Bird Droppings October 31, 2021
There may be side roads in life more of the Journey

I wandered about a bit yesterday morning, running grand kids home and trying to get caught up on a few things. As I went from one errand to the next a Barnes and Noble bookstore was in my way conveniently and so I stopped. I did by chance stop in and purchase a few books. Those could be the focus of tomorrow droppings as I get into them. My last droppings brought a response from a friend who teaches gifted sixth and seventh graders and also has been a part time college professor. I mentioned how professors of education should have taught first. I consider the doctor would you want a brand new out of school doctor working on you with no experience and yet in teaching we see a new teacher the same as an experienced one, both are expected to do essentially the same tasks and job. When I started in education as a freshman in college I was side tracked for a bit along the way. You might say I took a few side roads but in doing so I became a much better teacher.

“We may pass violets looking for roses. We may pass contentment looking for victory.” Bern Williams

I was reminded recently as we searched the area several springs ago for flowering plants; the object was the plant had to be flowering at the time of collection. This was my son’s botany project. It was as interesting as we found plants that contained flowers far more beautiful than many commercial flowers but tiny literally microscopic as we searched. As I look at the statement above, what is it really that Williams is referring to? Is it the times we over look something when we are so intent on a specific goal. So often in education we only see the pass or fail score of the standardized test not that the child made great strides in learning.

“I consider a goal as a journey rather than a destination. And each year I set a new goal.” Curtis Carlson

“You are not likely to get anywhere in particular if you don’t know where you want to go.” Percy H. Johnson

Sometimes as we search, as we wander in life, along the way there is still so much to see and to learn, one goal will lead to another. But having a goal, keeps us motivated to attain. So many people do not even have a goal and stumble around, floundering.

“Set your goals high and don’t stop until you get there.” Bo Jackson

Just a reminder to Georgia football fans there is always next year and the possibility of a national championship well maybe the year after that.

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.” Greg Anderson

“The person with a fixed goal, a clear picture of his desire, or an ideal always before him, causes it, through repetition, to be buried deeply in his subconscious mind and is thus enabled, thanks to its generative and sustaining power, to realize his goal in a minimum of time and with a minimum of physical effort. Just pursue the thought unceasingly. Step by step you will achieve realization, for all your faculties and powers become directed to that end.” Claude M. Bristol

So often as I have experienced for myself, I recall a year or so ago on a Saturday a good example as I went out feeling some driving purpose to the day beyond rather than simply driving to Florence South Carolina, nearly three hundred miles away. Not truly knowing what it was that was on my mind and anticipating each moment and each contact as I went about the day. I had a goal to get my son an apartment and hopefully see as much of Florence as I could and yet under that was a search a constant looking for more meaning to the day. In my looking I found so much, I completed my goal and we looked at several apartments but all were older and some what not what we hoped to find.

As we headed back to the property rental office to return the keys I noticed a flyer on the counter for a new property. A quick question and we were on our way to look at and eventually get that apartment. We were so focused at first on what we had been told and our own goal of finding something Saturday we nearly missed the new apartments. In the process of the day we each had so many encounters and pieces to our puzzles in life. It might have been locking the keys in the car, seeing my sons chemical plant, seeing Florence and Lake City where he will be working, and spending many hours together.

“There are those who travel and those who are going somewhere. They are different and yet they are the same. The success has this over his rivals: He knows where he is going.” Mark Caine

“We aim above the mark to hit the mark.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently I read an article while morbid in a way; it is also very true when speaking of goals and how so many people lead their lives. As we became more technologically advanced many human skills gave way to technology. In Viet Nam marksmanship gave way to weaponry that could fire numerous rounds per second and kill ratios were one kill per thousand rounds of ammunition and marksmanship was lost. Recently in an article on the National Sniper championships, snipers have been attaining kill ratios of 1.3 rounds per kill in theory; I do not think they use live targets in championships. While a morbid comparison so true in our society that rather than focus we scatter our dreams our goals and hope for the best or that common word used far too often creeps in “whatever”.

“Concentrate on finding your goal, then concentrate on reaching it.” Michael Friedman

“The goal you set must be challenging. At the same time, it should be realistic and attainable, not impossible to reach. It should be challenging enough to make you stretch, but not so far that you break.” Rick Hansen

In a few weeks students will get transcripts and new schedules for a new semester coming up. Some students will be fine and others will complain and some will continue to complain even after the semester starts. I remember looking at attendance and one student said no way that had he missed so many days. I explained, four teachers had the same information and his response was “whatever”, they are still wrong. Then he began whining, “How am I going to get into college?” I sat there looking at a transcript of a second year ninth grader who was failing because of attendance and not due to ability and being asked “how was I going to get into college?”

I sat back and said first simply passing as you strive to do, will not get you into college I knew this student would get a good SAT score but that alone will not get a college acceptance. A high school transcript of seventies and failures just doesn’t look so good. As we talked I wrote of a piece of paper 70% and 100% and asked “you go to find a doctor since you are talking of medical school, and you have in front of you two doctors, one learned 70% and one learned 100%, who do you want as your doctor?”. Guess who he picked? I hope his eyes were opened.

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” Sir Edmund Hillary

A few years ago Hillary passed away but last Saturday in my crazy search for purpose I was driving. It so happened that Saturday morning as I was gazing east there was a glorious sunrise. I actually was thinking what it might have been like for Hillary to be standing atop Mt. Everest that first time looking over a world not just looking down Interstate 20. He attained the highest point on earth yet considered himself a common chap.

“Goals are dreams with deadlines.” Diana Scharf Hunt

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” H. L. Hunt

“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideal, but it is a disaster to have no ideal to capture. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim is a sin” Benjamin E. Mayes

Every day I talk with students in social media whose only goal is now this minute, trying to guide them is difficult for in that self centered world there is no direction, no plan, and no pathway. I can show them a road map and point them in the right direction but sooner or later they will have to take the first step. All of us have been there and may be again so watch for travelers who need help and always offer a hand. Trying myself to get back up to speed and back in a routine after several days of being lazy, I still end today with please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.
bird

Can we change things?

Bird Droppings October 28, 2021
Can we change things?

“Therefore the shortage of effective teachers is not a problem that can be solved by a new structure. It is caused by how we train and manage teachers, and can only be solved by improving the way we do this, no matter what the structure of the school. Teachers who are effective managers will be effective in any school setting, but they will less effective if they are managed differently from the way they manage students. The good teachers we remember should be especially revered because in most cases they had the strength to manage students far better than they themselves were managed.” Dr. William Glasser

I opted Saturday to do some computer work searching my files for sources and citations. My wife and I ventured out to search for a sesame street t-shirt for Halloween at her office.  It was about five years ago I went on a road trip with two of my sons and one of their friends to the Colombia South Carolina Reptile Expo to look at snakes and lizards and such. I will say eight hours in the car and taking pictures of King Cobras and Eye lash vipers makes for an exciting day. My youngest son was nonstop nearly six hundred miles cracking jokes or at least getting the joke started and reminiscing over old times was fantastic.

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychiatrist

Change is something we are faced with daily and often it is change we do not want to bear. This morning as I had someone ask me why I take sunrise pictures. I could have answered cynically because no one else does, or perhaps because I like to send one to my wife each morning, or even gotten into a spiritual leaning aspect of the sun rising in the east, a sacred direction in native tradition.  The other day as I rode out to get sunrise photos I was thinking was it daylight savings time yet? I noticed my car clock did not automatically change last time as did my iPhone. So I am thinking daylight savings is purely a manmade deal nothing to do with nature and or reality. Perhaps I should consult my Jung texts on my dream of a red tailed hawk in my old back yard from my childhood. Jung was a great believer in dreams and dream analysis. I have been torn on the idea of change, what part we can play in this great cosmic drama, can we alter our minute part. What if we redirect the lines and switch characters in midstream.

“Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time.” Marcus Aurelius

There are two basic premises in reality one we are the center of the universe that each of us is a focal point and many people do feel that way. The other is we are simple a small piece of a large puzzle, one insignificant little piece yet without it the whole is not complete.

“The men and woman who make the best boon companions seem to have given up hope of doing something else…some defects of talent or opportunity has cut them off from their pet ambition and has thus left them with leisure to take an interest in their lives of others. Your ambition may be it makes him keep his thoughts at home. But the heartbroken people — if I may use the word in a mild, benevolent sense — the people, whose wills are subdued to fate, give us consolation, recognition, and welcome.” John Jay Chapman

A deep thought though I would beg to differ. Maybe it is how I read the passage yet I cannot help but think of Albert Switzer and Mother Theresa who gave up promising careers to help others. To me this far supersedes any success that might have been met in their other possible pathways. Giving in to fate I do not see these two great humanitarians as such but as embracing life and leaving self aside so they can help others. Perhaps it is our own definition of what is real and significant that matters.

“Whatever limits us we call fate.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I do think we become limited by semantics by words that try and define and offer parameters to perhaps limitless ideas and thoughts. We all seem to want parameters to whatever we do. I watch teenagers setting boundaries and limits and barriers every day. Some will be cultural and societal, others closer to home perhaps religious and spiritual. We want definition in our lives we want to be able to say well this person is this or that. We like stratifying and categorizing in our lives. I was working with a student on test scores trying to explain two people could have tested exactly the same on a personality test and still be totally different people. While a test is normed and validated it still has limitations that change with each person taking that test.

Some people see far more in a Rorschach inkblot test and details while a less artistic person may only see a face or a rabbit. Picasso saw myriads of color and shapes and we see a hodge podge of paint and call it abstract or cubist for lack of better terminology to define and delineate his work. Maybe we should simply say it is Picassian unique to an artist who saw differently than we other mortals.

Even in writing as I enjoy reading Edgar Allan Poe and had the experience of talking with and assisting in publishing an author’s work years ago who confessed to being the incarnation of Poe, ridiculous as it may sound. It was a bizarre period in my own life as I spent many hours on the phone and in reading his work. First of all he looked like Poe and he was an idiot savant. He could spin words and phrases instantly. When he would meet you he would literally immediately give you a poem often handwritten in beautiful calligraphy of the acronym of your name. He would write a poem each line starting with a letter from your name spelling out your name and literally analyzing your personality. While working with this fellow as weird as this sounds crows would literally flock to my yard, hundreds of crows, all day at my house which was in a pasture. When I sent the last of his work to him the birds went away.

“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” Carl Jung

Reading over the years I came literally by accident one day upon a book, I was floundering business wise and saw an ad for a free business analysis. I called and was assured it was free and would I sign to use this consulting firm if all went well in the analysis. I signed and for two days a gentlemen came and informed me I should close my doors. Not really a shock since my largest customer had changed from print to software and was a major part of my business. After submitting his business thoughts he told me about a book he thought I should read “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. It is sort of a new age book he said. He wrote the name and author on a piece of paper which I stuck in my wallet for my next trip to Borders. It was several Borders trips later and I forgotten about the book and while walking down an aisle a book fell and hit me in the head literally. Surprisingly enough guess which book. The book contains nine supposed insights recorded in ancient times and written in an archaic ancient language not used in 3000 years. Anyhow the point is here is the fourth insight from Redfield’s book.

“The Struggle for Power – Too often humans cut themselves off from the greater source of this energy and so feels weak and insecure. To gain energy we tend to manipulate or force others to give us attention and thus energy. When we successfully dominate others in this way, we feel more powerful, but they are left weakened and often fight back. Competition for scarce, human energy is the cause of all conflict between people.” James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

As I read this earlier all the struggles and attention seeking of students versus teachers, and of Carl Jung teachings sort of fell into place. Amazingly as I looked to my starting passage from Dr. Glasser administrators do this as well. It is about drawing power from teachers. We draw energy from others to replace energy we are lacking. We are lacking because we are not generating but simply using sort of a parasitic relationship. I have over the years developed a chart on student teacher feedback which could as easily be people to people feedback. One the lowest most primordial level is parasitism, where we feed off others energy. The second level is symbiosis and this is where each one needs the other independently of each other and yet inseparable. The third level is osmosis, where energy is freely given and exchanged back and forth. I have been using bits and pieces of this idea as I develop my dissertation.

Albert Switzer and Mother Teresa worked in this way; they never sought energy but received it in the giving to others in an ongoing exchange. I see daily students and teachers who exhibit bits and pieces of each of these forms of human interaction. Going back to my starting quote, understanding where you are and why is paramount to changing, and the ability to growth and truly being able to help others and yourself. I went out into the rain a few days back, a drizzle of sorts and cold. Rain has a way of quieting the air and forest. It was literally silent, muffled by the rain and heavy air. Our dog does not like the rain and scurried back inside, curling up on her blankets as soon as she was back in her room. I sat down unsure of which direction I would go today and wandering as I do often. But perhaps my point is we need each other, we do need interaction and we can change. We are not at the mercy of fate and or some cosmic puzzle unless we choose to be, yet we are all part of that puzzle as well.

A paradox of sorts as is so much of life. Today 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

Education often draws from NOW

Bird Droppings October 26, 2021
Education often draws from NOW

A few years ago, a teacher offered to me a book on curriculum or so she said “Dumbing down of America” by Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld. It has been a few months since I picked this book off the shelf while reading various books at Barnes and Noble as I do so often. This book literally is about the dumbing down of America, pointing out all the faults in the educational system and how we are in worse shape than 100 years ago. The book is advocating home schooling and alternatives to public education and a public-school teacher offered this book to me which I find amazing. Maybe my general demeanor as sort of on the other end of the scale politically did not get through to well. However, as I think back 100 years ago not all children were educated in public school.


Many kids were living at home or in rural situations where education was not even considered. Mandatory education was still being worked on as late as 1974. In 1972 in Macon Georgia as a part of the work I was doing involving disabled students we found 284 children who had never been in school in less than 60 days. All were disabled and were not required at that time to attend school and in reality, most had no place they could go. Now all children are educated in the United States or have the right to free and public education.


As I researched today and found many articles opposing today’s educational systems all of which had a basis in religion and morality. Interestingly enough Outcome based education was condemned and accused of causing all the ills of mankind and John Dewey was the originator and cause of educational dysfunction. These educators against outcome-based education were preaching content simply having the right answers. Sort of take a test and all is well and teachers nationwide are complaining about teaching to the test and not to what students need to get on in life or into college. Much of the thanks can go to according to many teachers the No Child Left Behind legislation which is our national educational program. Over two years ago I had written a Dropping and am borrowing a paragraph or two from that particular day.

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

I recently watched a young man struggle with an equation in his math class homework. He asked me for help and without asking exactly what he needed help with I answered X=3 and was told I was wrong even though the answer was right. How could I answer without solving the equation was his question? I wasn’t thinking about math at the time and since we were working on essays about “how teachers could teach better” and he alone in the class was finished, he was catching up on homework, which was math. I apologized for answering not realizing he needed a solution as well. It really wasn’t about the answer; it was how to get to the answer.

“I believe that the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child’s powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself.” John Dewey

As I was thinking further about this subject it dawned on me do I want children who know all the answers, the dates, formulas and such or do I want children who can find the answers. Somewhere in my wanderings today I found an excerpt from an 8th grade final test in Salinas Kansas. Interesting to try and see what you know. Happens to be from Dr. Blumenfeld’s book where he is showing how we are so far behind.

“Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 ft. long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu., deducting 1,050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6,720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?

Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u.’
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e.’ Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.” Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld, The Dumbing down of America

Interesting part for me was the language arts sections were the hardest. If you look at history and math other than experiential aspect of agriculture questions they are simple compared to today’s classes. I opened up a 1968 biology book from college and compared to a Biology book used in our high school. It is amazing how much different they are. Different is an understatement there are sections and subjects not even in my college book that are in the high school book. The new book had more in it and more difficult material and there were things not even discovered in 1967. So where does this take me.

Will I teach content or context? Will I teach about specifics or will I teach outcomes? I often use the example of a liter bottle, you can only put a liter in it and how we select and chose what goes in is the difficult part. Funny thing is compared to 1900 we have hundreds of times more information to learn and often with little context. Quantum Physics was not even around along with DNA and so many other aspects of science. Countries have changed as have who and how events took place in history. So, is it content or context? While great to know every date in US history I would rather know that the student can find the dates but can tie it all together and not simply give me facts. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Did you know trees can talk?

Bird Droppings October 25, 2021
Did you know trees can talk?

“Did you know that trees talk? Well, they do. They talk to each other, and they’ll talk if you listen. Trouble is, white people, don’t listen. They never learned to listen to the Indians, so I don’t suppose they’ll listen to other voices in nature. Tatanga Mani, Stoney tribe

Most people would laugh at the comment trees can talk. I thought it was odd as I first read the quote from Tatanga Mani or Walking Buffalo, a Stoney Indian from Canada who never gave up his reverence and respect for nature after being educated in the modern world. A friend posted a note in Lord of the Rings, which I thought of as I read this quote earlier today. I had been by the cottonwoods beside the Indian cemetery at Fort Sill and stood looking across the plains listening. The rustling of the cottonwoods along the creek can provide a sense of communication, unlike anything I can describe. I was last at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1994, it has been a few years, but the memory lingers. This morning I went out before the sun came up and stood listening to the night. Pine needles create a sound unlike the leaves of many deciduous trees. Fading in the background, the crickets and tree frogs chirped along, keeping time with a slight breeze. 

“For the Lakota, mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and the woods were all in finished beauty. Winds, rain, snow, sunshine, day, night, and change of seasons were endlessly fascinating. Birds, insects, and animals filled the world with knowledge that defied the comprehension of man.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

While I sit, I listen; my mind seems at ease, and trouble seems to wander off. Around me, the sounds of nature and when the sunlight finally makes its way through the dark, the awareness of all around me. Butterflies and flowers are all about me, and each has a specific purpose and each often occupying and living a very delicate balance in our hectic world. Many people do not mind a butterfly that only survives with a particular host plant, much like the Monarch that feeds only milkweed and related species. The Monarch also needs a very select forest to winter in as part of its natural cycle. In Mexico, timbering is wiping out the winter resting spot for northern Monarchs, and soon we may see a decline in Monarch populations.

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library, and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of the earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel the beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came, we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

I have many times written about the sacredness of life and all about us. Perhaps in greed, we lose this sense of nature. Over the past few years, I have learned to be more revenant to the world around me and, in turn to people as well. I spent a large part of yesterday talking with a friend about how I see all like a puzzle, a great jigsaw puzzle with each piece interconnected to all the others to form a picture of life. Some people hear my puzzle analogy and do not understand. It has been some time since listening to a great speaker Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, talk about how we influence at least ten people every day. He was referring to the fact that, positively or negatively, every person we come in contact with is impacted by what we do. The example we set is what is seen by others and carried away. Life is a constant interconnection of people, places, things, and ideas.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior, and orator

It has been sometimes since walking across the fields near my old home. As a child, I often caught fireflies and filled a mason jar to light my bedroom at night with their glow. I could hear the buffalo snort and paw the ground, agitated by my prescience and letting me know I must move on. There is a point of understanding and reverence that we lose in our greed and selfishness. We tend to rush by and miss so much the world has to offer. I am sitting, writing, listening, and wondering as I finish today. My dear friends, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Have we sold our souls for a few trinkets?

Bird Droppings October 24, 2021

Have we sold our souls for a few trinkets?

Morning is a special time for me, always a new beginning. Today I went out a bit early from the house to take out the garbage and just stand in the silence for a moment. As I drove from the house close to sunrise an owl was sitting on the road and flew away as I drove up giving me an exciting start today. That might be far too easy of a way to say what I am trying to say. But for me, several aspects of that start to the day are almost routine like taking the trash, running by the corner store, photographing the sunrise, and then sitting down for writing and reading each has become a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coolness of another almost summertime fall day. Across the sky, clouds muffled the stars, but the silence was alive. The stars were crystal clear in spaces between clouds in the morning darkness, and the moon considered a showing was peeking through a veil of darkness.

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

Yesterday I got into a discussion about a Bird Dropping from a few days back dealing with sacredness. In the course of the debate, I realized how much we have in our hedonism given away. I wrote a paper on the stripping of the soul from students as we demand and seek higher test scores as a means of showing learning. I listened last night to an update on the years ago shootings at Virginia Tech and the history of a young man and his anguish and angst that led to it. They pointed to his observations and experiences with the hedonism of our society. In his questioning and counseling, He mentioned over and over in his rants the materialism of our society. I began seriously thinking have we sold our souls for a few mere trinkets?

“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words, perhaps meaningful written pictures that may have significance. I emailed several people last night just touching base opening discussion about this idea of sacredness. But as I thought about the interactions and intertwining of daily life, those we seemingly miss and ignore. I talked with several high school students about how life is much like a puzzle interlocked one piece to the next, and we often miss seeing the tiny yet needed interconnections.

I watched the news and each new report bits and pieces of how and why the events of the past few days have spilled out around the world. I recall many years back when I suggested psychiatric treatment for a student and was told not my call. Six years later, he is sentenced to three life sentences for killing a young mother and nearly killing her two children he had babysat. Sometimes those at the top may need to listen to those doing the labor at the bottom.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

As I moved through the day yesterday, sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any comfort to those in need other than keeping them on our minds and in our hearts. Most people, as the day finished, never missed a stride. I am sure that there were tears from family, friends, and those experiencing hardship and harm around the world. But as I tried to explain, even in tragedy, there is purpose and meaning. That concept is difficult to explain to people who live in a materialistic worldview.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

I have used this quote several times, and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow, gathering those life forces in a jar to light my room, and then releasing them into the night, watching them float away in the darkness. Life is seeing beyond the tangibles and foibles of our existence. Life is not the shirt, shoes, or coat we wear. Life is about what is in your heart. Life is about your soul.

“It’s not how long life is but the quality of our life that is important.” Roger Dawson

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Charles Dickens

In 1996 my brother passed away, and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had built our lives around my brother. He was severely disabled, and our being in Georgia was directly related to him. As we celebrated his life, reviewing the intricate webs laid each moment, the many people touched and lives affected what seemingly had been was now an enormous outpouring of energy. Every day a new piece of that puzzle falls into place. It may be another teacher of special needs children, another person recalling the time spent helping with John’s rehab and how it impacted their life. Within our difficulties and disasters always there is hope.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

We each approach the morning differently. I embrace the day and begin with my writing seeing each moment then unfold, trying to understand each tiny piece. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys, and as I look back, each has had meaning and direction and led me to now. I told a dear friend while I always wonder where I am to be, next, it is not because I do not enjoy what I am doing but because I may be needed elsewhere. It is about making and experiencing the journey.

“Life is about the journey, not the destination” Steven Tyler

Several years ago, I received a call from my nephew that a close friend had been in a car accident. As the night proceeded, I spent that night in the Athens Regional Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned as he lay unmoving. We were all hoping that the numbers on the dials would change; they did not. When I arrived home on my computer, a sticky yellow note from my oldest son, this Steven Tyler quote from an Aerosmith song. As I think even farther back and as I was discussing sacred yesterday with a student, in 1968, as I left for Texas for college, I received a book from my parents, which reads on page 596.

“To everything, there is a season, and a time, To every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Many years ago, the late Pete Seeger, a folk singer, and environmentalist wrote the music and borrowed the words, and a song was born “Turn, Turn, Turn,” soon to be released by how appropriate “The Byrd’s.” “To every season turn, turn, turn there is a reason turn, turn, turn and a time for every purpose under heaven” the song became a hit.

“Nothing is beneath you if it is in the direction of your life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Robert Frost

So often, a poet’s words offer comfort or give direction back to a journey set off course one moment. There is no filling of a void, yet when looking at life and all that has been, there truly is no void when looking at the journey to now. There is a turn in the road, a new direction. All that has led to this has not changed and is behind us, lifting us, guiding us, and strengthening us as we continue our experiences. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia already sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across. He clambered stone by stone, crossing the stream and a favorite Zen saying I often attach to the photo.

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

Years ago I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website, “Friends are never alone.” We all can cross in our own time, and there are times when a hand is welcome. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts, and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Can we find answers outside our windows?

Bird Droppings October 22, 2021

Can we find answers outside our windows?

It has been a few years since the largest ever lottery drawing and the frenzy of buying a ticket which was crazy. While in SC, my wife and I got a Powerball ticket seems we got thinking, hey, we win, we could buy a house at Pawleys Island. We all get caught up, which led me to think about this world engrossed with money and how we can spend money. Granted, I get caught up in what if I won dreaming. I wonder if perhaps some of this thinking is bringing so many people back to their more traditional world views as well; what if I had nothing.

I was trying to look at a book written by the creators of Waiting for Superman, a movie about public education. At first, when reading a book, I tend to look at the index to see who the author borrows from and quotes. This, for me, is often a precursor for my continued reading of that book. I first caught notice of John Dewey and went to the page that mentioned John Dewey. All that was written was that John Dewey taught that experienced-based education was the way to go. Jean Piaget had six words while Arne Duncan had ten or so pages, and even Bill Gates had more than that. I did not see one innovative educator in reference anywhere. Most were advocates of the privatization of education or people who were foundation heads and provided money. Sadly nowhere was innovative education being considered.

“Black Elk saw the earth becoming sick. The animals, the winged ones, and the four-legged ones, grew frightened. All living things became gaunt and poor. The air and the waters dirtied and smelled foul.”  Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Mother Earth Spirituality

Black Elk was a teenager during the battle later known as the battle of the Little Bighorn (Custer’s Last Stand in some history books). General Custer led his four hundred or so troops to battle against the combined forces of Sioux and Cheyenne, numbering over two thousand. Black Elk had a vision as a young man that would be later translated by his son and recorded by John Neihardt in Black Elk Speaks. This quote is based on Eagles Man’s thoughts on a vision and yet how prophetic the words are. Looking back in recent history, we have polluted rivers till they smell before we do anything. In Ohio, a river caught fire from the pollution. Most recently, we had the significant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and today an article on the massive dead areas on the bottom of the Gulf. Dead coral and other usually alive regions are devoid of life. We issue smog warnings in most significant cities regularly. Acid rain strips paint from cars and kill frogs.

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library, and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of Nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came, we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

It has been nearly ten years since I walked on the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida. As the sun rose, I was alone with the water, wind, and pelicans flying along the edge of the water. There was a silence even as the waves rolled in and the wind blew. There was calmness amongst the surroundings that put me at ease. As I gazed out into the Gulf with my back to the civilized world, I could imagine this place before tourism took over and high rises and condos sprang up. Sadly I know that image has changed with the last hurricane.

“Although we can expect great progress from the greening of technology and the inventiveness of the human spirit, we should not allow ourselves to be beguiled that information and technological advance will be sufficient.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

Perhaps I overthink and ponder too much as I sit here writing. I do believe we can accomplish a new world and a new way of seeing our reality. It will take each of us perceiving life differently than we choose to now. I wonder if that is even possible.

“The more knowledge we acquire, the more mystery we find…. A human being is part of the whole, called the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. The delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a person nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of Nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to see this completely, but the striving for such an achievement is in itself a part of our liberation and a foundation for inner serenity.” Albert Einstein

In this world of ever-changing technology and innovations, what is new today will be antiquated tomorrow. Albert Einstein knew this as he offered the statement above. Einstein was a man of vision and thinking beyond what most of us will ever comprehend.

“Because the world at large does not get enough exposure to feminine principles such as acceptance, emotional expression, and peacefulness, we have moved to far from center and are therefore contrary to Nature’s plan. Humanity’s patriarchal track record is dismal at best. We need to remind ourselves as individuals as a culture, that aggression and intimidation are not our only options when something does not go our way.” Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

In my lifetime, I have not known an actual time of peace in the world. When I was a tiny child, the Korean War was being fought as a teenager and young man Viet Nam, and in more recent years, we have been fighting in the Middle East for nearly twenty years. In my history studies, I have found that all wars have an inherent base cause of money. Stories go that Lyndon Johnson continued Viet Nam to provide business for US companies. Historians will write about our effort in Iraq as a war for oil. Greed has been a driving force in literally everything we do.

“It is not only important to walk down the path that creator has set before us; but we must walk in the way. The way is all the little things one does along the path. What kind of product is being produced? Is there a large pile of money? Is there a pile of accumulated physical things, such as cars, houses, property? Are there many degrees and awards on the wall? All of these things can be used in a positive way. Possibly, when one accumulates them as a means to a positive end, they can be certainly good. However, if one accumulates them as an end; this may be not so good!” Susan Thomas Underwood, Walk With Spirit

I am often reminded of a line from a song by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” So often, forget and start seeking that destination and forget that so much is along the pathway. Opening my eyes and listening a bit more carefully, there is much to see and hear. We are in the grip of a winter freeze here in Georgia, and temperatures have dropped below freezing. This morning I will bundle up as I head to school and try and educate a few children. Last night I watched Braveheart, the story of William Wallace of Scotland in the late thirteenth century. An exciting tale while part fiction, it has some truth. A man believed in freedom and fought for it, dying betrayed by his countryman. A bit away from my journeying and writing, but as I think and ponder. Another day and as I have for so long, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and 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

Wondering why on a Thursday morning

Bird Droppings October 21, 2021
Wondering why on a Thursday morning

I watched the debate roughly a year ago from our condo on Pawleys Island. My wife and I escaped for a long weekend. It was to give her a break from a hectic clinic schedule and me from the solitude of being retired. We went out on a boat to see parts of the island only reachable by boat in a few hours. I was hoping for some great bird pictures and some shelling. I was able to get several photos of bald eagles and found numerous larger shorebirds and a few nice shells that made for a great day.

But as I got up this morning early, the first thing on the news was how many people tested positive for Covid 19. The rate is improving, fortunately. I heard some vocalizations from the former president saying he would have handled the pandemic differently and would have everyone vaccinated by now. Even though he waited to tell his followers he was vaccinated until after the election; people would listen to him. I still recall how we had two very different campaigns, one saying the virus is going away and one wanted to follow the science and news that numbers are highest ever and now hospitals are filling up again.

Over the years, I have read many volumes of education, philosophy, and many other subjects. I have found many authors; the late Wilma Mankiller, a former Cherokee chief, intrigued me. First her name and then what she has done and what she said.

“I think the most important issue we have as a people is what we started, and that is to begin to trust our thinking again and believe in ourselves enough to think that we can articulate our vision of the future and then work to make sure that that vision becomes a reality.” Chief Wilma Mankiller

I found a small book several years back written by Wilma Mankiller, Gloria Steinem, and Vine Deloria. The late Wilma Mankiller was the first woman elected chief of the Oklahoma Cherokee Tribe and she became a national speaker on the rights of Indians. The book’s title, Every day is Good Day, is an effort to portray in perspective the thoughts of the indigenous women who provided the thoughts and articles for the book. The book encompasses women from across the America’s.

The quote I started with today was directed at Indians as a whole and the Cherokee tribe who were uprooted from their ancestral homes in the southeastern US by Andrew Jackson in the infamous Trail of Tears and moved to the Indian Territories of Oklahoma. As I reread this quote, it hit me. The quote could apply to almost anyone. So many have fallen into the trap of societal following the leader. That charismatic voice is screaming loud, garners listening even when often fictitious. Surprisingly, many follow usually, even knowing the words are wrong or misleading. As a country, we are often told what to do not in a dictatorship but more subtlety as legislators convene and pass laws providing guidance and parameters. Along this line, I was thinking back to Indian reservations where humans were forced to submit to cultural extermination and the Indian schools like Carlisle in Pennsylvania, where Indian children were taken and stripped of their heritage

“I’d like to talk about free markets. Information in the computer age is the last genuine free market left on earth except for those free markets where indigenous people are still surviving. And that’s basically becoming limited.” Russell Means

“In the government schools, which are referred to as public schools, Indian policy has been instituted there, and it’s a policy where they do not encourage, in fact, discourage, critical thinking and the creation of ideas and public education.” Russell Means

One of the American Indian Movement founders and its first leader, Russell Means, might be more familiar to Daniel Day-Lewis and The Last of the Mohicans. Means stars as Chief Kingachcook, the last of the Mohicans. Means was born on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Russell Means has been actively working for Indian efforts for nearly fifty years and often is a very outspoken figure as various legislation and agendas are thrown at reservations and tribes.

“I don’t want to talk about the environment and the American Indian viewpoint; I hate the word Native American. It’s a government term, which was created in the year 1970 in the Department of the Interior, a generic term that describes all the prisoners of the United States of America.” Russell Means

“The one thing I’ve always maintained is that I’m an American Indian. I’m not politically correct. Everyone who is born in the Western Hemisphere is a Native American. We are all Native Americans” Russell Means

I find interesting his viewpoint that anyone born in the Western Hemisphere is a Native American.

“So, I’d much rather get across the concept of freedom. It’s what’s important to Indian children. The only way you can be free is to know is that you are worthwhile as a distinct human being. Otherwise, you become what the colonizers have designed, and that is a lemming. Get in line, punch all the right keys, and die.” Russell Means

Watching Fox News and listening to some of the conservative commentators, I can envision the masses of lemmings running off the cliff following right along. It seems so few think for themselves anymore. Even in education, we have set standards for what is to be taught and then test kids based on standards. Effectively we have been eliminating the development of critical thinking and imagination. That is to be squeezed in along; it is not about the actual issues but party lines, personalities, and sadly race. One writer commented in a blog that while they thought a particular politician was not knowledgeable about being president, they liked her and so would vote for her for that reason. She stands for what I stand for. Many of these same politicians stand for what makes the most money for them at that time. Politicians change their minds significantly on immigration, and others have gone from pro-health care reform to repeal health care reform.

“It does not require many words to speak the truth.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Sadly, most will never use a few words but embellish and go far beyond the truth. A week is a near end, and again I ask you, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Trying to find where community exists

Bird Droppings October 20, 2021
Trying to find where community exists

In my doctoral course work, I was in a class on educational communities that featured all total in the two courses’ fifteen texts. The texts have an underlying theme of caring and relationships as a key to education or successful teaching. One of the books from a Georgia Southern course, entitled Dreamkeepers by Gloria Ladson-Billings, focuses on the notion that a teacher should be giving back to the community. Over the past few years, I have heard numerous teachers discuss not wanting to be seen by students outside of school and not being a part of the school community. Last spring, just before the virus break, we got into a debate of sorts at school on this concept. Can a teacher be a successful teacher and not be a part of the school community? It seems I lived away from the community and, to be honest, did not get involved in the school other than my classes.

On one of my trips to the Barnes and Noble bookstore, I was looking for a book by J. Garrison, Dewey, and Eros: Wisdom and desire in the art of teaching. This book focuses on ideas from John Dewey, considered to be one of the great minds in educational philosophy. As I went to the bookstore, I ran into a student from my high school who transferred to Georgia Southern University. It seems that there are students, former students, or parents of students showing up wherever I go.

“In every integral experience there is form because there is dynamic organization. I call the organization dynamic ….. Because it has growth….William James aptly compared the course of a conscious experience to the alternate flights and perching of a bird…. Each resting place in experience is an undergoing in which it is absorbed and taken home the consequences of prior doing… If we move too rapidly, we get away from the base of supplies – of accrued meanings – the experience is flustered, thin, and confused. If we dawdle too long after having extracted a net value, experience perishes of inanition.” John Dewey, Art as Experience, 1934

I thought back a few years and many conversations on synchronicity and a trip home from a class actually after a midterm in Advanced Behavioral Techniques; I was hungry since I had not really stopped since early in the morning. I knew one of my former swimmers from the high school team who worked at Taco Bell, and sure enough, she was working, and I said hi, coincidently the same student I ran into at the bookstore this past weekend. As I pulled out of Taco Bell, my sweet tooth struck, and I ended up at Brewster’s, as close to homemade ice cream as you can get at fast food, sounded good, and there were two of my former advisee’s also getting ice cream. We talked for a while about uptight teachers and who was not, an exciting subject. Why do teachers get so uptight or anybody for that matter?

As I talked, several more students and former students pulled in. I met girlfriends and boyfriends of each and such, coincidence perhaps but an average day for me, it seems. So often, I mention the word coincidence and try to explain it. Recently, in a letter to a friend, I used the term ” we are where we need to be right now and when we realize that all of a sudden, so much more becomes clear. James Redfield, an author, refers to coincidence frequently and the idea that it happens more often as you become attuned to it when you begin noticing coincidence. Essentially as you become aware of your place in the puzzle, the pieces seem to fit better and more clearly.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Jung was of the nature there was purpose in all that happened, and he and his former partner Sigmund Freud disagreed to an extent on the whys of this. Jung coined the word synchronicity to explain his thoughts in the early 1900s. Events and things happening at a specific time, specific people seemingly appear by chance but not.

“His (Jung) notion of synchronicity is that there is a causal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception.” HTTP:// skepdic.com/jung.html

“Some scientists see a theoretical grounding for synchronicity in quantum physics, fractal geometry, and chaos theory. They are finding that the isolation and separation of objects from each other is more apparent than real; at deeper levels, everything — atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, people — participates in a             sensitive, flowing web of information. Physicists have shown, for example, that if two photons are separated, no matter by how far, a change in one creates a             simultaneous change in the other. “A Wink from the Cosmos, by Meg Lundstrom (Intuition Magazine, May 1996)

How does synchronicity tie into the community? Somewhere in and among ideas and thoughts are answers. Some people seek answers through religion. Some seek answers through pure science others assume there are no answers and sit on a rock. Going back to my first thought, I see teaching as a community. In that community, we are integral pieces and interconnect many times, as for me today and yesterday in many differing places. I find throwing myself into that community as significant as walking into my classroom on a school day. Each time I bump into a student, it adds to their appreciation of my time and effort and gives me a piece of their puzzle to help deal with any issues that may come up when I have them in class. Just in a staff meeting yesterday, we discussed connections.

Each of us can choose our direction and flow as humans, friends, and teachers if that is our chosen lot in life. The actual point I was making was when we are aware of our interactions with others that each moment we spend with a person affects that person and the next person they see or talk to as we too are involved. It is in this way community is built. I came away that night and yesterday, happy having spoken with some folks that I had not seen in several weeks, even several years, and hopefully, they too went away a bit happier. This is how life works and if we are aware of this, imagine the effect and impact. If I know, I will be affecting people beyond my contact with someone, and I will be more aware of how I affect them and so forth. I recall many years ago from I believe Dr. Glenn Doman, the old credence of leaving the person you are talking with smiling will affect ten others is accurate. If you involve the idea of coincidence, fact, or fancy, who knows, it sure happens a lot. So as I wander today through differing ideas, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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

An eclectic morning

Bird Droppings October 19, 2021
An eclectic morning

I walked out into a clear sky, and stars gleamed above me. The full moon had settled behind the pine trees to the west. My feet got cold, walking about in flip flops. I walked my wife to her car and decided to lay back down for a bot.  I eventually made my way to my computer, talking with my middle son as I do many mornings as he drives to work. It has been a few years since a group of students and I began discussing the Davinci Code and other philosophical diversions. The idea of fearing death as a basis for religion came up over lunch as well. As I get older, sitting around wondering about life and death, each little joint pain or chest pain, I wonder will I see my grandkids again one more time. I was sitting here thinking I had not even considered this idea before a trip to the pulmonologist and being confronted with my mortality. What took me to the doctor turned out to be something that can be controlled by a healthier lifestyle and eating and not the potentially dangerous alternative.  But it made me think, and my procrastination addiction only got worse. So I need to address within my thinking to rise above and lift out of the funk I fell into.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So as I am thinking further.

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

Interesting, I thought Glick was referring to me in this passage, but it is Henry David Thoreau.  In a lesson plan on teaching, Thoreau Glick points out the difficulties even today; However, Henry David Thoreau is recognized as a great writer; his idiosyncrasies kept him from public acknowledgment in his time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

What is that piece you cannot teach teachers?

Bird Droppings October 18, 2021

What is that piece you cannot teach teachers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Danielson Group website:

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

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

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

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

instructional goals, demonstrating knowledge of resources, designing coherent

instruction, and assessing student learning

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

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

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

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

managing student behavior and organizing the physical space.

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

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

communicating clearly and accurately, using questioning and discussion techniques,

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

flexibility and responsiveness.

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

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

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

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

showing professionalism. Teachers who demonstrate these competencies are

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

professionals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I started this many hours ago, and here I am, ending an unfinished work. Hopefully, over the next few days, I can address this idea of what makes for a great teacher but until that time, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related)

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