What do we miss?

Bird Droppings July 13, 2020
What do we miss?

All Along the Watchtower

There must be some way out of here,
Said the joker to the thief,
There’s too much confusion,
I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine,
Plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth.
No reason to get excited,
The thief, he kindly spoke,
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that,
And this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now,
The hour is getting late.
All along the watchtower,
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went,
Barefoot servants, too.
Outside in the distance
A wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching,
The wind began to howl.”

All along the Watch Tower the words and Music are by Bob Dylan and have been covered by almost every major rock star from Jimmy Hendricks, Eric Clapton, Guns and Roses and Bruce Springsteen just to throw some names around. I read the words from the song and thought how easily this could apply to the political fiasco we continue to be mired in. Every day I talk with strangers, students, friends, family and a few maybe that are hard to define.

Within my own family I have a reputation of whenever I leave the house allow an extra hour or so because I will find people to talk with. I ran up to the corner store and got in a conversation for a couple hours the other day. I was talking about grand kids and life in general. We talked about dogs and even had a tear flowing when I described my favorite dog of all time and when he died. Getting back to reality I use the reference of a circle often as far back as 1971 I wrote about the circle of life and defined myself within a circle. It was my understanding of the circle that has changed over the years. Perhaps it is wisdom and reading and discussing with all of the above. I reference often the passage from Black Elk, Lakota Sioux medicine man.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours….”Black Elk

It was back a few years I was writing still learning about the circle of life and received on August 6, 2003 an email from a dear friend.

“Dear Bird, the circle may have more to do with the philosophy of letting the river flow. I think our culture is more involved with the spiral in the up direction. We have a hard time revisiting, editing, honing, or learning from experience – all involve the circle.” Frances Friedman

Frances and I had a dialogue of sorts ongoing for almost fifteen years with thoughts words and ideas and as I read this I recalled a bowl of objects in my room, and a Shel Silverstein book, The Missing Piece meets the Big O. Most of us are familiar with river stones, pebbles or rocks worn smooth with the flow of the river or stream. In Africa some of the hardwood trees have wood so dense it sinks and as a result pieces of trees will fall into the river or stream and much like river stone tumble and spin and soon have a round look like a river stone. I have a bowl of river stone wooden rocks in my room.

The story from the late Shel Silverstein’s is that of a pie shape piece missing from the whole (or so they think) and is sitting waiting for the right piece whom is missing a piece to come by. The piece sits and sits and finally after many seasons and many pieces, a BIG O tells him you are on your own. You can do what you want. The piece begins to flip flop and such and soon as the edges wear down and it begins to roll. It is its own piece a simple child’s story maybe in a world where we all search for identity.

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

So often we wait wanting only to be that which we are not willing to learn to change into and grow. A piece of wood lying on the bottom of a stream in many parts of the world would float away and simply be gone. However, as my pieces attest to some will roll and tumble smoothing the edges rounding off and soon be as the river stones. Just as the missing piece learned sometimes you have to move adjust begin to roll and sometimes even change or simply sit and wait. As Carlyle states what will you miss.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Frances Friedman mentioned how so often we forget to learn from experience so often in our hurries we are not watching looking seeing. As I prepare for teaching teachers I have been working on the concept of SUCCESS. Many of the people I know can relate to failure but not success it is a new concept. It is a new experience but hopefully they will learn through and of experience and move beyond failure.

“When I hear somebody sigh that ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” Sidney J. Harris

Contrast and compare, Harris is a thinker that many may not know. He was a writer in the 1960’s through his death in 1980’s. A teacher friend nearly eighteen years ago shared several of his articles with me and Harris’ columns are intriguing reading. Strictly Personal is the name of his old column and in archives on the internet. You can find many of his articles and they are all good reading.

As I look back in my own life and times and see where and when corners were rounded and I learned and succeeded and failed many times. I also see other people who were affected by that moment and hopefully they have affected positively and grown as well. If and when I impacted someone in a negative way I hope they were able to grow from it. I wish I could retrace almost seventy years and apologize for any indiscretions I have done. Several years ago I was in the guidance office and a little boy was sitting on the floor his dad is still overseas and I was forced to think a moment 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

One puzzle piece at a time, a secret formula for good teaching.

Bird Droppings July 11, 2020
One puzzle piece at a time, a secret formula for good teaching.

“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How many times are we told “take your time”? So often in life we are anxious to get the job finished or to get to the top today. We often forget there are many steps along the way; many puzzle pieces needing to be placed in order to see the whole picture. For many months a student I used to work with had issues with sleeping in class and at one point was suspended for three days. I have tried to get his family to get him to the doctor due to large doses of medication and combination of meds he is on. His sleeping is not typical teenager tiredness.
Walking through the meat section of Kroger I ran into his mother and his doctor had called back with blood work his level of one medication was three times what it should have been and the doctor was amazed he could even walk. One thing that so often happens in life is we want everything to be what we want now, placing a random puzzle piece on a table does not represent where or how the puzzle will turn out. It takes numerous more pieces till we see a bit and we assume to know the whole far too many times.

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” Elizabeth Taylor, A Wreath of Roses

A good friend asked me the other day about a job opening at another school. It happened to be in EBD, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. He asked what or could he succeed and what was key to my success. I recalled a day when one of my students was for first time that year making a scene. I emailed back that evening the following. If you can trust the un-trustable and be patient with those who would drive you crazy, EBD is no big deal, they soon will trust you and work with you. Force them and you are in a fighting situation and ISS and OSS are not meaningful consequences. Building to intrinsic consequences is far more powerful, taking a kid off the computer and or me just being mad at some of kids bothers them more than ISS or OSS. Sometimes little pieces work better than big ones. Solving small issues will eventually accomplish big goals if we allow plenty of time.

“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” Dutch Proverb

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you, so in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

“There will be a time when loud-mouthed, incompetent people seem to be getting the best of you. When that happens, you only have to be patient and wait for them to self- destruct. It never fails.” Richard Rybolt

A simple word is patience. I wonder what might be one of my major attributes and in one word I would say patience. Yesterday a student was asking what would it take to get me mad, calling me names etc. I said it takes a good bit to get me mad and name calling wouldn’t do it. He proceeded to try and after a few choice words actually he wasn’t upset just wanting to prove me wrong. I said first I know the statement to be false and secondly, I know the person saying this to be ignorant and or stupid for saying such things. He sat back and said, well I would be mad if somebody said that to me, and I told him that is your choice. Puzzle pieces forever falling in place is my motto. Patience has kept that kid in school versus an alternative setting and is taking a piece one at a time rather than trying to solve a puzzle in one fell swoop.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them every day begins the task anew.” Saint Francis de Sales

A monk can address patience but they have to it’s their job. But monks too are alive and human and the frailties we face they too face or have faced. Breaking a task into manageable pieces often aids in completing the task.

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Victor Hugo

“How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.” William Shakespeare

Looking back on my own life it has been one of pieces falling in place slowly. One portion of my journey was twenty-three years in the making. I left the teaching field directly for twenty-three years all of that time in graphic arts and publishing for the training industry still indirectly in education. Coincidently during that time having delivered training manuals to most of the buildings at Georgia Tech which is where my son is now graduated from what a small world. It has been so long in coming and even now I know this is only a portion of the puzzle, more is yet to come. In life I have found you savor each moment each second enjoy the cool breeze if only for a moment. Pull off the road if you need to view a rainbow or sunset and truly bask in the magnificence but that is another day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

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

Like the spider web all of life is connected and intertwined

Bird Droppings July 10, 2020
Like the spider web all of life is connected and intertwined

As I thought about the Sydney J. Harris passage below I recall a walk one morning out to a quiet spot where I meditate and something hit me. 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 the last day of a vacation. A year ago I was suffering with a ruptured Achilles tendon. I made it upstairs but will be moving my computer down stairs since it is hard coming up with boot. There is a house to clean, goodwill run, groceries, a paper to write and so much more. Often in teaching of special education we use the term manifestation, is it a manifestation of their disability or are they choosing to do whatever it is they are doing that got them in trouble. I find myself needing a manifestation. Am I lazy or is my back really keeping from getting my yard work done.

“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 had 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

Hearing and listening are critical

Bird Droppings July 9, 2020
Hearing and listening are critical

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus

A simple analogy yet we far too often we as parents. Teachers and or friends do not understand that statement. Perhaps it is because we have more jaw muscle than ear muscle. In education ninety-nine-point nine percent of the time if you the teacher listen, students will learn more. That almost sounds like a paradox.

“Lenin could listen so intently that he exhausted the speaker.” Isaiah Berlin

I have never seen nor heard this about Lenin, as I recalled the many pictures there are of him all show him intently staring. Even in death with his glass coffin that still is on display.

“Listen or thy tongue will keep you deaf.” Native American Indian Proverb

Anyone that knows me has seen me taking pictures tens of thousands of pictures of school, grandbabies, nature and athletic events. Digital cameras can be wonderful tools in the classroom as well. I was taking some pictures of twin day last year and soon to be again during one of our Homecoming dress up days and one little girl was blurred in every photo. She is very ADHD and evidently that day was a bad day for being hyper. But in her constant moving she wouldn’t stop talking as well and I would say be still and bouncing around she would ask what did you say? Even in taking a picture of two of her friends she moved and she wasn’t in the picture till she moved.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill

Far too often we do not stop to hear what is being said both as teachers and students of life.

“The young people who come to me in the hope of hearing me utter a few memorable maxims are quite disappointed. Aphorisms are not my forte; I say nothing but banalities…. I listen to them and they go away delighted.” Andre Gide

When teachers ask me how I know something about a student I generally say I listened to them.

“I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.” Charles C. Finn

In our chaotic world so often we miss pieces, bits and tiny segments sometimes what is not said or done is as crucial as all that happens.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter F. Drucker

The great business consultant and author Peter Drucker offers again we need to not only to listen but to understand and then read between the lines.

“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” Tommy Smothers

I was always a big fan of The Smothers Brothers back in the day and find interesting how such a simple thought could in effect be a powerful one. If you do not want to hear it don’t listen but let the person speak their piece.

“I guess I’ve spent my life listening to what wasn’t being said.” Eli Khamarov

If we could perhaps things would be different. In politics a journalist is free who was jailed for not speaking out and telling sources however now she is speaking and repercussions could be great.

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

Dr. Laura Nolte so long ago said “Children learn what they live”. I would offer that we should as parents have another line. Children learn to listen by from parents who listen before speaking. In native cultures listening to elders was how education, culture and life was transmitted. I read an article on an elder in South America who was the last of his tribal medicine people. No one wanted to earn the old ways anymore and were too into their modern technology. He was one of the last that still knew the tribal tongue and a National Geographic writer took it upon himself to record the language and ways of this elder. An outsider saw a piece of humanity that was nearly extinct and sat and listening for several months. Hopefully one day these words will be shared and others can listen. I listened to the famous Beatles song Blackbird in the Mohawk tongue yesterday. A beautiful rendition. Sometimes we need to sit, stop and listen.

“Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James Baldwin

Each day I watch and listen and deal with issues of friends, passerby’s, high school teenagers and so many others imitating what they have learned from home. Often simply mirror images of mom and dad or whomever is the one at the house. For today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Just a morning observation

Bird Droppings July 8, 2020
Just a morning observation

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

My wanderings are the expanse of several days of traveling and thinking and observing mankind. Just a few nights ago my son and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature was only a few feet away in its wildest. I was thinking this morning about my quiet spot near my home in Between Georgia where for nearly fifteen years I would sit and ponder until a developer put houses up and it is not quite the same. A trampoline sits on a spot I considered sacred.

A few years back in a small town in the north east quadrant of Georgia sitting on a porch of an old mill house the quiet was over powering along with the gentle breeze and sunshine. Around me birds would occasionally fly into and out of the trees but most of the time without a sound. I was essentially alone sitting listening while everyone else was inside. Only a few hours earlier I had a wonderful experience watching by my own house as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.

Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. This past week or so as we drove home from a quick trip to see my son and his wife and our grandbabies we noticed nearly fifty red tailed hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground.

“Clearly we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

We are going through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter presidential period I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads and rhetoric are the vast majority and from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with another time then that was questionable. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. In New York City a billionaire has been arrested for charges he thought he could escape through political connections. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”.

I received a copy of a book in the mail from a friend in New York several years back after he was published. I had known the title for months prior but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today.
Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all experts liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past year lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. I grew up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions. Even more significant for me was my son while in nursing school, who was over twenty-five was covered under the health care law. If not for that not sure where we would be after his accident in May of 2014 with over three hundred fifty thousand in medical bills that were covered.

I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai who is a seven-note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage of a clear sky and quiet surrounding the trees. I had to stop listen to the music and see this quiet still image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house.

To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Foxfire is a name for a fungus glowing in the dark, until you wander up Black Rock Mountain

Bird Droppings July 7, 2020
Foxfire is a name for a fungus glowing in the dark, until you wander up Black Rock Mountain

A few weeks back I was involved in another synchronous adventure, as I am literally daily. I have been thinking about it ever since. I have been a fan of Carl Jung and the idea of synchronicity for many years and often write about it. I was out and about and by chance had not made breakfast being still out f sync from vacation. I stopped at a local Bojangles to get a chicken biscuit. As I am standing waiting a boisterous voice bellows out Mr. Bird. Standing next to me waiting on his breakfast is a student from 2001 and my first day back to teaching. Oh, the stories I could tell I mentioned to his son about ten years old standing next to him. I started back to teaching after a twenty plus year period away from the class room on September 11, 2001. This fellow walks into the room, a tiny room currently occupied by six girls and myself and loudly proclaims in his booming ninth grade voice “I hate girls.” As the story progresses we became friends and still remain in contact through social media. I had not talked with him in person in at least ten years. All is well with him and his family.

“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 we were reading was Brave New World, written in 1932. You would think that a book thirty years old at that time would not have been that controversial. However, for our class and the reading list we had an English teacher was 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 2020 with a new school year about to start 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 1984, Anthem, and Brave New World which were so controversial in their time more than fifty years ago. Still today these same words 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 day 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. In previous weeks I journeyed up the mountains of North Georgia yesterday to visit the Foxfire property. I had the privilege to speak with a foxfire fellowship student up on the Foxfire Museum property. Foxfire has transitioned to a new idea of summer fellowship student’s developing and writing stories, over a class at the high school. Initially as a student of the Foxfire approach I was concerned. Then my thoughts shifted and even this morning a new epiphany. As I thought the idea of a container as a student. Then I reread this line from Huxley. It is what we do with it. Students were turned loose to learn in 1965 and the culmination is this property and museum of Appalachian culture on the side of a mountain. Now others can relive and see the history of the Rabun county area not simple learn about it in a book.

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 sixty 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 clear mornings today vacationing a slight mist and cloud cover greeted me. For some the stars and constellations provide direction and as the seasons pass the constellations change which denotes 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 on vacation 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’s 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 as 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 family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

The ability to surmount those learning difficulties

Bird Droppings July 4-6 2020
The ability to surmount those learning difficulties

We celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence across the country and we each seem to have ways of doing this. For several years, my oldest has been a demolition expert f sorts sharing his fascination with fireworks with the family. This year was not an exception. We gathered at my brother’s property and the fireworks commenced. Thinking back, it may have been the first time since my mother passed on over a year ago that we gathered as a family. Yesterday morning my youngest son and his family my wife and I escaped the real world for a few days to get some sun and seafood all social distancing and while wearing masks. My granddaughter was getting on the elevator and a custodian told her she was the first child he had seen with a mask on that weekend. Charlie di not bat an eye and responded my grandmommie is a nurse, my daddy is a nurse and my momma is a nurse I know better.

I have watched the materialism of our culture run rampant as a celebration was held at Mount Rushmore and Saturday in Washington another gaudy display. I did not be watch either but spent time with my family. My oldest of course was involved with planning fireworks and we were getting packed etc. Perhaps I should not have read Indian rights activist Russell Means thoughts on the Fourth of July. But I will be cheerful and frivolous and come back to my original thought of learning.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

“There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them.” Phyllis Bottome

An interesting start to my thought process after a wonderful experience the past few days. I was working on some statistics and had an epiphany sitting looking at columns of numbers manipulating data. This can be whatever I want depending on wording and what variables I apply. I have often come to this conclusion when looking at research. Ever since I was told a reading program was data based and I called asking for the demographics of the research. The sample was so small and biased the data was in no way viable. But schools were buying the program in leaps and bounds. As for my thoughts and opening quotes, one from Dr. Seuss and the other a British novelist with over thirty-four books to her credit. Working with at risk kids so often in life I find in general we tend to avoid difficulties, we walk away, we steer clear, and we postpone and or we argue.

“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.” Isak Dinesen

I was watching a student one day working on what for some was a quick assignment merging several different graphics and or creating graphics into a calendar for a project. Each student went in totally different directions. One in a matter of minutes had created a Mario brothers calendar based on old Mario Brothers clips each significant to him. One was on deer hunting there was even a Care Bears focus. However, one fellow was taking each frame and altering photos in a photo program eliminating back grounds and only using specific aspects of each image. Each day he would accomplish only a small portion of what others were doing yet he was totally immersed in his task. In the end he will have a really nice artistic piece, but many hours are involved. Somewhere he was said to be ADHD.

“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.” John Holt

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

There are times when a student procrastinates and I have had several over the years who are world class procrastinators but watching this particular student work at his project meticulously detailing each image is not procrastination and definitely not ADHD.

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

What intrigued me with this project was that this student was normally lazy but this project became of interest to him. Each photo that he had taken in that past semester was being edited and formatted in minute detail and had literally become an obsession. He got in trouble in another class and asked if I would get him out of ISS so he could work on his project. As I looked at the Dan Rather quote I wondered if when he started that he knew he would lose two days’ work when he tried to download to a floppy more than it would hold and crashed. Or that editing a photo pixel by pixel takes time.

“It is surmounting difficulties that make heroes.” Louis Kossuth

“Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.” Carl Gustav Jung

What amazed me was that this student had begun to grow. In many ways he still was very lazy and often would start an assignment in great zeal only to stop before it is completed and be content with a 70%. His attitude had usually been one of I am passing and so what.

“You can’t fly a kite unless you go against the wind and have a weight to keep it from turning a somersault. The same with man. No man will succeed unless he is ready to face and overcome difficulties and is prepared to assume responsibilities.” William J. H. Boetcker

“For every difficulty that supposedly stops a person from succeeding there are thousands who have had it a lot worse and have succeeded anyway. So can you.” Brian Tracy

As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark, that special piece, that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life that always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an email story the other day that was a tear jerker. Granted it probably does not pass the fact check and such but still a good story. Let me share this story with you whether you are a teacher, parent, student and or just a friend.

“There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.” His second-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third-grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’ laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. And she paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class, and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.” A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you for much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” A boy named Teddy, this work of fiction was penned by Elizabeth Silance Ballard in 1974 and printed that year in HomeLife magazine, a Baptist family publication, where it was clearly labeled as fiction and presented as such, not as an account of a real-life personal experience. Although Ballard based some of the details on elements of her own life.

This story is fiction but a great fiction story. I would like to hope I can be like Mrs. Thompson and sometimes all it takes is a teacher or a friend that cares.

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

I am sitting here finalizing my thoughts to teach an existential lesson to other teachers, as I joke about so often being an existentialist. One day as I walked down the hall with another teacher, we were commenting on how many teachers had been teaching here six or more years and it was more than half. Last night I ran into a teacher who no longer taught at that school from our hall. The teachers who are gone had learned and those that remain are learners interesting as I think back and forward reading Hoffer’s thought. Hoffer was a self-educated man, a philosopher coming from the docks of New York City his first book True Believer was written in the early 1950’s in his middle age and he never slowed down till his death in 1982.

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

So today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not be simply learned. 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

In a world of data can we still use intuition?

Bird Droppings July 2, 2020
In a world of data can we still use intuition?

I had a thought this morning and it’s kind of depressing when I think about it. We are basically training our new teachers in all the things that we as older teachers find wrong in education. (pre NCLB) It hit me as we are teaching all these new teachers how to take tests the “right” way. We are teaching all these new teachers that standardized testing is good and essential. We are teaching all these new teachers to skip the critical thinking parts of life in order to adhere to mandated standards. We are skipping the pieces that teach about imagination. Sadly, we teach we need to skip all these things because we need to concentrate on testing. I see far to often their courses are now being focused around how to take tests, how to teach kids to take tests, and how to talk to kids about testing. We are losing imagination and we are losing critical thinking skills in our new teachers. A piece I find disheartening is we too are losing all the stories. We are losing all the creativity and losing the individuality of the students by taking it away from the teachers.

It is the inherent skill sets that often make a great teacher. I am speaking of those almost instinctual attributes. Granted in a scientific study more than likely these are learned skills but there is an aspect that is still not with all teachers. I mentioned to a fellow teacher I can tell when a child has emotional issues after observing a few minutes and listening. Granted observations are part of most evaluations but I was referring to an intuitive aspect of observation. Something we learn perhaps as we experience and live life. Over the years several children I have worked with I have recommended additional involvement and unfortunately also got to say I told you so in future although I have refrained from actually saying that.

“Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” Edwin Hubbel Chapin

As I was discussing the final class debriefing as it is called in a teacher training program. I recall a thought hit me as to why some teachers can do more than others. Why some teachers succeed where others flounder, intuition, a simple thought and a difficult concept to teach to another. This is an area most education classes forget. I have for many years considered teaching an art form. There is an aspect of teaching that separates great teachers from poor teachers.

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” John Steinbeck

“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” Michael Burke

Knowing what to do at a specific moment intuitively is not easily taught in a classroom it has to be experienced and understood at a deeper level.

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” Dr. Benjamin Spock

“Instinct is untaught ability.” Bain

In a teacher training session on grading one time, I listened to seasoned teachers discuss how they would do this or that. One teacher said do you have that written down, what is your starting point? How much planning time do you allow? I watched and heard in disbelief in this situation that was one of a teachable moment go by the way side. The person speaking turned around stunned as I was and said I really do not plan it takes ten minutes to jot down a daily note to my students and each day they experience new things and we build on that.

“Instinct is intelligence incapable of self-consciousness.” John Sterling

I began thinking of key words in teaching, intuition being a good starting point. Always when teaching anachronisms help and I found, IESP, Intuition, Empathy, Sympathy and Perception. These are all aspects of a good teacher and a good parent and a good person as well.

“Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” Dr. Joyce Brothers

In doing research on intuition in years gone by, many psychologists believe we have stored experiences and concepts that we do not even recall that are the basis for intuition.

“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.” Florence Scovel Shinn

There are other researchers who consider aspects yet undiscovered as a basis for intuitiveness and intuition.

“A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action.” Jawaharlal Nehru

So many years ago Nehru was the first Prime Minister of an independent India and as well a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

“Instinct is the nose of the mind.” Madame De Girardin

I saw this note and it intrigued me. Instinct being a door opener and perhaps starting point, a beginning it could be possibly even one of our senses.

“I would rather trust a woman’s instinct than a man’s reason.” Stanley Baldwin

I do not know exactly what this entity is we call intuition. I have observed many teachers and parents, workers and managers. Some know answers and others have to understand and solve the issues. As I was thinking and pondering the past few days I always seem to come back to a favorite quote.

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

One of my red neck buddies responded, “what the h— does that have to do with intuition”? Some of us have a goal a destination but the journey the getting there is as critical and crucial as the end result. Each aspect of the pathway is essential rather than simply the end of the trip. When you are looking as you go you see so much more. I recall a long trip as a child and we would play games looking for animals. If you choose to look only for red tailed hawks, it would be miles and even hours between birds. If you choose birds and how many different ones you can see we up the chances of every few seconds or minutes seeing something. Open that to all animals and now every few seconds and you are looking for details in the road side and trees and grass. Life is so similar some people are looking for specifics so minute they seldom find what they are looking for. Others see every nook and cranny. Intuition is in the crannies I think.

“The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.“ Anonymous

I wish I had said that. 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