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)

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)


“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)


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 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)


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)


An epiphany of sorts on a chilly October morning

Bird Droppings October 6, 2020

An epiphany of sorts on a chilly October morning  

I spent the better part of yesterday avoiding any direction, so intent on the moment I was missing cues to the past and future. It was last year that our neighborhood changed. On top of everything, I was severely injured, so I was set back emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We went from being in the country to a subdivision in less than six months, I ruptured my Achilles tendon, my 70th birthday came and went, our grandkids moved further away, and my educational crisis hit me. As an empathetic human being, I get caught up at times in the present’s emotions and feedback. When I allow my wisdom to kick in and help determine pointing the way, I can be a formidable teacher and advocate. 

John Dewey writes about past, present, and future experiences and how they are interrelated and interchanged often. I am working on a continuous curriculum, not finite, as most teachers try and do in practice. William Pinar discusses curriculum as running the course that it is ongoing it intersects each aspect of life and time. So, as I sit here today pondering my previous day, present moment, and future I see the interplay that so easily can be hidden in focusing solely on the moment. So, a swig from my meditative mug of strong chai tea and into today’s thoughts.

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

In general, my wanderings are the expanse of my almost seventy-one years of life experiences over several days of traveling, thinking, and observing mankind. Just a few nights ago, my son and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away, deep in the pines. It was an opera of coyotes howls and yells. Simultaneously, only a few minutes, the sounds were an eerie reminder that nature was only a few feet away in its wildest even in a civilized world. I was walking this past Sunday morning just in my back yard. I have been away from my former quiet spot due to the development near my home in Between Georgia. Around me birds would occasionally fly into and out of the trees but most of the time without a sound. I was essentially alone sitting listening while everyone else was inside. Only a few hours earlier, I had a wonderful experience watching nearby my house as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.

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

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

Watching TV today, we are going through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter election campaigns I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads are the vast majority of all from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with after the election and even then, that was questionable. Here in Atlanta, several mega-churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who, after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues, are coming out themselves and being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”. I received a copy of a book in the mail from a friend in New York after he published it. I had known the title for months prior but seeing it and beginning my initial reading, the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today. Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the first page, there is a quote and thought permeating our society if even unknowingly.

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

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

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

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

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my earphones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai, who is a seven-note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies, and it was almost haunting as the visage of a clear sky and quiet surrounding the trees. I had to stop listening to the music and see this quiet, still, image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house. As I turned from observing, I noticed a flat tire on my son’s truck, which brought me back to reality and the moment.

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

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


Teach to where the learning will be, not to where it is

Bird Droppings October 2, 2020

Teach to where the learning will be, not to where it is

I got a text from my middle son that a package was coming from my granddaughter and fragile. My box arrived today, and I thought I should open while videotaping. I carefully opened as per instructions from my granddaughter. I pulled out the stuffing and padding and found a handmade piece of pottery. It was an ugly face jug. My son told my granddaughter I used to collect them, and she made me one. On the backside was the crucial piece. She made some red flowers. I received a text explaining the flowers and a tape of Harry Chapin singing “Flowers are Red.” I highly recommend teachers and parents; listen to this song. A little boy goes to school and colors, and the teacher corrects him. 

“And she said…Flowers are red young man, and Green leaves are green. There’s no need to see flowers any other way. Then the way they always have been seen, But the little boy said…There are so many colors in the rainbow, So many colors in the morning sun, So many colors in a flower, and I see everyone.” Harry Chapin

It seems lately the pressure of old age has been weighing on my mind. Today is the first day I felt relatively good could be the ugly face jug I received from my granddaughter. Last year on the spur of the moment while grocery shopping, I bought two pumpkins for my grandkids to paint. That turned out to be a great success, along with an herbed pork loin I recall cooking that evening. With the chills setting in, my days of getting flower pictures and spiders are numbered. Hopefully, I will be gathering in my plants that do not enjoy the cold this weekend. I hope to make the mountaineering festival in North Georgia coming up I Missed last year due to my wife and I being incapacitated.

I am a member of the National Association of Educators and receive their weekly publication. An article caught my attention in a past issue. In Georgia, we had Standards that drive the state’s curriculum in line with federal and state mandates. Essentially the article was about teaching to the test.

“Preferring concrete guidance, teachers make what is tested their de facto focus. The unfortunate result is that tests become the curriculum. And because tests are filled with multiply choice items that do not adequately reflect important higher levels of cognitive demand, instruction becomes less rich that it should be.” Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard, Standards are not enough.

As I thought, I recalled a quote I have used many times before and how it applies to education.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

Last night, I was working on pulling some files together and books for my ideas that this Wayne Gretzky quote popped up again. Considering that I had played ice hockey in college and most of my Life, it was cool. Gretzky is a hero to hockey kids, just like Michael Jordan is to basketball players. Gretzky’s records cover several pages of HHL record books; he holds or shares 61 NHL records. For example, a recent ESPN top twenty-five sports records that will never be broken had Gretzky’s feat of 2857 points (goals and assists) right near the top since number three player, Gordie Howe 1850 holds the longevity record as well, and number two is 1887 points. But what does this have to do with the price of beans or with education?

“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their learning and democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve Children’s Lives. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, retired Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College

Proactive is the right word. “Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty” is how Dictionary.com explains the word proactive. A good friend has the Gretzky quote up on his wall; I gave him a copy nearly nine years ago and is still in use. I first used this quote over nine years ago when my friend was principal at our high school. He has moved on, but Gretzky’s words ring true, be it in Ice Hockey, teaching, or in Life. In this quote, I expect a crucial element, be where the puck will be, not just where it is. Be thinking ahead rather than thinking in stagnation.

“For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much – if he lives and uses that in hand day by day — shall be full to running over.” Edgar Cayce

“Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” Richard M. DeVoe

Much of Cayce’s reading can be a bit much but these are good words and our daily outlook does mold where and how our day will be.

“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” Orison Swett Marden

Marden was the founder of Success magazine and is considered the founder of the modern Success movement.

“We lift ourselves by our thought; we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your Life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere – your ideal of what you long to attain – the ideal of health, efficiency, success.” Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924)

I am always amazed at teachers who will have few expectations for students. Research has shown time and time again that students live up to the expectations of the teachers. Teachers set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little to get and conversely expect much, and you will receive—a bit of a paraphrase of Gretsky.

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is” Frank Bird.

As I thought this morning, teaching is much like any other activity you plan, you implement, and you have expectations. If we only teach to where learning is, soon you find you are truly going nowhere. For years I will at times use words far beyond the operational vocabulary of students; my response is always “look it up and learn a new word”.

“By asking for the impossible, we obtain the best possible.” Giovanni Niccolini

“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of Life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little, and as a result, they get little.” Ben Sweetland

I liked this concept so often we teach the use of a teaspoon, I do it too, and thinking that this kid will never learn that or this kids’ reading level is too low. Sweetland writes about expectations and offers this.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” Ben Sweetland

When that problematic student succeeds, you, as a teacher, succeed, and your path is brighter. Years ago, I worked with severely disabled students, and a simple movement often would warrant a celebration. So often, I use the quote from Aerosmith’s song, Amazing.

“Life is a journey, not a destination” Steven Tyler

As I read this morning, Ben Sweetland either listens to Aerosmith or Steven Tyler reds Ben Sweetland’s books.

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland

After looking up publishing dates, Steven Tyler read Ben Sweetland’s book. Many of which were published in the 1960s. If we as teachers impose parameters on learning, if we set goals far to low and or do not teach to lofty goals we set, we, in effect, are the issue, not the student. Maybe every teacher needs to tack over their door as my dear friend, the now Georgia Principal of the year at Osborne High School, has.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

Let us set some records now, records of learning of successful students and children in our communities. As I went out into the morning’s chill a bit earlier to walk my dog as I looked to the southeast, the constellation Orion was clear as a bell over me. I could not help but notice that today was the first day in months it was silent in the morning: no tree frogs, crickets, cicada’s absolute silence. I have often wondered as to the ambient temperature for silence in the morning. I was reading in a small book written between 1953 and 1954 by a Trappist monk, Thoughts in solitude and a passage struck a chord in the silence.

“Living is not thinking. The thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to Life and Life to thought that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus, Life is always new.” Thomas Merton

Perhaps I was not listening close enough as I went out just a few minutes ago when I said it was silent. I stepped out again with my other dog, and a great horned owl was calling. There is always more always knew if we regularly adjust thoughts and perceptions. Merton was a prolific writer, and his works have stood the test of time. He died in a small hotel in Southeast Asia in an electrical accident protesting the war in Vietnam back in the late 1960s, and as I ponder this morning, 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)


Why are we deliberately wrong?

Bird Droppings October 1, 2020

Why are we deliberately wrong?

I stopped playing the lottery nearly three years ago. However, I will admit that I was pondering retiring on a previous Saturday night with a Powerball jackpot of only about one hundred fifty million dollars if I bought a ticket and won. I think I would be if I won retiring to devote time to education more positively than what today’s teachers are allowed. Due to so many mandates, edicts, pontifications, justifications, and whatever other impeding education our school, local, state, and the federal government has imposed, it is honestly hard to teach. Generally, over the years each semester, a teacher with a challenging class talks about changing careers or retiring. This year it is an epidemic. Teachers, I consider some of the best are dwindling, and others tired of the constant imposing of near-impossible attainments for students with no curriculum changes or courses they are told to teach. As with so many issues, education has been bastardized and taken over by those seeking to make more money.

“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 have no right to talk. Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many misunderstandings have come between the white men about the Indians.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce January 14, 1879, addressing representatives of the President of The United States

I am saddened nothing has changed in the over hundred fifty plus years since Chief Joseph surrendered. Today, over three hundred thousand complaints against the Bureau of Indian Affairs are unanswered and in courts throughout the country. The highest suicide rate of teenagers in the nation is on reservations. Around the country, we are arguing about illegal immigrants. In Arizona and New Mexico, many of these people’s ancestors were kicked off their land when we won the Spanish American war. Navahos, Apaches, and many other tribes were dispersed to the Indian Territories in Oklahoma, never allowed to return to the ancestral homes. We are so self-centered that we can argue about illegal immigrants; maybe we are genuinely illegal immigrants. An old Indian was approached by an anthropologist and asked what your people called this land before the white man came. He calmly said, “Ours.”

“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to grow and live.” Chief Joseph

My thoughts often come random after a few hours’ sleep and rising to take the dog out, and a point or idea will stick. Last night about two-thirty, I got off the phone after talking with a good friend from many years ago. We talked for nearly three hours, and in heading to bed, something came to mind. It seems the powers to be back in the day and now always want to mass-produce. In the late 1800s, as far as Native Peoples go, they came up with a blanket policy and no pun intended to cover all tribes. There was no consideration of culture, family, language, and history; this included education using the Carlisle School as an example.

The white Christian way was the best and only way. No exceptions Indians should be farmers like white folk; no more hunting and gathering, no more Sundance ceremonies banned in the late 1800s or rituals that might offend Christian folk. Treaties and promises were made almost with little or no attempt to indeed fund and implement that plan. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Corruption ruled what little funding did find its way to reservations and holding areas. As I thought it was very easy to tie this government outlook to the education of today coincidently.

In 2004 a massive educational bill was passed entitled No Child Left Behind. A key point being that by 2014 all children would be on grade level in math and reading. Sadly, funding was left by the wayside and for states to implement as best they could. However, penalties were still in place for not meeting standards imposed. The idea of all children being to standard includes all socio-economic, cultural, children with disabilities, ethnic groups, and any other sort of subtitle that might be thrown in. Children would be evaluated with standardized tests given in specific grades and to graduate. Dr. William Ayers, that same fellow accused during the previous presidential election of being too friendly with our past president, has a nationally known educator and author.

“The root of the word evaluation is ‘value,’ and authentic assessment includes understanding first what the student’s value and then building from there. An authentic assessment is inside-out rather than outside-in. It is an attempt to get away from sorting a mass of students and closer to the teacher’s question: Given what I know, how should I teach this particular student.” Dr. William Ayers

One of our states’ efforts to get an assessment in line with national standards and accountability has been a new math curriculum and subsequent testing. On the front page of a past Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Only 52% of the students who took the End of Course test for Math II in May 2017 passed.” This was across the state averages in high schools on this particular test. State department of education people say they will get it will take time for students to get used to the new curriculum. In special education, we have been told to start telling parents in IEP’s that kids may be in high school for five or six years due to higher standards for graduation. Interesting by chance, should you take over four years to graduate, you are considered a dropout until recently when the graduation rules were again changed.

I question who is setting the bar up and why? As I read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it is due to mandated standards set in the No Child Left Behind legislation. What about schools that are so far behind that no matter what bar level is set, it will not happen. Many reservation schools and inner-city schools have never hit AYP to date in nearly ten years of testing. Another low point is that it is common knowledge among administrators and educators that test scores and zip codes have a strong correlation. How is that for a statistic? Borrowing a phrase now that is a Catch 22, yes, most definitely, zip codes and test scores do correlate. I had an idea last night after a brief discussion in a blog over what could be done. I asked for some time to think about solving this dilemma. By chance, I went by Barnes and Noble to get some backup material.

Great educators have known the answer; John Dewey offered suggestions and thoughts well over a hundred years ago. Numerous other authors have expanded on and clarified Dewey’s thoughts. All seem to conclude the solution is not in one test fits all; one curriculum fits all; it is not about leaving children behind, which is currently happening at an alarming rate. So here was walking my dog last night, and a thought came to me. It is about one child at a time.

“Teachers are explorers. As they explore their students’ world and lives, they cast lines to different ways of thinking. Teaching is often bridge-building; beginning on one shore with the knowledge, experience, know-how, and interests of the student, the teacher move toward broader horizons and deeper ways of knowing.” Dr. William Ayers, to teach the journey of a teacher, 2010

You might say, where do we start? Step one, we start asking students. After talking with many students of the Foxfire program who have graduated many years back, I see that there are commonalities in their opinion of what they learned. They learned about community more so than any other topic; this has come up numerous times. It was not a measurable academic lesson or standardized test score it was the interactions with others in a useful and viable manner. It was being allowed to be an individual and to be creative. It was about one child at a time.

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

John Dewey emphasized the democratic classroom and giving students a voice and allowing their past experiences to be utilized, not just those perceptions and experiences of the teacher. One Child’s idea at a Time may sound a bit farfetched, but when you look at how we currently test and evaluate, it is not truly an indicator of what a child knows or even cares about. It is what has been drilled in the past semester. You will often hear the term life long learner and yet is cramming for a standardized test lifelong learning? Is 52% of students taking tests failing lifelong learning? What if we could take a bit more time to learn who the student is to allow students to incorporate their weaknesses and strengths into the learning process. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do an individual IEP for all students instead of a blanket testing policy? Would it not be great if each student had a portfolio that accompanied them in each grade, showing progress and showing their achievements? It is one child at a time that is the key to educational success and or failure. I will wander more another time so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)