Sometimes history is a teacher and for others only a memory

Bird Droppings August 31, 2020

Sometimes history is a teacher and for others only a memory

 

The anniversary of a day that will be a scar on our nation’s history is soon upon us.  On September 15, 1963 an explosion tore through the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, it was a Sunday. People had gathered for church four young girls were killed twenty-two others injured. FBI investigations led to four members of the Ku Klux Klan who had planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the front steps of the church. The event in days after was described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.”

 

Over the next ten years one of the suspects was tried and convicted and after fifty years two others were tried and convicted the fourth individual died before a conviction occurred. I was teaching a college class on US History four years back and mentioned this in class. By chance my class was entirely nonwhite. We were discussing the end of World War Two and Harry Truman’s decision to drop the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sitting there discussing with my class an event that I could not justify in my own philosophy of life, the shear destruction of life in one single event knowing what has come from that bomb in future years. History has a way of leading to wisdom yet on so many issues we tend to simply push aside what we could learn.

 

Recently I had the mother of three former students tell me how much her sons and daughter thought of me while I was going into my current favorite store, Kroger. So here I am sitting at my computer pondering in the quiet on a Sunday morning during Labor Day weekend. We all need ego stroking at one time or another. I recalled back to when I had those particular students in class and how difficult a time it was and yet so often when we pay attention to a student, or too a friend we do not realize how much we are truly affecting that person. Many times, it is years later as is the case with this parent commenting to me a few nights ago as I walked in the store.

 

“I reach down and touch the delicate leaf of a plant. My friend’s words rise up in my heart. ‘Everything lives, everything dies, and everything leans to the light.’ If I only knew this it would be enough.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

 

When we show a bit of light to an individual they turn just as the plant will slowly turn to face the light in many ways that person will as well. I recall a few years ago one of my students requested to be in my resource class all day, I really did not want them all day, but he responded how I did things made sense to him. Friendship so often is like sunlight. I started replacing my overhead lights a few years ago with grow lights. Actually, the color is so much easier to deal with and colors of things are more real than the sickening yellow of standard fluorescent bulbs.

 

“Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.” St. Thomas Aquinas

 

How do we support friends and throw sunlight their way, maybe simple things, quiet things, a touch, a smile, an email.

 

“Friendship is one of the most tangible things in a world which offers fewer and fewer supports.” Kenneth Branagh

 

“I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar.” Robert Brault

 

A few days ago, I printed out several pictures, two were of owls that were in effect clay turned jug owls, made by a folk potter from north Georgia. I met Grace Nell Hewell who was the matriarch of a family of potters in Gillsville Georgia years ago. She was potter from a family that had been at same location turning pots for a living for six generations.  I dropped them off in my friend’s room two years ago, no reason really just for being a friend, she used to teach art and talked about potters in her sculpture class; sometimes we just do simple things. My dear friend passed away and I recalled lending her my pottery owls.

 

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend — or a meaningful day.” Dalai Lama

 

“I do then with my friends as I do with my books. I would have them where I can find them, but I seldom use them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

So much of my life while when I retired was monastic. I was by myself most of the day. I enjoy interacting but I also enjoy my tranquil time thoughts.  When I am speaking of friends often I will say I really do not have that many friends one or two and usually a name or two will scroll through my head. Yet when I am walking about in life there are few who I do not truly consider friends. I sit back in my chair at school typing away at my computer a row of books put together recently when a friend of my sons took interest in an area of thought I have been following for several years. Behind me shelves of books, theology, education, psychology, literature and poetry surround the walls and directly in front of me a quote.

 

“A very powerful axe in a master’s hand accomplishes much, that same in the hands of            a child nothing.” Edited by A.J. Russell, from Gods Calling

 

Emerson would have to be one of my heroes and I always seem to have something from him at my fingertips often paraphrased a bit; friends are like books, you have them there on a shelf sort of waiting for the need or specific instance that you will have. I ran into a friend from school as I went shopping at the grocery store, she said she hates to go grocery shopping and will try and go once a month. I go daily, to see my friends I never know who I might meet, coincidences. Yesterday I went for a few items and a student who was absent was there riding his skate board we talked, another inside, a friend whom I have known for years was also shopping. So often my wife warns me as I walk in don’t stop and talk to all of your friends you will be all day.

 

“Give me work to do, give me health, give me joy in simple things, give me an eye for beauty, A tongue for truth, A heart that loves, A mind that reasons, A sympathy that understands. Give me neither malice nor envy, But a true kindness and a noble common sense. At the close of each day give me a book and a friend with whom I can be silent.” S. M. Frazier

 

How do we as friends support each other midst the turmoil of life and tribulations of simply walking the face of the earth, how do we support each other as we struggle to cross the stream with the rocks slippery and wet.

 

“Friendship needs no words…” Dag Hammarskjold

 

“But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life; and thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine.” Thomas Jefferson

 

A seldom heard phrase, a seldom whispered thought, and a seldom thought idea is only seldom responded too, so then do it, as NIKE says and or be a friend.

 

“The real test of friendship is: Can you literally do nothing with the other person? Can you enjoy together those moments of life that are utterly simple? They are the moment’s people look back on at the end of life and number as their most sacred experiences.” Eugene Kennedy

 

As I finish up this dropping and in the course of the last hour or so thoughts of friends not just one or two that I would attest to but ever so many that I see and talk too every day each moment and email. Some are in college and I will see once a year or two maybe some I have not seen in several years and simple correspond daily in email and of course social media. Still others share my home and some I see each day as I walk the halls at school or sit in the hall way observing and listening as folks go by. Friendship is a cement to build a life on as we travel from here to there, friends are everywhere. Sitting back that sort of sounds like Dr. Seuss, so today justice to all and 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

I am told, there is a reason.

Bird Droppings August 29, 2020

I am told, there is a reason.

 

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” Robert Byrne

 

I often wonder about this idea, as have so many before me and will after I am gone. Philosophers wonder, and wise men ponder, is their purpose, a reason for each of our existences. Over the years, numerous books and articles show the intertwining and interconnecting of lives, and reality, have been written and reflected on by many great thinkers. I have seen the interplay daily of my own experience with others in the school where I teach and my family and friends.

 

“To have no set purpose in one’s life is the harlotry of the will.” Stephen MacKenna

 

“Great minds have purposes; others have wishes.” Washington Irving

 

Many thinkers of one school of thought consider that we go at life with a purpose; however, it is a cognitively involved rationale for existence. This is control of self, of the mind within the individual, and it is that is where that purpose exists and is carried out.

 

“We should all be obliged to appear before a board every five years and justify our existence… on pain of liquidation.” George Bernard Shaw

 

Shaw perhaps goes a bit far, but daily, do we not have to justify our existence as we interact and are involved with others in this reality?

 

“An “unemployed” existence is a worse negation of life than death itself.” José Ortega y Gasset

 

So often, I see children and adults, both wandering with really no purpose. Sadly I see this, yet could there be more to it than a self-motivated purpose and self-imposed rational process that provides all answers?

 

“A useless life is an early death.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

Are we subject each of us to others’ opinions as to why we are here, or is this an individualistic program of deliberation of each person finding their independent reason? Is there an over blanket of purpose, perhaps some ethereal veil that shrouds us all in purpose?

 

“I love the valiant, but it is not enough to wield a broadsword, one must also know against whom.” Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Perhaps a bit deep, but Nietzsche always is as he is drawing his illustration to that of knighthood. It is one thing to be a knight but is their purpose if there is no opposition or no foe to defeat.

 

“When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” Seneca

There is a compass, directional beacon, sense of whom and where we are in the world within each of us. That driving force, that searching for the harbor could be our purpose in life and existence?

 

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” George Bernard Shaw

 

A bit dramatic and direct Shaw draws the difference between seeking self-indulgence versus a higher goal in our search.

 

“To have a grievance is to have a purpose in life.” Alan Coren

 

Seeing fault can be just having a different opinion or a different view and then asking why. These, too, are aspects of our makeup that provide individualism and uniqueness to our days.

 

“Men, like nails, lose their usefulness when they lose direction and begin to bend.” Walter Savage Landor

 

Life is a journey; how many times have I use that phrase? I think I do so literally daily as I talk with students, teachers, parents, and friends. Each facet of the puzzle is as complex and crucial to the whole as the next. We each have a purpose and have meaning. Far too often, we underestimate who and what we are. We demean ourselves in self-pity and doubt. I will use the illustration of a puzzle, a magnificent jigsaw puzzle with millions of pieces. Each of the pieces has many facets, each more intricate than the next. They are all falling into place within this life. Occasionally, we see the connections, but more so than not, we see the puzzle piece’s gray backing.

 

“We learn geology the morning after the earthquake.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Life is much like a great play unfolding, although many times we never do see the script till the act is over. As we start a new week and with so much turmoil both here and abroad, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts namaste.

 

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Why do we have public education? To educate all our Children.

Bird Droppings August 28, 2020
Why do we have public education?
To educate all our Children.

For all teachers today is a day of action. Standup for what you believe in. I read an article that references children as others yesterday. The way a profiteer looks at children are entities, simply others, consumers and I have seen the world capital used in state documents as well. In a short note yesterday, I wrote sarcastically I was about to retire and homeschool my grandchildren over the craziness in education brought about by corporate profiteers. However, I chose to fight this insanity in any way I can. We as teachers need to stand up. First be a great teacher not just an average teacher. It is amazing the difference between a teacher and a great teacher to kids. When kids engage in a class they learn.

“Instead of seeing these children for the blessings that they are, we are measuring them only by the standard of whether they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs.” Jonathan Kozol

On the front page of our main local paper recently several articles all related to education and all discussing the impact of cuts to funding and how we are now adding to costs through constant increased evaluations but not providing finds. Of course, the added costs of social distancing and Covid 19 is combined in there. One is based on a popular scholarship program funded through Georgia State Lottery funds which the scholarship committee is chaired by a Representative who opposed the lottery to begin with back in the beginning how ironic is that. More ironic is that this representative just resigned amid investigations into his former employer. Our governor who hit the ground with education in his sights for funding cuts and in same article proposed cutting corporate taxes. Somewhere in this ridiculous thinking logic seems lost.

As I read the article it is interesting how the arguments of college tuition rising and costs of education increasing for college students seemed to be in a way misrepresented. The state cut funding to state colleges over the past eight years which forced state colleges to raise tuition which lead to increases in Hope scholarship funding which was set up to cover cost of tuition for state colleges. Funny I recall a similar pattern in Florida where the lottery was billed as a saving grace to education in the beginning and as the years went on state funding to education was cut and eventually lottery funding was cut and many fantastic educational programs once lauded nationwide were gone.

While a staunch supporter of public education there are times when I raise the question should we even have it? Why not be a nation of an educated elite and a subservient uneducated mass who can then run the industrial complex which we no longer have and or work at minimum wage in what service industry jobs are available. So quickly we forget there is little industry left in US, interestingly Wal-Mart is the leading employers in the nation so everyone can now work in service and retail taking care of the educated elite. I am being caustic about our educational situation and so many other attitudes towards it. I personally believe in the public education system in the US it might need some tweaking but it has produced many great individuals and it is still one of the greatest in the world contrary to popular thinking and test results.

“Many of the productivity and numbers specialists who have rigidified and codified school policy in recent years do not seem to recognize much preexisting value in the young mentalities of children and, in children of the poor. Few of these people seem to be acquainted closely with the lives of children and, to be blunt as possible about this, many would be dreadful teachers because, in my own experience at least, they tend to be rather grim-natured people who do not have lovable or interesting personalities and, frankly would not be much fun for kids to be with.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher

I think where I am having difficulty is we so often grasp at very thin straws and the loudest brightest new idea that comes down the pike at least this is how it seems in education. Talk to any teacher with experience and they will joke about the cycles in education. We have a new math curriculum in Georgia that is wreaking havoc on students. One of the previous texts we were using had no explanations in it only problems. So when a student goes home to do for homework say fifty problems and if the student does not know how to do problems and asks a parent unless the parent knows how there is no way to help the student.

“I am more and more convinced that we in the schooling game have no idea what real learning is about. It is no wonder that we embrace every so-called new idea that comes down the pike, and yet nothing really changes. We are the proverbial dog chasing its tail.” Dr. Grant Bennett

I thank Dr. Bennett, a former professor and friend again for a morning quote that I could use. I started on an idea the other day as I finished up my Bird Dropping about perhaps looking at the bottom end of the spectrum rather than always looking at the top in education. How do we help those who always seem to fail or not succeed in school? Within our own school we have added graduation coaches and other supplemental staff to work with high risk students. But still we are working to attain a goal based on best students and not on potential or rationale that has mired this or that student in the bottom end of the educational barrel. We never look at the bottom outliers of the bell-shaped curve.

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” John F. Kennedy

I think there are issues with semantics and understanding as to what we deem success in education or in politics, battle, or the gaining and or lack of wealth. At our state level we continue to talk about raising the bar even though many are still failing. Raising the bar does nothing to improve those who cannot attain the bar to begin with let alone those who will self-defeat as standards and challenges get more strenuous. So often the test scores of various countries are compared, and we are somewhere not near the top and politicians want to be at the top.

A point made in an extensive article yesterday was in international testing poverty is not considered. When you equate poverty into the mix and separate scores the USA is on top in every category. Take out children in poverty from test scores and the USA is on top. Look at comparable countries with similar poverty and USA education is the highest scoring. We are being successful when you look at test scores in light of what and who are being tested.

In many countries of the industrialized world education is number one and somewhere around twelve years of age in those countries’ children going into trades and those going into secondary education part ways. Effectively we are testing all children in the US while many other countries are only testing those who are going into college. I had a friend who taught in Korea for a year in an exchange program. She made the comment that Koreans children planned on three hours of homework each night. There was not time for TV or video games or phone calls and texting it was serious and all about education.

“We are the children of this beautiful planet that we have seen photographed from the moon. We were not delivered into it by some god but have come forth from it. And the earth, together with the sun, this light around which it flies like a moth, came forth from a nebula….and that nebula, in turn, from space. So we are the mind, ultimately, of space, each in his own way at one with all….and with no horizons…” Joseph Campbell

Over the past three years I have spent a few mornings in other states attending and participating in weddings and births of grandchildren. I am still a bit tired from the driving and nonstop pace of the past three years. I went looking for quotes to use today and found this statement by Campbell. As I thought of Dr. Bennett’s words and those of Jonathan Kozol it seemed to filter through Campbell’s thought. Education is not a static closed ended entity but vast and limitless and individually unique to each person and student.

“Life’s a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler, Amazing

For a number of years, I have used this simple quote by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. The song it comes from is one of addiction and pain and in many ways, this is Steven Tyler’s journey back from addiction. I keep thinking to education and our continued effort trying to get to the destination without the journey. It is always simply a quick fix.

“You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk” Steven Tyler

Who would have thought Steven Tyler took Human Development. Sort of reminds me of Piaget and I have always been a big fan of human development with each aspect of our lives passing through stages one stage after the other. I keep thinking back to my original thought of education and should we even have public education. Many people want education to be clean and neat all children learn the same and no child will be left behind yet each child is totally unique and then problems arise. Publishers cannot cost effectively produce books for each student needs and curriculum people cannot provide the multiple disseminations of a subject in a way that teachers can efficiently teach.

We coined a great word in education diversification. In classes we are to diversify and teach to every level of student. Technically that is nearly thirty different levels if we have thirty kids in class. I was pondering a program we have for mentally impaired students entitled The Georgia Alternative Assessment. Basically, the State standards are taken and tasks that sort of meet that standard are employed to evaluate a student’s capabilities meeting that standard. So, in effect a student on GAA might have two standards to have tasks applied to in biology and is checked at various points during the year to see if there is progression and a portfolio is compiled and then graded. Several millions of dollars are spent evaluating these portfolios and then if standards are accepted by evaluator student can receive a high school diploma. Sadly, a student who does not meet MI qualifications has to meet the same standards as a college track student. Quite a bit of differentiation I would say and having been involved in GAA formatting rather ridiculous.

“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.” Dag Hammarskjold

Sent as a delegate to The United Nations in 1949 he was elected Secretary of the UN in 1951 by a near unanimous vote he presided over the UN in its early years and many world tribulations. During his time in office we had the founding of Israel, the Korean War, and the independence of countries worldwide along with the spread of communism in Europe. As I read Hammarskjöld’s words this morning, I found this as well.

“Tomorrow we shall meet, Death and I and he shall thrust his sword into one who is wide awake.” Dag Hammarskjöld

He lived each step on his journey to the fullest and it was these words that he wrote as a young man that embellish his tombstone.

“No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.” Henry Miller

So often in life we come to a place where do we walk across the field or do, we follow the edge of the field safely. Some will choose to go the shortest distance between two lines and walk abruptly across never looking at the newly planted field and seedlings sprouting leaving trampled crops beneath their feet. Others fearful of being in the open choose immediately to walk the edge staying close to the woods for safety. It is a choice and we make them daily. The direction of your own journey is based on your choices each day.

“It’s not what’s happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it’s your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you’re going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny.” Anthony Robbins

“Nature is at work… Character and destiny are her handiwork. She gives us love and hate, jealousy and reverence. All that is ours is the power to choose which impulse we shall follow.” David Seabury

As a teacher and learner, I travel the pathway always looking trying to see all I can in my travels. I am constantly reading on how to improve my own teaching and that of others. I am always trying to understand who and what I see and why. I try to instill that curiosity in my students as they travel their own journeys and for me it is always about the journey.

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I will have to continue another day looking further at should we have public education. Please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

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

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A beginning from an end

Bird Droppings August 27, 2020
A beginning from an end

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

I was thinking back a few years, nightly summer storms had come through, and amazingly, our granddaughter had slept through them. Our dog is another story waking up at the first crack of thunder. It was about eleven years back when a friend dropped by for a couple of days. This was the first time he had been around in this area for nearly three years after moving away. In our course of topics as we talked late into the evening on two nights was the idea of teaching as an art form. We talked about life views and how so often I have, on occasions, seen things others have not. Wandering around as I do to look for pictures, often images others would pass up. One of our discussions over breakfast discussed intuition and empathy as crucial aspects of being a good teacher.

Another topic was how so often in life, we tend to view daily happenings as mundane, and yet in that moment of every day, miracles are happening. In our backyard, we have since we have moved here put in numerous flower beds in one bed we have several ferns along with angel trumpet plants and several other flowering shrubs. However, one bed is unique; nearly every flower attracts hummingbirds. Coincidentally we planted petunias last year around the edge, and I was pulling dead flowers off when I heard a loud humming buzzing sound. I was dive-bombed by a hummingbird. My wife had me place a hummingbird feeder in the tree which centers the bed. The hummingbird food was regularly getting gone, and I had just refilled it, it has become one of my jobs to keep feeders filled come summertime. It will not be too long till they are back from Mexico, and as I look up hearing the buzzing, I will see hummingbirds feeding directly beside me, and who knows, maybe this year I will get a good picture.

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

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

It is only words that I write, yet I see it and experience it for someone a thousand miles away, and yet for someone here nearby unless they are willing to rise at 3:00 AM, they too will not see or hear what I see and hear. So, in effect, a writer offers glimpses of another world’s experience to those willing to read. I provided as my friend, and I talked it is about renewing our perception sharpening our senses to see and hear and feel more than we do today.

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

Many considered Einstein to be an atheist for his very often blunt statements about religion. Yet, if you read very many of his nonscientific views, there is a spiritual aspect to them. He was an artist and a philosopher as well. Today is a day unlike most other days I have experienced with my friend talking about many old thoughts and memories discussed years ago. Sitting reminiscing about his days in seminary and choosing to go back to teaching and how that impacted his life. There is an end and the beginning of every journey, and at one point, I even asked him if he was in the right place now. Without blinking an eye, he responded he was never happier and knew this was where he was meant to be directly in his life journey as I know I am where I am now.

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

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

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

A year or so ago, I referenced my recent experience in a paper for graduate school, as somewhat of a clearing of a haze from things I had forgotten. It was as if things were clarifying from many years ago. Often what is learned is not just from books but from experiencing, living, seeing, and believing. I travel a road others have journeyed on, and many others have succeeded in going beyond that road. Yet it is new to me each day, for I choose to see more than the day before. For me, it is wilderness opening new trails not yet approached by civilization. For me, it is fresh and vibrant even though many see only the mundane and stale.
It might be the flight and blinking of a firefly or the snort of breath as a buffalo crossing the pasture years ago, or the call of a whippoorwill off in the trees. It may be in the feather left for me as a hawk soared through the sky. I recall a movie where they start, and the end was nothing more than a piece of fluff blowing about until it gained import with Forest Gump and was placed in a special place in his life. We do not know how someone will react to anything we do or say or write from moment to moment. I spoke with my friend about interconnections and how this is the art of our existence. It is in the perception, the seeing, feeling, and hearing of our heartbeat.

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

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

“On the basis of the belief that all human beings share the same divine nature, we have a very strong ground, a very powerful reason, to believe that it is possible for each of us to develop a genuine sense of equanimity toward all beings.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “The Good Heart
“Strength based in force is a strength people fear. Strength based in love is a strength people crave. It is as true today as it was then and as true for nations as individuals. Unfortunately, too few of each are listening.” Kent Nerburn

Nerburn addressed a friend’s comment about Viet Nam and those of us old enough to have been drafted and or serve in that time of war. Looking at politicians’ news and comments the past few days, this passage from the Dalai Lama struck a chord with me. A friend and I did while he was here was to see each of my sons since my friend had been involved with them in youth work and music. Of course, that included riding down to Georgia Tech and going for a campus tour in the Tech mascot, the Ramblin Wreck. Recently I was watching old videos, and spending numerous hours with my sons catching up reminded me how significant today could be. Now I can end for this morning of storms is another week ahead, so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

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

Quietly listening to Hot Tuna and pondering the word inspiration

Bird Droppings August 26, 2020

Quietly listening to Hot Tuna and pondering the word inspiration

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

Dressed in hip hop clothing, a young black man stood in front of us. He made his point not one person approached him as he boogied through the crowd before the meeting. So, I start today with a quote from a young college professor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Driving up a mountain takes effort

Bird Droppings August 24, 2020
Driving up a mountain takes effort

 

I am looking forward to another trip to Black Rock Mountain in North Georgia, the site of the Foxfire Museum property and the former site of the Piedmont College’s teacher’s class in The Foxfire Approach to teaching. My oldest son took the course as a piece of his master’s degree program at Piedmont College as did I. But interestingly enough several folks from Loganville Georgia attended his course. One of the teachers as we went around the room doing introductions made a comment about an interesting point for her was the first time she had ever held a snake was in my room at Loganville High School holding Stevie my ball python. Sadly, Stevie has since passed away at over thirty years old. Sitting here thinking actually there is a picture of her 2003 State Champion Softball team on my wall as well.

 

Sitting and listening to teachers and teachers to be in the discussions that go around the room with lead facilitators providing a frame work within which to expound or expand the conversation is a starting point of a weeklong session. Just prior to leaving the house to drive up a few years ago I had hit on an idea for my dissertation topic which has been eluding me for some time. I had been sitting in a discussion with a former student and he offered the idea of that I had shown him or helped him find out more about a subject through the stories I would tell from experience. The topic caught wind and is now developing into my dissertation. Inspiring passion in learning through storytelling.

 

When I left Mountain City from that last course and drove back to the lower lands of Walton County I felt excited about the course going on and my own epiphany that morning with the idea of storytelling as a key to learning. John Dewey’s book, Experience and Education sits to my left as I write and the past few days, I have borrowed from it several times as I jotted ideas down. But it is within the community of fellow learners and teachers we find answers and again more questions to ask. I thrive on the idea of learning even though I am sure many of my high school teachers and some college professors would argue. When students want to learn and desire to learn amazing things can be accomplished.

 

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuse the work teachers and learners do together.” Core Practice One from The Foxfire Core Practices

 

John Dewey and his thoughts run through the Foxfire Approach to Teaching with an emphasis on a democratic classroom, experience as a means of learning and student input into the process of learning. I find that this is a rather simple statement this initial core practice which along with the other nine have evolved over the past nearly fifty years of teacher interactions and discussions from literally around the world. But so often a key attribute is missed and that is that students and teachers do this undertaking together. Last summer listening to sixteen nearly teachers and active teachers respond to why they were involved in this class provided me with a sense of maybe there are a few who get it in the world.

 

In education we talk about test scores which are also what is used to measure in most schools to federal and state guidelines. Standardized tests given to all students at the end or near end of a school term on specific subjects that are to measure what students have learned. Sadly, many students could take the same test at the beginning of the term and score the same so is that really a valid measure of what is learned probably not. Far too many teachers avoid discussing the concept of learning; they are engrossed in standards, curriculum, forms and teacher manuals on the subject. So, I sit here offering learning is a stream to cross and or an art form. Both of these ideas are fluid, moving and ever changing.

 

“Measuring tools lead to quantification; the tools in the arts lead to qualification.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

Do we ever truly measure learning? I have been wondering this since I started back into teaching although in various different words and meanings. A simple measure would be giving a pre-test and post-test which would show where a student started and where they ended. On a far more involved scenario would be that of using portfolios gathering the evidence as the student progresses through material. They are effectively used in some schools to measure learning and student’s growth. These would consist of gathering artifacts along the way from the student. Essays, reports, assignments, any piece of material that is involved in the student’s educational life could be considered an artifact.

 

“With respect to art and its meaning I share Dewey’s view that art is a mode of human experience that in principle can be secured whenever an individual interacts with any aspect of the world.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

I am wandering as I sit here this morning pondering an article to write on critical pedagogy after a weekend trip to see grand kids and a week back teaching. I sat down yesterday, trying to write but my energy level had deteriorated even after two five-hour energy shots and I did little more than ponder a moment. I am excited thinking about the kids I am teaching currently perhaps among them a future teacher who will be experiencing some interesting and enlightening ideas and concepts across their course. 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

 

Progressive versus traditional teachers

Bird Droppings August 22, 2020
Progressive versus traditional teachers

 

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

 

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

 

In 1976 or so I was given a class of thirteen students, and I was told they were learning disabled.  As day one progressed, I found someone put down the wrong disability on most of these kids. My principal emphasized reading and I found very quickly the highest reading level in the entire class was three or four years behind. I was not privileged to see folders of students I was to only know they are learning disabled. Our readers were the Dick and Jane type books from first grade and my youngest student was twelve. I learned day one these books we were reading would not work period after having one nearly miss my head. At least my teacher’s podium was not set on fire as happened to Elliot Wiggington back in his first teaching job. When I went home that night I swore day two would be different.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

What do teachers really know?

Bird Droppings August 19, 2020
What do teachers really know?

 

“Teachers are one of the most important resources a nation has for providing the skills, values and knowledge that prepare young people for productive citizenship – but more than this, to give sanctuary to their dreams and aspirations for a future of hope, dignity and justice. It is indeed ironic, in the unfolding nightmare in Newtown, that only in the midst of such a shocking tragedy are teachers celebrated in ways that justly acknowledge – albeit briefly and inadequately – the vital role they play every day in both protecting and educating our children.” Henry Giroux, The War against teachers as public intellectuals in dark times

 

Over the past year I have read so many articles and blogs glorifying concealed weapons and toting how a single armed teacher could have saved the day in Newton Ct. I find it so remarkably interesting that the largest lobby for guns and gun ownership is silent and avoids coming up with a solution. I read an article or post where someone compared making a bomb at home.  Perhaps the conspiracies unravelling around the ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut got that started. Sadly, it was done on a huge scale with easily purchased fertilizer and diesel fuel not enough years ago in Oklahoma City or have we forgotten the children who died there. A concealed weapon would not have mattered in that situation. As a psychology back grounded person and having spent several years working with severely disturbed students in years gone by I continue to look towards more support to mental health where funding has been stripped to the bone and many situations are now in private corporations hands that while taking care of their needs for those who need help they do very little actual caring for. So many issues and so many answers flying about that seldom get addressed.

 

. “The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.” Booker T. Washington

 

Yesterday I received an email containing a letter from a well-known professor of education at the University of Georgia. The letter was about the emphasis on testing “what we know”, and how this is not a reflection of education, simply teaching students to take a test or borrowing from Sydney J. Harris “stuffing sausages.” The issue then becomes how we measure what a person does learn. One of the best methods of measuring learning is a portfolio system. Most elected officials want data in terms of their stay in office not a portfolio twenty years in the making which makes this method a hard sell.

 

“I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life. It conceives the school as a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be learned, or where certain habits are to be formed. The value of these is conceived as lying largely in the remote future; the child must do these things for the sake of something else he is to do; they are mere preparation. As a result, they do not become a part of the life experience of the child and so are not truly educative.” John Dewey

 

I just went back and reread UGA professor Dr. Glickman’s letter and have formatted it and saved it on my computer. John Dewey knew cramming knowledge was not the answer. Modern educators argue as I mentioned several days ago we cannot simply fill a bottle with knowledge. In life not just in education we want to be able to determine our successes and failures. Over my years many of which have been in industry, indirectly in developing materials for training. Specifically, in industry we developed and used a term, an acronym, ISMEC.

 

In industry there is a goal a rather simple one and that is profit. In order to increase profit, you have to decrease losses. ISMEC was a tool to do this. There were underlying humanitarian issues in heavy industry, where loss also means loss of life as well. But loss time is amount of time without a loss and in some industries, this is measured between deaths or injuries. For example, in deep rock mining which is one of those industries where how many man hours between deaths is calculated. The equation becomes how many deaths per million-man hours of work. ISMEC came to industry in the early 1960’s and revolutionized industry. A simple acronym, Identify, Set standards, Measure, Evaluate, Correct and or Commend.

 

In industry to find and identify you look at the maintenance department and find where issues are and build from there. In a community currently, we use test scores what if we looked at the maintenance department, the jails, rehab facilities, counseling services, doctors and such to see where we needed support and modifications rather than standardized tests scores. It might cost too much or confidentiality could be an issue and we would have a difficult time accomplishing within elected officials time in office is a crucial one. What if we went a step closer to home and checked on in school and out of school suspensions and detentions as a marker for problems.

 

“Our students are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in American history and unparalleled anywhere in the world. Politicians and businesspeople, determined to get tough with students and teachers, have increased the pressure to raise standardized test scores. Unfortunately, the effort to do so typically comes at the expense of more meaningful forms of learning” Alfie Kohn

 

For the first time in twenty years back in teaching I can say we will not be involved in end of course tests and such across this country. As I think about this, previously four teachers I know had four distinctly differing percentages of pass rates. County, State, and Federal officials look at pass rates only. My first question is, are these classes the same in makeup? How many included special educations students since new state laws allow up to ten and more if approved. How many at risk students and remedial students that have not tested well in previous grades. After looking at specifics say in the biology test. The highest pass rate was in an advanced class of biology with a one hundred percent pass rate. As we went through the scoring the numbers of special education students and at risk increased to a teacher whose class had a seventy seven percent pass rate had sixty three percent either special ed and or at risk. What was also amazing was looking at top scores a higher percentage of non-special ed and non-at-risk students exceeded ninety percent than in advanced class.

So what do we do as parents, teachers, friends, and families do? How do we change the directions and aspirations of those who set the precedent? We live in a democracy and we hold that power in voting. Many Presidents of our United States have argued the merits of removing or not removing various taxes, wars, health care reform, and our economy and yet I have heard little about education. I sat down at my computer today at the local Honda dealer while my car is being serviced. As I read various Facebook posts and other social media I can’t help thinking people are buying this dribble, yet whoever is elected seems to do whatever is needed to stay elected and not about what should or could truly turn our country and the world around. We have stabilized gas prices recently and panic from the general population is sedated versus running around just a few short months ago trying to save twenty cents a gallon at a cheaper store. We seem to forget that our children are the future and how they view the world will impact that future. How they understand their world will impact their future.

 

As I close this morning we gain knowledge and we learn and we try and through our voting during elections we can hopefully change society, borrowing from a recent election, yes, we can. So many years ago, a movie ended with an elderly man offering a bit of wisdom, “use it wisely” as the old knight in the Indiana Jones movie says. Today use it wisely and please 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

The synchronicity saga and or saga of synchronicity

Bird Droppings August 19, 2020
The synchronicity saga and or saga of synchronicity

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with the idea that it is literally a “pet” notion, and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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