion is universal humanity. Without it religion, history, romance and art would be useless.” Honoré de Balzac

 

“Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work.” Aldous Huxley

 

I look at how we see passion and conversely obsession and wonder if often the two are not synonymous baring attributes of each other and offering similarities within the differences. It is easier to offer you are passionate about your job than obsessed with it when discussing with others. It is far easier to except a passionate person than an obsessive one. Religion needed obsession to succeed as I look at Wesley and so many of the Saints yet passion for their beliefs is a more powerful and believable offering. Within the world of art I see Vincent Van Gogh who without his obsession would have never painted with the feverish pitch and effort that he did and his paintings today would not be selling for tens of millions of dollars. Yet to many in his time he was crazy and his painting barely kept him alive. Some will see passion as he sent his ear to a girl he loved, while the poor girl saw obsession.
Can we turn that obsession into useful and meaningful work? Often in the game of life as I started this morning passion is turned not against the passionate but for the person holding the winning hand.

 

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.” Elbert Hubbard

 

I have known many who even take medication for OCD and some of us can tell when and how much they took based on their interactions. I wonder how we deal with passion. Do we manipulate and propagate as needed or do we simply medicate when not needed, or push under the rug when the deed is completed and game won. Passion actually is a difficult course in life to ponder. Do we possess it or is it simply obsession. Please keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind 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

 

Children Teach what they Live

Bird Droppings March 24, 2019
Children Teach what they Live

 

It is a beautiful spring day outside and quiet after a crazy open house next door. It seems the solitude of the country has changed rapidly in only a few weeks. A developer bought sub-division and has put up houses. People are moving into what was once a tree filled track. Outside it is cool not cold and the weather person said might get up to 70 degrees today in the afternoon. So it is not a bad day.  Occasionally I write a thought for myself today is one of those.

Standing earlier taking out our dog there was little in terms of any sounds the surrounding area. No official neighbors yet and tree frogs are still a bit too cold to venture out. The trees no longer are muffling the human side of noise around me. I heard almost momentarily nothing as I stood, even in the background not even crickets or breeze in the trees. Every morning I have been passing by a bill board and wanting to write about it. It is bold and artistically done for everyone to see; Peace, Paz, Shalom courtesy of the Rotary Club sort of strange for these parts.

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” Will Durant

Several years ago I found this short story on a web site. I have used it several times in meetings and in my daily wanderings. I would like to share today a story from many years ago entitled, Our nature, which is from the Zen thought and writings.

“Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, ‘Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?’ ‘Because,’ the monk replied, ‘to save it is my nature.’” From the website of Dr. John Suler, Ryder University

As I look at this story there are many reactions to the monk’s response. How foolish is the monk who gets stung. He knows it is a scorpion. He knows scorpions will sting and he has been already stung once. What lesson is being taught in this passage some have said over the year’s stupidity? There is also a similar story Dr. Suler uses from Native American lore of a fox and scorpion crossing a stream. My concern is there are applications to parenting, friendship, teaching within the context of a stinging scorpion? As I read this morning looking through various articles by Dr. Suler and another writer I enjoy immensely Sydney J. Harris, this is a piece of an article from his daily column Strictly Speaking which was in syndication during his lifetime in over 300 papers, this caught my eye.

“The student, who could really get an A if he wanted to, cannot really get an A because he really doesn’t want to. And the wanting to is an essential part of the achieving, not a separate thing, as parents imagine, that can be injected into him like a shot of adrenalin. All genuine and meaningful and lasting motivation comes from the inside, not from the outside. The carrot and the stick work maybe only as long as the carrot is in front and the stick behind. When they are withdrawn, the motivation ceases. You can get a mule to move this way, but not a person for very long.” Sydney J. Harris, Motivation, a key part of Talent

Last week in class listening to students tell why they have low grades several interesting answers, “but I am passing I have a 70” or “what do I need this crap for anyhow”. As I listened and looked through notes and ideas on how do we instill the idea of motivation in a child or student? I found most of the students yesterday when told about the monk getting stung would say he was stupid, just step on the scorpion, why waste your time. Occasionally a person will pop up and say, “The scorpion has a right to live too and that is why the monk helped it”.
Somewhere when I first started working with children back in the dark ages I found a poster, “Children Learn what they Live” which was written by Dr. Dorothy Nolte Ph.D., in 1972 and goes as follows:

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith
in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn
the world is a nice place in which to live.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Sydney Harris couldn’t put a finger on motivation as he mentions in his article how parents want it to be like adrenaline and we could give a shot of motivation. The monk showing kindness to the scorpion is an attribute that had been learned by observation by seeing and by example. I believe motivation is from inside as Harris states and as Dr. Nolte so eloquently points out in 20 or so statements. It is what children see and feel as they grow that provides them with that inner drive that inner spark. Children do learn what they live and as parents and teachers we are modeling their future. We are what they will be and can be.

“If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.” Dr. Nolte

It is really is not that difficult when we look at kids? How can we expect a child to be motivated to succeed if we take away any of the twenty or so possibilities presented in Dr. Nolte’s chart. No matter how big the carrot dangled it must come from within, and eventually we as teachers, parents, and friends need to be providing that support and effort. So it is another spring day and a plea to please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds Namaste.

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

Setting priorities on a chilly spring morning

Bird Droppings March 22, 2019
Setting priorities on a chilly spring morning

 

“Keep in mind that you are always saying ‘no’ to something. If it isn’t to the apparent, urgent things in your life, it is probably to the most fundamental, highly important things. Even when the urgent is good, the good can keep you from your best; keep you from your unique contribution, if you let it.” Steven J. Covey

 

My youngest son when he was home back in the days would dig up old Guinness books of world records or old Sports Illustrated magazines to attend to issues he might have in the bathroom. Just by chance or coincidence for whatever reason I picked up an old Sports Illustrated magazine just before writing this morning, Rick Reilly’s “Life of Reilly”, the editorial on the last page and it is about one of the worst NCAA basketball programs in history, Caltech.

 

“There is a T-Shirt you can buy in the university bookstore that reads CALTECH FOOTBALL: UNDEFEATED SINCE 1993. Possibly because Caltech hasn’t had a football team since 1993” Rick Reilly

 

As I read through Rick Reilly’s article it was interesting there are two players on the basketball team with prefect SAT scores, five faculty members have won Nobel prizes, one professor has discovered the tenth planet in our solar system just recently, but in NCAA basketball 21 years without a win. How is that for priorities?

 

“It is very nearly impossible… to become an educated person, in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.” James Baldwin

 

This statement hit me hard, we talk and use test scores as measuring sticks yet somehow between it all football and basketball scores are still more significant more meaningful than SAT scores or academic awareness. The academic bowl team fights to get a bus and the football team rides on a charter bus in many schools. The last line of Reilly’s article struck me. As I look even at the high school’s I have taught in, I doubt anyone could tell you when we last won a state championship in an academic bowl. Most can tell you who is current state wrestling champ, softball champ, baseball champ or which team was in elite eight.

 

“As an opposing player – whose team had just slaughtered the Beavers (Caltech) – said as he shook each Caltech player’s hand, ‘Now go out there and cure cancer for us.’” Rick Reilly

 

Here on a day when college admissions is under fire amazingly in many schools coaches will find ways for athletes to pass or systems will find ways to pass them. It may be tutors, special programs, and I heard somewhere TV money paid for the expansion of Georgia’s football stadium. Perhaps it is myself who has priorities wrong. Many of my students will never find a cure for cancer and or be on a winning football or basketball team, some may not ever hold much of a job. Many the day as I look back over students from the past that I can use jail time as an indicator. But I think back to a former student who as a senior had the runner up essay I state competition. I am probably the only one who can name him. What about former students who are in college and or have graduated and are raising families and many said they would never graduate high school. Somewhere along the way maybe a kind word or thought gave the push in the right direction.

 

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

 

As I periodically do find answers in John Dewey, perhaps the priority is teaching that life is about learning daily. We tend to lose focus occasionally with whose team is winning and who is losing and of course who has the biggest TV contract for next year. Money becomes the crucial element. It is difficult trying to teach around money. We have jaded our society so much with materialism. Kids are more concerned with things than how they are going to earn the income to purchase that thing, I call it Hedonism 101.

 

“I have little patience with scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great number of holes where drilling is easy.” Albert Einstein

 

I went out earlier into a chilly damp morning for March but a beautiful sky. I will go shortly to a school filled with students, some will want to learn, some are here walking the halls socializing, some are here due to parental concern, some are not sure why they are here and many seek the thinnest portion of the board to drill their holes. Some may be like the Caltech students who play basketball knowing they will lose yet in the lab tomorrow may uncover the cure for cancer. I have found we are each unique in life and each have a significant part to play.
Finding that piece to our puzzle is the hard part. But having the desire to look is step one. Sitting in a file folder next to me a folder labeled goals, my student’s goals for the year. In meetings we establish goals, teachers, parents and the student come up with annual goals and objectives. What if every student had a folder labeled goals and one of those goals is, as a student of life, I will master two of the following objectives. Eighty percent of the time I will live life to the fullest. Eighty percent of the time I will endeavor to treat every person I meet as an equal. Eighty percent of the time I will be the best that I can. I am allowing for variance and error with only requiring eighty percent, what if only we could live that way.

 

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

 

Yesterday I was watching a shooting star no such luck today, but will that stop me from looking tomorrow? Probably not I am always searching and looking. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart namste.

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

 

 

Are we going in the right direction?

Bird Droppings March 21, 2019
Are we going in the right direction?

 

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. I believe that the school must represent present life-life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground. I believe that education which does not occur through forms of life, or that are worth living for their own sake, is always a poor substitute for the genuine reality and tends to cramp and to deaden.” John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed, 1897

 

I recall many years ago taking a test that would indicate what we were suitable for and then getting called in to the “guidance” counselors who in my day were wives of the football coaches. I never quite figured that out. In 1965 at our high school I was told I should look at technical training because of my grades and such. I was not a very good student in high school 597th 0f 795 students. It seems I was side tracked somewhere in elementary school about education, and periodically I would have a few flare ups of wisdom. The little flare ups during standardized tests were just enough for me to remain in college prep and high functioning classes all through high school.
So I was amused by the guidance recommendations. I was reminded recently of my turmoil in high school of trying to place me in a job before I knew what life was about and what was out there. I was thinking about Special Education and in our IEP’s we do a transitional plan at age fourteen. What do you want to do is asked and I have had quite a few want to be a rappers, pro football players or basketball players on transitional plans over the years.

 

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

 

“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John W. Gardner

 

For nearly thirty years I have had a Chinese proverb hanging on my wall.

 

“You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day: You can teach a man to fish and feed him for life.”

 

Having been to teenagers funerals far to many times and thinking about all the kids I talked with in that setting and on emails I really wondered, as I sat thinking this morning about trying to figure out what these students will be doing in twenty years. It made me think of my own life. I was thinking what do we really need to teach. With the advent of federal and state legislation demanding certain standards be met it is interesting how teachers and parents get left out of the loops and legislators decide.
As I look at John Dewey and John Gardner’s comments while differing in philosophies a point of interest. Dewey mentions a process of living give your teaching context making it meaningful. Gardner says not just cut flowers but to teach them how to grow the flower, not simply facts. What does this mean to me as a teacher?

 

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else.” John W. Gardner

 

“WHEN most people think of the word ‘education,’ they think of a pupil as a sort of animate sausage casing. Into this empty casing, the teachers are supposed to stuff ‘education.’ But genuine education, as Socrates knew more than two thousand years ago, is not inserting the stuffing’s of information into a person, but rather eliciting knowledge from him; it is the drawing out of what is in the mind.” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly Speaking, What true education should do?

 

It has been a few years since I did this lesson and it was quite an experience. It seems like yesterday I had two students in my class room and several were out during second period suspended or in School Suspension (ISS), this was a really rough group of kids. I had decided to do a class project that the class wanted to do. I set parameters that were relatively simply borrowing on my Foxfire teachings and trying to set up a democratic classroom.

 

1.Project had to be of interest to all students
2. Project had to be school appropriate
3. Students had to be able to learn academics in the context of the project
4. As the teacher I had to be able to measure learning
5. There had to be a culminating project and end point during the semester

 

So a day or two later when everyone was in school we started by first coming up with ideas for the project. The class came up with several, wrestling, girls, cars, animation, photography, building and several very inappropriate for school if not in violation of state and federal laws.
One however that continued to peak interest and has been an integral part of my class as I use digital photography daily and every student has taken a camera home and taken literally tens of thousands of pictures. As the discussion progressed photography seemed to be the choice and eventually the project became a photography contest within the school sponsored by my second period class.
While tedious in the beginning as ideas it all started and soon took on a life of its own eliciting thinking from these kids. Naturally thinking was the big word and was the main task and for a few of them it was tiring but then on to next step. How do we get permission? Actually after the class decided I gone and gotten permission but students would have to proceed as if they do not have it and formally get permission.
Watching the thought process evolve from students who often simply do worksheets and or get in trouble. For students who read several grades below their actual level throwing ideas around about having a voting process and different categories and digital versus film it was a pretty amazing discussion. I argue day in and day out about having context to a lesson. When a student has context for the content it has life and meaning.

 

“I believe that education, therefore, it is a process of living” John Dewey

 

“If we are succeeding in our efforts to establish an excellent quality of present experience, people, teachers, students, administrators, parents should enjoy being in school; there should be fewer incidents of violence and nastiness; there should be more acts of kindness, more expressions of concern for others; more open conversation and fewer acts of control on the part of adults.” Nel Noddings

 

As a teacher I get frustrated knowing that information, understanding and knowledge of what is education and learning are out there in the nebulous but get rejected by a cookie cutter mentality that requires easy quick fixes and various publishers’ approval. I found this article from Nel Noddings and was amazed at her suggestions that follow many European and Asian approached to schooling. First that excellence in schooling is not that everyone meets a collegiate curriculum and succeeds in it but that individually we are providing and excelling in directions that we are suited for that individual student be that art, music, technology, industry or academics. This was written several years ago and if you get serious John Dewey was writing about this in 1897 over one hundred years ago and why do we never pay attention. The article is Excellence as a guide to Educational Conversation by Nel Noddings, Stanford University, 2004.

 

We have to as teachers go beyond in many cases what we have been taught in education classes, which has been to do what is expedient versus real. It has been to try and not just teach “stuff” as Harris indicates. We have to bring life to education make it alive. As a parent and now grandparent this comes home as well and parents need to be involved. We need to wake up parents instead of simply letting them sleep through their child’s school experience. This is a community effort not simply one teacher and one student. Even though that is where it starts. Sydney J. Harris uses an illustration of an oyster and a pearl.

 

“Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence.” Sydney J. Harris

 

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

 

I got a bit carried away today. But as I read this last quote by Einstein who was left behind more than once in his educational experience at an early age can we as a society begin to look at each other as potential pearls instead of just sausages? I wonder as this school year is winding down and a new school year approaches all too soon. Try today to please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

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

 

 

Where is the beginning or end in a circle?

Bird Droppings March 20, 2019
Where is the beginning or end in a circle?

 

“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Albert Einstein

 

Over the past few days’ school has been wearing me out physically, could be the last few weeks of getting through a meaningless testing barrage, I think it shows I am getting old. Last night we had a coyote wander down the road by the house. As I went out into the darkness this morning I looked no deer and or coyote. It was a bit chilly this morning and a moon was hanging over head but it is to warm up and be a pretty day. It was about twelve years back a good friend dropped by for a couple days. This was the first time he had been back in this area for some time. In our course of topics as we talked late into the evening on two nights was the idea of teaching as an art form. We talked about views on life and how so often I have on occasions seen things others have not.

 

Wandering around as I do looking for pictures to take often images others would pass up.
One of our discussions over breakfast we talked about intuition and empathy as crucial aspects of being a good teacher. Another topic was how so often in life we tend to view daily happenings as mundane and yet in that moment of the mundane miracles are happening. In our backyard we have since we have moved here put in numerous flower beds in one bed we have several ferns along with angel trumpet plants and several other flowering shrubs. Nearby one bed is special nearly every flower attracts hummingbirds.

 

Coincidentally we planted quite a few butterfly and hummingbird friendly plants last year around the yard and I was pulling dead flowers off when I heard a loud humming buzzing sound. I was being dive bombed by a hummingbird. My wife had me place a hummingbird feeder in the tree which centers on that bed. The hummingbird food was constantly getting gone and I had just refilled it, it has become one of my jobs to keep the feeders filled come summer time. It will not be too long till they are back from Mexico and as I look up hearing the buzzing I will see hummingbirds feeding directly beside me and who knows maybe this year I will get a good picture.

 

When I sit each morning and write about fireflies dancing across the edge of my world in my back yard or whippoorwills echoing through the dawn and dusk it is recognizing the mundane in life. Should I not be there to hear they will still be calling and should I not be watching the fireflies they will still light the night. My own view is still limited by darkness, my own vision and my own perception. I try and instill in my students to look past images everyone else sees and try and find that which is theirs and theirs alone. I am saddened when a great idea and creative mind is silenced by peer pressure.

 

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Friedrich Nietzsche

 

For someone a thousand miles away it is only words that I write yet I see it and experience it and yet for someone here nearby unless they are willing to rise at 4:00 AM they too will not see or hear what I see and hear. So in effect a writer offers glimpses of another experience and another world to those willing to read. I offered as my friend and I talked it is about renewing our perception sharpening our senses to see and hear and feel more than we do today.

 

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

 

Many considered Einstein to be an atheist for his very often blunt statements about religion, yet if you read very many of his nonscientific statements there is a spiritual aspect to them. He was an artist and a philosopher as well. Thinking back again eight years it was a day not unlike most other days I have experienced with my friend talking with many old thoughts and memories that we discussed years ago. Sitting and reminiscing about his days in seminary and choosing to go back to teaching and how that impacted his life. There is an end and a beginning of every journey and at one point I even asked him if he was in the right place now. Without blinking an eye he responded he was never happier and knew this was where he was meant to be now in his life journey as I know I am where I am too be for now.

 

“We do not chart and measure the vast field of nature or express her wonders in the terms of science; on the contrary, we see miracles on every hand – the miracle of life in seed and egg, the miracle of death in a lightening flash and the swelling deep.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Eastman, Santee Sioux

 

Perhaps one day I can sit idle as I started thinking a few moments ago and rock on my front porch, but not today. For now I crave that thought process and questioning and curiosity of learning and teaching. Whenever I drive through Kentucky I cannot help but think of Daniel Boone finding his way which was for him a wilderness and yet for Native Americans of that place it was home not a wilderness. Even in that day trails and pathways were worn from the passage of moccasin feet.

 

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” Albert Einstein

 

In a paper for graduate school several years ago I referenced my recent experience, as somewhat of a clearing of a haze from things I had forgotten. It was as if things were clarifying from many years ago. Often what is learned is not just from books but from experiencing, living, seeing and believing. Each day I travel a road many others have journeyed on and many others have succeeded in going beyond that road. Yet it is new to me each day for I choose to see more than the day before. For me it is wilderness opening new trails not yet approached by civilization. For me it is fresh and vibrant even though many see only the mundane and stale.

It might be in the flight and blinking of a firefly or the snort of breath as a buffalo crossed the pasture years ago, or the call of a whippoorwill off in the trees. It may be in the feather left for me as a hawk soared through the sky. I recall a movie where the start and end was nothing more than a piece of fluff blowing about until it gained import with Forest Gump and was placed in a special place in his life. We do not know from moment to moment how someone will react to anything we do or say or write. I spoke with my friend about interconnections and how this is the art of our existence. It is in the perception, the seeing, feeling and hearing of our own heartbeat.

 

I ran into a former student yesterday. She had moved and happened by chance to be in our town and we met at my favorite store Quick Trip. Seems she now lived in another county and will not be attending our local school next year. She just wanted to say hi and in the conversation asked what do I teach everyone wants to know, it seems I have many students who just come by my room and officially are not in my classes. I told her I Use to have a sign on my door stating; Period One – The philosophy of learning about how and why we learn what we do, Period two – the same, Period three planning, and Period four again the same. She said that sounds interesting.

 

For nearly three years she wondered what I taught and wanted to be in my class. I would always respond you haven’t been in enough trouble yet. As she left after I explained Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, she said even though I wasn’t in your regular classes except for Biology in summer school I learned a lot. How is that for an ego boost? By chance I was reading as I do and emailing my friend pointing out several websites and books. Two passages caught my attention as I end my writings today.

 

“On the basis of the belief that all human beings share the same divine nature, we have a very strong ground, a very powerful reason, to believe that it is possible for each of us to develop a genuine sense of equanimity toward all beings.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Good Heart

 

“Strength based in force is a strength people fear. Strength based in love is a strength people crave. It is as true today as it was then and as true for nations as it is for individuals. Unfortunately, too few of each are listening.” Kent Nerburn

 

Nerburn was addressing a friend’s comment about Viet Nam and those of us old enough to have been drafted and or serve in that time of war. Looking at the news and comments from politicians the past few days this passage from the Dalai Lama struck a chord with me. One of the things my friend and I did while he was hear was see each of my sons since my friend had been involved with them in youth work and music. Of course that included along the way riding down to Georgia Tech and going for a campus tour in the Georgia Tech mascot, the Ramblin Wreck. Recently I was watching old videos and the other night spending several hours with my sons catching up reminded me how significant today can be. Now I can end for this morning of cool wet weather after the weekend is another week before spring break so 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

 

When did Bird Droppings start?

Bird Droppings March 19, 2019
When did Bird Droppings start?
On February 3, 2003 I officially started titling my daily emailing and blogging, Bird Droppings. I went back in my files and pulled up a few old thoughts and ideas. As I was reading the local paper today a street poll was included asking locals about gas prices. In a morning of memories I recalled an email from my mother about starting a gas war. It was a forward from my uncle to my mother. A simple concept we as consumers stop buying gas from the two biggest gas companies and only buy from smaller ones which will drive pricing down. Idea was emailing to 30 people this idea which gets mailed to 30 more, sort of pyramid gas war tactics.

 

I started using the name Bird Droppings and put out several issues of newsletters technically to encourage my students to write and thin, under that name.  I thought at the time “Bird Droppings” a good title and subject. Looking back to that day in 2003 much was occurring around the nation as NASA tried to pick up pieces of a space shuttle and sort out the disaster that happened over east Texas. These explorers chose their profession and knew the risks one crew member being remembered by her cousin, said she would prefer to die in space doing what she loved. Space was a passion for each member of the crew; it was about the searching and inquiry.

 

I can remember the Challenger accident before some of you were even born. It was a shock just as this tragedy was. But as a brother of a Challenger crew member said the morning after, “their work continues”. Often events in our lives make no sense at that point of happening and later clarify as we go further into the journey. There is really no solace to a family when a loved one is lost even when you knew the risks they were involved in. It is the thoughts and assurances of friends and family that can make the pain bearable.
A number of years ago my brother died during the night in his sleep. When I received the call at work I was in shock and hurried to my parent’s home. Within moments calls and emails and faxes began to arrive from around the world from my parent’s friends and family. That support made that moment so much easier to bear. Back in 2007 with the death of my father in-law and my own father the support of friends and family eased the pain and passing. I recall that day in February 2003 and was running a bit late that morning as I listened to the news and watching a nation morn seven heroes. It is funny how bits and pieces of memory come back to remind us of the frailty of life and the finiteness as well.

 

Today I found a quote that for some may not apply and for others who knows, as I do each day. Many years ago I read a series of books written by an anthropologist about his studies of herbal medicine among the Yaqui Indians of Mexico. Being a hobbyist botanist and student of medicinal plants and herbs. I have always been fascinated with his writings. He eventually found his way to a medicine man that used the Anglo name of Don Juan. After a number of trips and many years Castaneda became an apprentice to Don Juan in his efforts to become a Yaqui Medicine man. Carlos Castaneda wrote of the trials and tribulations of his adventure and studies and his books are used in many classes as case studies still today even though his research has been shown to be fiction in many instances.
“We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.”
Carlos Castaneda

 

One of the simple truths he found in his studies under Don Juan was how much we ourselves are directly involved in our own situation. That sounds simple but so often we blame the world around us for our plight. A student of life can only blame themselves for all choices made they are ours and no one else’s to make. So in effect we make ourselves happy or sad and only we can redirect the pathway. Those heroic astronauts who gave their lives they could have chosen another path a simpler path and less risky path, but they wanted and chose the direction and they were on and where they were to be. We now can choose how to continue their journey ending in a crash or building upon that and going beyond the stars. Remember the families of those brave men and women who died and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always seek peace namaste.

 

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

 

PS As In much of life I have found synchronicity. I started my titling in humor and yet as I grew in my writing and thoughts over the years the name as well took on power. A birddroping can be so much more than simply a white splash on a windshield or side walk. It can become sacred and meaningful to some. A feather drifting in the wind. A feather picked up along the pathway. For some a feather has power and sacredness. I have found over the nearly twenty years of writing that daily one maybe two or three people are impacted by a thought I may share. That has made it worth my time.