Today is day one or so I am told

Bird Droppings January 31, 2021
Today is day one or so I am told

Feeling old today now that I am working on my seventieth first year it is raining outside, my bones are aching. I remember nearly fifteen years ago as we got closer to the last day in our old house it was appropriately to be the last day of the month. Sitting here in my writing nook thinking back too early in the morning it is a new day a glorious day and who knows what this day holds. I wonder each day as I start who I will meet, talk with and what new ideas may come around. Being accustomed to early rising I am sitting here at my computer typing away getting thoughts down, organizing notes and a semblance of preparing for more serious writing and editing later today. It is a good day a hundred percent chance of rain and or a zero percent chance of sun. I like the weather reports on the news they are always so vague and always covering every angle neither cloud nor sun for sure but possibility of either. I found this thought today as I sit and ponder.

“Everything comes to pass; nothing comes to stay.” Matthew Flickstein, Journey to The Center

When I saw this, I thought of a dear friend who passed away what seems decades ago. He was a teenager who I would have never suspected had a feeling for Robert Frost. So, for those of you who knew him, a special word for Travis, a special someone who could light up a room and generally get someone mad at the same time.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
By Robert Frost


Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down today.
Nothing gold can stay.

When I went to the funeral of Travis and heard this poem read. This was his favorite poem. I had to think, I had to ponder and for myself I could not have remembered that verse though I am sure I read it somewhere in my wanderings. Travis was not a scholar and I do not mean that in a bad way he was quite the opposite so to say. Yet this verse was of significance to him, he carried it with him on a piece of paper in his wallet. Earlier today I wrote, responding to an email, about doing right and or doing good.

“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies; succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you have got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway.” Mother Teresa

A dear friend from Ohio who too has passed on recently sent me this quote and paraphrased if you are an atheist cover your ears, well actually your eyes unless someone is reading this to you. An atheist friend responded with. “All atheists have to do is substitute another word (like ‘conscience’) or thought for ‘God’ in the final sentence, and it works just as well. Or better, eliminate the final sentence, and it works even better, since the reader must come up with his own justification for doing the right thing.” As I think back to Travis, I honestly do not think he intentionally did wrong ever. Everything he did do, while annoying at times, loud at times, was joyful. It was often funny as I sit here, that was the word that popped in my mind, joyful.

I agree with that great philosopher and guru of gurus a dear friend from the Philadelphia area Dlog Nala, that leaving out the last sentence changes the passage a bit. So often in life we need excuses to do something even though it is right, what is in it for me that extrinsic motivation that drives mankind. Even in this analogy of doing for God there is a reason for doing good, rather than simply because it is right. While I am reminiscing going back many years to an argument in seminary. I was always intrigued how the mafia Godfather, on his death bed would have last rites and absolution even though he had murdered many people and pillaged the city through crime. I listened to many messages of salvation from sin.

I had a professor and an entire discussion group tell me how upset they were over the fact that this group of people we had just worked with, were going to hell because they could not accept their way of believing. The unit was a severe and profoundly disabled unit at Central state hospital back in the days of institutions, a large complex of buildings and humanity in Central Georgia in the early 1970’s. Many of the patients in this unit were bedridden and connected to feeding tubes, literally comatose. They were turned every hour or so to prevent bed sores. I always thought it was interesting that these folks in that unit were lost and the mafia godfather was not. The science of theology has a way of doing that.

It has been a few years since another friend, and I walked five miles every day discussing life and theology. Many the talks as we walked, of where and when and how and many of Travis and his impact on our own lives. I am amazed at how a sixteen-year-old could affect so many people.

“Everything comes to pass; nothing comes to stay.” Matthew Flickstein, Journey to The Center

We tend to get greedy when we have a good thing and never want to let go of it. I have been writing each morning for nearly fourteen years and on that morning, after holding Travis’s hand for most of the night a story I have told so many times. I had been watching monitors go the direction I was hoping they would not. The doctor said it was up to the family they would harvest organs when given permission. Travis was an organ donor; it was his wish and he even talked about it often. I went to my own home, after we had taken all the high school friends of Travis back after a night in the hospital. I sat down at my computer and I have related this so many times previously. There affixed to the monitor a yellow post-it note, from my son.

“Dad” it was addressed to me. “Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

It was funny how it took my teenager, at that time, my son to give me perspective. I learned more in that moment than I had in many years of discussion and classes. We all are on a journey each of us wandering often far from the path. My son now a teacher of science and I really do not think he knows how much he taught his old man in one line. Some of us never step out of the way from their travels. For many people it is always a straight and narrow pathway. However, some of us choose to go down this side road and up that path. It is the journey we are on that is so important and it is on that journey we need to borrow from Mother Theresa and do what is right, do it anyway. Sitting here my computer alarm went off time to get busy. As I was reading the news on Yahoo a few minutes back, maybe a change in how we view our world situation is in the horizon coming up. I would hope so; life is so precious it is not a commodity like so much of our economy. We are not human capital as so many politicians and even educators would like to think. So as always for today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Reconciliation of trust

Bird Droppings January 30, 2021
Reconciliation of trust

“It’s the examination of conscience. Unless you examine your conscience, you don’t know what you have to be sorry for and what to confess” Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., Ten Tips for Better Confessions, The Gift of Reconciliation

Sort of difficult ending the week with a vocabulary word and one we seldom actually use. I do think we perform the process, but somehow never understand what it is we are doing when we do. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has for its definition of the word reconciliations the following:

“The state of being reconciled which is based on reconcile or to restore to friendship or harmony” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

It has been a long time since I was called up to the principal’s office for supposedly writing a note for a student to go home, something I would not do and did not do. This student was someone I had trusted and now had seriously betrayed that trust. The following day I asked my own students to write about what would they do if someone betrayed their trust, not referring to the incident that had occurred? Many of my students often feel betrayed as a part of their own disability. They have a difficult time dealing with trusting anyone and betraying that bit of trust that they may have is so hard to even accept that it hits them extremely hard.


Some of the examples are “I would never speak to them again”, “I would consider them no longer existing”, one student went so far as “I would kill them”. I was hoping that was a figurative term only. When I look back a few lines to Webster’s thought reconcile is a “restoring of harmony”. Not being able to trust, affects my own existence in how I perceived each person that I now encountered. Often being on guard, wary, not a sensation that I liked or even the effort of being cautious.

“Trust is a firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing. It is a reliance on something in the future, hope. The condition and resulting obligation of having confidence placed in one: One in which confidence is placed.” Dictionary.com

Trust is a simple word as I looked for definitions and a bit more understanding can be had in words such as reliance, confidence, hope, integrity, and character. These are all words used in defining trust. By going a bit deeper, trust is synonymous with belief and with the word faith. When we trust someone, we have faith in them, belief in them. To tear this down is a serious issue and difficult to repair. This is perhaps why my students had such a difficult time with pondering what you do when someone betrays your trust. It was from that point I wondered if we could reconcile.

Within most of the world’s religions forgiveness is paramount to any attempt at moving forward. It is about being able to forgive and to reconcile. Within some religions as in my first quote that is based on reconciliation. Within the Catholic Church where reconciliation is a sacrament there is a restoration on the most part for many people. In religion that restoration is often with God or the church, but deeper when that reconciliation is between two people there is a “restoration to friendship and to harmony” as Webster’s so eloquently states.

“The man who trusts men will make fewer mistakes that he who distrusts them” Conte di Cavour, Camillo Benso

That state of distrust is uncomfortable for me. When I trust in life it flows and moves so easily from point A to B. In a state of distrust and looking back over my shoulder continually not only does my neck get tired but my soul as well? Perhaps therefore I find working with students who do not trust so easy. Many teachers prior to my room do not trust them and I until proven wrong.

“All our progress is an unfolding, like the vegetable bud, you have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is so much easier to function in life in a state of trust than in distrust, perhaps therefore reconciliation is such a powerful tool bringing back that harmony that smoothness in life, restoring faith in others in yourself. I came to school after that incident in a state of distrust and as the day went on not sure which direction to go. Walking to my room the student who betrayed my trust came up to me and asked if we could talk, after school I said. There was desperation in the voice a need for reconciliation a need to restore harmony and friendship. School went by and the day ended, I was literally oblivious to my conversation earlier of talking after school. This student comes in and tries to explain, tears so close to welling up, “I am sorry”.


It is amazing how several days of pondering what to do is melted away so easily with three words. The days of should I do this or that or should I do that are wiped clean, reconciled and harmony is restored. My good friend Emerson compares to a bud. Nearly eight years ago I found a pin, one of those simple metal stick pins with a slogan on it. It was given to me on my twenty third birthday by a dear friend in a youth group I worked with, a 1970’s pin as it goes, “Bloom where you are planted” with a flower or two around it. I affixed it to my ID badge lanyard. What a simple message, from days gone by, that still carries impetuous. It is still so true and still for me is what teaching is about. It is helping students bloom wherever it is that they are and more so about life in general. We all should be trying to bloom where we are planted. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Counting knuckles is that considered totally normal?

Bird Droppings January 29, 2021

Counting knuckles is that considered totally normal?

 One of my students asked a few years back what day of the month the following Friday would be, and I responded January 30. Just as quick another said he thought it was the first. I said no it was the thirty first and he proceeded to count his knuckles, “a knuckle has 31 days”, he said. He figured it was the thirty first. Later, I watched as we did math computation tests and he was using his fingers as a portable calculator, I was intrigued. Perhaps it was that I also knew the personality of this student and how he comes off as being such a bad dude that intrigued me. But in a lighter moment with no planning his other side comes out. It is sad because this side of him does try to succeed. However so often even for me he will shut down and sulk away to wherever he chooses and vegetate. I am not listening, you cannot make me listen, or I do not care and best of all just give me a zero, will spill from his mouth. These are the students w let slip through the cracks and potholes of standardized education.

I was thinking how great if you could plan your day around the moments a student is willing to count fingers and knuckles maybe call it “knuckle time”. Those moments when being embarrassed or ashamed of your own capabilities are gone and you can move ahead even if only in micro steps. We all experience this at some time or another. As I watch and listen to students, I see pieces of myself in others. How we go about our days those little things we do to survive the onslaught of society. Some of us have enough to make it throughout the day and others have only counting knuckles and when the task goes beyond that capability then frustration and defeat self-imposed. “Give me a zero”.

I used a trick of sorts to get extra time out of students the one day. Biology questions were two to three per page and amazingly simple with tricks so to say true and false sort of questions at times, but answers might alter true and false to false and true. So, the student did have to read and think about questions and answers. Some students made it through level two others to level four before difficulty set in. Today we will do more, and the goal is for students to be successful throughout the process, till they reach a level of discomfort and then set up the programming and planning of lessons accordingly. Unlike many situations these students face adjustments and or modifications and they can be made.

So often in school we want every child to fit parameters we establish as teachers and further up the line as curriculum gurus, experts, and specialists. All ninth graders should do this and tenth graders this item. I was listening to questioning of the Secretary of Education yesterday. So many issues with this person, not including absolutely zero experience or understanding of public education. Perhaps her first piece of legislation might be, no child will be left behind who does what we want and is considered totally normal should be the legislative name of the bill. NCLBWDWWWAICTN might be too long of an acronym so we can shorten it to ENDED.

However, what about the exceptions in life? Years ago, I found myself as an exception. It was in fourth grade and I was sitting getting my paper back and the teacher had given me a C on my paper in which I had four wrong. One of my friends next to me had four wrong and an A so I was confused. Day by day this continued, and I asked my mom about it. She went in for a conference and the teacher told her I was not working up to my potential, so she graded me differently. Guess what happened I quit. No more extra reading for schoolwork although I did still read volumes for fun, no more extra credit. I got left behind because a teacher failed to see I was not fitting into her parameters.

I once saw a peg board with round holes and all the pegs were square and did not fit. Children would try and then after hitting did not work finally quit. The demonstration was a psychological test with young children. Funny thing is we do this all the time in school and on the job as teachers. We want people to fit our standards our peg board.

“Children love and want to be loved and they very much prefer the joy of accomplishment to the triumph of hateful failure. Do not mistake a child for his symptom.” Erik Erikson

I watch the paradoxes of our federal mandate of No Child Left Behind, where frustrated kids quit school because of so called graduation tests. It is where frustrated teachers are leaving due to being judges on students taking standardized tests. What about being the teacher of a math class where your entire class failed the prerequisite for your class and now is in your class since prerequisite is no longer offered and you have an end of course test that measures your teaching ability and sixty seven percent fail. No one looks at pretest scores and posttest scores and significant improvement and learning that occurred. All that matters is that end of course tests score and the failure rate shows you are not teaching. A whole class and teacher get left behind.

I found this quote well over three years ago and thought it would be a good one to toss out. I think someone retrieved it from his trash can since he has proven he really does not believe this.

“I think the law is too punitive, too prescriptive, it’s led to a dumbing down of standards, and it’s led to a narrowing of curriculum. We need to fix all those things. We must reward success, reward excellence, and look at growth and gain, not just absolute test scores. We have to be much more flexible.” Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan

As I watch how politics interferes and then create havoc in education and in so many areas, I wonder why we have politicians at times. It makes me want to count my knuckles and see if the answer is correct and that is knowing I do not have enough knuckles for this problem.

“We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.” B. F. Skinner

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

Maybe we forget this, maybe we want education to be this neat package we can take off the shelf and spoon feed to our students and the students get or do not get and we go on leaving behind the ones that don’t get it. What about the kid with three knuckles? My son had a friend who lost a finger in childhood he would be at a disadvantage counting knuckles.

“Every acquisition of accommodation becomes material for assimilation, but assimilation always resists new accommodations.”  Jean Piaget

I wonder if we did pretests and posttests in congress and in the Senate on ethics and on performance if our elected officials would pass the grade or be left behind. No Congressman left behind now that is a bill I could get behind. 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

Gratitude is an action

Bird Droppings January 28, 2021
Gratitude is an action

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

Chief Seattle, 1854

A few months back on most mornings I was driving to school about five thirty or so in the morning thinking back this morning this idea of thanks hit me. So it is seven thirty or so in the morning and I am sitting, writing. I by chance got a photo of a brilliant red maple tree shining in the rising sun a few days ago. I hope to be lucky now that daylight savings time I in effect sunrise will be later in morning and I can start to walk outside at and enjoy the sunrises. It is a powerful time of day as the sunrise appears it is though you can watch and listen to the awakening of everything. I used to while at school stand facing east to take in the full effect of the sunrise cars and of course business sounds humming and popping around me could distract. So for today to be able to enjoy and listen to the world awake is nice.

It has been a few days since I was photographing and literally drove nearly sixty miles around the area looking for images of the sun coming up at one point a lone bird started chirping and soon another and within minutes I was visually and auditory committed to a new day. On this day of thanks to our veterans I am not only thankful but offer it is with sincere gratitude that I sit here writing today. Another thought of many good friends who have served this great nation in the armed services. To those friends, family and those I do know who have served our country thank you from my heart.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Meister Eckhart

I was thinking about gratitude. When I saw Eckhart’s quote about a month ago my first thought was to use it on Thanksgiving Day. But I really think it goes beyond a single day of giving thanks.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

“Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.” Northrup Christine

Being grateful opens doors and allows people in. We live in such a protectionist society and reality. We are always trying to protect our own area of influence and self. However gratefulness can lift you up and take you beyond where you are now to another level.

“Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” French Proverb

“It is another’s fault if he is ungrateful, but it is mine if I do not give. To find one thankful man, I will oblige a great many that are not so.” Seneca

Gratitude requires giving and in giving we are also offering of ourselves and building up within ourselves.

“The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.” Ethel Percy Andrus

“It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.” Richard Braustein

Life is about giving, sometimes what you offer to others is simply how and where you are placed in life and many times that provides the vehicle for your journey deeper and through life and offers direction for others.

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” Flora Edwards

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran

So often we think of giving as money or food, but in reality giving of oneself that is the hardest and the most rewarding. I recall listening to war stories my father would tell. These would be heart wrenching stories of World War II and his own journey in life. I have read many books and heard others tell of their service and time serving our country. It is in caring about people and sharing through offering of one’s life that is much harder than simply providing a dollar or a can, the gratitude comes back within and through our hearts.

“He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.” Lao Tzu

“A handful of pine-seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forests. I too will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high.” Fiona Macleod

As I am pondering the words from The Art of War, written thousands of years ago and from another more recent Scottish author and writer William Sharp who wrote for a number of years as Fiona McCleod I am think of so many friends who in serving died. As I think of the warriors who have given their all at times in controversy and often only because they believed they were doing what is right. It is the memories and pain we carry that gives us hope. When forester’s timber areas, often they will leave several healthy older trees to seed the remaining land. I have been in areas where clear cutting save for a few tree, has occurred and several years later a new forest has begun. But it is so important to plant seeds and to scatter them as to be a friend and to let friendships grow. When I can I do tell the stories told by my father and I do recall and tell of my friends exploits. I tell stories of warriors of old who fought and die for what they believed fighting for families and country. I give thanks each day as I walk and greet the sun.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Teresa

“The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.” Brian Tracy

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton

I remember a candlelight service so many years ago, one person carefully started with a lit candle and handed their light to another’s candle and each in turn went through the room lighting another’s and soon the room was filled with light. We are much like a candle light service if we share our light and love, and pass it on to the person next to you. It is to say thank you when you receive from another and offer always to another. I will end with a simple thought and prayer for a day of honoring all warriors past, present and future.

“When you were born, you cried, and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” White Elk

So often life hands us unexpected surprises, gratitude extends and magnifies those times. Please as we get into this coming holiday season 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

All in the words we choose to find

Bird Droppings January 26, 2021

All in the words we choose to find

Over the years I have been a fan of singer song writers. There are many I could list but one eluded me for some time, Tom Petty. I knew the name and I could tell you that was a heartbreaker song but never really paid much attention. The Traveling WIlbury’s came out back in the 1980’s and I was a fan. George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynn I knew vaguely from ELO, and Tom Petty. Originally, I thought Petty was an afterthought. My son and my wife both got Sirius XM in their new vehicles and locked in on Tom Petty Radio. A ruptured Achilles tendon had me riding with my son to work and listening daily to Tom Petty. I was amazed at his lyrics and songs.

“Well, I started out down a dirty road. Started out all alone and the sun went down as I crossed the hill and the town lit up, the world got still. I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings coming down is the hardest thing.” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Learning to Fly when preformed by the Heartbreakers is almost always song by the crowd and literally brings tears to your eyes. I guess I am drawn to songwriters because of the words they chose to find.  I watched a Tom Petty documentary and listen to Tom explain songs and why they came when they did. I often as I sit say to myself, I wonder who I am writing for today? Words have significance and power both negative and positive.

“The farmer channels water to his land. The fletcher whittles his arrows. And the carpenter turns his wood. So, the wise direct their mind.” Dhammapada

Many years ago, there was a folk song entitled, If I were a carpenter, as I read this passage this morning from a Hindu text that song popped in my mind. Many folk artists have covered the song. The song was written by folk singer Tim Hardin. It was a hit in 1966 recorded by Bobby Darrin who after letting two other songs slip by that became number one hits for The Lovin Spoonful grabbed onto this one. A few years later the song was covered by legendary artist Johnny Cash and again a hit. As I think back there was a similar passage that I used many years ago from another great thinker of our time.

If I were a carpenter

 and you were a lady,

 Would you marry me anyway?

 Would you have my baby?

If a tinker were my trade

 would you still find me,

 carrin’ the pots I made,

 followin’ behind me.

Save my love through loneliness,

 Save my love for sorrow,

 I’m given you my onliness,

 Come give your tomorrow.

If I worked my hands in wood,

 Would you still love me?

 Answer me babe, “Yes I would,

 I’ll put you above me.”

If I were a miller

 at a mill wheel grinding,

 would you miss your color box,

 and your soft shoe shining?

 Tim Hardin

I have read these words and listened to many singers sing them. Some will say it is just a song of a blue-collar worker a common man who is in love with an upper-class woman. Will he still love her even though he is merely a carpenter? Some argue it is about Jesus Christ who as stories go was a carpenter in love with a lady. But as I read and reread the words this morning so many more thoughts and understandings. I recall a passage from a speech given by the great civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

During the folk song era of the 1960’s although sitting here pondering it probably in some circles still exists, especially around my house anyhow many songs were written to add credence to various social efforts of the time. Pete Seeger would sing songs borrowed from Woody Guthrie’s hobo and dust bowl travels, the songs of the depression. As he traveled the country he sang at union, environmental, and civil rights meetings, including for Dr. King He would borrow from many and various other sources for his songs.

 One song was made famous outside of folk song circles by a group “the Byrd’s” was “Turn, turn, turn” a song that received its words from a book in the Old Testament Ecclesiastes to be exact. “To ever thing there is a season, ……a time to be born a time to die” As I sit here writing this morning flags are still flying from telephone poles, draped over tables, still a few emblazoned-on T-shirts and paper cups celebrating our nation. Just a few days ago we elected a new president and I am reminded of what and who we are as Americans. It is not our differences but our similarities that make us who we are. It is our desire and passion for freedom.

 By the constitution of the United States all people are equal, and all are entitled to certain liberties and the pursuit of happiness be they carpenters, millers, tinkers, lawyers, or folk singers. As we go about today remembering and watching the few remnants of our real heritage, we need to also think of in being free and being able to speak, and worship freely we should not impose our own ideals and beliefs on others. That is so easy to say but I was reminded of a moment so many years ago of the innocence of youth, as I sat at lunch with my youngest son at a Chinese Buffet in Loganville Georgia. The owner I have known for many years and she had her three boys there with her, it was late afternoon we had been working at the High School working in my room. Her boys were sitting playing at the next booth, some was in English some in Chinese as they chattered back and forth and giggled playing games as small children do, the boys were between 3 and 5 years old. One of the boys using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted said I am a Chinese boy now. As I sat and thought so many possible meanings to that, I know his family, mother, and father both are from mainland China and very active in cultural awareness programs in schools and the community. Was this an example of an innocent child’s color blindness or was it a slight to his heritage imposed by others?

“There is a time to ever season” we cannot choose the road of our genetics, but we can choose the directions and pathways we take with it. We can choose the words and actions. In a cultural awareness class, a few years back as I wrote the word black, indicating race I was reminded that it is correct to say Afro American. I wondered at the response, yet I am still called a white person not a Welsh, English, German, Irish, Native American, Hebrew, Scottish, Amish, person. Although WEGINAHSA would work now that I think of it. I wonder if I called someone a Weginahsa, would they be upset or if I could get that listed as an ethnic group. I could list it under other, I am a Weginahsa pronounced, Wee – jean – A – house – a. I am no longer just white I am a proud weginahsa, if I can spell it correctly and pronounce it the same twice in a row.

We choose the roads and pathways; we choose the words and implications of those words and the attitude that formulates them. MLK as he made the comment about a street sweeper it is our choice as to how great or how little we are, and it is our choice whether we truly are free or not. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are Americans, and we are able to think act and be free keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

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

I am just sitting, pondering and thinking while wiping away a tear or two

Bird Droppings January 25, 2021

I am just sitting, pondering and thinking while wiping away a tear or two

It was several years ago that I was outside early as a great horned owl was irritating our dog keeping her up. It seems it was more than one as around me several were calling back and forth in an eerie chorus. The hooting had the dog going perhaps it was just the echoing of the owls through the trees which altered direction and location and crickets and tree frogs added in made quite a combination. I often joke about my monastic ways. It seems I am alone more than in a group and seem to enjoy that. I have my moments when I seek human communication the corner story for a few minutes each morning and of course Kroger for groceries. Perhaps trying to mingle is not in my nature yet I do enjoy joking around and even at times trying to be the focus or center of attention. Perhaps we all do seek attention each in our own way.

“Time is a jet plane; it moves too fast. Oh, but what a shame if all we’ve shared can’t last.  I can change, I swear, oh, oh, see what you can do.  I can make it through, you can make it too.” Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks

Every morning when I went into to school including Saturdays and many Sundays I religiously checked my emails. I still make a habit of checking emails first thing each morning on my phone. As I sat down today reading emails a note I had received in Xanga (is that even a word anymore) a good while back came to mind. My son had posted a note in which he related that he read the lyrics to a song by Joni Mitchell. Many youngsters will not even know the name Joni Mitchell, one of the great folk singers of the antiwar movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s back in my day, the Viet Nam era. Literally daily I receive emails from friends or readers of my blog, and I am end up getting to the word synchronicity and how words may be for this person or that and they may be just what was needed for this person now. It has been a few days since I wrote about morality and an email came back about a ninth-grade class where the discussion went into the morality of gene therapy and the students were unsure of the concept of morality. They had to discuss morality first.

I am sitting in Georgia writing to friends around the country and a few overseas thinking about all that happened yesterday pondering on what will happen today and thinking about why my son was drawn to this song so many years ago. I use words from songs quite often in correspondence and in counseling and working with others. Words can be so powerful and so moving and conversely words can destroy and conquer. I share these words today a simple plea from a folk singer with a quiet powerful voice, Joni Mitchell.  

The fiddle and the Drum

By Joni Mitchell

And so once again

My dear Johnny my dear friend

And so once again you are fightin’ us all

And when I ask you why

You raise your sticks and cry, and I fall

Oh, my friend

How did you come?

To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say I have turned

Like the enemies you’ve earned

But I can remember

All the good things you are

And so I ask you please

Can I help you find the peace and the star?

Oh, my friend

What time is this?

To trade the handshake for the fist

And so once again

Oh, America my friend

And so once again

You are fighting us all

And when we ask you why

You raise your sticks and cry and we fall

Oh, my friend

How did you come?

To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say we have turned

Like the enemies you’ve earned

But we can remember

All the good things you are

And so we ask you please

Can we help you find the peace and the star?

Oh my friend

We have all come

To fear the beating of your drum

© 1969 Siquomb Publishing Corp. (BMI)

As I listened to the words, I was reminded of a dear friend in Pennsylvania that I have known for many years and with whom I correspond regularly through email, the words reminded of his writings.  He had been researching a drummer boy from West Chester Pa.  He was the youngest person killed in the Union forces during the Civil War. My friend in his own way was obsessed with the story and is writing a book about his findings. After many years of searching, he found the grave of the drummer boy. He had been to that spot numerous times as the drummer boy’s parents were buried there. A poplar tree marked the grave between the parents. A tree planted as a living memorial to their son who died in war.

One of my student friends from a few years back texted me upset her brother had just joined the Marines. She comes from an extended family eleven kids in several marriages and stepdads and moms. It is great at Christmas time and bad at times like this. How do you explain to a teenager war? The little drummer boy in Pa. was twelve when he died in battle. Recently I ran into a former teacher who had joined the National Guard he was rejected after going through training and suffering a stress fracture. When it came up, he had been treated for depression he was upset he could not go and fight. Sadly, this story went on and ended harshly several years later. I recall a good friend in high school we would play ice hockey at GO Carlson’s pond in the winter pick-up games and he and I would talk often as we waited for others to show up. He did not even live in our neighborhood but would come to play. He played the bassoon in the High School band and was on the soccer team. He and I both flunked out of the same college our freshmen and were drafted within days of each other. I am epileptic and though I have not had a seizure since childhood I received a 4Y permanent deferment. He went to Viet Nam. Many years later thinking I would see him at a reunion as I drove to my tenth, I found out he had been killed in Viet Nam.

It took several moments to sink in and immediately I thought this wasn’t possible and I sat back and wondered while more names were read. Each moment as I sat another name was mentioned another life had passed away in a war soon to be not a war soon to be merely history. Only a few years ago I went with my son to Washington DC riding the bus along the way we are told how to find names of relatives and friends in the index books located at the ends of the Viet Nam memorial. I walked down the walkway reluctantly at best to find a name then two and three and four and I can no longer look up names as I write where on the wall they are located on my hand in black ink. A recent email from a friend who lost her husband he had come back from Viet Nam and so many thoughts. I walked down the line found the spot and the name emotions tears welled up I walked hurriedly away as far as I could get and sat on a bench looking down across the wall. A squirrel wandered through my field of vision. It was an hour or so and my son found me “dad the bus is leaving we need to go”. I do not remember thinking just staring at that wall and that squirrel that wandered back and forth interrupting my thoughts.  There have been few moments in my life where I have been unable to control my emotions and sitting here thinking back tears wander across my cheek again perhaps for another reason time will tell.

So many thoughts as I think back on this gloomy warm winter morning, as we continue to fight another war and another war I in all the talk of freedom and patriotism and macho soldier talk I still have a difficult time with the concept of war. Joni Mitchell states so eloquently, “But we can remember all the good things you are and so we ask you please can we help you find the peace and the star oh my friend we have all come to fear the beating of your drum.”  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

Taking small steps

Bird Droppings January 24, 2021
Taking small steps

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

How many times are we told “take your time”? So often in life we are anxious to get the job finished or to get to the top today. We often forget there are many steps along the way; many puzzle pieces needing to be placed in order to see the whole picture. For many months a student I used to work with had issues with sleeping in class and at one point was suspended for three days. I had tried to get his family to get him to the doctor due to large doses of medication and combination of meds he is on. His sleeping is not typical teenager tiredness.


Walking through the meat section of Kroger I ran into his mother and his doctor had called back with blood work his level of one medication was three times what it should have been, and the doctor was amazed he could even walk. One thing that so often happens in life is we want everything to be what we want now, placing a random puzzle piece on a table does not represent where or how the puzzle will turn out. It takes numerous more pieces till we see a bit and we assume to know the whole far too many times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine

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

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

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

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

Looking back on my own life it has been one of pieces falling in place slowly. One portion of my journey was twenty three years in the making. I left the teaching field directly for twenty three years all of that time in graphic arts and publishing for the training industry still indirectly in education. Coincidently during that time having delivered training manuals to most of the buildings at Georgia Tech which is where my son is now graduated from what a small world.


It has been so long in coming and even now I know this is only a portion of the puzzle, more is yet to come. In life I have found you savor each moment each second enjoy the cool breeze if only for a moment. Pull off the road if you need to view a rainbow or sunset and truly bask in the magnificence but that is another day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

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

Why do we fail?

Bird Droppings January 23, 2021
Why do we fail?

Many times, I have wondered why people stop learning. I see it in high school students, in college and graduate students. Almost as if a switch is thrown and poof no more learning, I have reached my limit seems t be the mantra. I was reading today and found this thought.

“Cognitive psychologists use the term metacognition to describe our ability to assess our own skills, knowledge, or learning. That ability affects how well and how long students’ study— which, of course, affects how much and how deeply they learn. Students with poor metacognition skills will often shorten their study time prematurely, thinking that they have mastered course material that they barely know.” James M. Lang, 1/17/12, Metacognition and Student Learning, The Chronicle of Higher Education

A few months back before the pandemic, BP, two fellows in an afternoon class both of whom have a grade of 60 currently in biology essentially told me to leave them alone. I jotted down a note for each that unless they get serious, they will fail simply based on mathematics. The class grade is eighty percent of their final grade and in Georgia we have an End of Course test, EOC in biology which is twenty percent of their grade. I pointed out at current pace they will both fail if they have a 100 on EOC. One asked me if I was trying to be smart and I assured him I am always smart. His next response was “‘bro’ gets out of my face ‘bro’ you making fun of me”. I assured him all I was doing was making a point either start getting his class grade up or take biology again next year.

I did mention that in nearly twenty years of teaching I had only seen a perfect score once and judging by his test scores he would not be number two. Thinking back that may have been sarcastic to some but he had not had a passing score on any standardized test to date.

I had a teacher approach me before school started the next day about a student who scored a seventeen on a quiz. The student’s parents were asking for a retake and a study guide which the teacher was complaining about doing. The student got a seventeen he deserved a seventeen period. Where is the learning curve giving a failing grade is not a motivator for many students who by high school are used to that and could care less? Am I achieving a passing grade by learning what is on the quiz and then retaking the quiz, and passing maybe, is what school should be about? Several friends that I have co-taught with allow retakes if you come in for tutoring over material before the retest.

“One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.” John W. Gardner

I began the morning looking through several articles written by the late William Edelen, a former pastor and fighter pilot, as well as several by Arthur Schopenhauer, 19th-century philosopher, and Joseph Campbell, a leading writer on mythology. Somehow in my reading earlier I ended up back on articles by John Gardner. I have been struggling with the idea of why students quit learning. On a recent excursion to Wal-Mart, I ran into several former students who had all quit school. One of the former students shook my hand and said he was working on his GED and working hard. The other student said he was working hard doing foundations for houses and raising his new baby. Still another was arguing with her boyfriend across the aisles at Wal-Mart.

I thought back in each of their lives. All failed in part or all the former required graduation tests in Georgia high schools. One of the students had failed one a portion three times by a total of eight points; as a result, she did not graduate, and she opted to get a GED. She was tired of failing or risking failing again. In light of the great Hank Arron’s passing, I will borrow a quote that fits today.

“I have always felt that although someone may defeat me, and I strike out in a ball game, the pitcher on the particular day was the best player. But I know when I see him again; I am going to be ready for his curve ball. Failure is a part of success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But the failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.” Hank Aaron

For so many of us we take defeat or failure in stride and move on, but for some student’s failure is a daily event and eventually they succumb and lose whatever desire to succeed they may have had. A good friend now a football and baseball coach in high school while playing high school baseball as a catcher would study players as they batted. Each pitch thrown and each swing tucked away. Should by chance he be against that same batter he knew their every move and would offer to the pitcher through hand signals the pitch to throw. My friend had an uncanny memory for details. If we could apply to teaching each mistake by a student memorized and then pitch to the weakness not to fail again but to succeed for that student.

“You win only if you aren’t afraid to lose.” Rocky Aoki

“No one ever won a chess game by betting on each move. Sometimes you have to move backward to get a step forward.” Amar Gopal Bose

Amazing how this is so similar as I think back on life to my experiences in fourth grade. I had a teacher who was grading me harder than those around me. I think she thought I would not notice. My friend next to me had two wrong and an A. I had two wrong, and a C. My mother asked and the teacher stated I was not working up to my ability, so she was grading harder than other students. I quit trying in school for some time, until about two years into college.

“Failure does not count. If you accept this, you will be successful. What causes most people to fail is that after one failure, they’ll stop trying.” Frank Burford

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver

We set in motion at young ages the ability to succeed and or the ability to make excuses. Watching kids grow up and looking at where they learn. Example is the best teacher, and they watch parents. If we make excuses and choose to not succeed what are the odds our children will succeed

“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed — I well know. For it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself.” Georges Clemenceau

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” Edwin Louis Cole

I think back to walking through the Edison museum in Fort Myers Florida and one exhibit, it is a barrel of light bulbs all failures and the plague reads it took over 10,000 failures to succeed but it did work. As I went further and read, Coles thought about drowning and was applying it to students. Many have given up because the school and society has given up. As soon as you take statistics in college you gather data and sort and develop graphs and charts about who will succeed and who will fail, and soon students know your thoughts and soon students live up to their graphs and charts.

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high- stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.” Sen. Paul Wellstone (1944-2002)

Alfie Kohn’s starts his website with:
“Rescuing our schools from tougher standards.” The statement of “Learning by doing,” which is a common shorthand for the idea that active participation helps students to understand ideas or acquire skills, is an established principle of progressive education. Much less attention, however, has been paid to the complementary possibility that teachers are most effective when they show rather than just tell. In fact, this idea doesn’t even seem to have a name so let us call it “teaching by doing”

“We need to learn from— and, fittingly, to challenge — one another’s ideas. But most important is a basic commitment to make sure that our students — future teachers, parents, and citizens — are able and willing to take a stand.” Alfie Kohn, Challenging Students . . . And How to Have More of Them

Alfie Kohn has been writing and lecturing nationwide about issues in public school for the past few years, he is a major proponent of public schools. It is how we teach he is trying to address and instilling a desire to learn rather than taking away that aspect. It is about promoting the success rather than failure that we need to strive for in our endeavors as teachers and parents. Hopefully one day when I go to Wal-Mart the students approaching me will be all talking of success and their futures. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Sailing off the edge and or thinking out of a box

Bird Droppings January 22, 2021

Sailing off the edge and or thinking out of a box

I was thinking back nearly twelve years when history was made as a new president was sworn in and as one of my students came into class and asked to start working on his assignments. I did not beg and plead he started on his own. As he pulled a three-ring binder and several folders from his back pack I sat with my mouth wide open who was this person. I have known him for a year and never has he been that “student”. It is amazing what a simple change in self-esteem and self-worth can do. On Thursday we studied for a vocabulary test using an LCD projector and when he left the room he knew the words. Last Friday morning he had a one hundred percent grade on his vocabulary test. It was a first in his educational career. What a change came over him. As I listened that night to our new president’s first speech I thought back to my student. We can make a difference each of us often in a small way that magnifies and grows.

“I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for oneself, one’s own family or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility is the key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace.” the Dalai Lama, From “The Pocket Zen Reader,”

I have found teachers can be limited in their scope of reality. You would think that as a group, teachers would be more open to ideas, to new thought, to climbing out of the box. I read this passage above yesterday in a daily offering I receive, I immediately thought of teaching. As a teacher most think only within the confines of their room. Being in a somewhat different sort of atmosphere in a resource room which for ten years is how I taught. I can recall I did claim god like power within my room. Something that has been hard to accomplish is improving behavior outside of my room. Whoa, what a concept? Try and get kids to behave for other teachers. In reality it is simply expanding kids thinking beyond the moment or at least trying to. With this one student I mentioned all it took was a nudge.

“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.”  Isaac Asimov

I read this statement so many years ago and I responded one way. A friend sent me this quote, we have an ongoing dialogue and this was a response to something I wrote and not really a counter thought but additional support. Wisdom is not as elusive as one might expect. But I do not think in wisdom one would destroy one’s self. Knowledge or knowing how to do something does not impart wisdom.

A radical extremist can know how to build a nuclear device and detonate it and is that wisdom? Car bombers are they wise? Dying in retaliation and in any kind of war is that wise? Wisdom is not controlling knowledge and maybe I really do not know what wisdom is. So, wisdom is part knowledge but also an additional aspect of concern and caring that provide the frame work for the knowledge to be structured within. Yet wisdom is not truly control.

Achilles knew his limitations and did battle. Someone else found his weakness and he was defeated. As I look deeper into the statement by Asimov however there is a willingness to know at any cost and perhaps that is really what is being said. Given the choice of not knowing or knowing and in so knowing all will be destroyed still Asimov would choose to know.

I recall we celebrate Columbus Day, we are celebrating a man who at one-point sort of discovered America. As he was heading in this direction after leaving Spain as the weeks passed his desire to know came under fire as his crew feared they would be sailing off the edge of the world and great sea serpents and such devour them. He took a chance and discovered a new world, sometimes it is not destruction but illumination that waits.

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

“Raphael paints wisdom; Handel sings it, Phidias carves it, Shakespeare writes it, Wren builds it, Columbus sails it, Luther preaches it, Washington arms it, Watt mechanizes it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Seeing the pieces and picking through knowing which to save and which to toss aside is that wisdom. I wonder as I sit thinking this morning what choices will I make as I work with kids.

“Wisdom is not wisdom when it is derived from books alone.” Horace

“In talking to children, the old Lakota would place a hand to the ground and explain: ‘We sit in the lap of our mother. From her we, and all other living things, come. We soon shall pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever.’ So we too, learned to sit or lie on the ground and become conscious of the life around us in its multitudinous forms.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

Understanding what it is we see and touch maybe within there is wisdom. It is not as much knowing but understanding. An understanding within the constraints of what we know. What a paradox? I am sitting reading Kent Nerburn’s book Native American Wisdomfilled with quotes and ideas from Native American culture and thought. In a passage from Sitting Bull, the great medicine man of the Teton Sioux, he wonders why all things have happened as they have and from his thoughts and as I read I wonder. Sitting here thinking after the words as well of our new president.

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am a Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, Teton Sioux

Sitting Bull received his answer shortly thereafter as he was arrested for inciting mutiny on the reservation during a period of unrest. A medicine man from another tribe had started a cult according to authorities and it was growing in its following and Sitting Bull was accused of taking part. On his way to jail as legend has it, his arresters, several Sioux guards, as Sitting Bull gestured to his grandson they thought he was pulling a pistol and shot him several times. Sitting Bull had foretold his death several days before being taken by Sioux hands.

“Wisdom comes in dreams” Wavoka, Paiute, medicine man

Why even bring up an old Native American’s ideas during a discourse on wisdom? It is within the context of our knowledge that we seek wisdom within what we know. So often we fear what we do not know and that which is literally the opposite of wisdom and try and destroy it. Had we tried to understand when we first came to the Americas perhaps this day would be somewhat different. What if we had tried to understand instead of force our knowledge upon a group of peoples. Knowledge alone can destroy wisdom. However maybe the buffer is understanding. Freud and Jung might argue Wavoka’s thought, yet they would sit and ponder dreams as therapy. I wonder as I sit and always my thoughts come back to going into a class room. I hope as I teach some way this makes sense and when a student leaves they look differently at life maybe wiser maybe just seeing a new color today instead of all black and white.

“Teachers are people who start things they never see finished, and for which they never get thanks until it is too late.”  Max Forman

Yesterday I bumped into a former student from nearly ten years ago now a father and married. When he left I would have placed him in that category of ninety five percent that will be dead, in jail, used car salesmen, or evangelists. A good friend and leading authority on conduct disorders uses that as a lead in to kids in high school with conduct disorders. My former student has done some jail time small pieces here and there but finished high school and is working steady and putting his wife through nursing school. So maybe wisdom came to him eventually. Maybe in that statement is wisdom and understanding but we may never see the true nature of all we and hopefully we are continuing to look. 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

Horses and Trains and learning

Bird Droppings January 21, 2021

Horses and Trains and learning

It has been many years since I last rode on a train. I mean a serious train going more than the distance between concourses at an airport. Years ago, when I lived in the Philadelphia area, we all used mass transit to commute, to go “downtown,” to get around and to even travel a long distance, say to Florida. Trains are not quite what they used to be. Many of the true passenger trains are now extinct and the only other trains seem to be freight and rapid transit within big cities.

It has been nearly eighty years since diesel and electric engines replaced the giant steam locomotives that plied the tracks from Scranton, Pennsylvania and the rich anthracite coal regions to New Jersey and New York, hauling the fuel of the times on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. I have long been fascinated with the great trains of the past and perhaps because Mr. Frank E. Bird Sr., my namesake and grandfather was an engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western coal trains from 1900-1946.

I do not remember much of my late grandfather, even though we traveled from our home to see my grandparents as children many years ago but the images of his being an engineer have stayed with me.  Sitting by my desk at home is his engineer’s watch a rather large pocket watch known for its remarkable ability to keep nearly exact time. I am told my grandfather was proud of his silver watch and its weight in my hand as I ponder makes me wonder at how much our world has changed.

“One returns to the past, to capture it as it was and as it hovers over the present” William Pinar

But the past is part of who we are and within us in the present in our imaginations and memories. We need to avoid making the past all we are for each minute we live we are creating a new past.

“Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods” James Hillman

As children we are fascinated with trains and even now in this day and age of digital everything and computers we still have trains at Christmas time. There are still electric train sets for sale it amazes me. I always wonder at the fascination so many people have with trains. What is it that intrigues us so about trains? When the giant steam locomotives pulled massive freight trains cross-country the enormity of the engines and power were drawing cards. In literature trains always are featured. In one of the literature classes we are reading, listening too, and have just watched the new movie of John Steinbeck’s classic.

“Of Mice and Men”.  In the movie the story starts and ends with George’s reflections as he rides a freight train to his next town. Blues musicians emulate trains in their music and words.

My early interest and fascination grew as a child and in 1954 I woke up to a Christmas morning and a circular track of a model Lionel O gauge steam engine and train set around our Christmas tree.  It became a family tradition and that set was a family fixture for many years.  When I had children of my own it was pulled out again and set up nearly thirty years later although this time it ran its circle around the dining room table trying to give a piece of my childhood to my children.

“Memory is an aspect of who we are” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

“Memory is the raw material of history, whether mental, oral or written, it is the living source from which historians draw” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

I was trying to share my past with my children as my father had passed down to me.  When I was a child my father would often tell stories of my grandfather and the great steam locomotives he would pilot.  Occasionally he would pull out an old engineer’s cap or lantern of my grandfathers to add some visual excitement to the stories. Still sitting on my mother house on the shelf is my grandfather’s kerosene lantern from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.

There is a surreal aspect to these massive metal machines, intertwined with our music and imagination trains are a fascinating piece of our being.  Trains are an element of the industrial revolution yet linked metaphysically to us, it could be the size and power, the getting us from point A to point B.

I will wander a bit and take my morning thinking away from the subject of trains, and to another mode of transportation but still in line with my thoughts. It has been a few years since we sold our draft horses Rick and Blue, a team of dapple gray Percheron horses. Each horse stood over six feet at the shoulder and weighed in at well over a ton. Rick and Blue were big powerful animals. They could pull anything. I was asked to talk to a group of parents one night at a function and needed a visual aid to get my point across. An aspect of that discussion was narrow mindedness. I brought along the harnesses from Rick and Blue.

The massive leather harness’ weigh over 85 pounds each and include a set of blinders for the horses. The blinders kept the horses from being distracted and only allowed the horse to look forward. I used that example to show how so many people can be like the draft horse and get stuck only seeing one thing, one direction at a time and are unable to look to either side or to see anything new or different. Granted there are many ADHD students I wish I had blinders for.

So, am I really wandering today or what does a set of horses and trains have to do with one another? They are both big and powerful and trains much like Rick and Blue go in a straight line down the track no side trips no going off the tracks. I was talking the other day with another teacher about taking a journey on a train and how that train goes from point A to point B. We then pick up what we need along the way. I ended up comparing the journey to education and to learning.

As I thought of the train tracks and how so many of us get stuck simply following the tracks I thought of all the knowledge waiting sitting along the way but off the tracks. This knowledge could be away from the tracks and or hidden from the straight and narrow. I wondered what it be like if tracks were flexible and we weren’t limited by that straight line. We could go where the best ideas were and the best methods and we could really load the train full instead of simply picking up what load we can along the tracks.

I put on Aerosmith in my car today as I left the house yesterday and track four or five is a song “Amazing” which contains a line that I hold dear. Several years ago, my oldest son, the night after a very dear friend was killed in a car accident left a sticky note on my computer. It was a simple line a quote and yes, I have used it for a quote of the day now many times. It is interesting how we also have this quote on the wall outside the cafeteria. The note was a line from an Aerosmith song, a Stephen Tyler original. “Life is about the journey not the destination”. We get so caught up in the destination, for example getting to the end of the tracks following the curriculum to a T or the “TEST” at the end of the semester that we lose sight of all around us, we lose sight of the journey. Our journey and our students is teaching them to think and if they think they will learn

So how do we get to point B and really still get there with as much as we can possible load on the train. We travel and we gather as we go but we are fortunate we can leave the tracks if we chose. We can go sideways. We can go back. We can go forward. One thing that is so crucial is we all need to remove our blinders and see all that is around us and live each moment of the journey.

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” Gerald Smith

Smith points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why.  The illusions Smith points out, “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”. We get so caught up in what we are being told we are and why we soon fall on the straight track or go through life with blinders on. In order to dig deeper into we have to understand who, we are as an individual and how we translate and comprehend our realities and how people see us.

“Freud, Jung and now Lang (among others) were digging underneath the surface of their lives, trying to uncover the roots of what is experienced on the surface” Gerald Smith

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the nobler one of laying down the outward things that enslaves us.” Carl Jung

 I have wandered a bit today and maybe a bit too deep into ideas and thoughts that I find intriguing and puzzling. I once referred to the term of herding instinct that people tend to herd, want to be in groups. We so want to take the easiest route. I looked at apathy yesterday. We live in a time where we want things to be simple and easy. I want to simply get to point B not have extra sightseeing along the way. Sadly, so many people live life that way. They live with blinders or follow a pre-laid out track and never get to know there is so much more. A student asked a question this morning dealing with biology. The question was about global warming and how some people say it is not occurring and yet so many are saying it is. There are folks who will never admit to and or even suggest some ideas have truth. They are caught up in their veil of ignorance. Watching the news and the impact our current war is having on veterans, the number of those in harm’s way is growing exponentially Please keep them all on your minds and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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