Thinking about other times

Bird Droppings February 28, 2020
Thinking about other times

 

“The song that I will sing is an old song, so old that none knows who made it. It has been handed down through generations and was taught to me when I was but a little lad. It is now my own song. It belongs to me. This is a holy song, and great is its power. The song tells how, as I sing, I go through the air to a holy place where Yusun will give me the power to do wonderful things. I am surrounded by little clouds, and as I go through the air I change, becoming spirit only.” Geronimo, Goyathlay (“one who yawns”)

 

As I went out this morning just a few minutes ago taking our dog out to a silent world, the air was still and the ambient temperature cold enough to keep frogs in hibernation. Later in the morning, I will be running to the store for milk so my offspring can have breakfast. Yesterday evening I passed by several opossums that had been killed during the night along the road. My oldest son and I were talking about this a few days ago as the warm weather and then cold days are bringing animals out and roads are busier.
It has been nearly twenty years since I last went to Fort Sill in Lawton Oklahoma to see Geronimo’s grave. The Indian graveyard is set back in along a quiet bend in a small river with aspen trees all about. It is actually a very peaceful spot. The song mentioned above is a medicine song one he would sing at opportune times or simply as a prayer.

 

As he grew older Geronimo became a Christian as he would say just in case.

 

“I cannot think that we are useless or God would not have created us. There is one God looking down on us all. We are all the children of one God. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what we have to say.” Geronimo

 

An old man approached his new religion in that he felt this was a good example for living. Stories go that he never gave up his old ways as well singing his medicine songs and participating in rituals till he died. He died at eighty years of age at Fort Sill Oklahoma many miles from his beloved Arizona and New Mexico mountains. I wonder as I think so often how we say one thing and live or do another. As I was reading about Geronimo this morning and thinking a comment in his biography dictated when he was older at Fort Sill. He spoke of how his people the Apaches would vow to never do harm to each other of any kind and this was a bond of trust.
Here on a Friday morning I am catching up on emails and reading blogs and I find the paradoxes interesting. On one hand, speaking of their religion and faith and how steadfast and yet, on the other hand, the near opposite as you read from the same pen or computer near slanderous remarks about others and life in general. Such a paradox we humans provide. As I thought this morning even the soldiers knew if Geronimo gave his word it was done nothing would change even though the US government changed, his word was bond. He was one of the most feared warriors of all time in the American west and soldiers knew they could trust him. There were no exceptions to him; if he said he was going peaceful he was going peaceful.
Chief Joseph as he surrendered told his people he would fight no more and he stopped which became a bond that lasted till his death even though treaties with the Nez Perce were broken numerous times. I guess where I am going is we live in such a paradox of saying one thing and living another of claiming righteousness, and really wanting only to party, of saying we believe on a Sunday and taking a break Monday through Saturday.

 

Recent news in Afghanistan of a Christian convert who was condemned to death for converting by their law. Our righteous nations intervened and he was released as a mental patient who could not be tried. Clerics throughout the country wanted him stoned and or pulled apart basically dead and we are fighting in that country for freedom. Who can be free with that type of laws and beliefs but from another side of the coin who are we to impose our beliefs on them.
All Throughout history western civilizations have tried to impose their morals and civilization on primitives and anyone who disagreed. In Brazil it is now against federal law to interfere with primitives and when tribes are found that are still in the wilds of the Amazon. Boundaries are made and traffic is not permitted through that area. If you read jungle signs the various broken branches feathers skulls and such also indicate “Not Welcome.” We are pressuring countries daily in our quest for world peace using threats to garner peace there has got to be logic there.
However, one thing is lacking from the days of the Wild West and a handshake with Geronimo being his bond. There is no longer anyone to trust and six-thousand-page peace agreements are now broken the second oil or minerals are found and what was a peace agreement now has exceptions and or we lease from them. Trust is a powerful word and one that has lost meaning in our society. We know our politicians are crooks and we continue to reelect them beneath new banners of I will not be a crook this time I promise again.
Watching American Idol and sorry I do I recall a line from last year a profound statement from another broadcasting company’s comic relieve.

 

“35,000,000 votes were cast in two hours last night which really shows us the power of democracy I wonder how many would have text or called if it was a vote on Medicare or immigration”

 

We do have the power of the vote and yet American idol draws nearly thirty percent of the national vote in comparison to the last elections. A TV show in two hours received thirty percent of the possible national vote talk about paradox and I did not even vote on American Idol last year. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts
namaste.

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

A morning meandering while the moon is glowing

Bird Droppings February 27, 2020
A morning meandering while the moon is glowing

 

Last night as I took the dog out for one last pee break a smiling moon overhead. I started thinking back to tutoring a student trying to get caught up and return to public school. Eventually, she went on a different route. My first thing this morning was reading through several old emails from my doctorate and graduate cohort friends as some are defending their dissertations in the coming weeks. In another set of emails based on an article on teaching memory that was reviewed by several teachers, there were several comments on how these particular readings provided insight into the successful educational adaptation of this program. I found I actually had enjoyed the readings and it made me recall a teaching principle I learned in from my father who used it in the steel industry many years ago and I actually was taught this concept in a Red Cross course for instructors in 1968. It is called the FIDO principle, hence Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over again. If you repeat something, often enough it will sink in. Granted in today’s educational system of teaching to the test we might be using FIDO a bit too much.

 

“I believe that the school is primarily a social institution. Education being a social process, the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race and to use his own powers for social ends. I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed, The School Journal, Vol. LIV, No.

 

I look at John Dewey’s ideas from nearly a hundred years ago and how we still call those ideas progressive education it amazes me. With all of the educational materials out now, many are only a few years old they are still called traditional when comparing to Dewey. One of our topics was looking at performance versus social support. I am of course leaning in the social support direction as this is an integral part of my day when I am teaching even with general education students. This is how I see kids and deal with kids. I go back to my idea in one of the postings I read earlier today of getting away from a swing of the pendulum and going in the direction of a pulse, no swing either way but a steady beat or energy.


We should try and steer away from that concept of right or left swing and go towards what is best for the kid not always for society. I have worked with a large number of kids from a certain low-income housing area nearby. Many are very bright and all are very poor. The sixteen-hour syndrome as I call it is alive and well in that area. As I go by often several times a day between my mother’s house and my own, I see kids I have had and often new ones but always similarities.

 

As I look back at the last twelve years of teaching EBD students I have had more kids from that one spot in the county than any other specific spot. Sadly, in actuality many are marrying within that small community. There are more kids being born, coming from that environment. Many are on the fringe of society. Many of the kids are anarchists, punkers, suffering from divergent behaviors, drug addicts, alcoholics, and few if any have jobs. I wondered why as I drove by thinking of past kids from this enclave. Several are serving serious hard time; some have escaped and moved away, many will be going to our newest high school down the road next year. I wonder if anyone in that community was approached about their participation in the greater good.

Interesting as I am having a difficult time getting started this morning wandering off a bit as if I had just driven by that community. I am always trying to stay up with the youngest son thinking back I recall a day he decided to do a Godzilla marathon of the old Godzilla movies. I did not make it through the first one. When I got up the next morning the video was still on and he crashed somewhere after five this morning watching the twenty-eighth movie featuring the man in a monster suit. He just found the latest installment which features every major other monster and a walk on by the computer-generated Godzilla. I often wonder if there is a hidden meaning to Godzilla the powerful beast who always eventually has a weakness. Sort of the David and Goliath of nature and humanity and my youngest, of course, came to the rescue offering that the original concept of the monster was an antinuclear effort.

 

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Van der Post

 

For many years I have been intrigued by this man whom I had not heard of prior to finding a quote several years ago and yet he has written literally hundreds of books and articles on Africa and numerous other countries. He was raised by an African Bushman woman and taught their ways and his philosophy of life. His writings are permeated with nature and the thoughts and aspirations of these primitive people. Van der Post was knighted by the Queen many years ago and actually is the Godfather to Prince William. He is the only non-royal to have ever been given that honor.

 

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennett

 

“What is to give light must endure the burning.” Victor E, Frankl

 

As I sit this morning so often it is conversations and happenings of yesterday that drive the thoughts that inspire me as I write. Yesterday I was talking with some friends of where they had been and where they were going, adversity is a good word as we spoke. It is about looking the lion in the mouth and walking away knowing you have survived. Only a few days ago I was talking with a former student. She was a graduate of a respected associate’s program and was floored at one point by her rejection at a four-year school. She had gone to the two-year program on a full athletic scholarship and suffered grade-wise in order to play on a nationally ranked junior college team. As a time to graduate came close she had to quit softball and actually lost her scholarship in order to raise her grades and put more time into studying. She had conquered her adversary and now was trying to move on. She was after graduating with a four-year degree in business still working as a waitress but just a few days prior to our talking had been interviewed and got a job she had been dreaming about.

 

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” Maori Proverb, the Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand

 

“Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.” Laurens Van der Post

 

“The chief condition on which, life, health, and vigor depend on, is action. It is by action that an organism develops its faculties, increases its energy, and attains the fulfillment of its destiny.” Colin Powell

Overcoming adversity begins with action, with a step forward, with realizing shadows are cast by light with knowing that growth comes from effort. It is difficult to cross a stream if you never take the first step. In borrowing from the Zen teachings “You can never cross a stream the same way twice”. I was sitting here remembering old stories and thoughts in the past we would hike up a stream in north Georgia the Toccoa Creek and in that hike transverse about 500 feet uphill over rocks and boulders and such climbing up the creek. In the process, of course, water is continually flowing against you and depending on the rainfall it could be a good bit. Cracks and crevices abound and more than several times you actually swim in rock channels ten feet deep and eighteen inches wide all uphill but at the top is a waterfall.

 

“The view at the top is always worth the climb” Sir Edmond Hillary

 

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)
bird

Reading a friend’s book a sixth time

Bird Droppings February 26, 2020
Reading a friend’s book a sixth time

 

I was so tired when I laid down last night after leaving the high school, driving around doing errands, cooking supper, and attempting to get into my reading and writing. My youngest son in now a nurse at Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, my son’s wife works in the Emory transplant unit, my niece a pediatric nurse in Savannah and my wife is a family nurse practitioner. There is a community among nurses. About five years ago five student nurses at Georgia Southern University were killed in a severe car accident on their way to a final clinical. This hit me yesterday maybe a note I read or post on Facebook.

 

As a graduate student from Georgia Southern this event impacted me. One of girls injured in the accident was a graduate of my former high school. She is now a practicing nurse. We tend to get protective and for some reason I got thinking about that crazy few days five years back. About that same time one evening as time wound down my son called trying to find his wife she was late from work. In spring of 2014 my son fell asleep on his way home from a long day at work and was involved in a serious accident. All of these made for an intense evening and troubled sleep.

 

My oldest and I have been working on some outdoor ponds essentially summer homes for several turtles and to various water plants. The rain has put a damper on any outside work for some weeks, perhaps a few hours of sunshine will let us get some serious work done this weekend. Physical labor since my leg injury and getting old seem to not be compatible. Last night you could hear the whippoorwills which was nice even though I was so tired. I finished my last IEP yesterday that is early for me. So, as I prepared that last IEP I got thinking about a good friend Dr. James Sutton’s and one of his book’s today.

 

Dr. James Sutton sent me a copy nearly eight years ago, What parents need to know about ODD. Dr. Sutton is one of the leading writers and authorities on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the country. One of these days when, Bird Droppings a teacher journal, comes out the forward is by Dr. James Sutton. I have included his words in my dissertation. I have been reading academic books lately with numerous big words, long words, often times useless in normal setting words like post-structuralism, phenomenology; semiotics and hermeneutics are a few good ones. It seems many academics want to use words and pages to bolster their endeavors and then question why common folk don’t understand.

 

I responded to Dr. Sutton with the following sentence or two in response to his book. My first experience with Dr. James Sutton was going to a conference in 2003 in Macon Ga. and listening to his ideas on working with some of the hardest kids to deal with in education in Emotional Behavior Disorders. His ideas hit the nail on the head and this latest book, What Parents need to Know About ODD, is an easy to read, understand and to use tool for parents and teachers who daily have to deal with the trials and tribulations of kids who are ODD. I recommend this book to my student’s parents and educational associates almost daily. This was not a sales pitch but when combined with another issue our federally mandated NCLB, the law requires teachers to use evidence-based practice, EBP when dealing with exceptional children. This becomes a problem in special education because there is not that much to work with and as I thought today a good teacher with a good idea could be hindered by a packaged program that is an EBP and not as effective and there have been many cases where teachers have been criticized for not using a recommended program.

 

Every year we lose good teachers who are hindered by administration and packaged programs of which many were researched by the company publishing the program. I had a situation myself a few years back and was told this program was what I was to teach to a specific group of teenagers and it was research based. I called the publisher to verify what research was done. It was never done with a population anywhere near what it was being recommended for and the one study that was done was with kids ten years younger and 20 IQ points higher but it did work with them.

 

A Harvard study posted June 14, 2006 states “…the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over academic competitiveness.” from the The New York Times referring to NCLB. Funny how we keep trying to make schools better or I should say politicians keep trying. I often wonder when teachers will be asked.

 

“I will stake my reputation and over thirty years of experience on this: Real change occurs when relationships improve.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

 

I have watched wheels spun testing kids at the end of semesters and courses and at the end of high school and all because laws say we have to that are established by politicians. Yet all you are truly testing is what someone knows at that moment and not what they learned in any given time frame or how well a teacher taught. My son who recently graduated as biology major could take an end of course biology test without the course and pass it does that measure how much he learned or simply what he knows. Sadly, teachers and administrators are losing jobs and schools are being threatened by these tests.

 

Recently in a discussion in an online class I raised a question about NCLB and how kids were being left behind and a teacher an advanced degree teacher offered “well some children want to be left behind”

 

“The power paradox is a simple concept. It suggests that the more force we put into controlling an ODD child, the less effective those efforts become. Golf pros will tell you that, when you try to muscle that ball down the fairway, looking for distance alone, there’s no telling where it’s going to go. When you focus on form rather than force, however, the distance takes care of itself. It’s much the same idea in managing an ODD child.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

 

So often when I read Dr. Sutton’s ideas they apply elsewhere in life. The power paradox is in education all the time it is in relationships between people, in government and definitely in the working of a school. Far too often we go for power not form as I recall many years ago the TV show Kung Fu in which David Carridine was a Shaolin priest who had escaped to America for killing someone in self-defense with his martial arts. It was not about power but form the swan or deer almost ballet movements yet lethal as well. It is so easy to get caught up in just words. I read numerous writers words each day in blogs, books and articles and a thought I have been having keeps coming up the reader has to be able to understand the writer for communication to occur.

 

The experiences and perceptions have to be there so what is written is understood? One excellent writer I read daily uses riddles and word puzzles and play on words and many have not a clue what is being said and or why. That is part of her mystic and then all of a sudden it hits you.

 

“Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centered society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.” Nelson Mandela, speech at the opening of the South African Congress

 

It has been nearly thirty years since South Africa truly became democratic and how long will it be till we here in the United States can say democracy is back and not rule of the dollar and lobbyist. Much of what I have been reading lately addresses the issue of education and how it is that today’s education is to make good consumers. Customer’s, one author calls college students and on many campuses that is the word used by the administration very much a corporate world. Historians have said over and over wars are always fought for money and if we look back at any war in history always money was a key factor. I questioned Viet Nam and Johnson wanted the war effort to continue as industry was getting a shot in the arm and the economy turned around. The power paradox in Iraq and most of the Middle East is a very interesting thought. I wonder have we ever focused on the form, for example the individual in Iraq. Maybe we need to ask for Nelson Mandela’s help in Iraq. 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)
bird

It has been a long time

Bird Droppings February 25, 2020
It has been a long time

 

“Teaching is a lifelong moral quest. You never have it exactly right and you keep trying to get better at it. You keep learning from your students and what they are going through, how you can do things better.” Nel Noddings

 

I was sitting along the edge of reality somewhere in my backyard listening to the wind blow through the pines, it seems pine trees make a better sound when the oak trees are leafless. Sort of a circular thing as the wind seemed to blow around the tops of the trees surrounding my house. The sound and movement in the air was exhilarating. It has been thirty-eight years since our oldest son was born. I was wondering as a parent and now as a grandparent have we done all we should or could. I think parents question themselves often. I think parents always wonder did I do the best job I could have. Perhaps even thinking about what could I have done different? As I ponder I am very proud of my children all three and now two daughters in law and four grandchildren a fifth on the way. Hopefully, they know whatever roads they travel in life we will be there for them if they need and I am sure they will be happy and successful.

 

“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.” William D. Tammeus

 

I have been to the nurseries at the local hospitals when my wife gave birth to our three sons and when my sisters and numerous friends and now my own children, nieces, and nephews all having children. A few years back as we sat around eating I was watching my nieces, nephews, grandchildren, grandnieces, and grandnephews. Several are still babies and there were great aunts, great grandmothers, grandfathers and grandmothers taking turns holding them. Great-grandma was working on getting a photo of all of them together and trying to get fourteen or so little ones in a confined space for enough time to get one photo with all faces looking forward is quite an effort.

 

“It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.” Joyce Maynard

 

I have watched my brother and sisters grow as they raised their children and now grandchildren. I have witnessed firsthand my wife and I grow raising our children and now the changes taking place with grandchildren. There are challenges and pitfalls, those moments that we will never live down. I recall a little spat between my middle son and youngest at Disney World when the middle son while my wife was watching for our ride to Discovery Island, karate kicks the youngest and he would, of course, holler and hit his brother who was claiming innocence to his mother. After three times I did intercede even though I had actually been videotaping the whole scenario watching it now it is quite humorous. It is funny even now my middle son still denies any wrongdoing saying I altered the film.

 

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum

 

So often I use the term setting an example, we as parents have that responsibility and we as teachers, it is a double edge sword and often there is no chance to goof off.

 

“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” C.G. Jung, Integration of the Personality, 1939

 

I recall my wife coming home from the hospital many years ago when she first became a nurse. She was working in GYN-OB and had delivery and nursery in her unit. She told me one day of a thirteen-year-old mother whose twenty-six-year-old mother was there and her thirty-nine-year-old grandmother was also there. The examples we set are seen by our kids every day and then they try and emulate. Watching my granddaughter try and imitate us as we make faces or stick out our tongue is amusing and her faces as she tries and mimics. Sadly, children are always watching and our behaviors beyond making faces are seen as well.

 

“Most of us become parents long before we have stopped being children.” Mignon McLaughlin

 

Each day as I walk down the hallways in our high school I am made aware of this with so many students pregnant and some even married.

 

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone

 

It was a difficult day yesterday. My back was bothering me arthritis and old age and a student noticed. I am usually good at keeping it to myself. It could be the weather changes we keep having. Advil has kept me going and a good night’s sleep but a nice relaxing hot shower will be great. In a few weeks my oldest son’s birthday. It is hard to believe as I went shopping with my oldest granddaughter two weekends past, that he was once just as small. As I finish up today so much out in the news around the world so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

 

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

Thinking for a minute of what to write

Bird Droppings February 24, 2020

Thinking for a minute of what to write

 

Over the past few weeks I have read several blogs and emails about counting sheep and last night as I lay down to get some sleep after a long day, and a long week of recovering from a UTI, reading, and writing, I was a whooped puppy. Long about eight o’clock last night which for me usually is time for me to just zone out I lay there thinking for a bit. Of course, just as I fell asleep it hit me how much we miss our grandbabies. Just as I thought of this we got a photo or two on the phone. I almost felt like no need to go back to sleep since I get up at four in the morning during the work week anyhow. Then it really hit me it was still night time I crashed again.

 

When I got to my computer and started in I sat here thinking for a second about how each of us builds our routine around who and what we are at the moment. Thinking back to my sons and how when they would come home from college and take a three-hour nap, play some video games, eat voracious quantities of food and then chill. It has changed now that that they are married and have babies and work full time one in pediatric cardiac intensive care, one in environmental engineering and the oldest an advanced science teacher that makes a big shift in their lives. After I finally got up I went to let the dog out everyone was content and happy which is probably due to his having just been out already since my son took him out when just before going to bed around midnight.

 

I went back outside only to find it slightly warmer than last couple mornings where it was below freezing. Rain and cloud cover are covering the moon. I thought back to my earlier trying to go back to sleep and when my son’s photos woke me up I lay there making up blog lines each more whimsical then the last. Unfortunately thinking doesn’t put you to sleep and it dawned on me why counting sheep would. For most people a sheep is a sheep they all look the same sound the same and act the same. If I was counting sheep depending on my mood and if I were looking for show lambs or breeding sheep or sheep to work herding dogs they would be different. The muscle mass or breed characteristics and then what breed am I counting and the history would come up of that breed counting sheep would never work for me after so many years of raising and showing sheep and lambs.

 

My oldest son and I had Southdown sheep for some years including an Oklahoma Black and White show champion ram. Southdown’s go back a few hundred years in England famous for their meaty carcasses and for their small size. Why I do not count sheep because I might start on Jacob four horns which do not act like other breeds they scatter when a predator arrives each ewe taking their lambs and running in different direction. This is a little different twist on herding instinct. Perhaps I think too much, pondering each particular aspect and then going deeper and never getting bored enough to fall asleep and usually becoming more awake. So many years ago, I found if I think of a relaxing spot calm and peaceful within seconds I am asleep, not from boredom but from relaxing.

 

“Within your heart, keep one still, secret spot where dreams may grow.” Louise Driscoll

 

So often we lose sight of dreams of quiet times and get caught up in the issues of the day. As I went into my room before break and illness several students were complaining about panic attacks, anxiety attacks and stress issues. How can it be that fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen-year old’s are having stress related issues? It boggles my mind to see such young people caught in adult situations simply things like leaving home, being pregnant and trying to make adult related choices as a child and not being allowed to play with Lego. I may need to reintroduce Lego to my class room. Lego maniacs rule, it is an excellent eye hand and imagination builder.  

 

“Life is like a ten-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.” Charles M. Schultz

 

How do we tap into those extra gears and show kids there is more to life and so much more than what is at home or around the next corner? Over the past few days I have wondered about why and how we do to kids what we do.

 

“Have compassion for your parents’ childhoods. Know that you chose them because they were perfect for what you had to learn. Forgive them and set them free.” Louise L. Hay

 

As children complain about parents it is only what your parents have learned and had to work with as to how they deal with their children. Some have had powerful mentors and successful family experiences others have had trials and tribulations and for some no families or no parental support. We as teachers often become surrogate parents filling voids left by absentee parents and guardians.

 

“We have contributed; each in the time allotted us, our endeavors to render… a permanent blessing to our country.” Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, Third American President

 

I wonder how as days go by we will be perceived as a nation.  Will it be as savior or war monger, freedom provider or imperialist I have so many questions? I was reading a note earlier from another teacher who is currently caught up in immigration issues as our many people. People come to work to have a chance at life and here we are most powerful nation in the world trying to decide what to do with them. I hear “they” are getting benefits and not paying I can understand this. Yet businesses all over the nation are utilizing “their” labor and not paying taxes on it or workman’s compensation on that labor yet we target the people who want to work and not the people who are employing them. Why not tax and take out workmen comp and or why not provide some semblance of temporary or some sort of documentation.

 

I started a conversation several days ago with how much do you want to pay for chicken which is often produced and processed by illegal labor. Chicken is now as low as two dollars a pound and on the high side five or so dollars a pound for free range organic. How about seven or eight dollars a pound? We can unionize chicken processing and such how about vegetable pickers and landscaping and construction workers? How much more for a head of lettuce are we willing to pay or for a house? I find it amusing that commodities based on often illegal labor somehow maintain their prices if when tough immigration laws are promoted yet gasoline which we are in maximum production and exporting fluctuates based on speculation.  I am not condoning illegal immigration but where should we focus efforts, on people wanting jobs or on industries willing to hire them illegally. To me this seems a paradox.  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

Listening to a philosopher

Bird Droppings February 23, 2020
Listening to a philosopher

 

A beautiful sky this morning as I walked out and it is actually winter, which is surprising, I can count the number of mornings with frost on one hand. The sky while partially filled with clouds was nearly clear. The white billowing clouds presented a surreal picture for me as I walked the dog this morning. I was reading in National Geographic an article on possible life somewhere out in the universe and all of the possibilities that continue to pop up. It has not been long since I fancied myself a philosopher of sorts. Perhaps it was my graduate work that got me truly entrenched in philosophical meandering and led to this conclusion or trying a million times to formulate a philosophy of teaching while it evolved before me. Actually, I think it is because I enjoy pondering too much. Wondering and thinking about all that is around me as I journey through life.

 

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

 

“How people keep correcting us when we are young! There is always some bad habit or other they tell us we ought to get over. Yet most bad habits are tools to help us through life.” Friedrich Nietzsche

 

As I looked for a starting place for my daily journal I was interrupted to take dog out again so I could get back to my writing. As I went up and down the stairs and walked out into a sky as wonderful as it is this morning I recalled a period in my life when I would get up every morning early and walk several miles discussing philosophy, theology and other relevant issues with a good friend of mine. It was an interesting time and actually many concepts that I hold now came to fruition during those walks. Over the years as I look back and truly most things considered that I consider “bad habits” I had given up in the days past however they do provide tools for pondering ideas further and pushing thoughts beyond where they were. I have found however many people simply get mired in that bad habit or two and it becomes part of their life not merely a stepping stone or tool but a crutch and support. Perhaps even a cast of sorts locking them into that point in time.

 

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” C. Everett Koop

 

Most folks won’t even recognize the name of Dr. Koop former Surgeon General of the United States and former head of pediatric surgery at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. As I thought of Nietzsche’s quotes and while not taking a walk today I did go and walk dogs twice outside so my wife and son would not have to get up as the holiday is officially over and we all are back at work today. I started writing a bit later today then I thought I would. Nietzsche as you read his work is often self-focused and negative and perhaps in some ways I like looking to his thoughts for contrast for adding a back drop to a brighter thought. Somewhere I started writing about Dr. Koop.
Dr. C. Everett Koop was instrumental in the anti-cigarette laws and anti-tobacco laws. On a personal note he was the surgeon for my younger brother many years ago when we lived in Pennsylvania. My father used to tell a story of Dr. Koop, his staff and my father all gathered together around John, my brother who was born with cerebral palsy and later developed encephalitis’s who approaching surgery. Dad would say having been in the Navy medical corp. and around death in WWII so much the aura around Koop was different, he exuded life he thrived on life and when he asked all to join hands and pray around John he made my father’s day.
But one thing that has stuck with me from dads conversation with Dr. Koop was a quote very seldom seen, “Having worked with terminally ill children and seriously ill children for many years in all of those years I have never seen a parent of one of these children who was an atheist”. As I think back and remember bits and pieces, Dr. Koop’s comment and discussions with my father he wasn’t referring to religion as much as to faith. Faith also parallels trust and it was in that trust in Dr. Koop and or trust in the hospital that parents would have faith and hope. Dr. Koop was a man of hope, of future, and of faith.

 

“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I am ending with a simple idea for another day or actually several ideas to ponder and mull over as we ascend the plateau to view the vista. Tomorrow a new month ahead my friends have a glorious day today, build for tomorrow and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your thoughts Namaste.

 

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

Practicing Patience

Bird Droppings February 21, 2020
Practicing Patience

 

It has been nearly forty years since I first went to Hemmingway’s just off the interstate in Decatur Georgia. It was a favorite local entertainment establishment. I was thinking back my oldest son had recently played nearby in Duluth and maybe that is what made me think back. My wife and I would go prior to and after our marriage primarily to listen to a local singer who with his band provided a fantastic evening of music. I recall my cousin Bill sending up a napkin with a Deep Purple song written on it, numerous times. Ron Kimble and his band tended to cover southern rock and country songs more than anything else so it was always a big joke when our hard-core metal cousin would pass the napkin up to the front. But one-night Ron took the mike and said we have received quite a few requests for this song seems to be all in the same handwriting though and they cut loose on that song. Bill had waited maybe ten visits for his song. Funny thing the house rocked.

 

So here I am at five thirty in the morning sitting and listening to a song written and sung by Ron Kimble. Ron is a big man by most standards and his voice even bigger. The song is entitled, “My little granddaddy”, it is a story of his granddaddy telling stories and always having a “sweet tater” for his grandson. Seems every time I listen to this song I obsess and play two or three times and after a million plays still a tear trickles down my cheek. It seems it has me thinking to my own dad and granddad to my sons and how he rode around on his golf cart with a load of grandkids telling stories about World War II and about the local hermit that lived in the woods below his house or about Little Strong Arm a Native American chief. I miss my dad and my wife misses her dad and as I talk with people who have lost parents over the year little things remind us as we go through our days. It for me could be picking up a piece of blue lace agate or gold ore at school but for now I sit and listen to a simple little song and a catchy little tune and thank Ron Kimble for it and giving me a tie to my father.

 

“Now, there are many, many people in the world, but relatively few with whom we interact, and even fewer who cause us problems. So, when you come across such a chance for practicing patience and tolerance, you should treat it with gratitude. It is rare. Just as having unexpectedly found a treasure in your own house, you should be happy and grateful to your enemy for providing that precious opportunity.” Dalai Lama

 

Over the past few days most of it spent in bed sick, I have been working on getting annual Individual Educational Plans completed for my case load at school. It seems that on top of the stress and emotions of dealing with parents and kids trying to come up with how we should as a school provide an education for this child, the systems and laws limit and literally negate the value of what was intended. I was talking with a dear friend a day or two back after finishing class that it is more exhausting sometimes practicing patience than getting upset. It takes effort to contain oneself rather than blow up. I have come to find that when kids are agitated there is a reason and far too often it has nothing to do with us but something from home or outside school compounded by whatever issues that particular child is involved with at school as well.

As I read the statement from the Dalai Lama and how we should be happy for the people who provide us with the opportunity of practicing patience it can be hard to at first understand what this man is saying. But as I ponder and I do a lot of pondering this time of day I am thankful for the week trying as it may have been and all of the people that added to and provided me with an opportunity of being patient. It is within these difficult relationships and interactions that we can practice and hone our skills at being patient. It is Friday and this week while perhaps it has flown by has seemingly dragged on for so long in other ways. So, as I close today and as I have for many years now my dear friends please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in our hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

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

 

A series of paradoxes and bewilderment

Bird Droppings February 20, 2020
A series of paradoxes and bewilderment

 

I received the following in an email a number of years ago. A friend of mine sent it out and as I read the first time it was humorous. However, as I pondered then as a teacher I read deeper into what was being said. I listened by coincidence to a few words from a former Georgia Congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. I recalled about thirteen years ago early in the morning as I by chance I hit the AM button in my car. It was obviously a very conservative talk show and on the extreme conservative side. But the comment was “If a Democratic Congress gets in they will spend the first two years investigating the last two years of the current administration and then raise taxes and…”, and he went on. It interested me that is he saying something has been done wrong that needs investigating and now we are literally living this story again. The news stories daily seem to imply that or are they just trying to stir up conservatives to get out and protect their money. Anyhow my email forward from a friend:

 

“Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s: Teaching Math in 1950’s – a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit? Teaching Math in 1960’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit? Teaching Math in 1970’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit? Teaching Math in 1980’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20. Teaching Math In 1990’s a logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.) Teaching Math in 2005-6 un hachero vende una carretada de madera para $100. El costo de la producción es $80”

 

As I read this I wondered if this is really what the general public thinks. There are numerous books out on the dummying down of American education. No one ever mentions we are one of the few countries with free public education to all children regardless of race, sex, disability and or income and in turn the only one trying to hold accountable educational systems for getting everyone to the same level. I was just talking yesterday of NCLB and an edict that all children would be on grade level in reading and math by 2014.  There was a two percent considered to be mentally impaired that would not attain grade level but all other children would.

 

Each of the educational eras has had issues in its systems. However, let me add I took a general biology course in my second year of college and the current general biology text for ninth graders at our high school is significantly more in depth and has numerous subjects and information not even conceived of in 1968. So, I look at the above email and see 1950 all was well, 1960 we are concerned about fractions, 1970 we are concerned about semantics, 1980 we are now worried about correct underlining too much Christmas treeing of answers on standardized tests and in the 1990’s we are concerned about environment and each other and asking why and how come questioning and wanting to perceive how this as wrong. I was amused at math in 2000’s and how it was touchy feely sort of kind of thing. They left out math in 2010 where a forester pays poachers in the rain forest of South America to strip a piece of land unregulated by any laws and sell to him at a dirt-cheap price and then wander off so literally we have a near 100% profit.

 

In 1919 John Dewey was using reflection as a teaching tool very successfully he was considerably ahead of his time. Sadly, reflection and discussion take time away from memorizing and with teaching to the test as we are now kids have to memorize volumes of material in every subject and many teachers do not have the time or they at least think they do not. Then looking back at 2005-2006 math comments and inferences to diversification it was not too many years ago women could not go to school and or hold positions in many companies and such. Even today women are stereotyped into certain positions.

 

A good friend is writing a doctoral thesis on gender biases in administration in public schools with all the public hoopla about immigration I still recall a parent conference five years ago when a good old boy wearing scruffy shorts no socks boots untied and dirty white T-Shirt explain it so eloquently to me. It seems he was out of work as he was a construction worker and at that essentially a gofer. He would be the one toting boards and bricks whatever. I was filling in forms since he did not read or write and his son was about to end up in the alternative school. I asked what he did for a living and he informed me he couldn’t get work. Obviously, I was aware of the construction situation in our area of few houses being built. However, his answer took me by surprise. He commented with a few expletives “The @#$% Mexicans work too #$@% hard.” For him it could have been Afro Americans, Native Americans, Eastern Europeans, and or Hispanics, it was anyone who was actually willing to work and not like him. Did I mention he did not smell very good sort of like a few old beers and cigarette stale smoke a paradox of sorts?

 

And so why am I bewildered we so often complain and whine and criticize and often only because we do not understand or lack of information. Simply put it is ignorance among the so many wonderful reasons. Parents expect wonders from teachers and many times we do deliver but years ago I wrote about the sixteen-hour syndrome. Teachers have kids for eight hours and are expected to work miracles only to go home to parents, TV, video, friends, drugs, and many other misc. other distractions and they have sixteen hours to undo all they learned in those eight. It is sort of a losing battle in many situations.

 

“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.” Black Elk

As I read this thought from Black Elk a Lakota Sioux holy man some years ago I was intrigued how we adults we take these innocents and make them adults losing all of their innocence. I used to watch the four-year old’s around school from our demo school they are inquisitive and wondering and yet in a few years they will be blank eyed and listless stripped of all of their joy and purity by our cultural efforts to make automatons and provide vehicles for the productivity of our manufacturing and corporate greed. Could be why I am bewildered that we have come to this in a free society and in reality, are more imprisoned than many so called third world countries. Imprisoned by our self-serving and self-centeredness and greed and watching calmly as monopolies are forming again and the big three oil companies are the only oil companies and ma bell is soon to be in charge again. I am paraphrasing and borrowing from an old folk song, where have all the steel mills gone or where have all the textile jobs gone simple they have gone to countries ever where. Then the chorus, oh when will we ever learn, oh when will we ever learn.
Paradoxes and complexities bewilderment and wonderment, I look at Black Elks words and wonder why can we not learn from children and maybe get back some of our lost innocence. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

 

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

 

Dissipating embers can rekindle a fire

Bird Droppings February 18, 2020
Dissipating embers can rekindle a fire

 

Before the housing encroachment in our neighborhood on most mornings weather permitting I will sit out and spend a few moments meditating in the corner of our back yard. For several years I have used a bit of white sage and sweet grass in a bowl as incense. The aroma and watching embers glow in the darkness can be very relaxing. As I was watching as the last of the embers hold on to its red glow dissipating as a slow column of smoke wisped off the last of the ember, circling about in the stillness.


My mind was wandering to car repairs, needing more dirt for my herb garden, helping with and finishing papers, writing an IEP and heading back to school tomorrow after a short break. Looking out into the fog and drizzle I was thinking the sun was about to rise. I looked up circling over my head I could barely make out the pines to my right in the dense fog. There is something about the early morning even on the most dismal of days perhaps the newness and silence. As I thought fanning the last spark from the one small piece of sage leave an ember jumped from my bowl and landed on my arm for a second, I watched till the burning sensation had to be dealt with. Soon a streak of orange may appear clouds permitting across the eastern sky and I get ready to head to work.

 

“There are things you cannot say in words — feelings you have, heights and depths you cannot articulate — and the only way they can come out is through your art form. It may not be direct — usually it is not. But what happens is that as you create, this emotion pushes through from some deep place and informs the way you see, feel, choose, and express. What was an unutterable emotion changes into an emotional charge that runs through your heart and mind and into your work. It is a magical thing, and you must embrace it as one of the true gifts of the difficult and sometimes lonely creative life.” Kent Nerburn, email to his son

 

I started thinking about parallels in life working with teenagers and teenage relationships and it is much akin to watching embers as they are dissipating. Each day a student will be complaining about a boyfriend or girlfriend and then right back to them or to another similar relationship. The embers are strong and a bit of air and bright again glowing. For some this is enough to carry on into adult hood and maybe a serious relationship. For others fuel is needed some would call it substance and eventually those folks look for something more meaningful than just an ember glowing. Occasionally an ember jumps out and burns us. Some wanting to maintain will allow that ember to sit and smolder burning on their skin not wanting to lose the glow for fear of never being able to relight the fire.

 

As I found this morning when my super-duper gas fire starter was empty from too many starts of charcoal and candles. Amazingly in this world of technology an old kitchen match works just great and there is always another source of fire to rekindle. Briefly we will wander stumbling in the dark looking and some will sit pining waiting for light to come on. We exist in a world of paradox or flux there is always light for every darkness. Perhaps philosophically and theologically we could argue but experience will also show it will get light and while darkness may seem like a long time but it will get light eventually.

 

So, I remind myself every morning going out before the light to sit and enjoy the stillness and sensations of early morning. The silence and calm provide a peaceful start to the day.

 

“In the midst of sorrow, sickness, and death, or misfortune of any kind and in the presence of the notable and great silence was the mark of respect. More powerful than words was silence with the Lakota.” Standing Bear, Ogallala Lakota

 

Many the moment I sat listening to a CD of Carlos Nakai, seven note cedar wooden flute master. As I sit today thinking and pondering listening to the melodies and sounds reading words of wisdom of days gone by. Writing words often only for one person to read even if it is myself. As today unsure of whom that person is I am writing for, trying to convey a moment of silence of peace in a world jumbled and riddled with so much turbulence. I have focused most of the weekend on my own undertakings reading writing for my graduate work and my herb gardens. When I walk in the doors of our school that changes I am now paid to deal with others issues and education. The strength of my morning of my few moments sitting in silence watching the embers dissipate will sustain me through the day and perhaps offer to another a few words of comfort and perhaps a few moments of silence. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts Namaste.

 

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

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Finally, it is not wet and dreary as I ponder our educational genocide, norming children, and only leaving the best

Bird Droppings February 15, 2020

Finally, it is not wet and dreary as I ponder our educational genocide, norming children, and only leaving the best

 

Amazing in our world of electronics and digital wizardry the simplest of things a battery can cause a chill. My main house thermostat batteries died and our wonderful electronic control by smart phone system left the main part of the house chilly this morning. I was huddled in my blanket as I stepped outside to check the weather and think a bit earlier granted I was barefooted.

 

The air was still except for some dripping from the rain that has left us soggy. You could hear the drops dripping from the branches and the pine needles rustling with the slight breeze. All in all it was so very quiet this chilly wet morning even our dog was silent this morning sitting on the porch waiting for me to let him back in while I was there staring at the sky thinking. It might have been too damp and dank for our dog to bark and yap as he does most mornings.

 

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Sitting Bull

 

A good friend once emailed about a conference he was going to hold in Georgia. It is funny how ideas often co-mingle in the cosmos. At that same time, I had a mother and co-teacher needing help with a son and she had been finding answers in my friend’s books. Along with that several students I was working with at the time needed assistance. But as I read this note from the great holy man and war leader of the Sioux nation so many years ago I was intrigued. Sitting Bull wasn’t looking at the now he was looking ahead, “What life we can make for our children”. His own was cut short as he held his grand child’s hand. Legend has it as the Native American marshals were arresting him for instigating a ghost dance ritual they thought he was going for a weapon and shot him. As the story goes his grandchild dropped a toy and he was picking it up it was not a gun.

 

“I do not wish to be shut up in a corral. All agency Indians I have seen are worthless. They are neither red warriors nor white farmers. They are neither wolf nor dog.” Sitting Bull

 

It was many years later that Kent Nerburn wrote a book borrowing from this comment entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog. The book was the editing and recording of the words of an elderly Sioux man who felt the need to relate the Indian view of reality and life for others to read.

 

In recent years as End of Course tests and Graduation tests results have been published and passed out and as I deal with children who have issues we tend to look at test results based on norms. As it is I love bell shaped curves sarcastically, we want everyone to fit in this percentile or that. But the interesting thing about a bell-shaped curve everyone does not fit in on both sides there are extremes and legislative fiascos or endeavors such as No Child Left Behind do not allow for that 12.5% on each end who are on the extremes of the curves, that is twenty-five per cent of the population. There is no magical cut off point. This child is in and this child is out yet we have imposed these boundaries through legislation.

 

We have stripped away individualism and seek to make all children equal and fit in the same mold, and the same parameters. Recently I saw an entrance requirement for a class in vocational studies requiring a certain level of math. Many students who could have benefited are now out. The funny thing I believe it was back in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s when specific requirements for existence be it hair color and skin color became issues for international debate and war and history and yet we now are instituting educational cleansing by weeding out children who cannot pass tests and or be accepted in a charter school.

 

I know a student now a mother and in the work force who five times when taking the end of course test in science missed passing by a total of ten points combined and several of those times by only a point. By chance I read graduation tests for some special education students and for instance question seventy on the test used a few summers back was of a nature no answer was correct technically. The answer was essentially to be a logic-oriented response yet hidden within was an answer that in actuality was correct but only if students watched a Disney movie on Desert Life made in 1956 they would know the real answer. Semantics played in and what is so sad the question was probably worded wrong. I questioned the testing board and the question is not out there anymore. But what if that was one of the questions the little girl missed who missed five times what if she failed to graduate because of a faulty question no one caught five times? We have normed out of the parameters so many children.

 

In recent months I have watched students withdraw because of tests or because of standards. I have watched select students get credit and others not for the very same issues. Perhaps we are practicing educational genocide maybe somewhere there is a conspiracy to eliminate from the gene pool students who cannot pass this test or that one. A school I have great faith in has dropped its undergraduate special education major. With current laws for highly qualified most special education teachers are being delegated to assisting regular education teachers. We are setting aside disabilities and or assuming they are not there and working on deficits only, the symptoms. It is funny how it may be the disability that caused the deficit, albeit educational genocide. Sitting here playing with NCLB, Norming, Children, Leaves the Best, what a society we have.

 

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing” Chief Joseph

 

It has been a few months since I last listened to critiques unfold of recent test results and listened to teachers criticized for low test results it is sad that we put so much emphasis on a paper and pencil operation. I remember a day when FEDEX was on the news for losing an entire high schools ACT test protocols. The students have to retake and many have missed early admission deadline as a result. Teachers are facing many of the same situations Native Americans faced hundreds of years ago be it treaties, or laws and many are literally meaningless. We won’t and don’t use test results and yet teachers are being called to attention and only the test is considered the demographics of a group of students is only looked at after publicly posted test results are out.

 

“It does not require many words to speak the truth” Chief Joseph

 

It did not take long for the great chief of the Nez Perce to understand and realize talk from Washington was often meaningless and only fulfilling for those that initiated the talk generally those in Washington and or their friends. In 1974 we passed laws to allow for mandatory education for all children and now we are saying all children should be educated exactly the same and all children should pass the same tests and all children will be the same by 2014. Georgia now has received a waiver based on proposed educational evaluations that will still be done but of a differing nature.

 

“You might as well expect rivers to run backwards as for any man who is born free to be penned up” Chief Joseph

 

For most today this may be meaningless gibberish as I wander in my thinking today. I recall my first visit to a residential treatment facility in 1969 or so. Of that I recall the smell first, then the hollow gaze of residents who had lived their lives in isolation and away from normal society. It was several years later I did another internship this time from a spiritual aspect as part of my seminary experience in 1973 into 1975 again at a residential facility and while in another state the smell and gaze were the same. It has been many years since big cats were at the Atlanta Zoo and back in the day, The Cat House as it was called, held numerous species of large cats from around the world and all had a gaze about them as they paced steel cages staring off into the distance. I wonder as we commit educational genocide are we pushing back to days gone by in the name of progress taking us back to 1974 and before when we only took children who would be able to pass tests and allow them into schools and programs. I truly wonder sometimes. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird