A beginning from an end

Bird Droppings August 31, 2021
A beginning from an end

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

“On the basis of the belief that all human beings share the same divine nature, we have a very strong ground, a very powerful reason, to believe that it is possible for each of us to develop a genuine sense of equanimity toward all beings.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “The Good Heart

“Strength based in force is a strength people fear. Strength based in love is a strength people crave. It is as true today as it was then and as true for nations as it is for individuals. Unfortunately, too few of each are listening.” Kent Nerburn

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

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

Sometimes history is a teacher and for others only a memory

Bird Droppings August 28, 2021

Sometimes history is a teacher and for others only a memory

I read an article earlier this morning dealing with a college sophomore’s mental health. The student was wanting the social life of college back, parties, bars, events, and football tail gating.  As I read, I found I now have some new terms for my vocabulary. As I thought about them, I grew concerned. Are we raising responsible adults? Are we setting aside empathy and concern for others? Are we becoming too self-focused? Are we or have we become too selfish? How do we as teachers impact students in class? I thought back to 9/11/2001 my first day back teaching in over twenty years. We were in lock down and almost overnight security increased and continues to increase, everyone was buying guns and ammo, things got sort of crazy. In all of that I rolled with the flow and grew stronger I felt. Reading about this student this morning and mental health issues that are occurring I wonder are our children becoming weaker? The terms mentioned in the article are: 

vaccine overconfidence

responsibility fatigue 

decision fatigue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few days ago, I printed out several pictures, two were of owls that were in effect clay turned jug owls, made by a folk potter from north Georgia. I met Grace Nell Hewell who was the matriarch of a family of potters in Gillsville Georgia years ago. She was potter from a family that had been at same location turning pots for a living for six generations.  I dropped them off in my friend’s room several years ago, no reason really just for being a friend, she used them to teach art and talked about potters in her sculpture class; sometimes we just do simple things. We would argue about politics but never about art, my dear friend passed away and I looked up on my shelf above my computer and saw my owl recalled lending them to her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Friendship needs no words…” Dag Hammarskjold

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

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

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

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

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

I am told, there is a reason.

Bird Droppings August 27, 2021

I am told, there is a reason.

Early today I should not get into disagreements on Covid, and I try to avoid. I have strong feelings about vaccines being a polio survivor and I mentioned I was one of the lucky ones. I thought further and luck is a superfluous word in reality there is no luck. My mother as I recall the story had received a shot while pregnant with me that was controversial. She said that is what kept me alive from polio. Before I contracted polio, I had seizures and, on several occasions, stopped breathing to a point of near death. Quick thinking and timing saved my life. Several years later playing softball I severely broke my lower jaw in a game. After surgery I swelled up and again was unable to breathe. The doctor thought my heart stopped and was within a few seconds of doing a tracheotomy. So, by the time I was twenty-one I had essentially been dead or nearly dead four times. Was it luck or did I have more to do?

I am sitting here now an old man pondering life and still feeling that I have much to offer this reality. I wonder as I think far too often, we stop thinking trying pondering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Why do we have public education, to educate all our children?

Bird Droppings August 25, 2021
Why do we have public education, to educate all our children?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing

Bird Droppings August 24, 2021
If you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing

“Choices are sacred to life’s journey. They lie along the path that all of us must follow for ourselves. An important Cherokee lesson is that if you involve yourself in any decision, you also experience the consequences of that decision.” Dr. J.T. Garrett, Meditations with the Cherokee

It has been quite a while since I was in a serious morning routine, walking out first thing in the morning and experiencing the newness of the day this week has been put aside for an ear infection and a few hours extra of sleep. Granted being not in the structured routine of school I tend to get lazy from not having to get up. I still get up with my wife at four or so and fix breakfast and her lunch. I exercise each morning and spent time quietly meditating. For some reason, I am up later than normal today. But as we head towards trying to squeeze in a vacation perhaps after that I will get back in full swing I may get back in a routine. It has been a very strange and very wet summer in Georgia with rain predicted almost every day most of the summer. Afternoons we have a chance of scattered thundershowers and mowing or yard work gets curtailed while plants and grass dry a bit. Over the weekend and several times this week, I had to stop till rain drops subsided enough that I would not get soaked coming from my car. It has been nearly eleven summers since I submitted a reflection of sorts for my doctorate work on a book based on viewing history in more than one color, more than one culture or societal norm. Rereading that reflection led me to a powerful thought.

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

As I sit here this early morning responding to emails from previous days, I am slowly catching up. It is through our actions we are perceived. I was speaking with a friend at Kroger and recalled an event years back. It was many years ago at a basketball game several fans were asked nicely to leave by administration and eventually sheriffs intervened in the altercation. You could be upset with the situation but when you vocalize using words that in reality does not  make sense, as so often swearing does not (sit and write literal meanings to most swearing) and add hand gestures and increase volume, you are being perceived as out of control. When asked nicely to cease such distracting behavior, and you continue that too adds to the perception of perhaps out of control. In speaking to a sheriff in a derogatory manner, again fuels the flames of perception, being a person who has ceased to utilize their  self-control and the result, being asked quite nicely to not be in the gym in public view might seem a bit understated.

It could be behavior modification time and coincidentally having a background in BM that’s behavior modification by the way. Although today we use less harsh terms, Functional Behavior Analysis and Task Analyzes. BM is what it is about, and there are times now with grandbabies around the house I see some behavior that BM could mean more along the lines of potty training. Back to my story for example, the first offense at a basketball game and thereafter you can come but must wear a dog training collar to reenter gym. In the control booth sits your modifier, preferably a spouse or child who probably will enjoy this, holding the button. If you get out of control, they get to press the button sending a mild shock to your neck. However, if you continue they also have on the side of the control box the increase switch, raising the voltage. I think there are some spouses that may automatically go to max even for first jolt.

There is a chance of course that the child or spouse in the control booth has read Skinner’s books and articles and knows intermittent, variable reinforcement works great too and shocks just to let their collared friend know who holds the button, and that might become the norm. Sporting events would never be the same. In the stands half, the people sitting and twitching from shocks and the other half is sitting quietly smiling pressing the buttons. Kids could play their games and cheerleaders could cheer and what all would have a wonderful time. However had everyone read the first line of the first quote today none of this would be necessary.

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing” Uncheedah, grandfather of Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman

Is that something we now teach? In teaching biology, I use the lesson and style of teaching that I had used myself in a previous graduate school class demonstration on existential teaching methods. I let the students find the answers and act only as a facilitator. In one plastic container is a tiger salamander (Elmo) and in the other a leopard gecko (Emily) one is an amphibian and the other a reptile. The lesson is based on taxonomy and differentiating between amphibians and reptiles. Having done this numerous times in summer school in Biology and in my  classes during the school year those that work through the lesson will remember which is which far better than having read a book or heard in a lecture, they  followed the trail. How often do we take away curiosity and how often do we brush the trail clean of tracks?

“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity.” Edmund Burke

“It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellent.” Marcus T. Cicero

Far too often we do not have time for children’s questions; we do not want to follow a new trail as Uncheedah speaks about. We only want the status quo the peace and solitude of that lesson plan laid out months in advance and carefully formulated to cover each of the required curriculum needs of the subject in a given time span. Let us get from point A to point B and not venture off the track ever again. 

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” Samuel Johnson

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift that gift would be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt

So often I talk with students who are not curious. They seldom ask why and only accept what is taught to them, and many do not even do that and simply shrug their shoulders and state they don’t care. So many people in our world today simply follow and media and the corporate advertising feed on this. When I read a statement from a person who says this is what I believe, and you cannot change that about any subject matter or idea I sort of wonder.

We should be teaching children to challenge, to question, never just accepting an answer. My middle son had the highest regard for a teacher and on occasion pointed out an error on a discussion transparency dealing with a specific type of animal. He pointed out that what was on the slide was in error and backed it up with the very biology book they were using, as well as other sources. A year later in he was in another Advanced Placement Biology class, and the same slide, same response. He again pointed out the error, and the teacher was still teaching exactly the same, still in error and had never changed that slide. By chance three years later, speaking to a class, that slide again appeared, this time his respect for that teacher was gone, while a good teacher, she was a poor learner. It was difficult for “teacher” to except a “students” understanding of a topic albeit that students brother had raised and bred that specific animal at home for many years so it was not simply a student spouting off, there was experiential contextual knowledge involved.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Edward Sagan

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

We got into a discussion of sorts yesterday about doing school work. So often teachers assign a certain number of problems in math regardless of whether the students know how to do that skill or not, homework for example, do these twenty problems. If the skill is known, why do the assignment, if not known, doing problems you do not know how to do, doesn’t help. This is not to pick on math teachers but so often this happens and students begin to look down on busy work. If that assignment had meaning, perhaps more care and effort would ensue. It is no wonder, so many students soon learn who is doing homework and copy that person’s work simply to get credit for homework. 

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R. K. Bergethon

When you can apply a piece of knowledge it lasts far more than when it is simply an idea, a passing, thought something to forget. In some subjects, it is difficult to make ideas applicable, at least this is what some teachers think and students soon grow weary, and curiosity is gone. Several times I have mentioned a friend who in teaching history would occasionally dress as a knight or king and or a lowly goat herder to make a point drawing the class into the lesson.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

To instill curiosity a teacher must also be curious; a teacher must also be a learner. Recently I read several articles about schools where students and teachers make choices and decisions on the operation of the school, a truly democratic school. The Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts is an example as I mentioned recently. Many years ago Socrates would simply ask a question and students would have to find the answers, not be told the answers and Socrates would assist through more questions. He must have upset his school board since he was required to drink poison.

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” Mark Twain

This is a good place to wind down today. I am sitting here, thinking, pondering and wondering about where the day may go and what will be said and who will listen. I find solace in that thought. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and to always give thanks for all namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

A chilly wet morning, it is still hard to kiss a frog.

Bird Droppings August 22, 2021
A chilly wet morning, it is still hard to kiss a frog.

It was a bit chilly and wet here in northeast Georgia with nighttime temperatures hanging in the sixties. We had an inch plus of rain yesterday evening and several more last night. However, a rumor persists of a nice week hanging out there. Many of us gardeners are glad for rain although I am not excited about chill. I was watching TV last night and an historical show of sorts a movie about the Pilgrims coming over to the New World is coming back on soon. I find it funny how after that first Thanksgiving relationships between the natives and Pilgrims went downhill fast and it was not long till red skinned natives were the spawn of Satan and were to be eliminated by whatever means feasible. Pilgrims were not much different than today’s politicians when land was involved. I found it interesting how things changed so fast. Why is it we only have heart occasionally and some people never do? Maybe Thanksgiving is to remind us about heart?

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and    treating all aheadalike.” Buddha, Sayings of the Buddha

It has been several years since I was working with students expressing a news article in visual form. Over the past few years as I interact with people and seeing how much of an impact that learning styles play on the actual learning of students it amazes me that such a simple thing gets overlooked so often. How we learn has been an issue I have looked at very seriously. Humans tend to learn basically in one of three ways visually, auditorally, and kinesthetically, in other words we see, hear or touch. I offer the idea of perception as well and how we hear see and touch along with how we interpret is a factor. The assignment entailed using one PowerPoint slide to explain one of the main news articles out currently. The sample I used was based on The Red Lake Shootings from 2006. In a few moments about 45 seconds images and a few words flashed over the screen and my interpretation of the that news story flashed before us.

Students then chose stories and interpreted visually what they saw and felt. Ideas varied and stories varied significantly. One went in a direction of an issue close to home teen suicide and several reiterated the Red Lake Shootings. One however focused only on himself. His visual experience while interesting was a whirl of his own image. For several months going on two years, I have known this student and his focus so often is self-motivated as so many of us are. He derives his day from seeking attention to and through himself be it passing gas and letting everyone in the classroom know or speaking out loud to draw attention from a teacher. The idea of disrespect is an understatement, but it all is self-focused so to say here I am.

“A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.” Dictionary.com

For quickness I used dictionary.com and there is defined the word sympathy as an interaction between two people or things affecting both. As I thought back to my self-centered fellow I wondered as he focused all day on himself does he have sympathy? In the defining quote from Buddha sympathy is established as four aspects those being charity, kind speech, doing a good turn and treating all alike.

“The force of truth that a statement imparts, then, its prominence among the hordes of recorded observations that I may optionally apply to my own life, depends, in addition         to the sense that it is argumentatively defensible, on the sense that someone like me,     and someone I like, whose voice is audible and who is at least notionally in the same room with me, does or can possibly hold it to be compellingly true.” Nicholson Baker

There are many issues at hand that warrant attention and sympathy today locally and worldwide is needed often.

“All sympathy not consistent with acknowledged virtue is but disguised selfishness.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Sympathetic people often don’t communicate well; they back reflected images which hide their own depths.” George Eliot

As I searched this morning deeper, I found often we tend to view sympathy with caution perhaps this person is being sympathetic for a reason. Perhaps it is for gain thinking back to the Pilgrims. Is it human nature to be so wary so distrustful of others?

“Is there anything more dangerous than sympathetic understanding?” Pablo Picasso

“The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity is not enough.” Simone Weil

Several semesters back I sent off a paper dealing with kissing frogs. It was a reflection on teaching in a way but really it was a reflection on life. My premise being we should all be frog kissers. Teachers and so often parents are to be the Frog Kissers: Many times, I have used the inference to the fairy tales of childhood of kissing a frog. We are always trying to find that enchanted princess or prince hidden beneath the guise of a frog; one kiss and the prince or princess will appear. Being an avid herpetologist along with my son, kissing frogs can be a risky business. Many species secret toxins some so lethal they can kill a man with barely a touch let alone a passionate kiss. There are some that can induce psychosis and hallucinations when ingested. All these efforts by the amphibians are purely defense mechanisms evolved over millions of years to avoid turning into a human being perhaps.

But the symbolism of the fairy tale and teachers/parents is what struck me. Teaching is about kissing frogs. We as teachers need to be taking those risks trying to find the hidden princes and princesses among our students. In reality we are going beyond simply taking roll and letting that child slip through the cracks. We need to be risk takers we need to set the example for the students that we will try to be there and give each child ample time and place. As I pondered it was obvious as to where and why teachers quit. I see John Dewey’s ideas and the example of Dewey in the classroom through The Foxfire Approach to Teaching and all these great idealistic thoughts and then they seem to disappear into educational lala land.

What were to be great teachers seem to be eventually lost midst the flow and ebb of educational bureaucracy and never get a chance to be who they are. For many years I have wondered are today’s students and teacher automations doing as all those others have done before. Turn to page 138 children and read, now answer the questions at the back of the chapter. Raise your hand when you wish to speak and do not get out of line. I recall a Harry Chapin song I use often about a little boy who comes in his first day and colors flowers in a rainbow of hues, until his teacher corrects him, and flowers are red, green leaves are green, soon the creative spark is gone, and another student became a frog. Fortunately, in the song a risk-taking teacher saves the day and kisses the frog and the rainbow is back. We need to work towards being that which we should be teachers, not simply information stuffers. As a parent and teacher, a hard row to follow.

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha

I keep thinking back to this idea of sympathy it is an active process not simply a feeling. I used loosely the illustration of kissing frogs, but each aspect described by Buddha is an action. Charity is an activity although borrowing from a 1600 translation the Greek word agape is translated as charity. In Greek three words translate for love: Eros, Philos and Agape. Agape often is also translated as a supreme unlimited love or God’s love. In the Biblical translations of 1600, the Greek agape would translate to charity, an active love an ongoing love. Kind speech is an action and is a physical response. Doing a good turn not just charity but physically doing something and perhaps the most difficult treating all alike again actively involved.

When I started this morning sympathy was more an emotion. Having a heart as I thought was just a sentence structure used to elicit sympathy and or other emotions. But sympathy is an active word it is beyond and there for having a heart perhaps too is active engaging. For nearly six years now I have ended each Bird Dropping with keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind, originally, I started with the attack September 11th and then war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it has grown in form keeping in your heart is an action it involves doing not simply mouthing words. I recall nearly eight years ago in the state of Vermont which still operates on a town meeting basis and several towns were voting to not send anymore National Guard units from Vermont to the Middle East. Vermont had lost more soldiers per capita than any other state. Action some are sending cards reminders of home. For some it may be just a thank you as GI’s return. It is about active involvement, kissing frogs, having a heart, it is about voting, and sympathy is action not just thinking about it. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

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

Quietly listening to Hot Tuna and pondering the word inspiration

Bird Droppings August 20, 2021

Quietly listening to Hot Tuna and pondering the word inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Mitakuye Oyasin

 (We are all related)

 bird

How do we know if we are still human?

Bird Droppings August 18, 2021
How do we know if we are still human?

Perhaps it is from growing up in a situation where we were daily aware of special needs children and adults from the birth of my younger brother till his passing almost twenty years ago. Those in my family have had connections with exceptional children directly or indirectly in our careers and life’s endeavors ever since. A number of us went the route of teaching and even there most are in Exceptional Education. Several are in the medical field and several have gone into psychology. My brother linked us as a family to the humanness of mankind.

“The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self.” Albert Einstein

Over the years in my undergraduate and graduate studies, internships and various clinicals I have experienced situations many will never know exist. I recall walking through wards in a state institution where tiny infant appearing patients lay in bassinets connected to tubes and not moving. Some were born with no brains and kept alive by feeding tubes and respirators. I asked one of the attendants during a walk through in 1968 how old was this one particular infant. I was informed this was not an infant but probably older than I was I being twenty and the baby at twenty-three. The attendants turned the children to prevent bed sores and occasionally would talk to their charges. Later as I worked on finishing my psychology degree at Mercer University I visited several more units very similar at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville Georgia once the largest mental hospital in the nation and at a Regional Mental Hospital in Atlanta. These units were filled with fifty to sixty patients each. Central State Hospital had more than one ward.

“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our society exists through a historical development from a time when the first humans began living in villages and using commodities as exchange for other goods. Many historians and anthropologists will offer that society and civilization began when this early bartering started and a value was placed on a particular thing. A goat is worth a bushel of wheat or rice and banking began. Soon more precious commodities were found, metal for weapons and tools, precious stones and gold for adornment. Granted this process happened fairly rapidly in the grand scheme of things and soon someone decided they could get more for an item since they had most of it and price gouging was begun. It was in these days that an imperfect infant would be tossed off a cliff or fed to the sharks.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein
However that idea that got me started on the idea that maybe we are losing or have lost our humanity is rampant in our society today. Over the years I will get in discussions and some get a bit out of proportion and over board and some I will walk away from but when we look at cutting programs that provide housing and food for people who do not have anything I take issue. I take issue with the greed that drives bonuses and profits that tax most families to a point of frustration all in the name of capitalism. I get upset when education is first on the chopping block not because it could impact my own pay but because it is through education we can possible regain our humanity.

In a recent discussion on drug testing those on Medicaid, Food stamps or any Federal assistance because all on welfare are on drugs and using welfare money to buy drugs I asked what do we do and was suggested I use my own money if I think they need help. Almost immediately in curiosity I should have questioned what religion are you? A legislator from Kentucky wants to cut nearly every federal program. I find it ironic that down through history men and women who try to help others find themselves hated by those in power and usually end up dead.

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great one’s exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Credited to Jesus Bar Joseph, known to many as Jesus the Christ, Mark 10:42-45

So how is it in a religion based on self-sacrifice is it that the people are so greedy? How can the image of a religious leader driving a Rolls Royce and living in one of their many multi-million-dollar homes be comforting to anyone? How can anyone say it is a federal healthcare bill that drove up their insurance when a CEO of a health insurance company is making over one hundred fifty million dollars a year and can deny a claim or treatment due to cost at any given moment? I recently watched the leader of the majority in the house of representatives roll his eyes at comments the President of the United States as he spoke in his State of the Union Address. Of course, those are the images the media flashes over and over again as well.

“We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.”
Parker J. Palmer

Having worked in service-oriented jobs, pasturing, teaching, and counseling I have seen with my eyes people who do not wish to be poor. It is through no choice of their own they have a congenital heart defect and cannot stand for longer than a few minutes let alone try and work. I have seen mothers whose husbands left when a baby was born with severe birth defects and the child requires constant care so the mother does not work and cares for the child. I have seen families torn apart by mental illness and these mental patients with budget cuts pushed out into a not so caring world to fend for themselves only to end up homeless and destitute. These are not unique cases but when we cross the country and multiple they are many thousands of times the situations that occur. I have still heard the stories of that famous welfare mother with six kids driving to family and children’s services to pick up a check in an Escalade or Mercedes. First off checks are no longer mailed they load to a debit card. Not all on welfare are using the system and not all on welfare are using drugs. Is our system is not perfect by no means but it is the lack of human civility that bothers me. It is how we can say we are of a religious persuasion and literally live an entirely different life when not in church.

“Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” Black Elk

In most Indian societies all were taken care of and provided for. I am not promoting a return to the primitive but to a more natural view of life. Indians held all as sacred and in doing so would not demand or extract more than was needed from the land or from another person. It was a very humanistic world view. We stripped away the sacredness of the land and used the resources till they were gone in the name of progress. We do not as a society want to help others is the sound board of many people. I was informed last evening if I want to help others use my own money to which I replied I do. I have for my entire teaching career given to a local charity a portion of my paycheck a very small portion yet it amounts each year to nearly ten percent of the giving from the teaching staff at my former high school and I am less than one percent of the staff numbers.

“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohican, the Pokanoket, and many other once powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and the oppression of the White Man, as snow before a summer sun.” Tecumseh, Shawnee

Our dominate society has all but eradicated the indigenous populations of the Americas from the first slaughters by Cortez’s men in Mexico to cutting of funding to the reservations. Suicides and infant mortality in Indian societies is considerably higher than dominate societies around them. It has only been a few days since I watched the movie about Wounded Knee and slaughter of unarmed Indians the last major Indian war battle even though only one sided. Around the world natives’ peoples are eliminated for wealth and power.

“I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life.” Mahatma Gandhi

In a set of materials given to me by my mother on the Bushmen of South Africa who call themselves the Sans I noticed the date on the literature and it was pre-mining leases in the Kalahari. There were beautiful pictures of hunting and villages moved as they would follow the herds of animals. Today much of the Kalahari Desert has been sectioned off into diamond mine leases and the Sans moved to concrete buildings on a reservation. They are a people losing their identity and culture so greed can fill the void.

I have started watching again American Idol and I am enjoying the softer image. Still harboring within the midst of us is hatred rampant and rancid that keeps rearing up. A young man drove his mother’s car to school with an OBAMA bumper sticker which was torn off in the parking lot and replaced with a derogatory note and the extra addition of never park here again or it will be worse. We have come so far to be so lost. I wonder if it is with a deaf ear I offer each day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Driving up a mountain takes effort

Bird Droppings August 17, 2021
Driving up a mountain takes effort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am wandering as I sit here this morning pondering an article to write on critical pedagogy after a weekend with my grandkids. I sat down yesterday, trying to write but my energy level had deteriorated I did little more than ponder a moment. I am excited thinking about the possibilities of the future working with future teachers teaching education courses.  Perhaps among them a future teacher who will be experiencing some interesting and enlightening ideas and concepts across their course. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

What do teachers really know?

Bird Droppings August 16, 2021
What do teachers really know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I close this dropping, we gain knowledge and we learn and we try and through our voting during elections we can hopefully change society, borrowing from a recent election, yes, we can. So many years ago, a movie ended with an elderly man offering a bit of wisdom, “use it wisely” as the old knight in the Indiana Jones movie says. Today use it wisely and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

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