The Journey Part 2

Bird Droppings October 31, 2019
The Journey Part 2

 

I had the opportunity to visit and observe in a class room many years ago. To actually visit and see this particular class had been a dream of mine for some time. I have been a fan of Foxfire for many years since I first picked up the Foxfire 2 book in 1973. I used Foxfire ideas in my own teaching for many years even before I knew it was an actual teaching method. Foxfire had been a class at the Rabun County High School for over forty years continuously until a slight shift in the dynamic two summers ago. The current class has continued the tradition of producing the semiannual Foxfire magazine of articles and lore of Appalachia but more of an internship than a specific class now. After my visit I went to lunch with the liaison between Foxfire and Piedmont College and then on to the Foxfire museum to research my dissertation which of course is in part about Foxfire.
Years ago, as I did write about and significant research on hand spinning and sheep production in Georgia I had the opportunity to meet many of the folks that the magazine has written about over the years. Needless to say, it was a busy day and a heartfelt and great time for me as I photographed and wandered about North Georgia. If all goes well the holiday week of Thanksgiving I will be heading back up hopefully I will be able to get around. later in the fall and winter if all goes well several more visits and hopefully as next semester comes round quite a few visits.

 

“And how high can you fly with broken wings? Life’s a journey not a destination and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow brings. You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk.” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

 

For so many years I have seen a line from this song by Aerosmith, taken from the context of the song, Awesome, “Life is a journey not a destination”. I think back to when I first saw it posted on my computer after spending the night at the Athens Regional Hospital in Athens Georgia holding the hand of a sixteen-year-old young man who had been hit by a semi after doing a u turn on a back road. My oldest son and his band played and covered Aerosmith tunes quite often at the time and he was very familiar with the music and words. But this line was from a song that in and of itself was significant for him and for me at that moment in our lives.
For me it evolved as I saw how my own life was a journey each day and each moment. As we see each aspect of life crucial to the next and that one to the next as pieces fell into place. In days prior I had been reading numerous books on the purpose in life and or on finding Meaning in life, trying to find a focus for myself but also as I engaged teenagers this is always a topic that comes up. Back when I first saw this quote I was floundering in business and trying to get a foothold and a yellow post it note on a computer after sitting with a dying teenager came to be a life changing or life refocusing moment. My blurry vision seemed to clear.
It was perhaps a moment to piece together the few days before. This young man was a clown, the life of any party, a real character and all felt that way about him. I knew him from a youth group at a local church where my own children were involved and I helped out periodically. The weekend before the accident we had all been tubing in North Georgia. As we do we stopped for dinner after being on the river all day. I think it was a Colonel Sanders fast food sort of place. As we were getting ready to leave this young man walks up extending his hand to me as he always does and always at the last minute he pulls it away and makes a joke just not fast enough Mr. Bird or something along that line. But this time the hand doesn’t move no laughing and no jokes he commented to me “not this time”.

 

We shook hands for a longer moment than normal and it did not sink in as that was the last I saw him till I sat with him at the hospital. That was a number of years ago and when I returned to the house to write as I do every morning a small yellow note attached to my computer read in my son’s handwriting “Life is a journey not a destination”. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought how profound for my son barely older than the young man who was killed to have found this concept and I had been searching for nearly fifty years and still had not seen. My own life started to focus and clear and ideas thoughts seemed to flow and make sense. Earlier in the week I was answering an email from someone I have never met. I was talking with several teachers, professors and students in my visits how we can in today’s electronic age communicate with so many people all in a touch of a computer keyboard or mouse click.

 

Many times, that message includes photos, graphs, power points and such attached, we are into multimedia. But the message is still so clear, it is about the journey.
Another email answered was “If you believe in God respond” sort of if you do not you are going to hell. As I read the note and thought how easy to respond one way or another perhaps in a theological dissertation on ramifications of believing or not and or of what it is you do or do not believe in. It was then the journey hit me again it is about the journey not the destination. So I offered the writer it is so easy to say you believe in God or the tooth fairy it is far more difficult to live the life you say you believe in but this is what is seen and felt by others. For it is others who see your journey not your destination. So I wrote on and wandered as I do I tried in several previous quotes I had used about out the journey, parents, teachers, friends and that it is the example we set that picture we paint for others to see that has significance and meaning.
What would a child learn from a teacher who yells at an extremely high decibel other than to cover their ears? What does a child learn from a parent who abuses them other than abuse? What does a friend learn from a friend when they betray them other than distrust? Within the fragility of our experiences we need examples of direction of positive journeying. I am still fascinated with a friend who had been doing work with eldering, helping young people along the pathway in life.
Each day I wonder why kids come by my room just to smile and say hi and other times to ask for a word or two of advice. Thinking back nearly a ten years as I addressed the Foxfire class I asked how many of you want to be in this class right now. All raised their hands and I said when students want to be in a class they learn and cannot help it. It is those who do not want to be in that class that makes it hard for everyone else. Even staying in Loganville I journeyed yesterday and every moment was a new experience. Life is about the journey and may we all be cleaning the pathway rather than dropping builders for others to trip on. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

 

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

Walking along the way in my own journey

Bird Droppings October 30, 2019
Walking along the way in my own journey

 

As I think back over who I am as a teacher and as a person I often wonder as to how I came to be the way I am and why do I take such a differing outlook than so many teachers to my endeavor. I recall my father essentially teaching me how to teach as a swimming instructor and in various Red Cross programs. Tell, Show, Test and Check was a favorite of his for teaching a subject or even a skill. I have used the FIDO principle many times over the years Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over again.
As I attended college and began thinking about teaching as a profession I had courses in how to teach and what to teach to various groups of children and adults. We talked theory and realities we practice taught and were observed by professors. I look back and wonder, how does a professor who has never taught outside of college level teach anyone how to teach, say elementary school age children? But within it all I became who I am as a teacher, parent and person. I see this enterprise as an ongoing continuum and one that truly is never complete. Going back to my favorite Aerosmith quote that I have used so many times, “Life is about the journey not the destination.”

 

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who does not know how to read.” Mark Twain

 

I spend a good bit of my day reading and find it so hard to understand when I see comments of I do not read or I do not have a favorite book. I may in the course of a day look at ten or twelve books looking for thoughts or ideas for my writings. But to profess to not reading how can you consider yourself even semi-intelligent. For it is through reading that we increase our vocabulary and understanding of the world around us. It is through reading that we develop and progress beyond where we are today. It is thorough reading that we move along the journey.
I was speaking with a fellow teacher today about such things. Why do kids not read for example? Some is a lack of encouragement at home during those hours away from school. Some is the example set by parents who are not readers. But I think a large portion is our current style of teaching to the test. We are teaching kids to pass tests that in some school impact the teacher’s annual appraisals and in some cases even salaries are test scores based. When we take away significance and choice and mandate specific memorization for test content we lose an aspect of who the child is.
Paulo Freire is a radical in terms of education and his outlook on what teaching and education should be about. Freire was a teacher, activist, thinker, innovator and college professor in various stages if not all of his life.

 

“As a teacher in an educational program, I cannot be satisfied simply with nice, theoretical elaborations regarding the ontological, political, and epistemological bases of educational practice. My theoretical explanation of such practice ought to be also a concrete and practical demonstration of what I am saying.” Paulo Freire

 

How much more is gained when you can touch or apply what it is you are learning. There is another side of Freire’s philosophy that interests me as well and that is very similar to Dewey that democratic process is crucial to a classroom and that the teacher is a learner as well as learners are teachers.

 

“In the context of true learning, the learners will be engaged in a continuous transformation through which they become authentic subjects of the construction and reconstruction of what is being taught, side by side with the teacher, who is equally subject to the same process.” Paulo Freire

 

An ongoing back and forth process one that provides both teacher and learner with answers and questions. I once considered this process to be symbiotic but as I learned and looked deeper it became osmosiotic. There was a constant flow back and forth between teacher and learner; it was not a reliance on one or the other.

 

“The teacher who thinks, ‘correctly’ transmits to the students the beauty of our way of existing in the world as historical beings, capable of intervening in and knowing this world.” Paulo Freire

 

I wonder how much of Dewey Freire read. Many of his thoughts run parallel to Dewey as Dewey saw experience as a critical piece so often left out when teaching. All of the experiences brought to the classroom by the students are bits and pieces that can be built on and added to. I am amused that Freire uses quotes around the word correctly. How many teachers are teaching correctly in the world? When you look at how a teacher is evaluated in Georgia with a six or seven question checklist and relatively simple responses and yet the process is one that is complex and not conducive to yes and no check boxes.

 

“It is easier to stick with what teachers have always done and believed, rather than go about the painful process of changing current thinking about teaching” Charlotte Danielson, from the book, Teacher Evaluation, Discussing why we continue to evaluate teachers in an archaic model

 

We continue to evaluate and judge teachers based on models that have been used since the early 1960’s and tend to focus on ease and the most simplistic methods. Time seems to be always a factor. I am wandering a bit today as I think about where I am on my own journey.

 

“There is no valid teaching from which there does not emerge something learned and through which the learner does not become capable of recreating and remaking what has been thought. In essence, teaching that does not emerge from the experience of learning cannot be learned by anyone.” Paulo Freire

 

I will have to admit Freire does get deep and philosophical at times. But this aspect of doing that aspect of experiencing that runs through his words to me is significant. Many teachers try and keep everything to a minimum in terms of how they teach. I was involved in a discussion on a new math program and was informed we only want students to learn function not how it works. So students memorize a line on a graph which is this or that and that gets answers A-D but in effect they never understand or learn what that really is or why.
On the other side I have watched a model of a watershed during a graduate class along with an explanation of what was happening when rain or excess water was present and how it impacted the surrounding area. Our lecturer was versed in experiential teaching. He builds on teachable moments and on hands on experience. For myself even thinking back to summers of teaching biology to kids who had failed biology during regular session, my main objective was to have them pass a comprehensive exam approved by school and department. We would spend the first hour each day learning vocabulary, doing what I hated but without vocabulary you cannot even read a biology test let alone answer questions.
After that we organized and categorized all the trees on campus. We studied hands on ecology and interactions. We watched videos of various settings deserts, (The Living Desert by Disney Studios), Jungles, and the Arctic (National Geographic films). Occasionally we would get out one of my ball pythons and talk about reptiles and amphibians. I have had live animals in my room since I started back teaching eleven years ago. Amazingly all of them passed the finals and in the three years I taught intersession only one student quit coming and it was a family problem. As the system changed and went to seat time as the criteria and worksheets were the lessons I stopped doing summer school. It was no longer teaching simply babysitting.
I wonder often as to the whys and how’s of so many teachers and think back even in our own high school to great teachers and ones I consider great. Those are the teachers who get kids excited about learning and who look for ways and means to bring life to the lesson and who are always learning as well. There are only a handful of teachers I would consider great as I think back and always a story or two. My middle son had biology in ninth or tenth grade and a presentation was made in that presentation a overhead slide was used that he knew was incorrect and waiting till class was over went to the teacher and told her. At first the teacher was reluctant to listen until he said my brother has that animal in his salt water tank and I am familiar with it. She said she would fix it so it would be right. Several years later in an advanced class Zoology again the slide and again the wrong name and scientific data attached. This time being more mature and angrier he stopped the class and said the slide was wrong. So here is a student who tried to help a teacher who was not interested in learning.

 

“Why not, for example, take advantage of the student’s experience of life.” Paulo Freire

“A primary responsibility of educators is that they not only be aware of the general principle of the shaping of the actual experience by environing conditions, but that they recognize in the concrete what surrounding are conductive to experiences that lead to growth.” John Dewey, Experience and Education

Dewey taught we need to build from not exclude the past experiences in our endeavors to teach children. I have found this in the Foxfire Approach to Teaching to be a critical element.

 

“New activities spiral gracefully out of the old, incorporating lessons learned from past experiences, building on skills and understandings that can now be amplified.” Foxfire Fund, Foxfire Teaching Approach Core Practice 7

 

In my one of the books I have read several times, A wolf at Twilight by Kent Nerburn, The discussion of the old method of forcibly taking Indian children and placing in boarding schools to modernize them and make white Indians is a key element. I wonder if we learned anything in looking at how we treat children in schools even today. We make them live by our rules and standards imposing guidelines that fluctuate from class to class often teacher to teacher. Granted the days of the boarding school may seem somewhat at odds with today’s schools but in reality, there is little difference. In a diversified culture we demand language that may or may not be known. Coming from a special education back ground I am always amazed at how we expect children who are poor readers in their own language to read and learn in another. Research shows you cannot in most cases exceed the level of attainment in a second or third language that you have in your first.
So I wandered and pondered this is my reflection for the morning a wondering and thinking about what can we do to truly change education as we know it. Freire points to Critical reflection as a means for educators to learn as well as teach. John Dewey builds on reflection as does Foxfire.

 

“In the process of ongoing education of teachers, the essential moment is that critical reflection on one’s practice. Thinking critically about practice, of today, or yesterday, makes possible the improvement of tomorrow’s practice.” Paulo Freire

 

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work.” Foxfire Fund, Foxfire Teaching Approach Core Practice 8

 

As I read this morning and thought through my various readings I wondered if the commonalities I was seeing in Freire and Dewey were perhaps things as educators we should be trying to attain rather than so often fight against. In Foxfire Core practice nine a thought that has for me been a key element of any teaching I do and that is making what I teach relevant and meaningful and have it been something the child can leave the room with and it makes sense outside of class.

 

“Connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond the community are clear. “Foxfire Fund, Foxfire Teaching Approach Core Practice 8

 

I just wonder many times what if teaching and teachers would ever catch on and really be concerned more about the kids than the content, more about the community than the curriculum, and more about humanity than the National educational initiatives. So, I will stop and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

 

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

Why would some rather send a photo than write?

Bird Droppings October 29, 2019

Why would some rather send a photo than write?

 

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

 

In 1965 I was introduced to this author in a tenth grade English Class. The book was Brave New World, written in 1932 and you would think that a book thirty years old would not have been that controversial. However, for our class and the reading list we had an English teacher was terminated or I should say let go. What amuses me is how these books we read did impart more than simply the words contained between the covers; it was a catalyst for thinking that was developed.

 

Today in 2019 on another hall in our school English teachers use the books my tenth-grade teacher was fired for as part of their reading list as do many high schools across the country. These were such books as 1984, Anthem, and Brave New World which were so controversial in their time more than fifty years ago and still today can inspire students and adults to think and ponder. I fear the undercurrent in politics in some areas of the country towards education may again squelch such reading.

 

“To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot cease speaking — and since it cannot, in order to become its echo, I have, in a way, to silence it. I bring to this incessant speech the decisiveness, the authority of my own silence.” Maurice Blanchot

 

“Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” Sir Winston Churchill

 

Each morning as I sit down and wonder about the direction that the ideas may or may not flow I try and find a spark a starting point for the day. It is sort of my kick-start to the day to revitalize my own cerebral cortex. I was thinking of experience as a start earlier but within the semantics of the word so many limits to the concept of experience. I was seeing a teacher and most as I read were seeing experience as a limit, coming back to a note the other day and actually I used yesterday talking with future teachers, the idea of a container as per students. That was until I read this line from Huxley.

 

Over the past few days numerous emails from former classmates in high school perhaps prompted by nostalgia and finding a few in Facebook, remembering fondly a nearly forgotten class of tenth grade yet one that truly started a process of thinking that has continued for me nearly fifty years later. But the direction changes as I look, it is through writers and writing that we convey so much.

 

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.” Charles Caleb Colton

 

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” William Faulkner

 

Each day I walk outside and look at the sky on a clear morning like today stars greet me spread through the sky constellations and for some beacons of direction and purpose. As the seasons pass the constellations change time of day and position in the sky and often as I go out I am greeted by a new or slightly different sky appearing before my front door. If by chance I am writing at home and not at school as I have for a few months now I can go out into the back yard surrounded by pine, pecan, black walnut, persimmon and oak trees depending on where I stand much will be obscured and I see only a shrouded sky laced with the branches.

 

As I read Faulkner note so often this is true, we do not think about something till we read what we have written. Many the times I will return to a piece weeks and months later and find a new meaning or understanding of what I was thinking at the time. I wrote a philosophy of teaching paper and until it was returned with comments I wasn’t sure what my philosophy was. A journey that began in reading, then in experience and moves through writing for it does take written word to read.

 

“You must often make erasures if you mean to write what is worthy of being read a second time; and don’t labor for the admiration of the crowd, but be content with a few choice readers.” Horace

 

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” Samuel Johnson

 

It is so true as I write each morning glancing through previous writings and reviewing articles and emails and any books handy at that moment looking for and pondering where and how I will direct my thoughts. Often my morning consists more of reading than actually writing words to paper or computer screen. It is so many times a search for an idea a thought that has eluded me.

 

“If written directions alone would suffice, libraries wouldn’t need to have the rest of the universities attached.” Judith Martin

 

“Although most of us know Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Paul Gauguin in Tahiti as if they were neighbors — somewhat disreputable but endlessly fascinating — none of us can name two French generals or department store owners of that period. I take enormous pride in considering myself an artist, one of the necessaries.” James A. Michener

 

What comes so easy for some it has been said may not be for others. I sit each morning writing two or three pages reading numerous articles and emails and then go onto class and ask students to write 500 words about what they learned this year in school. Most will say nothing, since that makes it so much easier to write. As I think as to where that student is coming from, maybe they never read Brave New World. It could be because somewhere, somehow, and or someone did not give them the opportunity.

In my room often, it is because somewhere and someone did not teach them to read effectively or to think beyond just surviving day to day. It might have been that was the only alternative. I was reminded in an email of Dr. Laura Nolte’s famous poster, “Children learn what they live” as I spelled checked I made an error I had typed “Children learn what they love”. As I thought a bit you know what? That is just as true too. So how do we help children love learning, and love reading? I wish it could be an easy answer. Perhaps we can start with ourselves. Let’s all set an example today and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

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

Having a heart

Bird Droppings October 28, 2019
Having a heart

 

It is chilly outside but still not bad here in northeast Georgia. The temperatures hanging in low to mid-fifties and going up t near eighty today, still summer.  There is still a week or two till we are off from school for Thanksgiving and fall break. I was watching TV last night and an old history sort of movie about the Pilgrims coming over to the New World is coming up soon. I find it funny how after that first Thanksgiving relationships between the native Indians and Pilgrims went downhill and it was not long till red skinned natives were the spawn of Satan and were to be eliminated by whatever means feasible. Pilgrims were not much different than today’s politicians as it was always that land was involved. I found it interesting how things changed so fast. Why is it we only have heart occasionally and some people never do?

 

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha, Sayings of the Buddha

 

It has been several days since I was working with students expressing a news article in visual form. Over the past few years as I interact with people and seeing how much of an impact learning styles actually make on students it amazes me that such a simple thing is not seen previously. How we learn has been an issue I have looked at very seriously. Humans tend to learn basically in one of three ways visually, auditorily, and kinesthetically, in other words we see, hear or touch. Yesterday I through in the idea of perception as well and how we hear see and touch along with how we interpret is a factor. The assignment entailed using one PowerPoint slide to explain one of the main news articles out currently. The sample I used was based on The Red Lake Shootings – In a few moments about 45 seconds images and a few words flashed over the screen and my interpretation of the news flashed before us.
Students then chose stories and interpreted visually what they saw and felt. Ideas varied and stories varied significantly. One went in a direction of an issue close to home teen suicide and several reiterated the Red Lake Shootings. One however focused only on himself. His visual experience while interesting was a whirl of his own image. For several months going on two years I have known this student and his focus so often is self-motivated as so many of us are. He derives his day from seeking attention to and through himself be it passing gas and letting everyone in the class room know or speaking out loud to draw attention from a teacher. The idea of disrespect is an understatement but it all is self-focused so to say here I am.

 

“A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.” Dictionary.com

 

For quickness I use dictionary.com and there is defined the word sympathy as an interaction between two people or things affecting both. As I thought back to my self-centered fellow I wondered as he focused all day on himself does he have sympathy. In the defining quote from Buddha sympathy is established as four aspects those being charity, kind speech, doing a good turn and treating all alike.

“The force of truth that a statement imparts, then, its prominence among the hordes of recorded observations that I may optionally apply to my own life, depends, in addition to the sense that it is argumentatively defensible, on the sense that someone like me, and someone I like, whose voice is audible and who is at least notionally in the same room with me, does or can possibly hold it to be compellingly true.” Nicholson Baker

 

There are many issues at hand that warrant attention and sympathy today locally and worldwide.

 

“All sympathy not consistent with acknowledged virtue is but disguised selfishness.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

“Sympathetic people often don’t communicate well; they back reflected images which hide their own depths.” George Eliot

 

As I searched this morning deeper I found often we tend to view sympathy with caution perhaps this person is being sympathetic for a reason. Perhaps it is for gain thinking back to the Pilgrims. Is it human nature to be so wary so distrustful of others.

 

“Is there anything more dangerous than sympathetic understanding?” Pablo Picasso

 

“The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity is not enough.” Simone Weil

 

Several semesters back I sent off a paper dealing with kissing frogs. It was a reflection on teaching in a way but really it was a reflection on life. My premise being we should all be frog kissers. Teachers and so often parents are to be the Frog Kissers: Many times, I have used the inference to the fairy tales of child hood of kissing a frog. We are always trying to find that enchanted princess or prince hidden beneath the guise of a frog; one kiss and the prince or princess will appear. Being an avid herpetologist along with my son, kissing frogs can be a risky business. Many species secret toxins some so lethal they can kill a man with barely a touch let alone a passionate kiss. There are some that can induce psychosis and hallucinations when ingested. All these efforts by the amphibians are purely defense mechanisms evolved over millions of years.
But the symbolism of the fairy tale and teachers/parents is what struck me. Teaching is about kissing frogs. We as teachers need to be taking those risks trying to find the hidden princes and princesses among our students. In reality we are going beyond simply taking roll and letting that child slip through the cracks. We need to be risk takers we need to set the example for the students that we will try to be there and give each child ample time and place. As I pondered it was obvious as to where and why teachers quit. I see John Dewey’s idea and the example of Dewey in the classroom through Foxfire and all these great idealistic thoughts and then they seem to disappear into educational lala land.
What were to be great teachers seem to be eventually lost midst the flow and ebb of educational bureaucracy and never get a chance to be who they are. For many years I have wondered are today’s students and teacher automations doing as all those others have done before. Turn to page 138 children and read, now answer the questions at the back of the chapter. Raise your hand when you wish to speak and do not get out of line. I recall a Harry Chapin song I use often about a little boy who comes in his first day and colors flowers in a rainbow of hues, until his teacher corrects him and flowers are red green leaves are green, soon the creative spark is gone and another student became a frog. Fortunately, in the song a risk-taking teacher saves the day and kisses the frog and the rainbow is back. We need to work towards being that which we should be teachers, not simply information stuffers. As a parent and teacher, a hard row to follow.

 

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha

 

I keep thinking back to this idea of sympathy it is an active process not simply a feeling. I used loosely the illustration of kissing frogs but each aspect described by Buddha is an action. Charity is an activity although borrowing from a 1600 translation the Greek word agape is translated as charity. In Greek three words translate for love; Eros, Philos and Agape. Agape often is also translated as a supreme unlimited love or God’s love. In the Biblical translations of 1600 the Greek agape would translate to charity, an active love an ongoing love. Kind speech is an action and is a physical response. Doing a good turn not just charity but physically doing something and perhaps the most difficult treating all alike again actively involved.
When I started this morning, sympathy was more an emotion. Having a heart as I thought was just a sentence structure used to elicit sympathy and or other emotions. But sympathy is an active word it is beyond and there for having a heart perhaps too is active engaging. For nearly six years now I have ended each Bird Dropping with keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind, originally, I started with the attack September 11th and then war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it has grown in form keeping in your heart is an action it involves doing not simply mouthing words. I recall nearly three years ago in the state of Vermont which still operates on a town meeting basis and several towns were voting to not send anymore National Guard units from Vermont to the Middle East. Vermont has lost more soldiers per capita than any other state. Action some are sending cards reminders of home. For some it may be just a thank you as GI’s return. It is about active involvement, kissing frogs, having a heart, it is about voting and sympathy is action not just thinking about it. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

 

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

 

 

Education often draws from NOW

Bird Droppings October 26, 2019
Education often draws from NOW

 

A few years ago, a teacher offered to me a book on curriculum or so she said “Dumbing down of America” by Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld. It has been a few months since I picked this book off the shelf while reading various books at Barnes and Noble as I do so often. This book literally is about the dumbing down of America, pointing out all the faults in the educational system and how we are in worse shape than 100 years ago. The book is advocating home schooling and alternatives to public education and a public-school teacher offered this book to me which I find amazing. Maybe my general demeanor as sort of on the other end of the scale politically did not get through to well. However, as I think back 100 years ago not all children were educated in public school.
Many kids were living at home or in rural situations where education was not even considered. Mandatory education was still being worked on as late as 1974. In 1972 in Macon Georgia as a part of the work I was doing involving disabled students we found 284 children who had never been in school in less than 60 days. All were disabled and were not required at that time to attend school and in reality, most had no place they could go. Now all children are educated in the United States or have the right to free and public education.
As I researched today and found many articles opposing today’s educational systems all of which had a basis in religion and morality. Interestingly enough Outcome based education was condemned and accused of causing all the ills of mankind and John Dewey was the originator and cause of educational dysfunction. These educators against outcome-based education were preaching content simply having the right answers. Sort of take a test and all is well and teachers nationwide are complaining about teaching to the test and not to what students need to get on in life or into college. Much of the thanks can go to according to many teachers the No Child Left Behind legislation which is our national educational program. Over two years ago I had written a Dropping and am borrowing a paragraph or two from that particular day.

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I recently watched a young man struggle with an equation in his math class homework. He asked me for help and without asking exactly what he needed help with I answered X=3 and was told I was wrong even though the answer was right. How could I answer without solving the equation was his question? I wasn’t thinking about math at the time and since we were working on essays about “how teachers could teach better” and he alone in the class was finished, he was catching up on homework, which was math. I apologized for answering not realizing he needed a solution as well. It really wasn’t about the answer; it was how to get to the answer.

 

“I believe that the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child’s powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself.” John Dewey

 

As I was thinking further about this subject it dawned on me do I want children who know all the answers, the dates, formulas and such or do I want children who can find the answers. Somewhere in my wanderings today I found an excerpt from an 8th grade final test in Salinas Kansas. Interesting to try and see what you know. Happens to be from Dr. Blumenfeld’s book where he is showing how we are so far behind.

 

“Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

 

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 ft. long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu., deducting 1,050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6,720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

 

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?

 

Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u.’
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e.’ Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.” Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld, The Dumbing down of America

 

Interesting part for me was the language arts sections were the hardest. If you look at history and math other than experiential aspect of agriculture questions they are simple compared to today’s classes. I opened up a 1968 biology book from college and compared to a Biology book used in our high school. It is amazing how much different they are. Different is an understatement there are sections and subjects not even in my college book that are in the high school book. The new book had more in it and more difficult material and there were things not even discovered in 1967. So where does this take me.

 

Will I teach content or context? Will I teach about specifics or will I teach outcomes? I often use the example of a liter bottle, you can only put a liter in it and how we select and chose what goes in is the difficult part. Funny thing is compared to 1900 we have hundreds of times more information to learn and often with little context. Quantum Physics was not even around along with DNA and so many other aspects of science. Countries have changed as have who and how events took place in history. So, is it content or context? While great to know every date in US history I would rather know that the student can find the dates but can tie it all together and not simply give me facts. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Within the circle of life a new life coming

Bird Droppings October 25, 2019
Within the circle of life a new life coming

 

I have wandered many miles emotionally, psychologically and spiritually the past few days. After being down physically for sixteen weeks limited to a hard cast from my leg injury it was removed yesterday and my adrenalin seriously kicked in. My wife and I had a super crazy totally eclectic day starting with our husky getting loose. We each had a few errands before my doctor appointment ne being I needed a tire repaired. I went by a shop where a former student worked. I thought back to my dad and his philosophy life and bought six cinnamon biscuits from Bojangles. I was going to leave with my former student at the tire place. He was off but I still shared with guys and got a free tire repair and told a few stories. I need to get my sleep habits shifted back to not having a fifty-pound cast on my leg. I had been sleeping on the recliner because the cast bothered my back when I laid down. It is a new day a glorious day today.

 

Resurrection
By Susan Thomas Underwood

 

The universe is energy in constant motion.
There are ebbs and flows;
Outcomes and income,
And change…… Always change.

The physical world reflects this motion
In the cycles of life,
There is spring and fall, winter and summer,
Birth and death; and rebirth…
Resurrection!

Einstein proved that even time is relative
In his theory of relativity,
All is relative …. All is change
You can count on it.

Be then as the willow;
Learn to bend with the wind!
Always dream, though your dreams may change.
Always produce, though your product may change.
Always love, though your love may change.
Always live, though your life will change.
You can count on it!

 

Susan Thomas Underwood is a native Oklahoman, Shawnee, and author. I saw her book of thoughts, Walk with Spirit, on Amazon.com and thought I might take a look. I am looking forward in the coming weeks ahead holidays and special events for me and my family. We will be celebrating a fifth birthday party for our first granddaughter; my youngest son and his wife who live in Winder Georgia are having a celebration. Then our second granddaughters third birthday is this week as my middle son and his wife who live in Southern Pines North Carolina will be having a party. Add to this and now five years ago roughly my middle son asked his girlfriend of over a year if she would marry him and she accepted and their anniversary is just past. My nephew and his wife celebrate their son’s fifth birthday and for an extended family so many blessings these days ahead to remember and more to come.

 

As I read this first entry in Underwood’s book I thought to my own existence these past sixty plus years and changes I have been through, as a son, parent, husband, father and now a grandfather.

 

“The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, the summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me. The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning, the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me. The strength of the fire, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me and my heart soars.” Chief Dan George

 

I find myself quoting Dan George many times. Dan was a Salish chief from Canada and an accomplished actor later in his life. Some may remember him from the movie Little Big Man or Outlaw Josie Wales. But he was too an eloquent speaker and poet. He often spoke of nature but also of the intertwining of life. He would speak of the roads we each travel and cross many times. I spent most of the past weekend watching, observing, holding and photographing my grandchildren and helping my wife get the house ready for the holidays while she ran around hunting for bargains. I was at the baker and texted her a picture of the grandbaby’s birthday cake for the weekend and fortunately this year as she went to reach her phone she did not break her foot as she did last year. It is hard to recall a tiny newborn three years ago when each gesture and smile was first for her. I am so happy on how we as family responded and have encouraged her as she is learning daily. It seems even for a teacher watching my grandbabies learn daily I am amazed.

 

As a teacher being a grandparent becomes our teaching job number one, not so much to have them belief or think as I do but to provide pathways for them to walk and learn on her own. Our journeys in life are not always smooth going and it is being able to offer a hand when needed. I recall eight years back watching my granddaughter and my son as we went for blood work the bond that has been made in a few short hours is one of a lifetime. Watching her mother hold and talk softly whispering as she was carefully touching her eyes, nose and cheeks is a bond that is impossible to break. During a brief moment or two, I was peering through the lens of my camera as my granddaughter in a matter of seconds in her grandmother’s lap made a series of facial expressions almost as if she knew I have grandma wrapped around my ever so tiny finger now. We now have a fifth grand baby on the way and are excited all over again. As the orator and actor Dan George stated so many years ago, “they speak to me and my heart soars”.

 

It is the end of the week and grandbabies birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas on the way it is all happening so fast. May peace be with you all in the coming days and may we all keep those in harm’s way on our hearts and on our minds and always give thanks namaste.

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

 

All is connected and intertwined

Bird Droppings October 24, 2019
All is connected and intertwined

 

As I thought about the Sydney J. Harris passage below and sat here waiting to go to my orthopedic doctor to hopefully get out of this hard cast, something hit me. Standing on my front porch as I faced east towards the rising sun the gossamer threads of life interconnected with everything. They were iridescent and softly moving with the wind. Occasionally one thread would disconnect and float effortlessly upwards sparkling and dancing as it went ever so slow. Each twig, each plant and leave seemed to be connected. Each rock and branch a tiny thread weaving through the entire visage before me.
Most people would read this and scoff yet in the early morning as the sun rises and begins to move across the sky’s spiders have been at work all night moving between plants and rocks trees and leaves leaving threads of silk. If you were standing in the midst of them they would be invisible yet with the sun behind sparkling in the light a beautiful scene. Occasionally one thread disconnects and floats off sparkling along the way. As I sat pondering as to an old man sitting looking towards the east in the early morning many years ago and coming in to tell his grandchildren as I started the passage. On the back of my t-shirt it reads all things are connected and rightly so by a thin gossamer strand of silk.

 

“Our task is to make our children into disciples of the good life, by our own actions toward them and toward other people. This is the only effective discipline in the long run. But it is more arduous, and takes longer, than simply “laying down the law.” Before a child (or a nation) can accept the law, it has to learn why the law has been created for its own welfare.” Sydney J. Harris

 

Today I am faced with dealing with how to accomplish all that needs to be finished by Friday of this coming week.

 

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle

 

“Self-command is the main discipline.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Many years ago, I spent six months involved in counseling on a psychiatric unit in a state mental facility. There was never a question about why something happened being that they were considered combative psychotic adolescents which was the term used to describe the unit. When someone got upset it was solitary confinement and rather large doses of drugs and a few strait jackets were employed. Little was occurring to change the behavior and or rationalize those behaviors and or find why that behavior even occurred simply deal with the moment.

 

“Anybody who gets away with something will come back to get away with a little bit more.” Harold Schoenberg” Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” John Trapp

 

Often as I find a quote the person behind those words has more to offer as if the situation with Schoenberg who is a scholar of music. He is also a very prolific writer about great musicians and their music. John Trapp was a bible scholar with several biblical commentaries to his credit both men were writers who themselves were very self-disciplined.

 

“THE STUDY OF WORDS is useless unless it leads to the study of the ideas that the        words stand for. When I am concerned about the proper use of words it is not            because of snobbism or superiority, but because their improper use leads to poor ways of thinking. Take the word ‘discipline’ that we hear so much about nowadays   in connection with the rearing of children. If know something about word   derivations, you know that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same Latin root       discipulus, which means ‘to learn, to follow.’” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly speaking

 

Sitting here looking up references and quotes related to discipline and ending up with the example, to learn and to follow this is semantics as we go. In order to operate a public school, we have to have standards to operate by so we have rules. Looking at this from a behaviorist standpoint it is easy to say ABC, Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. First you have an antecedent that stimulus is what causes the behavior. Then you have the behavior which is the event or action that we see, feel or hear about. Finally, we have consequence which can be what we do in response or what the students or person issuing the behavior receives for eliciting that behavior.

 

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation     between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

 

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” George W. Crane

 

 “To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

 

It is always about what we do. Over the past few days I have with several teachers and friends been discussing perception that is how we see events and happenings. One of the categories in writing a behavioral plan for a student is planned ignoring that is often simply tuning out a behavior. Often with no stimulus to keep it going a behavior will disappear. So often it is getting attention that is the desired consequence.

 

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

 

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of  behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” B. F. Skinner

 

These lines from a football hall of fame quarterback and the father of behaviorism are intriguing as these two men from distinctly different arenas yet have come to very similar conclusions in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It has to make a difference to the person for them to change. Skinner sees we can manipulate the subject matters we as we can offer alternative consequences to hopefully change the behaviors to ones we can accept. A Sydney J. Harris line caught my attention this morning as I started on discipline as I prepare for several IEP’s later this week some related to behavior.

 

“…by our own actions toward them and toward other people.” Sydney J. Harris

 

So often it is not the consequences that deter or change a behavior but our actions towards the person and those around them. It is the example we set and not what we say that matters. Please today as we venture out keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Do we build doors or walls?

Bird Droppings October 23, 2019
Do we build doors or walls?

 

I enjoy arriving at school while the stars are still shining overhead something about the darkness is peaceful for me. I can remember when my youngest would ride to school with me; he is not quite as big a fan of mornings and pre-sunrise as I am. He missed that few extra moments of sleep each day. Last week while my granddaughter visited we started telling stories and she too got caught up and was adding to the story. I would start a story about who ever she wanted and we would make up things as we went. Grandmommie was first and Charlie wanted to go to Disney Store with Grandmommie so the story unfolded. I was in Barnes and Nobles book store a few weeks ago and picked up a copy of James Bradley’s book Flags of our fathers. The opening quote is a very powerful, what if.

 

“Mothers should negotiate between nations. The mothers of fighting countries would agree: Stop this killing now. Stop it now.” Yoshikuni Taki

 

I have been in several I should say many meetings the past few years with teachers and parents. It has been a few years since my youngest son handed me a sheet of paper to sign up for a teacher parent conference in geometry. It appeared that he let a test or two slip by. Any student with a less than 75% grade is to have a conference, school rules. Interesting is that so many students only want a seventy percent. As I am thinking about comments from one of my meetings where a mother wanted the school to do what she was doing in keeping her children up with their work, because she was tired. Ideally it would be great each teacher spend time each day with each individual student. However, if you do the calculations at one hundred and ten minutes or so per class and thirty plus students that is less than four minutes apiece if there is no start up or down time. Less than four minutes for each student.

 

“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

 

This has been a favorite quote of mine for many years and hanging on the back of my classroom door where I can see it most of the day. As a parent and a teacher how do we make our parenting and or teaching so potent? How do we or should we provide a doorway or open the door for students and children?

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Could not this person be a parent, friend and or a teacher?

 

“John Dewey’s significance for informal educators lies in a number of areas. First, his belief that education must engage with and enlarge experience has continued to be a significant strand in informal education practice. Second and linked to this, Dewey’s exploration of thinking and reflection – and the associated role of educators – has continued to be an inspiration. We can see it at work, for example, in the models developed by writers such as David Boud and Donald Schön. Third, his concern with interaction and environments for learning provides a continuing framework for practice. Last, his passion for democracy, for educating so that all may share in a common life, provides a strong rationale for practice in the associational settings in which informal educators work.” Mark K. Smith 2001

 

As I sit and think about how do we work with kids and I recall ideas from John Dewey. This passage written by Mark Smith relates four thoughts from John Dewey’s philosophy engage and enlarge experience, thinking and reflection, interactions and environments for learning, and democracy in the classroom. Engage and enlarge experience: If we as teachers draw on what the child knows and has seen and touched and then build on that and develop so that we can move forward and or sideways or up and down.

 

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

 

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced — even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it.” John Keats

 

“Common experience is the gold reserve which confers an exchange value on the currency which words are; without this reserve of shared experiences, all our pronouncements are checks drawn on insufficient funds.” Rene Daume

 

Thinking and reflection: This is that aspect that Einstein refers to that has baffled the sages down through time. How to get students anyone to think and then as Dewey teaches reflect?

 

“A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all.” Georges Bernanos
“We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them.” Buddha

 

“Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to revisions and refinements.” The Foxfire Approach

 

Interaction and environments for learning: Providing an atmosphere that students want to be in is a key to success. Be it at home or at school if a child does not want to be there it is difficult to learn and to function.

 

“Course content is connected to the community in which the learners live. Learners’ work will “bring home” larger issues by identifying attitudes about and illustrations and implications of those issues in their home communities.” The Foxfire Approach

“For industry to support education and training it must provide a relevant cost benefit to the employer. The content and design of the learning on offer must be capable of not only sustaining the candidate’s willingness and ability to learn but also respond to the ever-changing environment within which industry operates.” Mike Goodwin, University of Wolver Hampton addressing the concept of negotiated work-based learning

 

Having a context for learning by providing rationale and reason for what is being taught. Content is much easier to work with it is in the text book but providing context is where doors are created and opened.  Democracy in the class room: Students and children being actively involved in their class room changes often the direction and flow of learning.

 

“My own belief….is that a teacher’s stated views – and, more important, the visible actions which that teacher takes during a year in public school – are infinitely more relentless in their impact on the students than a wealth of books of any possible variety.” Jonathan Kozol, On Being a Teacher, p. 25

 

“Students can be forced to sit through a class, but they cannot be forced to be interested in it, or to do well.” Alfie Kohn

 

“A visitor then to my democratic classroom in action would walk into a room in which students are working in groups or individually grappling with ideas that will later enrich the classroom. Deliberation and debate would be ongoing as students worked on issues and projects that mattered to them as both a class and as individuals. I as the teacher would not be the center point of the room but would instead be its facilitator and manager.” Ryan Niman

 

Parents, students, teachers and administrators each have differing and often specific involvement in that student’s learning. There is no specific script that is better than another. As I listened to a mother she wanted the school do take over all she did at home I wondered, what are you going to do take a vacation? While she was tired and concerned those 16 hours away (sixteen-hour syndrome and still no cure) from school are as crucial as the eight or so that students spend in school. It is about getting sleep, proper nutrition, care and love which are all integral aspects of getting a child to learn and to have an appreciation for learning. Who opens the door and who creates the door sort of blend in and are not as important as that it is open and students and parents and teachers can each find their role and build. It is up to each of us to try and do just a little better each day in all that we do and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)
bird

 

PS – I used to teach college at night and to culminate my Mondays, I would get to class usually a few hours early just to beat traffic which in Atlanta is horrible if you are just a few minutes off. I had a student in my class who is a single mother and always is early to class. She is also ex-military having a medical discharge due to injuries in combat. We would sit and talk often about her son who is a middle school student and how I would never teach middle school. She talks about her frustration as a mother of an exceptional child with behavior issues and his difficulties at school. I listen to the stories and wonder where are we going wrong and recall a friend’s words as we walked to class yesterday. “I am going to have to work on paperwork more and co-teaching less to keep up.” This coming from a teacher I greatly respect and admire. It saddened me that in this crazy world of education we have come to this, paper work first then teach kids.

Sometimes it takes an inner journey to help others

Bird Droppings October 22, 2019

Sometimes it takes an inner journey to help others

 

It has been several months that I have focused on my own issues and problems and often let others problems drift by the wayside. Being somewhat immobile with a non-walking cast presents physical and psychological dilemmas. I have been there but only perhaps in body so self-focused that many things drifted by. It took a friend’s email to wake me from my daydream of sorts. I recall very clearly when I received the note my dear friend who was diagnosed with cancer and had emailed me letting me know. I do procrastinate often finding excuses for not responding, not interacting, and not working on my dissertation.

 

I went out the afternoon of his email with a smoldering bowl of white sage and ursa leaves to to let the smoke waft about me clearing my head as I fanned the smoke and embers with a hawk feather. Numerous pieces of busy work, graduate papers, lesson planning and who knows what else seemed a great reason to hold off this week on so many details of life and interaction with others it was that an excuse.

 

I needed some time to be alone to think to ponder beyond my morning mental wanderings and writing. Sitting here I thought back to a trip nearly twelve years ago when I drove to Macon Georgia to take my youngest son a suit and dress shirt for a semi-formal affair he said he was attending the next Saturday night. There is something about a drive that clears my head especially when on back roads with many things to see and good music to listen too. My CD player was loaded with Allman Brothers, Neil Young, Black Crowes, Carlos Nakai, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton I began the drive. It was my first time listening to Neil Young’s new CD, A Fork in the Road, and how appropriate for a 250-mile road trip with many forks along the way.

 

I stopped by the school to get my camera and plug in a new battery I had purchased on Friday to start my day. A few errands and I was heading down the road. Somewhere about Covington Georgia, Bob Dylan was wailing Knocking on Heavens door and I recalled the day I went to hear my youngest son’s rendition at a talent show during a week of Choir camp the night my father passed away. Coincidently it was in Covington I went to hear my son sing that song. I called him to see if he knew the song playing but the wind and distortion on the cell phone during a harmonica solo were hard to hear.

 

Jackson Georgia came quickly and a left turn towards Macon was on hand. I took a few highway photos as I drove places of special memories. Fresh Air Barbeque and Towalgia Nursery and Towaglia River Bridge washed out many years ago in a flood and rebuilt. Towalgia is in the Creek language, bloody river. It seems it was somewhere here about scalps would be washed in the river and dried for trade to the white soldiers back in the day. Scalping being a custom adopted from the white man. I was going to stop and get a photo of Lake Juliette as I drove by since the lake was topped off with all the rain. This was the spot my father in law drowned several years ago on a fishing trip. It was a day of memories and details flashing back and reminding me of my own mortality as I drove towards Macon.

I stopped just before Macon at the new Mall and went into Barnes and Nobles looking for Kent Nerburn’s newest book which they did have several copies of and I grabbed one. I was drawn to the CD section and also found Neil Young’s newest CD. So here I am Neil Young and a Carlos Nakai CD and my Kent Nerburn book headed to Mercer. My son met me on campus and showed me his apartment and I am always amazed at how college kids can devastate what many call a domicile. Although Matt said it was clean for once. I left Mercer and headed to the Indian mounds. I tend to enjoy the solitude and quiet and sacredness of the mounds although quite a few tourists were about that Saturday.

 

I went into the main building where the museum and presentations are held and got a new t-shirt from heritage days just a few weeks back. Several different tribes are represented with artisans, dancers and story tellers giving presentations through the weekend. The back of my shirt borrows from a Sitting Bull quote “Let us leave a world for our children”. I drove out to the temple mound on the far side of the property. All along the way the stillness and quiet was what I needed. Several families were on top of the mound as I came in and I waited till they left. I enjoy the solitude and sacredness of this spot. For nearly five thousand years various peoples have held this place as sacred. When I go I always face each of the four directions, north, east, south and west. There is something about imagining what it was like a thousand years ago when people lived around the temple mound and corn fields and canoes could be seen from the top.

 

I gathered my camera and began the trek home. I put my new Neil Young CD in and read through his new songs. One set of lyrics caught my attention and I played that song several times along the road. Appropriately it is called Off the Road.

 

“When the day is done and the sun is sinking low. When you’ve seen a lot and you’ve been most everywhere. You go, you go and you think the end is in sight. You can never take your eyes off the road, off the road when the traffics slow, and those brake lights are lighting up. When you are all alone and you’re driving through the night and you know the end is not insight. You can never take your eyes off the road off the road” Neil Young

 

I read these words and thought about my own mortality. As I get to my seventieth year so many things come to mind and when my dear friend sent an email of his development of cancer along with an early birthday thought years back. It was reminding me if as if I needed that. But as I sit here this morning I found my emptiness subside and a peace fill the void. Thoughts, ideas and pondering it seems through a journey along the roads of Georgia does wonders for the soul. Please my dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Can we change things?

Bird Droppings October 21, 2019
Can we change things?

 

“Therefore, the shortage of effective teachers is not a problem that can be solved by a new structure. It is caused by how we train and manage teachers, and can only be solved by improving the way we do this, no matter what the structure of the school. Teachers who are effective managers will be effective in any school setting, but they will less effective if they are managed differently from the way they manage students. The good teachers we remember should be especially revered because in most cases they had the strength to manage students far better than they themselves were managed.” Dr. William Glasser

 

I opted Saturday to do nothing. My wife and I ventured out only to turn back due to rain. It was about ten years ago I went on a road trip with two of my sons and one of their friends to the Colombia South Carolina Reptile Expo to look at snakes and lizards and such. I will say eight hours in the car and taking pictures of King Cobras and Eye lash vipers makes for an exciting day. My youngest son was nonstop nearly six hundred miles cracking jokes or at least getting the joke started and reminiscing over old times was fantastic.

 

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychiatrist

 

Change is something we are faced with daily and often it is change we do not want to bear. This morning as I had someone ask me why I take sunrise pictures. I could have answered cynically because no one else does, or perhaps because I like to send one to my wife each morning, or even gotten into a spiritual leaning aspect of the sun rising in the east, a sacred direction in native tradition.  The other day as I rode out to get sunrise photos I was thinking was it daylight savings time yet? I noticed my car clock did not automatically change last time as did my iPhone. So I am thinking daylight savings is purely a manmade deal nothing to do with nature and or reality. Perhaps I should consult my Jung texts on my dream of a red-tailed hawk in my old back yard from my childhood. Jung was a great believer in dreams and dream analysis. I have been torn on the idea of change, what part we can play in this great cosmic drama, can we alter our minute part. What if we redirect the lines and switch characters in midstream.

 

“Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time.” Marcus Aurelius

 

There are two basic premises in reality one we are the center of the universe that each of us is a focal point and many people do feel that way. The other is we are simple a small piece of a large puzzle, one insignificant little piece yet without it the whole is not complete.

 

“The men and woman who make the best boon companions seem to have given up hope of doing something else…some defects of talent or opportunity has cut them off from their pet ambition and has thus left them with leisure to take an interest in their lives of others. Your ambition maybe it makes him keep his thoughts at home. But the heartbroken people — if I may use the word in a mild, benevolent sense — the people, whose wills are subdued to fate, give us consolation, recognition, and welcome.” John Jay Chapman

 

A deep thought though I would beg to differ. Maybe it is how I read the passage yet I cannot help but think of Albert Switzer and Mother Theresa who gave up promising careers to help others. To me this far supersedes any success that might have been met in their other possible pathways. Giving in to fate I do not see these two great humanitarians as such but as embracing life and leaving self aside so they can help others. Perhaps it is our own definition of what is real and significant that matters.

 

“Whatever limits us we call fate.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I do think we become limited by semantics by words that try and define and offer parameters to perhaps limitless ideas and thoughts. We all seem to want parameters to whatever we do. I watch teenagers setting boundaries and limits and barriers every day. Some will be cultural and societal, others closer to home perhaps religious and spiritual. We want definition in our lives we want to be able to say well this person is this or that. We like stratifying and categorizing in our lives. I was working with a student on test scores trying to explain two people could have tested exactly the same on a personality test and still be totally different people. While a test is normed and validated it still has limitations that change with each person taking that test.

Some people see far more in a Rorschach inkblot test and details while a less artistic person may only see a face or a rabbit. Picasso saw myriads of color and shapes and we see a hodge podge of paint and call it abstract or cubist for lack of better terminology to define and delineate his work. Maybe we should simply say it is Picassian unique to an artist who saw differently than we other mortals.

 

Even in writing as I enjoy reading Edgar Allan Poe and had the experience of talking with and assisting in publishing an author’s work years ago who confessed to being the incarnation of Poe, ridiculous as it may sound. It was a bizarre period in my own life as I spent many hours on the phone and in reading his work. First of all he looked like Poe and he was an idiot savant. He could spin words and phrases instantly. When he would meet you, he would literally immediately give you a poem often handwritten in beautiful calligraphy of the acronym of your name. He would write a poem each line starting with a letter from your name spelling out your name and literally analyzing your personality. While working with this fellow as weird as this sounds crows would literally flock to my yard, hundreds of crows, all day at my house which was in a pasture. When I sent the last of his work to him the birds went away.

 

“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” Carl Jung

 

Reading over the years I came literally by accident one day upon a book, I was floundering business wise and saw an ad for a free business analysis. I called and was assured it was free and would I sign to use this consulting firm if all went well in the analysis. I signed and for two days a gentleman came and informed me I should close my doors. Not really a shock since my largest customer had changed from print to software and was a major part of my business. After submitting his business thoughts, he told me about a book he thought I should read “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. It is sort of a new age book he said. He wrote the name and author on a piece of paper which I stuck in my wallet for my next trip to Borders. It was several Borders trips later and I forgotten about the book and while walking down an aisle a book fell and hit me in the head literally. Surprisingly enough guess which book. The book contains nine supposed insights recorded in ancient times and written in an archaic ancient language not used in 3000 years. Anyhow the point is here is the fourth insight from Redfield’s book.

 

“The Struggle for Power – Too often humans cut themselves off from the greater source of this energy and so feel weak and insecure. To gain energy we tend to manipulate or force others to give us attention and thus energy. When we successfully dominate others in this way, we feel more powerful, but they are left weakened and often fight back. Competition for scarce, human energy is the cause of all conflict between people.” James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

 

As I read this earlier all the struggles and attention seeking of students versus teachers, and of Carl Jung teachings sort of fell into place. Amazingly as I looked to my starting passage from Dr. Glasser administrators do this as well. It is about drawing power from teachers. We draw energy from others to replace energy we are lacking. We are lacking because we are not generating but simply using sort of a parasitic relationship. I have over the years developed a chart on student teacher feedback which could as easily be people to people feedback. One the lowest most primordial level is parasitism, where we feed off others energy. The second level is symbiosis and this is where each one needs the other independently of each other and yet inseparable. The third level is osmosis, where energy is freely given and exchanged back and forth. I have been using bits and pieces of this idea as I develop my dissertation.

 

Albert Switzer and Mother Teresa worked in this way; they never sought energy but received it in the giving to others in an ongoing exchange. I see daily students and teachers who exhibit bits and pieces of each of these forms of human interaction. Going back to my starting quote, understanding where you are and why is paramount to changing, and the ability to growth and truly being able to help others and yourself. I went out into the rain a few days back, a drizzle of sorts and cold. Rain has a way of quieting the air and forest. It was literally silent, muffled by the rain and heavy air. Our dog does not like the rain and scurried back inside, curling up on her blankets as soon as she was back in her room. I sat down unsure of which direction I would go today and wandering as I do often. But perhaps my point is we need each other, we do need interaction and we can change. We are not at the mercy of fate and or some cosmic puzzle unless we choose to be, yet we are all part of that puzzle as well.

 

A paradox of sorts as is so much of life. Today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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