An eclectic morning

Bird Droppings October 20, 2020
An eclectic morning

It has been a few years since over lunch a group of students and I began discussing, The Davinci Code and other philosophical diversions and fearing death as a basis for religion came up. As I get older sitting around wondering about life and death each little joint pain or chest pain, I wonder will I see my grandkids again one more time. Sitting here thinking I had not ever considered this idea before a trip to the pulmonologist and being confronted with my own mortality. What took me to the doctor turned out to be something that can be controlled by a healthier lifestyle and eating and not the potentially dangerous alternative.  But it made me think and my procrastination addiction only got worse. So I need to address with in my own thinking to rise above and lift out of the funk I fell into.

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” Mahatma Gandhi

It has been a few years since I watched an episode of Star Trek actually it may have been one of the movies. Spock has interfered with Star Fleets objectives in relationship to a small group of colonists on an obscure planet. It seems they live forever or at least aging is so minute that life times are measured in tens of thousands of years. What was interesting is that they by choice became nearly primitive living off the land and pursuing wisdom, reading, writing, all forms of art work. Life became a process of always improving since time was not a factor.  As I read this quote from Gandhi earlier, this movie popped in my mind.

“The world is apprehended by way of the mind, the world is acted upon by way of the mind and all good things and bad exist in the world by way of the mind.” Samyutta Nikaya

As I thought further about Star Trek and this group of people living on a planet where radiation from their sun seemed to be the key to longevity, I was reflecting back on several incidents at school almost ten years ago. My assistant Principal came in with thirty minutes left on the day before a holiday to do an observation or so she said sticking her head in the door. On top of the timing I had two extra students who had been placed with me since they are not functioning in regular classes. They were in a sort of holding pattern for a day or two. I was in the middle of trying to alleviate a year book emergency rewiring a CD burner and trying to print out a picture for a teacher who wanted her daughter’s angel scene from a Christmas play I just took for drama dept. and several extra students were assisting in helping down load hard drives from refurbished computers. So all in all, ten things were happening in last thirty minutes of last day before the holiday not counting an observation.

I never mind observations and probably have had more in my last ten years than most have in a life time or was my AP was getting back at me for several previous practical jokes. But we think what we portray in our minds within seconds I was shifted from disaster to plotting a new reprisal. Actually got quite a good report for diversity and individualizing the learning situations.

“Honesty can be cultivated by transforming your inner language. For example, you might think: “I am no good” or “They are not good.” Is this true? For some strange reason, people want to wallow in the idea of being either the best or the worst. What is true in this moment? How close can we get to the reality of our experiences?” Martine Batchelor, “Meditation for Life

Thinking back to the movie Spock was trying to save the Utopian society of a small group of people as he turned against Star Fleet in the movie. The reason that Star Fleet wanted this planet was literally to sell and package longevity. They were willing to destroy a people for profit. Human nature many would say. I observed those two extra students I had on that observation day. One of them I have for a period every day the other I did not know. As I thought to why both ended with me it was because of inappropriate behavior in class. Such terms as acting out and attention seeking were used. I used to be a big fan of “Law and Order” a popular TV show. Last night a young boy who had been abused was talking with the prosecutor and recalled a particular day in his life. The very man who had abused him for four years was the hero by chance. He was concerned he was “sick” because the greatest day of his life was also with the person who destroyed his life. Shortly after on the show this young man tried to kill himself.

“Real love is not based on attachment, but on altruism. In this case, your compassion will remain as a humane response to suffering as long as beings continue to suffer.” the Dalai Lama

We all need to be looking at our lives are we trying to oversimplify? Are we being honest with ourselves? Do we use the word love as merely an attachment? Can we be more than we are in our given time? Many issues as we head into the holiday season I just need to take my wife’s car to the service station and here in the Atlanta area soon we will be deluged with all the folks heading south. It seems all major interstates seem to converge here and for a late Thursday just a reminder from Will Rodgers.

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.” Will Rogers

So as I am thinking further.

“The appreciation of the profundity and subtlety of his thought comes only after serious study, and only a few of the most committed students are willing to expend the necessary effort. Many, upon first reading him, will conclude: that he was a churlish, negative, antisocial malcontent; or that he advocated that all of us should reject society and go live in the woods; or that each person has complete license to do as he/she pleases, without consideration for the rights of others; or that he is unconscionably doctrinaire. His difficult, allusive prose, moreover, requires too much effort. All such judgments are at best simplistic and at worst, wrong.” Wendell P. Glick

Interesting I was thinking Glick was referring to me in this passage but alas it is Henry David Thoreau.  In a lesson plan on how to teach Thoreau Glick points out the difficulties even today though Henry David Thoreau is recognized as a great writer it was his idiosyncrasies that kept him from public acknowledgement in his time.

“He had in a short life exhausted the capabilities of this world; wherever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a home.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, In his eulogy for Thoreau

Early today I was answering an email about how I had gone into teaching. A friend from high school never imagined me teaching. I found that interesting because since I was twelve I have been teaching be it swimming lessons, boy scouts etc. As a parent we are always teaching. I started with Henry David Thoreau in that he was a teacher but he walked away from teaching to be a better teacher. Thoreau left to become a learner. He sought knowledge; he craved new ideas and thoughts. Everything about him was a classroom.

“Yet, hermit and stoic as he was, he was really fond of sympathy, and threw himself heartily and childlike into the company of young people whom he loved, and whom he delighted to entertain, as he only could, with the varied and endless anecdotes of his experiences by field and river: and he was always ready to lead a huckleberry-party or a search for chestnuts or grapes. Talking, one day, of a public discourse, Henry remarked that whatever succeeded with the audience was bad.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

In my email this morning my friend wrote about teaching should be fun and how for many years her fellow teachers thought her methods were different. Often I have other teachers wonder at what I do with students and how and why. But they learn and they ask questions. I was looking back earlier to why I chose teaching. Initially it was because of a Biology teacher I had in tenth grade. I wandered away from direct teaching into publishing of training materials for twenty three years and came back. Often I find myself using the statement I am where I need to be at this moment. My pathway has led me to this spot. Soon we will have a day of thanksgiving of holiday family and friends. So often within the constraints of life we find times of sorrow. Please be aware that around you and nearby someone may be suffering as we celebrate offer a hand, a shoulder a thought and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to borrow from a veteran and friend from an email many months back and with veterans day a few days away and still very applicable today.

“Please remember the sons and daughters in faraway lands, for once we were them” Reah Wallace, retired Navy

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

What is that piece you cannot teach teachers?

Bird Droppings October 19, 2020

What is that piece you cannot teach teachers?

“Studies suggest that instructional and management processes are key to effectiveness, but many interview and survey responses about effective teaching emphasize the teacher’s affective characteristics, or social and emotional behaviors, more than pedagogical practice.” James H. Stronge, Qualities of Effective Teachers

I have been a student in classes with and have heard over the years many great teachers. If I was to put a characterization on those individuals it would be, they could communicate and relate to their students. There was an affective, emotional, and social interaction that brought relevance to their teachings. I first gained a serious enjoyment of literature from a professor at Mercer University in Macon Georgia who stood up on a desk and began reciting Shakespeare in his overalls. He had studied Shakespeare in Great Britain and acted in Shakespearean theatre while there. I was enthralled and for the first time in four or five years of college and received an A in a Literature class. This professor went on after his tenure at Mercer to work with indigent farmers in rural Georgia which was his true passion.

“Why does everyone seem to have a story about how one special teacher got through to them, and reshaped their life forever? Could it be that teaching is just about the most important job in the world? And could it be that in the end, the challenge of fixing Americas schools comes down to putting great teachers into classrooms and giving them the tools, they need to do what they do best.” Karl Weber, editor, Waiting for Superman

I am sitting here a bit later than I have been normally as my schedule is mixed up with being retired and procrastinating and getting up a bit later than normal. I knew my wife would be going to work so no one around to wake me up. I went outside into the fifty-degree chilly morning with our dog earlier.  There were stars and silence was nearly deafening in the chill. I could imagine early people on this spot hundreds even thousands of years ago looking up and seeing what I was seeing and imagining a hunter, a stag, a warrior, and dragons all emblazoned across the sky. But my experience does have some implication to my topic today as to what it is that in inherent ingredient in a great teacher.

“If we can’t identify the best teachers by comparing their credentials, we face an obvious and crucial question: How do we define a good teacher.” Karl Weber, editor, Waiting for Superman

It has been nearly ten years since I finished my Specialist degree at Piedmont College. When we would sit in our cohort and on that first day, we were introduced to a thirty or so page document that at that time was labeled the STAR. This was to be the basis for our degree program. Basically, it was a rubric to determine whether you as a teacher were proficient, excellent or distinguished and so forth. The rubric was loosely based off work done by educational consultant Charlotte Danielson who now heads up the Danielson Group based in Princeton New Jersey. I have read articles arguing the merits of Danielson and Stronge but I see good points in their work. I do have issue with some of the bastardization school reformers have done with their words.

“An effective system of teacher evaluation accomplishes two things: it ensures quality teaching, and it promotes professional learning. The quality of teaching is the single most important determinant of student learning; a school district’s system of teacher evaluation is the method by which it ensures that teaching is of high quality. Therefore, the system developed for teacher evaluation must have certain characteristics: it must be rigorous, valid, reliable, and defensible, and must be grounded in a research-based and accepted definition of good teaching.” Charlotte Danielson, Danielson Group

“When teachers engage in self-assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversation, they become more thoughtful and analytic about their work, and are in a position to improve their teaching. Evaluators can contribute to teachers’ professional learning through the use of in-depth reflective questions. By shifting the focus of evaluation from “inspection” to “collaborative reflection” educators can ensure the maximum benefit from the evaluation activities.” Charlotte Danielson, Danielson Group

The major goal of the Specialist program was for each of us to leave Piedmont as Distinguished Teachers. Somewhere I have a medal on a blue ribbon showing that I am a distinguished teacher. There is a catch to this being a great or distinguished teacher does not stop the day that it is anointed on you. This is literally who you are not a degree or piece of paper. But what makes a great teacher different and what is it that gives us these great teachers? According to the Danielson framework there are some specifics.

From Danielson Group website:

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation. The components in Domain 1 outline how a

teacher organizes the content of what students are expected to learn—in other

words, how the teacher designs instruction. These include demonstrate knowledge

of content and pedagogy, demonstrating knowledge of the students, selecting

instructional goals, demonstrating knowledge of resources, designing coherent

instruction, and assessing student learning

Domain 2: The classroom Environment. The components in Domain 2 consist of

the interactions that occur in a classroom that are non-instructional. These consist

of creating an environment of respect and rapport among the students and with

the teacher, establishing a culture for learning, managing classroom procedures,

managing student behavior and organizing the physical space.

Domain 3: Instruction. The components in Domain 3 are what constitute the core

of teaching – the engagement of students in learning contest. These include

communicating clearly and accurately, using questioning and discussion techniques,

engaging students in learning, providing feedback to students, and demonstrating

flexibility and responsiveness.

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities. The components in Domain 4 represent

the wide range of a teacher’s responsibilities outside the classroom. These include

reflecting on teaching, maintaining accurate records, communicating with families,

contributing to the school and district, growing, and developing professionally, and

showing professionalism. Teachers who demonstrate these competencies are

highly valued by their colleagues and administrators, as well as being true

professionals.

From Charlotte Danielson, “Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching,” Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1996, pp.3-4.

So often we need to confine our ideas to lists too easy to understand bits and pieces so we can check off what we have done or will do. Danielson’s four domains are significantly more than most twenty-minute walk through that are the standard in Georgia. But still there are pieces that cannot be pinned down so easily. James Stronge in his book, Qualities of Effective Teachers has a few that stand out.

“Effective teachers care about their students and demonstrate they care in such a way that their students are aware of it.”

“Effective teachers practice focused and sympathetic listening to show students they care not only about what happens in the classroom, but about students’ lives in general. These teachers initiate two-way communications that exudes trust, tact, honesty, humility, and care.”

“Effective, caring teachers know students both informally and formally. They use every opportunity at school and in the community to keep the lines of communication open.”

It might sound a bit silly, but I am bothered when a teacher says they could not live in the community they teach in. How do you ever know your students if you only see them and experience what they experience eight hours a day? So often it is hard for teachers to break through the shell of teacher student barriers that are presented and held in place by tradition and often school policy. Teaching is not just standing in front of a group of students and lecturing for two hours. Generally, most are asleep within the first ten minutes. Relationships need to be developed and cultivated that can bridge gaps. Emails to parents, communications with students and parents to let them know you are concerned. In all my undergraduate and graduate years I only seriously remember one very bad professor. He would come in put the textbook on his podium and then read it to us. When the bell would ring, he would fold his book closed and leave. His office when open was rather cold. One girl I recall went to him for some help and came in sat down and he stared at her for twenty minutes and never said a word.

“Education must ensure that not only the material, but the inward life of the individual be developed.  Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block, Ethics and Curriculum

Perhaps it is remembering that worst case scenario of bygone years and multiplying it over and over in our heads to help us conceive of and develop what is the way things should be. I think I came to my idea of what makes a great teacher by comparing the worst and best and seeing the vast difference in learning that occurs. I did not need research and data to see kids were reading who used to be illiterate. I did not need a check list to watch people come away from a great teacher with the conversation still going and carrying it to lunch in the commons at Mercer or over dinner at Piedmont or Georgia Southern.

“Passionate teachers organize and focus their passionate interests by getting to the heart of their subject and sharing with their students some of what lays there – the beauty and power that drew them to this field in the first place and that has deepened over time as they learned and experienced more.  They are not after a narrow or elitist perspective, but rather a depth of engagement that serves as a base for branching out to other interests and disciplines.” Robert Fried, The Passionate Teacher

It is so easy to throw out the word passion and try and point to ourselves and say we are passionate teachers. But you can quickly see the difference between the also run and the passionate in life. As I wander today, I have been a fan of Savannah College of Arts Literature Professor Mary Aswell Doll’s thoughts and have used them numerous times as references in papers on curriculum and education. This illustration of an electric current running through us combined with Fried’s passion and these are components of a great teacher.

“Curriculum is also … a coursing, as in electric current. The work of the curriculum theorist should tap this intense current within, that which courses through our inner person, that which electrifies or gives life to the persons energy source.” Mary Aswell Doll  

You have got soul. Many the time, I have heard that remark in reference to or about someone. One of the experts on soul is Thomas Moore who has written numerous best sellers about this often-ambiguous subject.

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves.  It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance.  I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality.  When we say someone has soul, we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

Soul cannot be taught it cannot be bought and it cannot be traded for. Moore uses some words here going a bit beyond Stronge’s qualities of a great teacher. Depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance these are attributes are also pieces of who a great teacher is. A great teacher has soul might be my next point. Over the numerous years of teaching I have heard teachers say they have been called to teach. I sort of wandered back into teaching. Finding it was where I was meant to be. Parker Palmer offers to teachers that there is sacredness in our undertaking.

“The Community of truth, the grace of things, the transcendent subject, and the “secret ”that“ sits in the middle and knows – these images emerge, for me, from my experience of reality as sacred and of the sacred as real.  Others may arrive at similar understandings from different starting points.  But I believe that knowing, teaching, and learning are grounded in sacred soil and that renewing my vocation as a teacher requires cultivating a sense of the sacred.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

Maybe I should have stopped a few hours back but being in my sanctuary here upstairs and totally quiet save for Brewer and Shipley for a couple of hours and I get a bit carried away. I want to stop with a thought that no door can remain closed. We as teachers need to be about self-improvement, becoming students as well as teachers learning and reflecting so that we can always become better at our undertaking. We are critical links in our societal endeavors, and it is crucial we hold up our end.

“I used to think that any door could be opened. Some stood freely open, some could be opened easily; some were harder to penetrate. Sometimes you had to knock, sometimes bang, sometimes charge; but always the door could be opened.” Susan Thomas Anthony, Walk with Spirit

I started this many hours ago and here I am ending an unfinished work. Hopefully over the next few days I can address this idea of what makes for a great teacher but until that time 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

Within the circle of life, a new life coming

Bird Droppings October 17, 2020

Within the circle of life, a new life coming

I have wandered many miles the past few days. It has been a few days since my wife and I shared a trip to the North Georgia Mountains farmers market and today we will be looking for a few more pumpkins to add to our decorations and who knows maybe indulge in a pumpkin pie or two. Countless errands for myself the past few days and this week voting is on the agenda. I Have been thinking quite a bit about my mother and father as I read through my old baby book. Using for my dissertation research. However, as I went out this morning it is a new day and a glorious day today. I found this author several years ago and it seems to just hit the spot today.

Resurrection

By Susan Thomas Underwood

The universe is energy in constant motion.

There are ebbs and flows;

Outcomes and income,

And change…… Always change.

The physical world reflects this motion

In the cycles of life,

There is spring and fall, winter and summer,

Birth and death; and rebirth…

Resurrection!

Einstein proved that even time is relative

In his theory of relativity,

All is relative …. All is change

You can count on it.

Be then as the willow;

Learn to bend with the wind!

Always dream, though your dreams may change.

Always produce, though your product may change.

Always love, though your love may change.

Always live, though your life will change.

You can count on it!

Susan Thomas Underwood is a native Oklahoman, Shawnee, and author. I saw her book of thoughts, Walk with Spirit, on Amazon.com and thought I might take a look. As I read this first entry in Underwood’s book I thought to my own existence these past sixty plus years and changes I have been through, as a son, parent, husband, father and now a grandfather.

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

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

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

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

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related)

bird

Words not spoken are some of the most profound wisdom

Bird Droppings October 16, 2020
Words not spoken are some of the most profound wisdom

I am sitting at least thinking about writing and working on a chapter for my dissertation words are what is on my mind right now. I just commented on a Facebook post about learning languages and how I know enough in several languages to survive and order chicken and rice. Within the past several weeks I have watched comments from politicians made and the rebutted by often the same person which I find most interesting. Native Peoples survived this trend back in the day as treaties were made and broken all in a few years only to be told that sorry we got the wording wrong or you misunderstood what we were saying. When we said we were going to kill off the buffalo we meant all the buffalo not just those slowing the train down.

“He believes profoundly in silence – the sign of a perfect equilibrium. Silence is the absolute poise or balance of body, mind, and spirit.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, Santee Sioux

Trained as a physician Dr. Eastman was also a profound and eloquent speaker for the Sioux nation. So often when we speak it is words spilling out of a bucket filled to over flowing with politically correct jargon. A barrage of often meaningless dribble that just is there waiting to explode. Such plain and nice platitudes as hello how are you, how’s the family the job and numerous other familiar little blips we tend to throw at people we meet.

“Silence is the mother of truth, for the silent man was ever to be trusted, while the man             ever ready with speech was never taken seriously.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

“In my opinion it was chiefly owing to their deep contemplation in their silent    retreats in the days of youth that the old Indian orators acquired the habit of carefully arranging their thoughts.” Blackbird, Ottawa

So often in our haste we blurt out words that become meaningless simply because we feel we should be talking. As I look at the words of these great Native American orators often it was in their silence and reflection that wisdom has shown through. Sadly we will never see the silence. There was not a hasty response that was spontaneous and not thought through each word was carefully chosen so as to impact and bring the point to the listener. For many words were sacred and a privilege to use and to speak. I was thinking wouldn’t that be great if every ADHD child thought before they spoke. We would not need medications, in school suspensions, and behavior modification anymore. There would be fewer bars of soap sold as parents would not have to wash any mouths out, thinking back to my wife’s favorite movie “the Christmas Story” as Ralphie gets his mouth washed out.

“You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts” Cochise, Chiricahaua Apache

Known as a great warrior as well as spokesman for the Apache, Cochise was feared and revered by many. So often listening to the fabrications of teenagers as a teacher you do enjoy silence and or truth. So many times exaggerations flow like water each telling of a story embellishes on the next and so forth till somewhere perhaps reality really did occur.

“Good words do not last long unless they amount to something.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Growing up I recall stories of Chief Joseph and how his people avoided the army and won numerous skirmishes in there attempted flight to freedom in Canada. After being rejected by the Canadian Government they had no alternative but to surrender and Joseph’s speech has been quoted by many ever since.

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who had no right to talk.” Chief Joseph

In recent weeks I have watched our politicians talk out one side of the mouth and down the other. It is like going to a used car lot and watching used car sales folks at work. What do you believe? Watching news today is not really watching news it is ok what do I believe and what is fantasy. I find friends posting stories that have been shown to be false and literally lies numerous times over and still showing up as true. On many shelves popular newspapers on the racks at grocery stores, scandal sheets with altered photos grab the attention and we are lead to believe what the story supposedly implies. Investigators are trying to blame someone with the misinformation on Iraq that led to the war for example was a recent heading. We now know most of what we were told were lies yet we are told the people lying were only misinformed.

It becomes confusing as I am sure years ago when soldiers would explain peace treaties with numerous lines of fine print. One famous line read, “As long as the buffalo roam” to a plains tribe who lived off the vast herds of migratory buffalo numbering over fifty million on one count that would be was forever. However a new Sharps rifle accurate to over a thousand yards and a healthy trade in buffalo hides quickly reduced the herds to a handful and we said as long as the buffalo roam and they are gone. We do this today in politics, in schools and in life getting commitment based on something we already know.

“I would have been better pleased if you had never made promises, than that you should have made them and not performed them.” Shinguaconse

We so often tell little stories to a point it becomes habit and soon we are caught up in our stories with no return.

“Always tell the truth – it’s the easiest to remember.” David Mamet

Thinking as I ponder this simple statement by Mamet if we only took our own advice and just tell the truth and there would be no need to have anything to remember. 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

Walking along the way in my own journey

Bird Droppings October 15, 2020
Walking along the way in my own journey

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

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

I spend a good bit of my day reading and find it so hard to understand when I see comments of I do not read or I do not have a favorite book. I may in the course of a day look at ten or twelve books looking for thoughts or ideas for my writings. But to profess to not reading how can you consider yourself even semi-intelligent. For it is through reading that we increase our vocabulary and understanding of the world around us. It is through reading that we develop and progress beyond where we are today. It is thorough reading that we move along the journey.


I was speaking with a fellow teacher today about such things. Why do kids not read for example? Some is a lack of encouragement at home during those hours away from school. Some is the example set by parents who are not readers. But I think a large portion is our current style of teaching to the test. We are teaching kids to pass tests that in some school impact the teacher’s annual appraisals and in some cases even salaries are test scores based. When we take away significance and choice and mandate specific memorization for test content we lose an aspect of who the child is.
Paulo Freire is a radical in terms of education and his outlook on what teaching and education should be about. Freire was a teacher, activist, thinker, innovator and college professor in various stages if not all of his life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will have to admit Freire does get deep and philosophical at times. But this aspect of doing that aspect of experiencing that runs through his words to me is significant. Many teachers try and keep everything to a minimum in terms of how they teach. I was involved in a discussion on a new math program and was informed we only want students to learn function not how it works. So students memorize a line on a graph which is this or that and that gets answers A-D but in effect they never understand or learn what that really is or why.


On the other side I have watched a model of a watershed during a graduate class along with an explanation of what was happening when rain or excess water was present and how it impacted the surrounding area. Our lecturer was versed in experiential teaching. He builds on teachable moments and on hands on experience. For myself even thinking back to summers of teaching biology to kids who had failed biology during regular session, my main objective was to have them pass a comprehensive exam approved by school and department. We would spend the first hour each day learning vocabulary, doing what I hated but without vocabulary you cannot even read a biology test let alone answer questions.


After that we organized and categorized all the trees on campus. We studied hands on ecology and interactions. We watched videos of various settings deserts, (The Living Desert by Disney Studios), Jungles, and the Arctic (National Geographic films). Occasionally we would get out one of my ball pythons and talk about reptiles and amphibians. I have had live animals in my room since I started back teaching eleven years ago. Amazingly all of them passed the finals and in the three years I taught intersession only one student quit coming and it was a family problem. As the system changed and went to seat time as the criteria and worksheets were the lessons I stopped doing summer school. It was no longer teaching simply babysitting.


I wonder often as to the whys and how’s of so many teachers and think back even in our own high school to great teachers and ones I consider great. Those are the teachers who get kids excited about learning and who look for ways and means to bring life to the lesson and who are always learning as well. There are only a handful of teachers I would consider great as I think back and always a story or two. My middle son had biology in ninth or tenth grade and a presentation was made in that presentation a overhead slide was used that he knew was incorrect and waiting till class was over went to the teacher and told her. At first the teacher was reluctant to listen until he said my brother has that animal in his salt water tank and I am familiar with it. She said she would fix it so it would be right. Several years later in an advanced class Zoology again the slide and again the wrong name and scientific data attached. This time being more mature and angrier he stopped the class and said the slide was wrong. So here is a student who tried to help a teacher who was not interested in learning.

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

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

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

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

In my one of the books I have read several times, A wolf at Twilight by Kent Nerburn, The discussion of the old method of forcibly taking Indian children and placing in boarding schools to modernize them and make white Indians is a key element. I wonder if we learned anything in looking at how we treat children in schools even today. We make them live by our rules and standards imposing guidelines that fluctuate from class to class often teacher to teacher. Granted the days of the boarding school may seem somewhat at odds with today’s schools but in reality, there is little difference. In a diversified culture we demand language that may or may not be known. Coming from a special education back ground I am always amazed at how we expect children who are poor readers in their own language to read and learn in another. Research shows you cannot in most cases exceed the level of attainment in a second or third language that you have in your first.


So I wandered and pondered this is my reflection for the morning a wondering and thinking about what can we do to truly change education as we know it. Freire points to Critical reflection as a means for educators to learn as well as teach. John Dewey builds on reflection as does Foxfire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hearing an owl

Bird Droppings October 13, 2020

Hearing an owl

“If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator.” W. Beran Wolfe

Within this life many people want to feel as if they are pursuing happiness. Many people feel that this aspect, happiness, of who we are is illusionary and so many times as I look at various students, former students, and friends and associates it may be. Is it the peer pressure perhaps, the group psyche coming into play and molding that which we see and what we are perceiving others seeing into a common thread or weave though it may be purely in our minds?

For me however happiness is an individual entity, it is something from within not a transitory effort to have or to be like everyone else. I have become a fan of few television shows but have taken to watching NCIS lately and Gibbs, the main guy is always building a boat in his basement by hand even though we never know how he gets them out. It is while he is working with his hands on his boat you generally see a smile on his face.

While reading emails and looking through other electronic mailings and postings I happened to read one about how the ideal guy would wear specific clothiers or have specific hair color, eye color, or even physical build. Sadly, nowhere it seems do we look deeper. We seem to want the trappings and it is this outward appearance and back to my first paragraph that is what seems to bring happiness to far too many. We want this ideal person to be who we want to be, and who we want to be around.

As I do so many mornings walking out into the darkness listening to the sounds of the night and or morning as today seemed to be. I had awakened from a very vivid dream and gathered myself out only to encounter two owls calling across the stillness and still chilled from another night of coldness. It was not raining fortunately and the crickets and the tree frogs were silent from the chill. Perhaps the owls were on the hunt, my oldest son tells me often of being awakened by the owls hearing them at night out here in the country. I too hear them often but have never been awakened by them however this was my first experience hearing them as close as I went out.

The dueling owls went back and forth for several minutes in the stillness. As I sit here thinking and pondering still trying to recover from a cold, in my imagination so many myths and legends of owls. For some cultures there is great magic in owls for others they are harbingers of evil and death. But as I listened to the two back and forth mimicking calls perhaps territory perhaps a pair hunting perhaps the visages of spring have sparked a more sensual meaning to their calls.

For me there was not a fear but a sense of grandeur as the sounds soon dissipated. I wondered why tonight or I should say this morning as the crescent of moon gleamed in a clear sky about 4:30 AM or so. I pondered reading this simple quote that I started with by author Wolfe and then searching further.

“One important source of unhappiness is the habit of putting off living to some fictional future date. Men and women are constantly making themselves unhappy because in deferring their lives to the future they lose sight of the present and its golden opportunities for rich living.” W. Beran Wolfe

Perhaps the owls were a reminder of things needing to be done or of stopping the procrastinating. For there is joy in life for each of us now, it is not a distant event to be reached when the right clothes, job or thing is finished done or bought. Happiness, true happiness is now with us if we choose. It is in the contentment of knowing you have succeeded and you are where you need to be right this minute, this second. It is that all you have done in your life has been to get you here to this point. Wisdom is about accepting what and where you have been and are learning from this now. Happiness, true happiness is being content, and most of all it is about being alive. I am sitting here writing as the water from ten or so tanks flow in my room at school providing a relaxing venue for which into ponder.

I had wanted to work in the garden a bit more this summer but between my injury and work I have put it off. It always amazes people when I say some of my happiest times have been sitting on the mower going in circles thinking, imagining, pondering and assuredly content for that moment. Please dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

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

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

What about adding to our current reality TV: The great teachers of America?

Bird Droppings October 12, 2020
What about adding to our current reality TV: The great teachers of America?

I am back in grad school and today working on writing. A time ago I had been set up to teach several new college classes when I received notification of a reduction in force just before I started on a new syllabus and lesson plans, that got me thinking. Last night when I got home I was sitting mesmerized by the night sounds when the kitchen door opened and our dog poked his head out I am sure wondering what I was doing. I was not in the mood for TV and the sounds of darkness seem to calm me ng this has not been mentioned in nearly two years after a seriously crazy week, too much going on. Off in the distance a owl was calling to one near the house and crickets tree frogs and an occasional coyote chimed in. It was an exceptionally human free intrusion on a quiet night since few people influenced noises were present. I found myself thinking to the idea of; I wonder if this is what it sounded like hundreds of years ago just the various birds, crickets, frogs and owls. A heavy dew was dripping from pine needles nearby adding to the ambiance. I gave thanks and headed to bed.

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

Our former federal education program No Child Left behind was about lifting standards to a higher level to make the United States number one in education. In the news literally daily the idea of raising the bar in our educational process was suggested repeatedly. I find it interesting this has not been mentioned in nearly two years. We need more students to succeed so we will change/raise the standards and graduation rates. So, to say raise the bar educationally. The theory is that more students will succeed with higher standards for teachers and students. However, changing of teaching methods, changing delivery, and even changing standards does not raise the ability or desire of a given student.

I can’t help but think of high jumping when the idea of raising the bar came up. Let us use as acceptable a height of currently thirty-six inches and tomorrow we will raise the bar to sixty inches and you will succeed. It is all because we have a new way of telling you how to jump. We will use a megaphone now, and just as you jump we will yell “JUMP”. As silly as this sounds this little exercise which is akin to many educational programs is more how not to succeed than before. Before raising the standard, did we look at why the students could not clear thirty-six inches? Was it the teaching method? Was it the physical ability of the student? Was it the shoes they are wearing? Perhaps the surface of the run way to the jump pit is too soft or slippery? Was there a wind that knocks the bar off as they approach?

In education time after time the mention of zip codes and test scores comes up and in today’s jargon that’s why we need these charter schools run by businesses who know what to do. So, in my naiveté, I wonder how does a real estate mogul or software genius know how to teach or seemingly increase knowledge and cognition over say a teacher? Even more interesting is many of so-called experts have not succeeded in school and or did not go through college. But they know what it takes to help poor kids or failing kids how to raise the bar. More recently a continued amount of corruption and failure rate in these for-profit charter schools. There are some being successful my granddaughter’s county system officially is a charter.

Basically, in any type of medium if a person cannot jump thirty six inches moving to sixty inches will only assure failure. However, with practice and time sixty inches is possible but several factors have to be in place and a key one is the desire and attitude of the person doing the jumping. The coach can be the greatest in the world but if the student is content on failure they will fail. A few years back I watched the induction of John Madden into the NFL hall of fame. Madden has been one of my favorite commentators and coaches of all time.

“Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” John Madden

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” Ara Parasheghan

Coaching and teaching are often synonymous in many ways. It was a number of years ago I raised and showed horses. I had a very good Appaloosa gelding we affectionately called “Spot” and with me riding Spot would be third or fourth but always place. Funny thing was with my trainer on board Spot would win. I once asked about this phenomenon and was told the following.

“You put a ten horse, and by ten I mean on a scale from 1-10 out with a 1 rider again on a scale of 1-10 and you have a 5 ride, however you put a 10 horse and 10 rider out and what are your odds” Earl Burchett, trainer and judge of Appaloosa and Quarter horses

As I thought of my horse days quote, teaching and coaching are similar. A good teacher can get more out of a poor functioning group of students and a poor teacher will get something out of great students. For forty-five years I have asked how do we distinguish who are the good teachers and or coaches are from a mediocre one. I always questioned why a good friend and I who co-taught together would always get classes made up often eighty percent at risk and special education out of thirty-two students or so. We continued to produce test scores that were often better than other regular classes. I would joke we were only class that went out for example in biology. We provided context to kids who could not learn from content.

“Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.” Don Shula

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Vince Lombardi

Commitment is a key word in selecting a great teacher and or coach and the ability of instilling that commitment in their students and players. Over the years few coaches have been compared to the great Vince Lombardi who is perhaps the greatest of all coaches.

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.” Vince Lombardi

The ability to succeed is based on hard work desire and determination these are skills that great teachers and great coaches can instill in students and players.

“The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else” John Madden

Far too often we only see the champion and how many folks can remember who finished second or third in the national championship game. This may be a fault in our society that we settle for only the greatest only the best. We live on a bell shape curve and only a few will ever be the best but it is in the trying and it is motivating students into trying that as a teacher is to excel. It is so easy to succumb to the down side of that curve. Fifty percent will not succeed and that mentality is often so powerful that so why should I try harder.

“One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.” Knute Rockne

A slight paraphrase of this great quote from the great Notre Dame Coach, “One teacher teaching is better than fifty saying they do”. This is what it is about; it is about truly teaching, motivating, instilling determination, and desire. It is about coaching and succeeding rather than failure. I hear every day, but I have a seventy percent I am passing that really makes me upset that a child concedes to a seventy percent. Who gave out seventy percent passes but we do it all the time. Can a thirty-six-inch jumper clear sixty inches? Many years ago, a so-so high jumper changed his form. He was also a student of physics and as such and he noticed jumpers were leading with their foot and the body following. He changed his form and lead with his head and torso and high jumping changed forever. Shortly thereafter a world record and Olympic gold went to Dick Fossberry and the Fossberry flop as it was called is now the jumping style of all record holding high jumpers. Funny thing is, today all high jumpers lead with their head a matter of physics getting the heaviest part over first and those muscles pushing it over last which takes less effort and the world record keeps going up. It is about ideas, determination and commitment and any goal can be accomplished.

Can this apply to teaching and learning? Most assuredly we can, but we have to try and we have to look for the means of accomplishing our goal. Federal standards called for research-based programs in educational settings yet there are only a few the field is narrow and the difficultly is doing new research which requires guinea pigs and too many teachers and programs do not want to fail. Teacher’s jobs are at stake as well as administrators and so we in trying to improve may actually have boxed ourselves in by limiting improvement to a narrow window of research proven programs, which in reality may or may not work. Are they researched n the same demographics as the students you teach or will be teaching is always a question? Has this program truly been tested on a large enough group? Is there room for improvement and progress within the program?

From personal experience I have watched administrators then limit programs due to their own limitations in imagination and creativity. One of my favorites is the notorious word wall. A teacher must have six-inch letters of vocabulary words on the wall and that is it. So an electronic version that is available at home anywhere on computer is not a word wall or a well-designed graphic as a lead in for a students working notebook in class is not a word wall, a set of personal flash cards is not a word wall, t-shirts with vocabulary, sky writing vocabulary words these are not word walls it has to be six inch red letters not yellow or blue. Teaching gets defeated by limits, impositions and parameters imposed by lesser imaginative administrators and legislators.

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

It has been a few days since I last went out walking to my quiet spot before posting.  I used to sit in my quiet spot giving thanks for all that has transpired in the past day or so and for each element good and bad, it makes all involved a better person. I shared with a friend last night how each person we interact with gives us a piece of our life’s puzzle and shared my business card which is covered in puzzle pieces and they smiled and said it makes sense now. The pieces are all falling in place. So, I end my writing for today and get back to the grind of educating the masses and getting phone calls made and computer forms filled in but still the hard part is keeping all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and always giving thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

We are so missing out on teaching creativity

Bird Droppings October 9, 2020

 We are so missing out on teaching creativity

It was another quiet morning as I wandered out, although a bit too chilly for crickets and frogs. Yesterday afternoon as it warmed up, however, several tree frogs visited around the house. The air was still, not a breeze as I sat in my old wicker sofa on the back porch. I listened to the stillness and quiet something about the lack of hum of air conditioners just before we all turn on our heating systems. I enjoy my morning chorus, yet today, perhaps with numerous ideas running through my head, quiet was good for a change. I was thinking about students, and how to deal with issues that are confronting several former students I remain in contact with. I was thinking of my children growing up and the wedding anniversary for my youngest son. I was thinking selfishly about life directions and the future, so many thoughts and so little time.

I have always been amazed at Creativity, and often the lack thereof in some students ’; maybe we strip it away in favor of repetition and memorizing of bits and pieces and then say someone is so creative for repeating exactly what was plugged in during class.

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done — men who are creative, inventive, and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

Sitting here on a quiet morning, perhaps today, Piaget would say people instead of men. I have always considered the idea perpetuated by Piaget’s stages of development in children as they learn as a basis for many aspects of human life. The development of Creativity is a crucial one.

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns to look at things differently.” Edward De Bono

Several years ago, my youngest son was recommended for the gifted program in his elementary school. The various testing consisted of achieving beyond a certain point in three out of four areas, and one was Creativity. After he was tested, the person testing commented he went off the charts in Creativity. It is so easy to stifle Creativity throughout our lives we are trained to conform often in ways we never really understand.

“The creative person wants to be a know – it – all. He wants to know about all kinds of things: ancient history, nineteenth-century mathematics, current manufacturing techniques, flower arranging, and hog futures. It is because he never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later or six months or six years down the road. But he has faith that it will happen.” Carl Ally

Years ago, I would read encyclopedias cover to cover, and I always wondered why, why things were as they were, and so much more. As I look at my thinking on Piaget, often time’s children are held back in consideration by a parent or teacher and miss a stage, so to say, in their development. It could be it intellectually, spiritually, or even physically and often not intentionally.

“First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write to be understood; we write to understand.” Robert Cecil Day-Lewis

“Creativity is essentially a lonely art. An even lonelier struggle. To some a blessing. To others, a curse. It is, in reality, the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.” Lou Dorfman

I see everyday students that have been limited in their ability to achieve. A teacher here did not look beyond a failing grade, due to a reading issue, and labeled that student. A parent, perhaps, never home, never provided emotional guidance to their child. A pastor’s words, perhaps, far too critical, pushed a child away from the faith. It may have happened in stages or steps in the development process and so pushed away or torn away in some cases, leaving blanks, hollows, difficult to fill.

“The legs are the wheels of creativity.” Albert Einstein

“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.” Anna Freud

I agree to a point with Ms. Freud that a creative mind will eventually push through, but when we so diligently hold them back, irreparable damage can occur. I watched a young man working on a project in my classroom; he had been labeled by many as incorrigible and a slow learner. He was working on a project that required much hands-on Creativity; no other student measured pieces quite to the extent he did on this project. He set up templates and measuring guides as he worked, and he was several days behind others not because he was slow but in deliberation and perfection.

“Most people die before they are fully born. Creativeness means to be born before one dies.” Erich Fromm

“Because of their courage, their lack of fear, they (creative people) are willing to make silly mistakes. The truly creative person can think crazy; such a person knows full well that many of his great ideas will prove worthless. The creative person is flexible — he can change as the situation changes, break habits, face indecision, and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are.” Frank Goble

Maybe that is the difference, and that might be flexibility; a creative person is flexible.

“The desire to create continually is vulgar and betrays jealousy, envy, ambition. If one is something, one really does not need to make anything –and one nonetheless does very much. There exists above the “productive” man a yet higher species.” Fredrick Nietzsche

“The person who can combine frames of reference and draw connections between ostensibly unrelated points of view is likely to be the one who makes the creative breakthrough.” Denise Sherarjian

Many days ago, as I was reading Yahoo news, a story came across and as in Yahoo news was only there a brief second or two and a new story more important came over the internet. The movie Rain Man was based on this man from Utah, a Magna savant, a person whose memory and intelligence are increasing as he grows older. NASA had been studying his development. He had read over 9000 books and could pull from them any passage instantly and precisely. He is fluent in and on a genius level in 15 subjects yet cannot dress or find his way home. For this person, memory is all, yet there is little or no potential for Creativity quite a paradox.

“Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” Robert Wieder

If only we could always encourage Creativity. If we only we were not afraid so many times of creative people. If only we would lift up ideas and thoughts and try not to stifle new thinking. I wonder would we progress as humans perhaps, but it sure would be interesting trying. As I think back in history, so often those in power have stifled Creativity wanting to keep to the status quo. It has been several years since I received an invitation to a solo art show, unfortunately, in New York City from a friend. Creativity has kept her soul growing and expanding; some will love her style and art, and others will walk away. I thought back to impressionists who many disdained in their lifetimes and now bring hundreds of millions for paintings literally. Another friend writes, and her writing has changed as she is changing. She went into teaching, and this opened windows for her ideas and flow of thoughts. Working with children tends to make us creative to keep up. A new week and a new season upon us as the cool weather brings color to the trees and stillness to the mornings. I wonder what this world would be like if we taught Creativity in all grades. What if we looked for rainbows rather than entirely black and white? What if we tried to see in a kaleidoscopic view rather than in a microscopic? I wonder but for now, 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

Bird Droppings October 8, 2020

Are great teachers intuitive? IESP

I have mentioned in my writing that I can tell when a child has emotional issues most of the time, after observing a few minutes and listening. Granted, observations are part of most evaluations, but I was referring to an intuitive observation aspect. Something we learn perhaps as we experience and live life. John Dewey would point to learned experiences that allow us to build on the present and future experiences.

Over the years, several children I have worked with have recommended additional involvement and unfortunately also got to say I told you so in the future. I am going into a manifestation Monday in a similar situation. I got up in the middle of the night to work on some ideas preparing for this meeting. Several months back, I went to my niece’s daughter’s IEP to advise what seems to be a child being underserved. I went with nearly 300 plus pages of Georgia Kindergarten standards for some support and to look official. I have data and black marks on a page, yet this is often insignificant if interpreted without intuitive wisdom as a filter or guide.

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

As I discussed in the final class debriefing, as it is called at a foxfire teacher training several years back, a thought hit me as to why some teachers can do more than others. Some teachers succeed where others flounder, intuition, a simple thought, and a difficult concept to teach. 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. In their midst, the volumes of educational lore are very few that get into the concept of intuition.

“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, I listened to seasoned teachers discuss how they would do this or that, then one said, “do you have that written down” What is your starting point. How much planning time do you allow, and as I watched and heard in disbelief in this situation that was one of a teachable moment slip away by the wayside. The person speaking turned around, stunned as I was, and said I 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 keywords 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 researching 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

Other researchers 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 back, Nehru was the first Prime Minister of an independent India and a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

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

I saw this note, and it intrigued me. Instinct is a door opener and perhaps a starting point, a beginning it could be 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 getting there is as critical and crucial as the result. Each aspect of the pathway is essential rather than merely the end of the trip. When you are looking as you go, you see so much more. I recall a long journey 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 on 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 or who said it. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

How do you feed the wolves?

Bird Droppings October 7, 2020

How do you feed the wolves?

I walked outside very early this morning to a sky filled with clouds leaving and a brisk wind. Crickets were almost silent, chirping slowly in the unusually cool weather. My morning started long before sunrise today, and the sounds as I went on our porch. Nearby a coyote was calling, and an owl’s call added to the moment. In the past, my grandson would hear rd the owl before me and tell me to listen. Numerous constellations were visible through drifting pieces of clouds. I sat my goal to get to go to Kroger early so I could spend some time writing today, and with so many thoughts going through my mind, I sit down as listening to an old track on iTunes. Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks is considered by many to be one of his best albums. I picked up my phone, and a note was visible on the lock screen. It was a thank you comment from a former student from eleven years ago; what a great start to my morning.

There are times when it is hard to put into words whether it is because of confidentiality or emotions; maybe even words honestly do not describe well enough. Yet pictures are not suited to define or describe either. A large display of Georgia Bulldog marketing materials, cups, flags, caps, and stuffed bulldogs reminded me of a past trip. Several years ago, I went to Kroger after school to pick up a few things to make spaghetti, the universally excepted meal in our house. The parking lot was packed from one end to the other, so I parked about twenty miles from the door. I read that it is a good thing to do for exercise, adding a few more steps to your day. After finding all I needed and visiting with at least half a dozen friends, I bumped into I started up the book aisle, which is a sort of habit. It was packed, and everyone was in line. A rather assorted bunch of folks were standing in what appeared to be a line.

I carefully went back and went down another aisle to head for checkout, and as I reached the front of the store, there were several men in black suits standing almost at attention beside a table stacked with books. My initial thought was Sarah Palin’s book signing, but I knew she would have been in a more strategic location than a Loganville Kroger, and while she is popular, there were a lot of people here. Then I see this older man who is still pretty spry for an old codger sitting shaking hands and signing his latest book. I had forgotten today was Vince Dooley’s day at Kroger. Dooley is somewhat of an icon in this area. Vince Dooley was the former head coach and athletic director of The University of Georgia Bulldogs. Where else but in Loganville would thousands of people swarm a grocery store to get an autograph from Mr. Bulldog himself. Being an avid Georgia Tech fan, I walked by nose in the air and paid for my groceries.

But the events of the week so far and thinking back had me recalling an old email I received nearly ten years ago. The story goes something like this. One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a debate that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.” I received this note from a parent of a former student.

As I thought back and read over this simple story again, I was thinking about how children respond to various situations, and we adults then commend or condemn them. Those two words are so closely spelled yet so far apart in meaning and understanding. Many mornings ago, a young lady came in and was visibly upset but more of a moping kind of upset. It seems her boyfriend, and she were sort of at odds. I shared the Thomas Merton quote I have hanging on my wall and have used here many times.

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we see in them.” Thomas Merton

I asked the young lady to look up Merton and see some of his other writings and who he was, which she did before school, and then she left with a copy and a Kent Nerburn book, Calm Surrender. As we talked, I thought of this quote about the wolves inside of us and how we all are fighting as she told me of conflicts in her life and her boyfriend’s life as well.

 Several days back, my wife and I discussed kids as we tend too, and learned behavior came up. We teach kids through our actions and inactions, yet we then punish them for the same thing. An attorney was on TV saying parents who knew kids were drinking at a party at their house should not be held responsible for any actions of drunken teenagers. The discussion was on a point, counterpoint discussion. The other side also mentioned that the person involved in the accident had been arrested previously for DUI and the parents knew that, so there was a history established. So, I sat listening to this back and forth, an underage drinking party led to a teenage driver killing a child. The underage drinker who was driving, had left the party at that particular parent’s home with their knowledge; he was drunk and had been drunk previously; both parties were found guilty. On the one hand, the defense attorney said kids will be kids and, on the other, a dead child.

So often in life, we are faced with what-ifs. We have knowledge of behavior construed as dangerous or potentially dangerous, yet we tend to shrug it off. A headline yesterday caught my eye where the industry is turning its nose on incidents that do not cause significant damage or injury. My background is from an industrial safety background; these incidents lead to a considerable safety and loss control breakthrough. A headline down was about women not getting mammograms anymore till fifty, and on the news, many women were up in arms who had breast cancer and whose family members were saved by early detection. I recall a young man I worked with back in the 1970s and how, on many occasions, I had requested an evaluation and was told keep out of it the young man had a learning disability only. After I married and moved to Loganville, I let him spend the summer with me and work on our farm. Sadly a few years later, things changed, and he was arrested and sentenced to three life sentences. He had killed a woman and her two kids wanting to return to Central State Mental Hospital. Commend and condemn so similar yet different in the meaning.

 I look back at the story in which wolf is being fed. We are responsible as parents, teachers, friends, and we and others need to be more actively involved in keeping such situations from happening. Whether it be teenage love or teenage drinking, the harm is being done around the corner and often under our noses. 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