A beginning from an end

Bird Droppings August 30, 2019
A beginning from an end

 

“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

 

I was thinking back a few years, summer nightly storms had come through and amazingly our granddaughter had slept through them. Our dog is another story waking up at the first crack of thunder. It was about eleven years back when a friend dropped by for a couple days. This was the first time he had been back in this area for nearly three years. 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 to look for pictures, 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. However, one bed is special nearly every flower attracts hummingbirds. Coincidentally we planted petunias last year around the edge 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 the bed. The hummingbird food was constantly getting gone and I had just refilled it, it has become one of my jobs to keep 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 hearing they will still be calling and should I not be watching the fireflies will still light the night? My own view is still limited by darkness and 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 yours. 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 3:00 AM they too will not see or hear what I see and hear. So, in effect a writer offers glimpses of another experience 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. Today is a day unlike most other days I have experienced with my friend talking 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 in 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 a year or so 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 crosses 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 moved and happened by chance to be in our town as I was my favorite store Quick Trip. Seems she now lives in another county and will not be attending our school next year. She just wanted to say hi and, in the conversation, asked what do you 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 on my door it states; 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 riding down to Georgia Tech and going for a campus tour in the Tech mascot, the Ramblin Wreck. Recently I was watching old videos and spending numerous hours with my sons catching up reminded me how significant today can be. Now I can end for this morning of storms is another week ahead so please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

 

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

Quietly listening to Hot Tuna and pondering the word inspiration

Bird Droppings August 29, 2019
Quietly listening to Hot Tuna and pondering the word inspiration

Nearly sixteen years ago at a county wide teacher kick off meeting, before budget cuts there was traditionally a packaged inspirational meeting and welcome. This was designed to be a startup for the new school year lead by a brought in speaker. They would pay big dollars for someone to come in and inspire us as teachers, it could be a comedian or professional speaker and it seems each year they try a new approach. I would much rather enjoy going to hear Nelson Mandela or Bishop Tutu maybe even Jimmy Carter but so far, no such luck. In the past before austerity cuts the county start up program, we would car pool over to the a high school gym near our county office and sit in the bleachers listening to pep talks and such and most teachers would leave wishing they had called in sick. I once considered asking for a substitute but our secretary did not think the county would cover a sub.

A young black college professor stood in front of us. He made his point not one person approached him as he boogied through the crowd prior to the meeting. So, I start today with a quote from this young college professor.

“You can teach anyone anything once you get their ATTENTION.” Dr. Adolph Brown, III

Prior to at aforementioned annual teachers inspirational gathering in the county this same professor was walking about the crowd clad in hip hop attire, the baggy pants and shirt and baseball cap with a dew rag. He could have been from any street corner in Atlanta or Monroe where the school is located he was just a young black man. As they announced Dr. Brown, a very distinguished man in a business suit and such rises and heads towards podium and then the hip-hop fellow moves toward the mike and takes charge and announces he is Dr. Adolph Brown III from Hampton College, professor of psychology and education. He is a world-wide consultant and motivational speaker.

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’” Dan Rather

We teachers sat listening to this young professor talk about faith, trust and getting students attention.

“In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” Jacques Barzun

New teachers come in wanting to make changes in student’s lives immediately and it does happen but the real changes are those often years later. Recently a former history teacher joined our high school group site and many of our members were offering memories of this great teacher’s efforts both in the classroom and as a coach. Mr. Ross Kershey was one of the winningest basketball and track coaches in Pa. and a truly great teacher in the class room inspiring students to learn. It has been over forty-five years since I was in his class yet I still consider him one of the best teachers I ever had. Over the years I have set at the feet of some great teachers in college classes and in industrial seminars and while I did my job as a professional management training coordinator.

“Most teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum or choice of texts or special placement of students, but most have a great deal of autonomy inside the classroom. To a degree shared by only a few other occupations, such as police work, public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.” Tracy Kidder

I had a former student come by to visit me a few years back he had walked across the stage nearly eleven years ago to accept a special education diploma and then went on and officially finished high school and received his general education diploma and went on to college. It was a good feeling to be sitting there talking with a student who kept at it and succeeded even though all the odds were stacked against him.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

This is what teaching is about, it is inspiration and I wish all teachers could have heard those comments we heard in our Walton County teachers meeting that year when Dr. Brown offered the key component in teaching it is our example. It is setting the example for students. I have heard that before many times and somehow it does not sink in with most teachers. So, as we head towards a school end for the summer and End of Course Tests the next few weeks at our school please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

How do we know if we are still human?

Bird Droppings August 28, 2019
How do we know if we are still human?

 

Perhaps it is from growing up in a situation where we were daily aware of special needs children and adults from the birth of my younger brother till his passing almost eighteen years ago. Those in my family have had connections with exceptional children directly or indirectly in our careers and life’s endeavors ever since. A number of us went the route of teaching and even there most are in Exceptional Education. Several are in the medical field and several have gone into psychology. My brother linked us as a family to the humanness of mankind.

 

“The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self.” Albert Einstein

 

Over the years in my undergraduate and graduate studies, internships and various clinicals I have experienced situations many will never know exist. I recall walking through wards in a state institution where tiny infant appearing patients lay in bassinets connected to tubes and not moving. Some were born with no brains and kept alive by feeding tubes and respirators. I asked one of the attendants during a walk through in 1968 how old was this one particular infant. I was informed this was not an infant but probably older than I was I being twenty and the baby at twenty-three. The attendants turned the children to prevent bed sores and occasionally would talk to their charges. Later as I worked on finishing my psychology degree at Mercer University I visited several more units very similar at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville Georgia once the largest mental hospital in the nation and at a Regional Mental Hospital in Atlanta. These units were filled with fifty to sixty patients each. Central State Hospital had more than one ward.

 

“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Our society exists through a historical development from a time when the first humans began living in villages and using commodities as exchange for other goods. Many historians and anthropologists will offer that society and civilization began when this early bartering started and a value was placed on a particular thing. A goat is worth a bushel of wheat or rice and banking began. Soon more precious commodities were found, metal for weapons and tools, precious stones and gold for adornment. Granted this process happened fairly rapidly in the grand scheme of things and soon someone decided they could get more for an item since they had most of it and price gouging was begun. It was in these days that an imperfect infant would be tossed off a cliff or fed to the sharks.

 

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein
However that idea that got me started on the idea that maybe we are losing or have lost our humanity is rampant in our society today. Over the years I will get in discussions and some get a bit out of proportion and over board and some I will walk away from but when we look at cutting programs that provide housing and food for people who do not have anything I take issue. I take issue with the greed that drives bonuses and profits that tax most families to a point of frustration all in the name of capitalism. I get upset when education is first on the chopping block not because it could impact my own pay but because it is through education we can possible regain our humanity.

 

In a recent discussion on drug testing those on Medicaid, Food stamps or any Federal assistance because all on welfare are on drugs and using welfare money to buy drugs I asked what do we do and was suggested I use my own money if I think they need help. Almost immediately in curiosity I should have questioned what religion are you? A legislator from Kentucky wants to cut nearly every federal program. I find it ironic that down through history men and women who try to help others find themselves hated by those in power and usually end up dead.

 

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great one’s exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Credited to Jesus Bar Joseph, known to many as Jesus the Christ, Mark 10:42-45

 

So how is it in a religion based on self-sacrifice is it that the people are so greedy? How can the image of a religious leader driving a Rolls Royce and living in one of their many multi-million-dollar homes be comforting to anyone? How can anyone say it is a federal healthcare bill that drove up their insurance when a CEO of a health insurance company is making over one hundred fifty million dollars a year and can deny a claim or treatment due to cost at any given moment? I recently watched the leader of the majority in the house of representatives roll his eyes at comments the President of the United States as he spoke in his State of the Union Address. Of course, those are the images the media flashes over and over again as well.

 

“We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.”
Parker J. Palmer

 

Having worked in service-oriented jobs, pasturing, teaching, and counseling I have seen with my eyes people who do not wish to be poor. It is through no choice of their own they have a congenital heart defect and cannot stand for longer than a few minutes let alone try and work. I have seen mothers whose husbands left when a baby was born with severe birth defects and the child requires constant care so the mother does not work and cares for the child. I have seen families torn apart by mental illness and these mental patients with budget cuts pushed out into a not so caring world to fend for themselves only to end up homeless and destitute. These are not unique cases but when we cross the country and multiple they are many thousands of times the situations that occur. I have still heard the stories of that famous welfare mother with six kids driving to family and children’s services to pick up a check in an Escalade or Mercedes. First off checks are no longer mailed they load to a debit card. Not all on welfare are using the system and not all on welfare are using drugs. Is our system is not perfect by no means but it is the lack of human civility that bothers me. It is how we can say we are of a religious persuasion and literally live an entirely different life when not in church.

 

“Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” Black Elk

 

In most Indian societies all were taken care of and provided for. I am not promoting a return to the primitive but to a more natural view of life. Indians held all as sacred and in doing so would not demand or extract more than was needed from the land or from another person. It was a very humanistic world view. We stripped away the sacredness of the land and used the resources till they were gone in the name of progress. We do not as a society want to help others is the sound board of many people. I was informed last evening if I want to help others use my own money to which I replied I do. I have for my entire teaching career given to a local charity a portion of my paycheck a very small portion yet it amounts each year to nearly ten percent of the giving from the teaching staff at my high school and I am less than one percent of the staff numbers.

 

“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohican, the Pokanoket, and many other once powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and the oppression of the White Man, as snow before a summer sun.” Tecumseh, Shawnee

 

Our dominate society has all but eradicated the indigenous populations of the Americas from the first slaughters by Cortez’s men in Mexico to cutting of funding to the reservations. Suicides and infant mortality in Indian societies is considerably higher than dominate societies around them. It has only been a few days since I watched the movie about Wounded Knee and slaughter of unarmed Indians the last major Indian war battle even though only one sided. Around the world natives’ peoples are eliminated for wealth and power.

 

“I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

In a recent set of materials given to me by my mother on the Bushmen of South Africa who call themselves the Sans I noticed the date on the literature and it was pre-mining leases in the Kalahari. There were beautiful pictures of hunting and villages moved as they would follow the herds of animals. Today much of the Kalahari Desert has been sectioned off into diamond mine leases and the Sans moved to concrete buildings on a reservation. They are a people losing their identity and culture so greed can fill the void.

 

I have started watching again this year’s American Idol and I am enjoying the softer image. Still harboring within the midst of us is hatred rampant and rancid that keeps rearing up. A young man drove his mother’s car to school with an OBAMA bumper sticker which was torn off in the parking lot and replaced with a derogatory note and the extra addition of never park here again or it will be worse. We have come so far to be so lost. I wonder if it is with a deaf ear I offer each day 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

 

Progressive versus traditional teachers

Bird Droppings August 26, 2019
Progressive versus traditional teachers

 

In a ninth-grade literature class that I happen to co-teach in several years back, I was introduced to the Freedom Writers Diary and the film based on the book. In some ways the story is similar to the story of Foxfire. Erin Gruell, a first year, brand new teacher in an inner-city school circa 1992, is baffled as to how and approach literature with her classes. Elliot Wiggington in 1966 was just as baffled as a new teacher of literature in the mountains of Rabun County Georgia. I recall my own first-time teaching verbal students I should add as I taught several years working with severe and profoundly disabled students who all were nonverbal. I will say my earliest teaching experiences with non-verbal students did instill in me an appreciation for empathy and intuitiveness. That first verbal class picture is on my wall in my room today from 1976. Over forty two years ago I saw the same issues Wiggington and Gruell faced walking into a class of students who did not want to be there. Lesson one is always the hardest.

 

“The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.” Foxfire Core Practice three

 

I was given a class of thirteen, and I was told they were learning disabled students. As day one progressed I found someone put down the wrong disability on most of these kids. My principal emphasized reading and I found very quickly the highest reading level in the entire class was three or four years behind. I was not privileged to see folders of students I was to only know they are learning disabled. Our readers were the Dick and Jane type books from first grade and my youngest student was twelve. I learned day one these books we were reading would not work period after having one nearly miss my head. At least my teacher’s podium was not set on fire as happened to Elliot Wiggington back in his first teaching job. When I went home that night I swore day two would be different.

 

“Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites. It is given to formulating its beliefs in terms of Either-Ors, between which it recognizes no intermediate possibilities. When forced to recognize that the extremes cannot be acted upon, it is still inclined to hold that they are all right in theory but that when it comes to practical matters circumstances compel us to compromise. Educational philosophy is no exception. The history of educational theory is marked by position between the idea that education is development from within and that it is formation from without; that it is based upon natural endowments and that education is a process of overcoming natural inclination and substituting in its place habits acquired under external pressure.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

So many education programs across the country teach a classroom should be like this with a picture of rows of desks all neat in a row and board in front and so forth like so many classrooms we all have seen. Dewey labeled this traditional education and points to the industrial revolution as the basis for this. In current educational reform which in effect is not reform in terms of improving education for children but an effort to streamline and make more efficient the processes of education so as to be more profitable for corporations now buying into education through charter schools. In effect even, a stronger sense of traditional education except now imagine the ideal reform classroom banks of computer carousels with students focused on screens room after room and somewhere a “teacher” monitoring programming of computers. No longer would certified teachers be needed only a programmer. Room after room all sitting in rows focused on the screen. Definitely not the classroom I would want for my kids or grandkids.

 

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice one

 

This is why perhaps I am drawn to John Dewey’s writing. In the turn of the century he knew education was the key to democracy and the key to the future. Dewey set a lab school at the University of Chicago that still is operating. It was after several years and a graduate school course that Elliot Wiggington realized he was using ideas from John Dewey.

 

“The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifest the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.” Foxfire Core Practice two

 

I found on my own it was about learner choice and interaction between students and teachers that learning occurred not in some magically programmed curriculum guide. I asked on day two what my students liked to read and nothing was the basic answer from all of them. So what do you like to do was question two. Now we started to get some answers. A rush of favorites started spilling out wrestling, cars, girls, fast cars, baseball, football and it grew quickly. So day three I brought magazines about cars, wrestling and I did leave playboy at my house but I was tempted. By the end of year reading levels soared and my principal was so excited she ordered next set of Dick and Jane books.
As I watched the film Freedom Writers my thoughts went back to why did this teacher succeed and why did Wiggington succeed. As I looked up information on the Freedom Writers I found in the references a list of teachers on the Wikipedia page. Listed in the references and for further information Ken Carter, education activist and former high school basketball coach portrayed in the 2005 film, Coach Carter, Joe Louis Clark, high school principal portrayed in Lean on Me (film), Ron Clark (teacher), portrayed in the 2006 film, The Ron Clark Story, Pierre Dulaine, dancer and dance educator, Jaime Escalante, high school teacher portrayed in the 1988 film, Stand and Deliver, Marilyn Gambrell, parole officer-turned high school teacher portrayed in the 2005 Lifetime movie, Fighting the Odds: The Marilyn Gambrell Story, and LouAnne Johnson, writer, teacher and former U.S. Marine featured in the 1995 film, Dangerous Minds. All of these teachers also were successful with their classes. Why were these teachers successful and others perhaps trying to emulate have not succeeded?

 

“As Foxfire grew and gained national recognition, beleaguered teachers all across the country looked at The Foxfire Magazine, and saw an opportunity to change things. They started producing their own magazines in an attempt to “do Foxfire.” Most of these teachers met with partial or little success because they had missed the very heart of why Foxfire succeeded—student choice.” Foxfire Fund website

 

After being involved in ten summers of Foxfire teacher’s courses I have found only a few teachers use the ideas and are successful and it comes back to allowing students to take some ownership.

 

“The success of the Foxfire program was due in large part to the fact the students chose to create a magazine. Since the magazine was their choice, the students were deeply invested in the work of creating it. The magazine product itself was not the solution to classroom woes that so many teachers thought it would be. Kaye Carver Collins, an early magazine student and later a Foxfire staff member for 13 years, explained the problem like this: ‘It seemed that people couldn’t understand the importance of the difference between the magazine, which was the choice we made, and the fact that we made a decision.’” Foxfire Fund website

 

After being in education and training for nearly forty years I have found it is much easier to ask someone to do something than tell them. I have found it is easier if it is of interest to that person and if it applies to that person outside of educational setting even easier to teach.

 

“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
Hanging on my wall over my head in my classroom the Foxfire Core Practices and another poster of children learn what they live. One poster the Foxfire one shows me I am a learner as well as a teacher, more a facilitator. Dr. Laura Nolte’s poster shows me to set the example the children are watching. So progressive versus traditional where does this lead?
“The traditional scheme is, in essence, one of imposition from above and from outside. It imposes adult standards, subject-matter, and methods upon those who are only growing slowly toward maturity. The gap is so great that the required subject-matter, the methods of learning and of behaving are foreign to the existing capacities of the young. They are beyond the reach of the experience the young learners already possess. Consequently, they must be imposed; even though good teachers will use devices of art to cover up the imposition so as to relieve it of obviously brutal features.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

Teaching should not be simply a control issue. Education needs to be less of a prison and more oriented around creating an atmosphere of learning. Down through history developmentalists including Piaget and Erickson have shown children are learning different than adults and in effect are developing in their learning styles and means. Yet we assume they are operating on an adult level almost from day one. I have brought up several issues why are some teachers, who are progressive successful and others not and why is traditional education not succeeding but simply staying almost on a level progression even reformers ideas are not impacting just making someone somewhere wealthy. I have wandered a bit today and will clarify in days to come trying to raise some questions. As today progresses please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

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

Teaching is making a difference each day, even if only for one student

Bird Droppings August 25, 2019
Teaching is making a difference each day , even if only for one student

 

I was leaving a fast food joint yesterday and my leg was bothering me. I have been in casts now since mid-July. As I was walking out a Viet Nam Vet walked in. I am assuming judging by his age and baseball cap stating such. We smiled at each other said good morning and he offered it could be worse, I think he noticed my grimace as I walked. I looked down and he had lost a leg overseas in service to his country. I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. I went to Physical Therapy shortly after and I am paying for it today. Perhaps my point for today is we all have battles we are fighting. Others have been there and often been through far worse. We can overcome and we can get stronger.

 

I do have days where I am more concerned about leg pain than whether a student is understanding what I am saying but I try to persevere. I have been a teacher for most of my life. I have always felt I need to e learning as well. In working with Emotional Disturbed kids over the years they do often respond to a simple process I just happen to excel at. I can hold my own in the talking mode but I also can listen when I need to. Dialogue is a two-way street. It is offering words of wisdom but also listening when the wisdom from the other is coming forth.

 

“Dialogue, is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world” Paulo Freire

 

A Brazilian educationalist and one of the most influential thinkers of the late twentieth century made famous the term dialogue in his writing. As I read a bit about Freire this morning a word in his vernacular that is interesting, praxis, for teacher’s praxis is that horrible battery of tests for certification. For Freire a meaning with import, “acts which shape and change the world”

 

“Man must prove the truth, i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice…. All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mystics, find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice…. The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” Karl Marx, 1845 Theses on Feurbach: II, VII, XI

 

It is through thinking that events change and draw meaning it is not simply thinking but applying these thoughts.

 

“It is not simply action based on reflection. It is action which embodies certain qualities. These include a commitment to human wellbeing and the search for truth, and respect for others. It is the action of people who are free, who are able to act for themselves. Moreover, praxis is always risky. It requires that a person ‘makes a wise and prudent practical judgment about how to act in this situation” Carr and Kemmis 1986

 

Wise and prudent are not often used terms in most human situations. It is infrequent that most people go about thinking in terms of world good even community good we live in this more self-oriented society, a society of hedonism.

 

“Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect. The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing.” Mark K. Smith, 1997

 

There are pieces here I started with a word dialogue and have moved rather rapidly through the concept of praxis but reading Mark Smith’s comments the idea of human flourishing impresses me. I find it is what we do that perpetuates the species and ideals and thoughts of the human kind. I did a questionnaire for the state department of education on Thursday last week. The questions were discussing standards and assessment and such combine that with teachers who are so uptight with only five weeks or so left two till end of course tests. This is now standard in most states but part of quantifying but I question are we making strides in education in this manner. It becomes all about cramming pieces of information into the minuscule brains of teenagers. I recall Sydney J. Harris’s comparison to stuffing sausages. In our great effort to quantify we have stripped quality.
“Educators have to teach. They have to transform transfers of information into a ‘real act of knowing” Paulo Freire

 

So, in effect cramming and pouring vast quantities of information into students to take a test that had to be pushed up due to calendar and state parameters makes a lot of sense. How much water can be poured in a one-liter bottle and how many state officials will it take to figure out that one. I recall a summer or two ago reading tests to students with learning disabilities almost a paradox in and of its self “reading graduation tests”. I looked across at my water bottle and that thought hit me can we put more than a liter of water in a liter bottle. Immediately I was thinking freeze it water expands when chilled then heat it again expansion and so how do we put a gallon of information in a one-liter container or is it actually ten gallons of material?

It was back in the winter on a trip to the mountains and a walk-through visit to the Foxfire museum that the reality of doing this hit it is possible to fit ten gallons of knowledge in a one-liter container. The museum curator and guide held up a copper device and talked about the mainstay of mountain life years gone by, “moon shining” the device he held up was a condenser used in making white lightening, grain alcohol, or moon shine. In theory you can condense and distill those ten gallons to whatever capacity you want. You teach the necessary aspects borrowing from Freire, “transform transfers of information into a ‘real acts of knowing”. This is the key taking the content and applying context then it will be remembered and provide the latitude to advance thinking and that person’s direction in life and to making a difference. 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

 

Could there be such a thing as Essential Education?

Bird Droppings August 23, 2019
Could there be such a thing as Essential Education?

 

It has been almost seven years since I was discussing various educational philosophies and pedagogies with my son. One happened to be essential education which per his text is only a slight step from perennial education that is reading, writing and arithmetic period. There is little if any art or music what so ever. As I looked through my files, an author popped up who dabbled in or wrote the book on essential education, Ted Sizer.

 

“Pedagogy logically is a subject for which schools of education are – or should be – responsible. It all depends on; of course, on how those schools define pedagogical skill. Is pedagogy merely the training necessary to contribute to a penny-bank system of schooling? Is teaching more science than an art? Is sophisticated teaching the instruction of ideas and skills, matters of speaking and telling? That is, can we describe the steps a teacher must make, ultimately as a matter of habit, in enough detail to allow careful testing to determine whether the work has succeeded? To my eye, teaching – pedagogy – is an art … a demanding art. There is science to it (just as with painting), but also style, the quality of a person’s actions whether that person is fifteen or fifty. Getting others to learn, which includes helping them acquire skills, is a subtle, complex business… Pedagogy depends on a teacher’s character, his experience, his willingness to examine what is going on in his classes and to test his judgments against those of others. It requires self-confidence and a willingness to listen to the view of others. Those of us in education must accept this inevitable fuzziness and learn how to live with it as artists do.” Ted Sizer

 

A friend posted a link to a blog that happened to have this quote yesterday and attached to my Facebook page that is synchronistic. As I looked further in my various articles and readings this version of essential education is a bit more than what my son’s text from two years ago implied. There are several splendid ideas in terms of education and learning in the programming at the Tara Redwood School.

 

Essential Education Pedagogy
The pedagogy developed by Tara Redwood School and Essential Education includes the following:
• Knowledge of the inner world of thoughts, feelings and emotions is as important as knowledge of the outer world
• An integrated and interdisciplinary approach to learning is preferable to one that fragments and divides knowledge
• Individuals often have dramatically different learning styles; all learning styles are valid and must be both acknowledged and nurtured.
• Learning rooted in direct experience far surpasses in depth and endurance learning by indirect methods
• Generally accepted subject matter can be enhanced by integrating a Essential Education approach and accompanying methods and techniques
• The intuitive wisdom of the individual can be developed by dialectical discussion and debate exploring philosophical, spiritual and moral themes.
Tara Redwood School. 5810 Prescott Road. Soquel, CA

 

Sitting here thinking about a specific definitive pedagogy and I am one who seldom uses the word many thoughts. Over the past few years, I have been exploring my ideas of what is pedagogy and how I see my teaching and instructional methods. I have borrowed extensively from Carl Rogers, who was controversial in 1968 and his ideas still are considered perhaps utopian to borrow a few words from a friend. It is difficult to piece together I have found like so many aspects of how I view teaching are themselves controversial as well. I have borrowed over the last several days from John Dewey, Elliot Wiggington, Foxfire and today the Tara Redwood School. So much of our world view also reflects through our ideas and interactions each day and is directly influencing upon our pedagogical conceptualizations. Having for most of my life being involved directly or indirectly within working with and teaching exceptional children and adults I am always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas. I tend to stick with things that work well and always am tuning those ideas that I do use.

 

I mentioned my use of the Foxfire Core Practices and tools such as a trust scale I developed back in 2003. Numerous times I have brought up my use of animals in my classroom and addressed the impact that being involved with snakes, for example, has on attitudes and especially on developing trust with students. I do believe relationships are a key to teaching building and maintaining positive relationships with students can open doors to learning.

 

“Schools have been captured by the concept of accountability, which has been transformed from a notion that schools need to be responsive and responsible to community concerns to one in which numbers are used to demonstrate that schools have met their minimal requirement.” David Purpel, 1989, Department of Curriculum and Educational Foundations, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

 

In our world of accountability in education test scores rule. With the factory-oriented mentality leading the way in teaching many, do not allow time for relationships and or care to have that as an aspect of who they are as a teacher. John Dewey over and again emphasizes community as a key in building an effective learning situation.

 

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice one

 

“The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.” Foxfire Core Practice two

 

“The work teachers and students do together enable learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.” Foxfire Core Practice three
Foxfire is based on working together and involving the community of the school it is about building and establishing relationships, and I have found in my research long lasting relationships between students and teachers. Part of my approach has been using Facebook as an extension of my classroom. Many photos from school events are posted as well as my daily journaling. Occasionally a former student will send a note thank you for the thoughts or just what I needed today. Recently one of those notes was from a student from eleven years ago when I first came back to teaching.

 

“Critical pedagogy considers how education can provide individuals with the tools to better themselves and strengthen democracy, to create a more egalitarian and just society, and thus to deploy education in a process of progressive social change. “ 21st Century Schools

 

As I was reading various articles and papers, this morning John Dewey again is continually through the pages of critical pedagogy, experiential learning and Foxfire. Much like in so many other theorists and practitioners works Dewey seems to crop up. When I read this short note from 21st Century Schools about Critical Pedagogy several key elements caught my attention. Education strengthening democracy and social change almost directly parallels John Dewey.

 

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

 

“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” John Dewey

 

As I wonder about how should we be teaching children, I keep coming back to providing context for the content. With accelerated lesson plans and curriculum maps and everybody trying to attain one hundred percent pass rate on the various tests that we are mandated to give to students in Georgia and across the nation little time, is left for context. We are leaving the most valuable learning by the wayside in order to get a quick score on a test. I end each day with please us keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts. As I am pondering maybe, we should include children subjected to a battery of standardized tests that do little more than provide the numbers David Purpel writes about but within all of this still remember to give thanks namaste.

 

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

 

The synchronicity saga and or saga of synchronicity

Bird Droppings August 21, 2019
The synchronicity saga and or saga of synchronicity

 

I write often of coincidence it may seem boring to some. To me it is a never-ending saga of special moments one after the other. During a college graduate class, we discussed science and measuring of data. Intuition and coincidence, it seems are difficult commodities to evaluate. Carl Jung split with Sigmund Freud over similar matters and coined the word synchronicity. Yesterday as I was talking as always it seems I never stop I was drawn to the door of my room here on B-hall and as I stepped out a friend passed by exactly as I stepped to the door. There was a friend with a problem. If I had been a few seconds later a moment later and that friend would have already passed my room. I was drawn to the door like a moth to a flame. That specific moment I wondered was I meant to interfere to get involved in the problem or simply to offer advice or questions, was it coincidence, perhaps simply a chance happening, or was it synchronicity as Jung would proclaim.

 

“The images of the unconscious place a great responsibility upon a man. Failure to understand them, or a shirking of ethical responsibility, deprives him of his wholeness and imposes a painful fragmentariness on his life.” Carl Jung

 

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” Eric Fromm

 

Which direction do we go as we try and unravel the human condition the frail substance about which we have evolved from. Can we separate out and categorize, analyze and measure that which makes us human versus a pack animal.

 

“Man may be defined as the animal that can say “I,” that can be aware of himself as a separate entity.“ Eric Fromm

 

“The mind is like an iceberg; it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.” Sigmund Freud

 

“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 the 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

 

When beset with an issue or problem we so often fall victim to the easiest route the way of “least resistance least trouble” as John Dewey would say. Years ago, in a book on Loss Control management my father used the illustration of an iceberg we only see one-seventh of the problem. We too as we journey through life are only one-seventh visible. There are sixth sevenths that stay hidden away secreted somewhere from view.
“Thus, we see that the all-important thing is not killing or giving life, drinking or not drinking, living in the town or the country, being unlucky or lucky, winning or losing. It is how we win, how we lose, how we live or die, finally, how we choose.” R. H. Blyth

 

It is how we choose that is important. Each day for several years since I began this morning endeavor I have talked of the journey in life. I had used as a screen saver my son’s image crossing a stream in north Georgia stepping stone by stone across a rippling rolling stream. My son is soaking wet and could have just as easily walked the stream and avoid falling from the rocks he was wet already, but he chose to step on the slippery rocks. The challenge for him was doing it, making the journey not simply surviving.

 

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease a herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.” Mourning Dove – Salish

 

This becomes a difficult task trying to explain how the problem has a purpose how a human issue has reason in the world of measurement where non-measuring is constant and so often the point. I can never find the distance between the stones of the stream as my son’s footsteps fall crossing rock by rock.

 

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

 

“Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology…. has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there.” William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991

 

Going from a single person’s problem to that of the North Slope of Alaska may seem a stretch. But as we journey in life we essentially do not get to replay our hand once we lay the cards upon the table. Yesterday by chance somewhere before 4:00 AM I was reading an old National Geographic and how the oil fields are so enticing in the Wilds of Alaska. Greedy people see only money. Others see loss of habitat wildlife and wilderness that can never be replaced. Another amazing coincidence this morning I could not pull this up it literally disappeared and I wrote another piece which I emailed instead yesterday as I look at each it was time for this one today and now for this a good follow up, peace my friends and have a good evening and please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

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