Teachers need to consult their hearts

Bird Droppings November 28, 2021

Teachers need to consult their hearts

I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
But I can’t sing, I can’t help listening…..
Crying as they ease you down
Jackson Brown, For a Dancer

I was amazed walking out this morning to the car and 35 degrees. I am the only one home, and I was lazier than I had planned. I did get up in time to photograph the sunrise and catch a barred owl roosting along with a red-tailed hawk. I was driving to Kroger, and my phone’s music selection finished, and then it went to random similar genre songs. I clicked through several and landed on For a Dancer by Jackson Browne. I Have been home alone because my wife Pat has been at her mother’s house dealing with the death of Pat’s brother. This song hit me as I thought of Tim and his family. Today I am thinking with my heart.

I was going through some research material and pulled out a little book. It has been several years since I found this small book on my many excursions to Barnes and Nobles that I would like to share some passages from. I found many of the thoughts and passages to be of interest and significance and for me sharing words of wisdom with others is part of who I am. Over the years, I have had many students in classes and advisement interested in nursing, and many thoughts in this little book relate to health and spiritual care as being the same. Quite a few of my former students are in nursing and health care. The little book, Listening with Your Heart, is written by Dr. Wayne Peale MD, a medical doctor and an Iroquois on his mother’s side.

“As a medical student, I was being trained to hear hearts with my stethoscope but found I was missing a great deal by not listening with my heart,” Dr. Wayne Peale

Several years ago, I was proctoring an End of Course Test. One of the questions was from a poem or passage about a colt that was not winter-broke. I liked that term winter-broke. For those in the south, perhaps it has little meaning and maybe a culturally tricky passage. The term winter-broke is about being used to the winter, snowflakes, cold, steam from your breath, and other idiosyncrasies of the cold. Today in Georgia, many of those shy of snow in our area are visible. A fresh snowfall would spook a baby horse new to the world. Maybe chasing snowflakes or running from them, as in the case of the story.

Other answers used words such as was the colt afraid and words similar. One of my students asked me quietly what is empathetic. Being a language arts test, I could not impart or tell the definition of an answer. However, as the question was answered for one of the answers, the author empathized with the colt’s plight. I saw my little book on the table when I returned to my room and pondered as to why it was so hard not to say the answer because I, too, lived by empathy.

“The white man talks about the mind and body and spirit as if they are separate. For us, they are one. Our whole life is spiritual, from the time we get up until we go to bed.”            Yakima healer

It was nearly seventeen years ago that I agonized about a situation and a student who is on the verge of being expelled, and much of it from my fault. The student was refusing to do a required program. In refusing to do the assignment, he was getting angry and argumentative, often to the point of school disruption. When you carefully look at the student’s disability, each aspect of it is in given responses, lack of control, obsessive behavior, emotional issues, anger management issues, and authority issues. A slight change and the problem could be solved. Why not do the same work differently? Of course, it is not in the confines of “program” which would upset the administration. Should empathy for the student stand up to, trying to stay in the box? As Dr. Peale learned and points out, sometimes you need to teach from the heart as well. One day perhaps, I will study linguistics and language. As I looked through Dr. Peale’s book, a Navajo word caught my attention.

“Hozho (HO-zo) – A complex Navajo philosophical, religious, and aesthetic concept roughly translated as “beauty.” Hozho also means seeking and incorporating aesthetic qualities into life; it means inner peace and harmony and making the most of all that surrounds us. It refers to a positive, beautiful, harmonious, happy environment that must be constantly created by thought and deed. Hozho encourages us to go in beauty and to enjoy the gifts of life and nature and health.” Listening with your heart

In a recent writing seminar, the lead teacher offered that reading a passage can aid in eliciting descriptive phrases and sentences and encourage students to be illiterate and expound on ideas more so. I end each of my daily writings with a Hindustani word and have several times offered the translation when people ask. Here is a term that has so many meanings. A simple expression is namaste, yet so much importance. Within its language, there are different meanings for different people. For some, it is a salutation, a simple hello or goodbye. If you go a bit further south in India, you would only use namaste with reverence and bow your head, pressing your hands together, honoring the person you speak with, and your simple salutation.

It has been a few months back since I wrote about making a rope strand by strand. A dear friend from up north wrote back thanking me and later in the day responded with this note.

“Thank you for sharing them with me.  I sent this one on to my husband, sister, sister-in-law, and my best friend.  Thru this most difficult year, losing my beloved son, they have been constants in my life united we stand thru this valley of darkness. Without their love and support, my grief would be unbearable.  Peace, my       friend.”

Empathy is assisted healing from the heart.

“…healing is a partnership with others – family members, community. A Native American healer once paraphrased Abraham Lincoln to me: ‘you can heal some things all of the time,’ the healer said, ‘and you can heal all things some of the time, but you can’t heal everything all the time alone.’ Everyone needs a coach, a family, a community.” Dr. Wayne Peale MD

Sometimes when I receive a note from the heart, it is difficult to answer immediately. I have to sit sometimes even sleep on it. My dear friend lost a son. Since hearing of her plight, I have wondered what it would be like to lose a son, a daughter, or anyone close to me. Empathy is a difficult word at times like these. It is a much bigger word than most would imagine.

Our house is such that two of our bedrooms rooms are upstairs and two are downstairs they go from one end of the house to the other. My writing and reading time does not always correspond with normal sleep patterns; the family will be asleep when I am about to write or read. Hearing the sounds of my family asleep often is a peaceful and wonderful feeling. Knowing they are safe and here at home. Then the so many what-ifs have crossed my mind as I walk through the house early in the morning, thinking about what if the rooms were empty.

Lost in a moment of melancholy, I come back to teaching in my thinking. Teaching is about healing, it is about community, and it is about family, and most of all, it is about empathy. It is about seeking and engaging constants in our lives to move forward and or change directions if need be. Teaching is always about learning. Sometimes as I realized yesterday and have so many times before, our nice boxes we are supposed to teach from are not always the right ones. Sadly far too many teachers do not use the heart as a teaching tool. Far too many parents do not or cannot use the heart as a parenting tool. As I look at the title of Dr. Peale’s book, listening with your heart, what a powerful message.

I am doing an exercise using a black and white picture of a bridge. Most will see an image, while others have created fantasy worlds of trolls and fairies. Some explain their perception and how we each are different in what we see and hear. Often I will play the devil’s advocate and argue both sides. It is just a bridge to elicit responses, or if it was a work of art created by an immigrant ironworker as a tribute to their new freedom. Thinking back to, Hozho, my new word, I should take pause.

“Every action should be taken with thoughts of its effects on children seven generations from now.” Cherokee saying

If only we would deal with kids with life that way. What if people, in general, looked at life that way? Would you please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts? It is about being in your heart. It is about speaking from your heart. But most of all, it is listening with your heart and always giving thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Listening to a philosopher

Bird Droppings November 26, 2021

Listening to a philosopher

The day started with cold the thermometer skimmed around thirty degrees. By the time I went to the store, it had warmed up. Clouds were pushed aside, and sunshine poked through. There was a beautiful sky as I walked outside, surprising as the sky was clear. I cannot wait again for a night when the moon is reflecting across from the west, lighting up the sky, and white billowing clouds present a surreal picture for me as I walk out in the morning. I was reading in National Geographic an article on possible life somewhere out in the universe and all the possibilities that continue to pop up. It has not been long since I fancied myself a philosopher of sorts. Perhaps it was my graduate work that got me genuinely entrenched in philosophical meandering that led to this conclusion or trying a million times to formulate a philosophy of teaching while it evolved before me. I think it is because I enjoy pondering way too much. I seem to find time to wonder and think about all around me as I journey through life.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“How people keep correcting us when we are young! There is always some bad habit or other they tell us we ought to get over. Yet worst habits are tools to help us through life.” Friedrich Nietzsche

As I looked for a starting place for my daily writing, I was interrupted to run into town to get a few things, and then I could get back to my writing. As I went up and down the stairs and walked out into a sky as wonderful as it is this morning, I recalled a period in my life when I would get up every morning early and walk several miles discussing philosophy, theology, and other relevant issues with a very good friend of mine. It was an exciting time, and many concepts that I hold now came to fruition during those walks. Over the years, as I look back, and indeed most things considered that I consider “bad habits” I had given up in the days past; however, they do provide tools for pondering ideas further and pushing thoughts beyond where they were. I have found, however many people get mired in that bad habit or two, and it becomes part of their life not merely a steppingstone or tool but a crutch and support. Perhaps even a cast of sorts locking them into that point in time.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” C. Everett Koop

Most folks will not even recognize the name of Dr. Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States and former head of pediatric surgery at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. As I thought of Nietzsche’s quotes and while not taking a walk today, I did go and walk dogs twice outside so my wife and son would not have to get up as the holiday is officially over and we all are back at work today. I started writing a bit later today than I thought I would. As you read his work, Nietzsche is often self-focused and hostile, and perhaps in some ways, I like looking to his thoughts for contrast for adding a backdrop to a brighter view. Somewhere I started writing about Dr. Koop.

Dr. C. Everett Koop was instrumental in the anti-cigarette laws and anti-tobacco laws. On a personal note, he was the surgeon for my younger brother many years ago when we lived in Pennsylvania. My father used to tell the story of Dr. Koop. His staff and my father gathered around John, my brother who was born with cerebral palsy and later developed encephalitis’s approaching surgery. Dad would say having been in the Navy medical corps. And around death in WWII, so much the aura around Koop was different; he exuded life, he thrived on life, and when he asked all to join hands and pray around John, he made my father’s day.

But one thing that has stuck with me from dads conversation with Dr. Koop was a quote very seldom seen, “Having worked with terminally ill children and seriously ill children for many years in all of those years I have never seen a parent of one of these children who did not have faith.” As I think back and remember bits and pieces, Dr. Koop’s comment and discussions with my father, he was not referring to religion as much as to faith. Faith also parallels trust, and it was in that trust in Dr. Koop and or confidence in the hospital that parents would have faith and hope. Dr. Koop was a man of hope, future, and faith.

“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ending on the idea of faith, as I enter a day filled with cooking and staying home with my wife, I often wonder about students who question and students who refuse to ask, often in both cases based on faith. I am ending with a simple idea for another day or several thoughts to ponder and mull over as we ascend the plateau to view the vista. Tomorrow is a new month ahead. My friends, have a glorious day today, build for tomorrow and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your thoughts, and always give thanks namaste. Today I will venture out to give thanks and send thoughts of healing to several friends.

My friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related)

bird

To think or at least try this morning

Bird Droppings November 26, 2021

To think or at least try this morning

 “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Joseph Campbell

 I wonder if it is for attention that so many teenagers seek the route of drama in their lives. Overreacting to seemingly inconsequential stimuli seems to be a matter of fact in the teenage world. Is it hormones and various emotional lapses that drive the multiple levels of humankind? I often wonder why we do what we do. I observe and listen and find myself all too often swept into turbulence that is difficult to raise one head above. A few years back, I was called to talk to a student before the holiday break. Her head was in her hands sobbing, and she had asked for me. The story from a few days before had grown and found its way to school. I had heard bits and pieces floating around the school in the days before.

Thinking back on another topic, a young man in my classes asked me if he had been good and would write a letter for his probation officer. A week ago, I separated him from another fellow just before a fight.  

 “Absolutely speaking, Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you is by no means a golden rule, but the best of current silver. An honest man would have but little occasion for it. It is golden not to have any rule at all in such a case.” Henry David Thoreau

 At times, do our worlds of reality intertwine, or is this some grand Venn diagram, and only occasionally do the edges overlap. Is part of reality A and part of B touching here and reality C and D barely touch over there?

I wonder if it is for attention. I watched a girl walk down the hall a year or so ago, staring straight ahead, obviously depressed. How do you get depressed at 16? What is our water drives a teenager to depression? Earlier I went out briefly. My head today feels like a sponge. It was hard getting up. I forgot to take my allergy medicine last night, and the gas heat tears up my sinuses. But as I walked and stood looking as my dog ran around the yard searching for prey and trying to find a dry spot in the wet grass to do her duty, I could not help but think. I wonder about dogs. They look for a dry place to make wet. It actually might be logical, perhaps in dog thinking. But as I looked about, the air seemed to resonate my mood foggily, and the weather channel had issued fog warnings for our county.

I could see stars, yet the trees only a few feet away were clouded over. One, in particular, was literally in a mist as I looked. Much is a mist at 2:30 in the morning, but this tree was unclear as the others were fine. My perception was a bit foggy today, and actually, I did go lay down again after getting up with a severe sinus headache. But as I lay back down, I thought of seeing pieces clear and others shrouded in mist. Some were unclear and indistinct, while others were plain as day.

I will come back to students and kids at school. Perhaps there is a difference. On the one hand, there are students, those who learn, and kids taking up air and space and or baby goats, sarcastically. But as I thought, perhaps it knows that clears one’s self; one’s self-image is more apparent when you know yourself. In so many Eastern religions and philosophies, there is a focus on “know thy self.” Here is a thought from one cloudy mind today to numerous clouded minds at 4:00 in the morning. Maybe it is like my tree; so many people are unclear because they do not know who they are. In their searching and journeying in life, they never have a clear pathway. It always seems to be rubble blocking the way, be it relationships, family, “friends,” and for some, perhaps a disability or imperfection that in their eyes holds them back or cause them to stumble. Very quickly, it could create an unclear vision of who they are.

I went back out, and as my head cleared, the tree that had been blurrily cleared up, and I was able to see it fine. When we meet people, even ones with drama and unclear at the time views if we focus, if we give ourselves a moment to recompose, often we can see through the fog and see the natural person even if that person is unsure. Then we can offer a hand to help them come back. It could be sort of a tug into the Venn diagram, perhaps. It might be M&M’s or a paper towel, or just a word or thought, and it amazes me at times to see some things so simple can change a life. Sometimes it is just coming when called or needed. I wish we had “clear life,” something bottled you could spray out, and all would be okay, sort of like the commercials with the red eyes and one drop, and they are clear. Peace, my friends, and please, when the opportunity is there, offer a hand for far too many people who are stuck in the fog of their own lives. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart’s namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Bird Droppings November 23, 2021

Do we teach, or are we taught?

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Albert Einstein

So many times, when discussing students who are having difficult times, an individual teacher’s perspective is all that matters. Recently I was about to thump another teacher in the head, listening to comments about whether this student had a better work ethic. I have heard about work ethic a lot lately. This or that student needs a better work ethic. But what if you do not like that teacher and or subject, and better yet, what if you have a disability that inhibits you. Every day I see square pegs hammered into round holes. It is the way our education system works. I am always amused that Mr. Einstein did not have a great work ethic in school. He failed math a time or two, and then he rewrote the books.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

We rely so much on prepackaged, prewritten, preformed, precooked, pretested, pre-read, and pre-understood everything that creativity, imagination, and uniqueness get left on the shelf. I recall giving make-up Georgia High School Graduation tests and End of Course Tests over the years in the high school. In theory, tests of content with a smattering of cognitive questions thrown in; however, several questions while multiply choice could be answered in numerous ways. Here are high school students trying to analyze and answer questions, for example, science teacher’s question. What if you miss one of those questions and get a 499 and a 500 is passing. A good friend who graduated nearly ten years ago had taken the science test four times and failed by a total of eight points and has not graduated. What if this person answered that one question the same way, which is either incorrect or not answerable. This person was an A and B student and, after four tries, was too frustrated to try again.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein

How and why and what should be taught are always at the crux of curriculum and instructional administrators’ challenges. But one of the most challenging aspects of education is instilling a desire to learn, as Einstein states, wanting to seek the mysterious. Too few students genuinely want to learn most and not just pass and get on. One of my greatest moments was being asked who wrote the poem when I read Dylan Thomas in class one day. I was asked by a kid who most thought could not read, and he read the entire book that weekend. The mysterious is a mysterious thing. Would you please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart’s namaste?

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

So many thoughts for one day, including CRT

Bird Droppings November 21, 2021
So many thoughts for one day, including CRT

Far too many folks do not have a clue about CRT. In most cases, it is a discussion in graduate school. Some would say teaching the battle of Wounded Knee as a massacre instead of the last great battle with the plains Indians is CRT. History has a way of shifting from nonfiction to fiction as soon as it happens. On December 29, 1890, it occurred near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The battle at Wounded Knee was a massacre of nearly three hundred Lakota people by soldiers of the United States Army. Twenty-five soldiers died, and thirty-one were wounded. Twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. In 1990, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed a resolution on the historical centennial formally expressing “deep regret” for the massacre. In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians passed two resolutions condemning the military awards and called on the federal government to rescind them. Another piece was that the army had surrounded the encampment of starving Indians with six rapid-firing Hodgiss guns. Initially, a great army battle is now considered a significant misstep in dealing with the Indians. Interesting as we look at facts and not opinions.

I believe I was prepared from childhood to discuss this topic. It has been many years since my first introduction to American Indians. I was three or four years old when I first remembered my father’s Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle stories. Native American had not officially become politically correct, and we were raised with American Indian stories. My father’s stories came from his background in the Boy Scouts of America; he had been an Eagle Scout, a scout leader, and a summer camp program director. Indian Lore was a significant portion of Boy Scouting in those days. From a favorite book on Indian Crafts, my father told us of counting coup. W. Ben Hunt explained the word and its meaning.

“It was considered a great honor to count coup” W. Ben Hunt

My father worked his summers during college in New Hampshire at Camp Waunakee, using Indian Lore as a base for camp activities, and he was chief of the campfire. During his military service as a medic on a navy LSM in World War II, I learned he had spent many hours talking with Navaho code talkers as his Navy ship delivered them to islands in the South Pacific. He would say he was part Indian through all of those years, but it was not until he was in his seventies that his sister uncovered my great grandmother’s lineage, Leni Lenape, a clan of the Delaware tribes, and confirmed it. As a child, Indians were unique, my father instilled this in us, but there was always a spiritual aspect I could not explain. As I was reading for this morning, I pulled out another old book from my childhood days by William Tompkins. My father would use this book to teach us rudimentary sign language if we ever needed to converse with Indians.

“The originators of the Indian signs thought that thinking or understanding was done with the heart, and made the sign “drawn from the heart” Deaf mutes place extended fingers of the right hand against the forehead to give the same meaning” William Tompkins

As I read this line that thinking and understanding comes from the heart in so much Indian philosophy, perhaps this drew me to this group of people. I grew up with feathers, drums, rattles, and other Indian paraphernalia always around the house. In my own experiences, the spirituality and acceptance of all things as sacred in the American Indian culture intrigued me. As I started a graduate school program on curriculum theory, I never realized how education had been so misused and often deliberately so in history. Those in power avoided teaching some things; I use the fine print concerning American Indians.

The trust inherent in their culture and understanding of life and nature was turned against them for profit and greed. Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a member of the Dakota tribe, a medical doctor known in his tribe as Ohiyesa is quoted in Kent Nerburn’s, The Soul of an Indian, as he addresses a significant difference between white and Indian thought.

“Many of the white man ways are past our understanding …. They put a great store upon writing; there is always paper. The white people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand if a white man loses his papers, he is helpless” Dr. Charles Eastman, Ohiyesa

In reading and discussing grad school, not much is different from the many innuendos in today’s education and hidden agendas and political maneuvering curriculums. As I progressed in my schooling, I learned Columbus mistakenly called the indigenous people he encountered Indians thinking he had found a way to the Spice Islands of the West Indies. The name would stick until more recently as we became politically correct and used the term Native Americans. According to noted historian Ronald Takaki, Columbus even wrote letters from the King and Queen to the Great Khan in his journal, thinking he was in China or near.

As I became older and sought out my understanding of American Indians, my readings went deeper. I spent a semester in Texas during my undergraduate years and experienced firsthand a powerful hatred even then in 1968 for American Indians. My journeys paralleled my spiritual and educational pathways as my ties and understanding grew with each step. I was looking for answers even back then.

“When you see a new trail or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing (introduction).” Uncheedah, grandmother of Ohiyesa

My roommate at Mercer was Creek, and he and his brother and I became good friends. After I graduated, I spent many nights at their apartment and was allowed to take medicine at the Green Corn dance. I continued my searching for answers even in those days. As I finished my undergraduate program at Mercer University, I realized why American Indians were never taught to read the fine print. In classes and from friends, I received books and articles to read, adding to my understanding. From one of our course texts, Author Joel Spring points out the concept of deculturalization.

“Deculturalization is one aspect of the strange mixture of democratic thought and intolerance that exists in some minds. The concept of deculturalization demonstrates how cultural prejudices and religious bigotry can be intertwined with democratic beliefs. It combines education for democracy and political equality with cultural genocide – the attempt to destroy cultures. Deculturalization is an educational process that aims to destroy a people’s culture and replace it with a new culture.” Joel Spring

From earlier on, there was an effort to assimilate and dismantle the cultures of the Native peoples in America. In the early 1500s, Spanish colonists were the first to deceive and destroy the native people? Several nights ago, a recent History channel episode was based on Cortez and the conquering of the Aztecs. A statement was made by one of the historians on the show that in the course of fewer than two hundred years from that first encounter with Cortez, ninety percent of the indigenous people of America’s were either killed or died from European based disease, and the Europeans enslaved a new world.

So many times, it was through deception. As the white man pushed into the new world, treaties and agreements were often signed with little understanding of the Native peoples. The land was not for sale, yet the white man was offering us trinkets. How foolish is the white man? Vine Deloria Jr. states very clearly in his book Custer died for your sins:

“In the treaty of August 5, 1826, almost as if it were an afterthought, an article (III) stated: The Chippewa tribe grant to the government of the United States the right to search for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country. But this grant is not to effect title of the land or existing jurisdiction over it. The Chippewa’s, in the dark as to the importance of their mineral wealth, signed the treaty. This was the first clear-cut case of fraudulent dealings on the part of Congress. Close examination of subsequent Congressional dealings shows a record of continued fraud covered over by pious statements of concern for their words.” Vine Deloria Jr

I wonder if the Indian agents held their hand over portions of the treaty or wrote small letters that most people could not read. It may have been perhaps using Old English lettering and only having taught in Times Roman fonts, which would bewilder most educated people even today. This concerted effort by those in control throughout American History was even condemned by the U.S. government, who were themselves orchestrating much of it, as shown by Joel Spring in his book.

“The U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare issued in 1969 the report Indian Education: A National Tragedy-A national Challenge. The report opened with a statement condemning previous educational policies of the federal government: “A careful review of the historical literature reveals that the dominant policy of the Federal Government toward the American Indian has been one of forced assimilation…. Because of a desire to divest the Indian of his land,” Joel Spring

In many ways, it was a naivety that undermined the American Indian in their dealings with the Europeans and eventually U.S. Government. But it was also an inherent trust that bound the various tribes and peoples together. There was no fine print to a Native American; his word was bond. It would be many years and near extinction till Native Americans realized the treachery. Kent Nerburn writes extensively about American Indian Spirituality and offers;

“The rule of mutual legal compact, with its European roots, had no precedent among the individualistic native peoples of the continent. In addition, the idea of land as personnel property, a key principle on which the United States was basing its treaties, was alien to the native people. How could one own the land?” Kent Nerburn

Our current curriculum study shows many overlapping and residual effects and goes far beyond just Native Americans. Those in power write fine print for one reason so that it is not read and, in doing so, essentially control the overall outcome and direction of whatever is in question. My position is that we have continually dealt with agreements and contracts riffed with fine print regarding education and curriculum to the point that it has become what we expect.


Even as a teacher, our contracts contain numerous areas of extremely fine print. Daily we are being handed fine print in the news and through the media about Iran, the economy, politics, religion, and many too numerous to mention, including our former president’s continued election efforts. Maybe one day we can indeed have a democracy in our democratic nation funny thing is educator John Dewey said and felt the best way to assure a democracy was through a democratic classroom. So as I set my thoughts to paper and close for this morning, please help others read the fine print, and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart’s namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Families and Friends

Bird Droppings November 21, 2021
Families and Friends

The holidays are getting here soon, this holiday will be different, and turkey day might be less crowded. Pat and I were talking Thanksgiving will be the second in forty-three years we had alone. This semester of graduate school is ending. I have a defense coming up. My grandkids all have a week off for Thanksgiving, and we will be getting together with family more than likely on facetime or zoom. This is a time when traditionally celebrations abound, a time to enjoy family and friends. It is historically a time to be thankful. It is a time for families and friends.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.” Anthony Brandt

“The family is the nucleus of civilization.” William Durant

We read and hear so much about how families are having problems in our world today. Yet within it all, some families are together and that are strong and will persevere. As a teacher, I know I need to set an example and provide a haven for some of these struggling kids because of family issues and time at home.

“My family begins with me; your family ends with you.” Iphicrates

“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.” Thomas Jefferson

As I am getting ready to spend the better part of the next three or four days with family, it is energizing for me to sit and pondering here this morning. With a vast array of happenings coming up, my wife and I will be traveling to Warner Robins to visit Friday or Saturday. Saturday is the big game of the year. Georgia Tech and The University of Georgia have one of the greatest rivalries in the southeast. So along with it, all the family gatherings, lots of good food, watching football games, playing video games, driving to and from all the activities, and just being with my family makes the next few days exciting.

“In every dispute between parent and child, both cannot be right, but they may be, and usually are, both wrong. It is this situation which gives family life its peculiar hysterical charm.” Isaac Rosenfeld

I grew up in a tightly knit family and have cousins as friends, not just relatives situated somewhere on a map. Growing up, we all had a memorable time as we gathered for reunions and holidays. I was still in close contact with my high school friends of now over fifty years ago, still emailing friends around the country, keeping tabs on their families.

“If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love friends for their sake rather than for our own.” Charlotte Bronte

“Friendship is the only thing in the world concerning the usefulness of which all mankind are agreed.” Marcus T. Cicero

As I looked for quotes today and read, many are biased and self-centered in references to family and friends. What do we have to gain rather than a sharing or a caring attitude, actually it was difficult as I read. So often, I have found we have as people become so hardened as to others. A series of little books by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal entitled Small Miracles is a reminder that not everyone is hardened.

I read a story from one of their books some years ago. The story was of a young Jewish man who was frustrated with life and his current condition. He left his family to seek enlightenment in India and studied under various holy men and such in India for years. One day a friend from New York City came through the town he lived in and informed him his father had died. In all of his travels, he thought one day he would make amends with his father. He gave up his spiritual journey in India and went to Israel to try and reconcile his feelings and felt his ancestral home would be a good start.

He asked a stranger as he walked into Jerusalem; where is an excellent place to start? He was directed to the Wailing Wall. In all the cracks of the wall were tiny slips of paper with prayers and dreams written, stuffed in by the thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands and some perhaps thousands of years old as the tradition went back many years going back to the temple built by Herod the Great which the wall is part of. He went to the wall, and as he went to place his tiny scrap of paper in a crack, one fell out. He tearfully wrote a note, a prayer to his father, asking forgiveness for all he had done to him, leaving and denouncing his faith and family.

He went to replace, and it fell again and then a third time till he was compelled to read the note that continually was falling out. He carefully unfolded the tiny piece of paper, and it was a prayer; it was from his father. The note was written nearly a year ago asking forgiveness from his son for not believing in him and wanting to apologize for all the bad words. He fell to his knees and sobbed for many hours. This is such a powerful message and a true story as written down by the authors of Small Miracles.

Why even bring this up? For many years I have felt we are all here with purpose and reason. So often, we forget and sidestep our journeys and travels. If you get a chance, look up this series of stories in Small Miracles, all are true. But as you journey and travel along the road, try and mend fences, not tear them down, try and lift rather than knockdown, try and enlighten rather than darken lives, and as an elementary teacher from many years ago told me always smile. Today as we head into a holiday and holiday weekend for many people, keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind. Peace be with you all.

My friends

I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related)

bird

Trying to understand giving thanks, war and Teaching

Bird Droppings November 20, 2021
Trying to understand giving thanks, war and Teaching

I seldom have a difficult time sleeping. I crashed last night after a visit with my grandkids.  Thursday, I had the first check-up of my pacemaker, and all is well I have twelve-year battery life and need to come back in a year. When you are seventy-two and told you have a twelve-year battery life, you can look at it in a half-full, half-empty sort of way. I am going to last at least twelve years, or do I quit working in twelve years.

I got up and started my day gassing up my wife’s car and washing it. I came home, and Pat was still asleep. She walks early in the mornings on Saturdays. I had not had my morning tea, so I downed a large mug of mate and green tea. My head started to clear a bit, and I wondered about this day we celebrate coming up. I try and start each day sitting and giving thanks for all that is. Some may find that confusing, but it in many ways is my morning meditation. I sit sipping tea, giving thanks, and let the sage smoke float off into the sky on some days.

So many times, as in days before, I open news articles and look through emails before writing or even thinking about what I will be writing that given day. I made a few comments on several thoughts and proceeded to ponder today’s potential thoughts and ideas. As I looked through several posts and listened to family members, argue the cons of the current administration over social media, this thought from ten years ago stuck with me this morning. As we prepare for a different Thanksgiving this year, I am sharing these words.

“Thanksgiving Day, Americans across the country will sit down together, count our blessings, and give thanks for our families and our loved ones. American families reflect the diversity of this great nation. No two are exactly alike, but there is a common thread they each share. Our families are bound together through times of joy and times of grief. They shape us, support us, instill the values that guide us as individuals, and make possible all that we achieve. I’ll be giving thanks for my family for all the wisdom, support, and love they have brought into my life.

Today is also a day to remember those who cannot sit down to break bread with those they love; the soldier overseas holding down a lonely post and missing his kids, the sailor who left her home to serve a higher calling, the folks who must spend tomorrow apart from their families to work a second job, so they can keep food on the table or send a child to school.

We are grateful beyond words for the service and hard work of so many Americans who make our country great through their sacrifice. And this year, we know that far too many face a daily struggle that puts the comfort and security we all deserve painfully out of reach. So, when we gather, let us also use the occasion to renew our commitment to building a more peaceful and prosperous future that every American family can enjoy.” President Barack Obama, 11/24/09

Words, simple words, and how we hear and or reread them are then worked on by perception; a learned and acquired factor. Somewhere along the way, we develop and consider varying stimulus that leads us to how we see the world. The words struck a chord as I read this short note of thanks from our previous president, good or bad, democrat or republican, black or white. There is so much we have in this world to give thanks for. I am sure there is pain and sorrow all over the world I know nothing about.

Dr. Michael T. Garrett, in his writings, discusses the theory of opposites. We need to have a balance in life that provides then definitive points for the other. Perhaps my growing up in Pennsylvania influenced my thinking of pacifism and my philosophical view of believing we do not need war. Yet around us, worldwide strife is ongoing Thanksgiving Day or not. It is inside of us. We need to seek answers for our understandings and acceptance of what we perceive within this world. Perceptions do change, albeit not quickly. But they can; they are not engrained at birth, but a learned and acquired commodity.

“Internal peace is an essential first step to achieving peace in the world. How do you cultivate it? It’s very simple. In the first place by realizing clearly that all mankind is one, that human beings in every country are members of one and the same family.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Within his Holiness words is perhaps a key to humanity’s survival on this planet. It will never be done simply by who is most powerful or has the biggest guns and missiles. We must at some point accept others and understand others. As I read each morning, bits and pieces hit me with my slant, which tends to be towards education and learning, and I see a tremendous responsibility lying in the laps of teachers. Throughout the world, teachers have daily more input into students’ lives than any other human being. As I finished a paper on technologies many years ago, I saw how technology impacts our youth; actual human contact is dwindling daily.

“Preserve the fires in our hearts… Our world needs teachers whose fire can resist those forces that would render us less just, less humane, and less alive.” Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, editors Teaching with Fire

I found this book several years ago on a Borders trip. The two editors have taken poetry that means something to teachers, and with explanations from those teachers as to why this poem means so much, created a book, Teaching with Fire. Over the years, I have had similar questions asked. It has been only a few days since another teacher asked me, had I ever hit my children, and I said no. I was looked at funny, “you have never hit your children?” I, in all honesty, could not remember ever hitting my children. Perhaps I have blocked out the dark side of my personality. Several weeks ago, I was asked similar, your kids never hit you or your wife or did this or that, and again “no” was my answer then as well. “Well, I guess you just are not normal” was the answer both times.

“Normal is not something to aspire to; it’s something to get away from.” Jodie Foster

As I wonder at how others see the world, I think about Jodie Foster’s thoughts. Several weeks ago, when I was asked did I hit my children, I asked my son what he thought about it on the way home, and his response was “normal is what you are used to.” I thought back to a graduate school discussion of philosophy about Foucault and how he defines normal after defining abnormal.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Albert Einstein

Looking at various books such as, Teaching with fire, The Passionate Teacher, The language and thoughts of a child, and I see that surround me as I write, maybe answers are here. The answers are right among us, we are the answer. It is not some big secret. It is up to us somewhere; somehow, we as teachers and parents must set an example for the children. Several times over the past few years, I have shared Dr. Nolte’s 1970’s idea of “Children Learn what they live.” I tried to use that with the discussion, trying to explain to the teacher asking me about hitting my kids, and that teacher had difficulty seeing the point.

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with the idea that it is a “pet” notion, and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

Historically, Gandhi had a difficult time selling nonviolence; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had difficulty selling nonviolence, and both were killed for it.

“Man is not logical, and his intellectual history is a record of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on to what he can in his old beliefs even when he is compelled to surrender their logical basis.” John Dewey

As a teacher, the position I am in each day is one of being on a pedestal, being watched by hundreds of students each day, as a parent seen by my children each day or when they are home from college or work. Each of us is seen and understood in the context of perceptions and understandings of that moment. Over the past week, while out and about, I have seen several students wearing t-shirts banned in dress code rules because of racial overtones. When you ask students why they wear illegal t-shirts, answers are always vague and evasive, never because of race. One of my favorites is “only shirt I had,” so you will get kicked out of school for your shirt because it is the only one you had, is my general response.


Two events several days ago made my day. The first was a simple one; I commented I was pissed off at a student for something, another student said, “Mr. Bird, I never heard you cuss before.” I did not swear and did not consider pissed off as swearing either; however, it was in that person’s context. But the remark they never heard me swear is what caught my attention; I had been setting an example and did not even know it. The other comment came as an email. A remark about my wisdom, I wrote back that wisdom is fleeting and only momentary; as you teach wisdom is transferred, you must soon learn more to be wiser.

“We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

“When you are right, you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. The time is always right to do what is right.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We are the pathway and the direction, and the example for others to see. Never should anyone question hitting another person and try to justify it. Never should a person, even in a small way, feel harming another in any form is justifiable. As a teacher, parent, or friend, go out and show in your life what is expected. Running parallel through religions worldwide is a rule, a guide, a talisman for some just a thought, treat others as you wish. It is about Teaching with Fire, Teaching, for example. You are learning what we live and trying to live it and see what impact can be made. Today, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts as we all sit down. Harm is a powerful word and covers so many, be it the passing or illness of a loved one, a friend overseas fighting a war for freedom, an abusive relationship, a child too hungry to raise their head; let us be thankful today and try and ease the harm in the world if only one kind act at a time namaste.

My friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

A look at essential Bird Pedagogy

Bird Droppings November 18, 2021

A look at essential Bird Pedagogy

Almost ten years ago, I read an article an interview with Arne Duncan, the former Secretary of Education. Considering the impact COVID 19 has had on high school and college sports, these thoughts are interesting. I selected a few quotes from his interview to savor and ponder listening to comments from football coaches at a local high school. Today is an excellent day to throw this out. As I look at his words and his follow-through with his actions, we see where he thinks education should be. I have long argued that sports should not be priority number one in high school and colleges, but who am I to challenge the status quo. Football ticket sales and all the hoopla surrounding sports is big money. With Duncan’s emphasis on a push to private industry in public education, I found his words a bit confusing. At first, I truly liked this statement, yet since these words were let loose, he has gone three hundred and sixty degrees in another direction and supports the making of money in actions.

“If a university can’t have two out of five of their student-athletes graduate, I don’t know why they’re rewarded with the post-season play” Arne Duncan

Over the past few days, I have been looking at teaching and instruction, and I have wandered about a bit in my efforts. My style is somewhat radical. However, in nearly fifty years, my craziness has worked with kids who are not supposed to graduate or succeed, according to most.  I happen to see this line from Arne Duncan, our former Secretary of Education, and it is amazing how we provide a sense of falsehood through athletics. I am not saying all athletes are poor students by any means. I know many who are honor graduates and scholars in their own right. The greed and competition, however, at a college level becomes significant. Local college-at-home games can bring millions to the economy. Many staunch fans never went to college anywhere yet have season tickets and trucks colored in that schools’ colors and even had the same animal as a pet as the local mascot. A good college football or basketball program is a business, not a learning program. Six of the highest-paid state employees across Georgia are coaches.

“I think we are lying to children and families when we tell children that they are meeting standards and, in fact, they are woefully unprepared to be successful in high school and have almost no chance of going to a good university and being successful.’ Arne Duncan

I honestly do not know why every child should be going to college and why we have to advertise and promote this concept. In a recent faculty meeting, our superintendent discussed the excessively high dropout rate of first-year students in college. When you have an attitude of sending everyone to college, those who do not want to be there quit that first year. We have eliminated technical training in many high schools; ours included everyone going to college. This trend ties in with our role in international education as well. We constantly hear on the news how we are behind in education other international programs and countries. Let me start with one of the measures: the PISA, The Program for International Student Assessment. In 2006 we the USA were ranked fifteenth. I have never heard of or seen this test administered in Georgia. It is a two-hour test, multiple-choice and essay. It is given every three years to rank countries internationally.  Australia is ranked fourth. There are differences between them and us and significant differences. It was 1992 till Australia started inclusion into public schools for disabled students versus 1974 in the US. However, there is still a distinct difference between the US and most of the world regarding education. For example, our test scores as per NCLB include Students with Disabilities SWD as a subgroup and are included in the final tally of the population. A 2% allowance is made for Mentally Impaired students in the total population. In scoring on High School tests, Australia does not include SWD in totals as European and Asian Schools do not include either. Most international school systems have a mandatory age cut off 15-17 depending on the territory, for example, in Australia. At that point, choices are made and or mandated as to higher education technical and or college and or go to work. Throughout Asia, this is standard practice as it is in many European educational systems.

“If you have great assessments and real-time data for teachers and parents that say these are [the student’s] strengths and weaknesses, that’s a real healthy thing.” Arne Duncan

“We would do away with examinations. They measure the inconsequential type of learning. We would do away with grades and credits for the same reason. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks the end or a conclusion of something, and the learner is only interested in continuing the process of learning.” Carl Rodgers

In the words of the two educators above, there are differing views. I agree with several of my friends that Carl Rogers can be a bit off the deep end to a degree on some concepts. But on this aspect, I agree with him that as far as learning goes, grades, test scores can be inconsequential as to is learning occurring. This would lead to another line from David Purpel yesterday that truly hit me hard.

“Schools have been captured by the concept of accountability, which has been transformed from a notion that schools need to be responsive and responsible to community concerns to one in which numbers are used to demonstrate that schools have met their minimal requirement.” David Purpel, 1989, Department of Curriculum and Educational Foundations, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

We have stripped away that community aspect from schools to have a clear cut and the definite number of scoring and equating whatever we want to measure in theory. One of the first things I learned in statistics is that they are at the mercy of the statistician. We can make numbers do whatever we want. Politicians like numbers and test scores and simply things to make policy and award lobbyists with friendly contracts. Most educational research cited by the National Clearinghouse for research-based materials is primarily one hundred percent publishing and testing company’s research. Much of this is very limited demographically, and, in actual research, the situation would not be valid. However, significant dollars are involved, but that might be for another discussion, which ties in with my idea of, is there ethical capitalism? Sadly, industrial mentalities and capitalism drive education in the US. Mass production testing and textbook companies rule along with various support industries.

“I know there are schools that are beating the odds where students are getting better every year, and they are labeled failures, and that can be discouraging and demoralizing,” Arne Duncan

I continue to try and understand how when students are doing better year after year, and they are failures. As for US schools being behind, are they? All US schools in all states are mandated through NCLB to have an exit exam within specific parameters for graduation, and if not passed, the student does not receive a high school degree. This consists of Writing, Math, Social Studies, and Science portions in the state of Georgia. Many subjects have End of Course Tests again here in Georgia. Even with this series of tests at our high school, we have managed to raise the graduation rate at our school from 71% to 92% over five years. Sadly, this comes at the expense of real learning, and the idea of teaching to the test is more than a catchword. Teacher’s jobs administrator’s jobs are tied to test scores and funding and state and federal intervention. I am not happy with the USA educational system as I support students and learning who are left behind in this numerical accountability competitive system.

“We are proceeding on with the intent of the Landmark – Leave No Child Behind Reform Act without political persuasion. The focus is the effective delivery of services in education by review, restructure, implementation for maximum student learning.” Arne Duncan

Arne perhaps used some words wrong here. It should have read for maximum student success in testing, not in learning.

I have taught in different parts of Georgia and Pa. briefly. While many will say education is not as difficult as in previous generations, I can pull a high school or college biology book off the shelf, dust it off, and compare it to a biology book today. The cellular material is years beyond my freshmen college and even zoology and botany books of 1968 and 1969. Not just the research gains but vocabulary and demands of material are voluminous compared to what we had in high school. Our system is flawed, and it will take radical thinking. I tend to believe more in Foxfire core practices and John Dewey’s ideas, and Carl Rogers because some of his thoughts are good.

“Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas, and none of my ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me. Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research –neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my own direct experience. My experience is not authoritative because it is infallible. It is the basis of authority because it can always be checked in new primary ways. In this way, its frequent error or fallibility is always open to correction.” Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, 1961

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” Carl Rogers

As I close looking back on where and when, and how I am still within my learning, I search for my pedagogy. It is a continual fluid moving process as I teach and learn each day. I can say I am inclined to think this way but only till a better way comes along. With a morning nearing the end and a new week ahead, 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

While deadly, a spider spins to survive

Bird Droppings November 17, 2021
While deadly, a spider spins to survive

Just a thought to start the thinking process

“When Peter pulled his sword and attacked the Roman soldier, he was told to put it away, and his boss turned to the injured soldier and healed his ear, but that was before Christianity” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.

Every other Facebook post is about a former president, guns, ISIS rising again, killing people and getting away with it, religion, more religion, us, and or them. So I shared this thought with some high school students, all professing to be devout Christians. Only one saw what I was saying.

Interconnecting threads make a tapestry the first puzzle piece

For most of my graduate school career, I have considered the analogy that our lives are being woven together as we go implying that we have a purpose of some sort. The threads intertwine and connect as we go through life, weaving what we are to be. I recall in a graduate class, a professor friend used the term or representation of weaving as the learning process. Dr. Donna Andrews, retired professor and former chairperson of the Special education department at Piedmont College, and my advisor for my Masters’s degree commented, weaving intertwines events and people, D. Andrews, (personal communications September 23, 2004). All through history, weaving has been a critical aspect of civilization. For thousands of years, people have been weaving cloth for clothes and blankets to survive, and soon after, weaving began to be done for art’s sake. Our lives are a tapestry being woven each day as we go.

Each aspect of our lives and interactions with others provides the material for weaving the tapestry. No two journeys are the same, and no two people see and hear the world about them in a manner that can be construed as similar, while somehow we seem to exist together. I read a friend’s concerns about the world and the potential for peace. While he is so adamantly viewing all that is in one direction, I may, in my naiveté, look another and follow a path I believe will lead to where I feel I need to go. In 1961 or so, President Eisenhower warned against the coming Industrial Capitalistic Corporate powers and their efforts to take control. Many thinkers, philosophers believe that this is what has happened in our own country. In my searching, I found Thomas Merton, a U.S. religious author, clergyman, & Trappist monk (1915 – 1968), and a statement he made has stuck with me. “The least of learning is done in the classrooms.”

I use Thomas Merton often in my writing; spiritual mysticism has always caught my attention. Thomas Merton was an avid and practicing pacifist and antiwar leader. Merton was found dead in his room in 1968 in Bangkok while on a spiritual and peace activist journey against the wars in Southeast Asia. I was looking at these words and realized in my own life, and it has been the pondering and searching that has led to learning. Those pieces are so much the threads connecting my existence. The pieces of what I experience in the classroom, then bolstered by reflection, wonder,  and built into learning as if the classroom were only a sampling of what is to be learned.

No two journeys are the same, and no two people see and hear the world about them in a manner that can be construed as similar, while somehow we seem to exist together. I read a friend’s concerns about the world and the futile potential for peace. While he is so adamantly viewing all that is in one direction, I may, in my naiveté, look another and follow a path I believe will lead to where I feel I need to go. In 1961 or so, President Eisenhower warned against the coming Industrial Capitalistic Corporate powers and their efforts to take control . Many thinkers, philosophers believe that this is what has happened in our own country. Dr. Eric Berne, Games People Play (1964), has this to offer. 

“For certain fortunate people, there is something that transcends all classifications of behavior, and that is awareness, something which rises from the programming of the past, and that is spontaneity; and something that is more rewarding than games, and that is intimacy. But all of these may be frightening and even perilous to the unprepared. Perhaps they are better off as they are, seeking their solutions in popular techniques of social action, such as ‘togetherness.’ This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it.”

The title to Dr. Berne’s book intrigued me as I was sitting here at 4:00 AM wondering what I would write and which direction I should go in this day’s writing. I was thinking about students, parents, and teachers and how so often the intertwining of personalities produces the fabric of the day. Dr, Berne continues (1964): “Each person designs his own life, freedom gives him the power to carry out his designs, and power gives the freedom to interfere with the designs of others. “

I was involved in a group meeting for my doctorate a few years back, and the idea of becoming an avid learner, a seeker of learning, was often mentioned. I recall a paper where I wrote and researched and read others’ opinions. My own grew significantly. Many teachers feel it is appropriate as I think of current methodologies in cramming ideas into vacant space. What if we borrow from a Sydney J. Harris concept and implant the grain of learning and nurture it as a pearl diver nurtures the oysters, and eventually, that grain of sand will be a pearl. Often more significant and brighter than any the originator could have conceived. Sydney J. Harris adds to this thought (1944). “The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, ‘I was wrong.'”

I am sitting, writing, and listening to R. Carlos Nakai’s Sundance Season this morning, a series of pieces directly tied to a sacred ceremony of his ancestry within the Ute tribe, the Sundance Ceremony. There is an eerie piece on this CD playing on a whistle made from the ulna bone of a golden eagle. Most people play one note on an eagle bone whistle, Nakai plays five, and the haunting melody encompasses you. I recall a poster print of a Native American chief in my father’s room on the man’s chest a series of scars. These are from the Sundance Ceremony. On this series of songs, Nakai’s music is based on and derived from the ceremony, one of pain, courage, and vision. As I look this morning, we continue in our current endeavors to avoid such undertakings. Just by coincidence, the Sundance Ceremony was banned by the U.S. government until recently.

I thought of students who are content with the seventy grades and the “I am passing” or that famous modern quote of “whatever. These same students view life simply at the moment.  Sadly they never finish the tapestry, only sit and play with the ball of yarn. I can envision Daniel Boone as he traced through the mountains of Kentucky and North Carolina, climbing along a ridge and saying “whatever” and heading home to the fireplace. There is an eerie piece on this CD playing on a whistle made from the ulna bone of a golden eagle. Most people play one note on an eagle bone whistle, Nakai plays five, and the haunting melody encompasses you. Thomas Merton seems to offer significance to me. “The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”

The interconnections and twists and turns in life, much as the weaver lays out the yarn and thread, so many implications in learning and teaching in life in general and in our world view when I read this. I try and teach the mantra of promoting understanding in my students and a love of learning. There is a point when a student switches the switch, and learning becomes second nature. It is finding that switch that is the problematic aspect of teaching. I watched the Ron Clark story a few nights back night, and it was finding that switch that made the difference and the fact he never stopped looking when he could have walked away. We as teachers need to help students choose their thread and yarn wisely as they go through the part of life we are interacting with them.

 My fascination with weaving and spinning is tied to my involvement in the sheep industry for over fifteen years, raising, breeding, and shearing the sheep and selling the wool. I traveled nationwide, photographing and talking to producers and writing about the sheep and wool industry. I met many hand spinners and weavers as I traveled. Some were artisans spinning yarn as fine as silk and weaving pieces of artwork. Many pieces are in museums around the country. On the family farm years ago, we had a Hampshire cross ewe that was black. When she was shorn, her fleece was a beautiful hue of chinchilla gray. For several years, a dear friend would get that fleece each year for her spinning and weaving. Somewhere in a box is a small ball of yarn my oldest son spun one afternoon when he was six with that fleece with my friend showing and helping him.

Spinning and weaving made their way into the civil rights movement in the 1940s through Mahatma Gandhi. One of Gandhi’s protest methodologies was to spin and weave his cloth rather than rely on industrially produced material. Many other intricate thoughts were woven in as well; spinning is a form of meditation for many. The constant spinning of the spindle and precise treadle application to the wheel provides a hypnotic rhythm. The weaving, creating, and designing of a piece is like painting a picture with thread and yarn on a loom. ” Mahatma Gandhi said in 1944, “A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else. ” So, as we weave our cloth in life, we are seen by the fabric, the pattern, and the methods we use to make that piece of cloth.

As teachers, we are weaving the threads of each student’s learning daily. We provide the yarn to be put into the loom and woven as the student learns. We attempt to communicate with students’ parents or guardians to discuss issues and grades with each progress report. My parent communication gives me insight into what a particular student brings additional puzzle pieces to the class. Every day for over twenty years, as I walked through my room, there was a poster hanging on my wall where ever I happened to be. The title of the 1972 poster by Dr. Laura Nolte is, Children Learn what they live. It is all the pieces of life threads and yarns gathered together that make an individual child.

In my seventy-two years, I have seen many weavers tend their looms. Some weavers weave silk while another weaves burlap. Silk has many great attributes, as does burlap, and the applications and uses vary greatly. Spinning hemp into twine and weaving the burlap is as much a skill as the artisans who weave the silk threads into cloth. The weaving and material made is not the issue, but it is that weaving that is occurring. For it is that effort that is being made to produce a life that is so important. I referenced the Cherokee theory of opposites previously. I find it interesting how philosophy and enlightenment seem to parallel through time and space. The great Zen Master Dogen Kenji, over a thousand years ago in his teachings offered:  “Understand clearly that when a great need appears a great use appears also; when there is small need there is small use; it is obvious, then, that full use is made of all things at all times according to the necessity thereof.” 

Several years back, I used the word direction and drew criticism from another teacher explaining that choosing a path in a journey and not truly having a destination is sometimes a meaningless effort. For some, just going is the norm. Far too much of education today is focused on the destination, which is often a  state-mandated test. I always speak of the Journey being more important than the destination, but there is a point to head towards. A home builder has a blueprint to guide the work. First, you build walls, determine where doors and windows are needed, and add them as you go. An excellent builder knows ahead and plans for doors and windows, and designed correctly, a house can have huge windows and great doorways, and movement in and out occurs continually. There is an idea of what the house will be, but each nail and joist placed correctly builds the house.

Teachers seldom can see the final product of their students graduating high school and maybe college or even being parents. We have them for a year or semester. Today through social media, it is possible to see the product your efforts made. I have been fortunate to have kept in touch with many of my students over the years. I can see the interconnections and intertwining of ideas I may have thrown out along the way. Chief Seattle’s words are so true still today(1854).  “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”  I would like to believe I am offering a thread to my students to aid them in life. Please as we partake of a day only a few off from our day of thanksgiving and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.


My friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related)

bird

Teaching is constantly climbing up another step

Bird Droppings November 16, 2021

Teaching is constantly climbing up another step

I got up and went out to see the sunrise this morning. It wasn’t as brilliant as I’ve seen, but it was the contrast of the dark clouds moving through and a little bit of pink and orange behind it. I drove out to the lake and watched the mist on the lake rising through the end of the sunrise. As I came home, as I’ve been doing lately, I try and catch a nap in the morning rather than falling asleep during the day when I’m in the middle of things. I got up from a quick rest for a phone call from my son, and here I am, sitting on my back porch getting the day started as I have for many mornings now, drinking some tea, listening, watching the birds, squirrels, and chipmunks.

It’s a quiet morning. There is a muffled sound off in the distance of the road noise from Highway 78. The air is; still, not even a breeze the ivy hanging from the trees is; still,  the pine trees aren’t rustling,  leaves aren’t falling, although most are gone from the persimmon and the oak trees in the backyard. The black walnut trees are on naked to my right, and the  sycamore trees are brilliant brownish orange.

Today has been interesting. I have been hammered with a seasonal allergy sinus issue, which made me think back about five years, and the smoke from North Georgia drove me crazy. Our house is heated with gas, and the dry heat does me in every year. Combining that with turning seventy-two and pondering what to do next with my life makes for enjoyable mornings. I have paperwork to complete and things I need to attend to and seem to put off waiting on tomorrow. Applications to get in ideas to float about and so much more. I am trying to finish up; last two chapters of my dissertation. I was thinking back to my last year at Loganville High School and so many kids who could care less about school. Years ago, I would have spent time looking at why. Sadly I was content to watch them fall off the face of the earth. You have to pick your battles with limited resources physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Thanksgiving break is next week. My son talks every day about a week or two of class and then a week or so of testing, and the semester mountain is nearly climbed as we approach the holidays. I Have a definite aversion to shopping. At some point, I will be going out with my wife to brave the masses of the malls and finish up the holiday shopping while toting a ton of gifts.

I am looking forward to the holidays while we get some grandkid time.

I am looking forward to spending time with friends and family. We have multiple Christmas’ going around the south visiting South Georgia and North Carolina. I am seriously looking forward to sitting down and doing some writing and some serious holiday eating and cooking.

I am finishing up my meditation and writing this morning. After an evening filled with finishing up another season nine of Castle, I am addicted to streaming TV. This morning, I started reading posts from friends to a fellow teacher and family friend whose husband was killed in an automobile accident several years ago. It is a difficult time of year for families to deal with a loss.  I read through hundreds of posts and support from friends all over, some even returning home for the holidays to be with their friends in this time of sorrow and joy. Some days I am disappointed in the human spirit, but this is not one of those days.

“One only gets to the top rung of the ladder by steadily climbing up one at a time, and suddenly all sorts of powers, all sorts of abilities which you thought never belonged to you–suddenly become within your possibility, and you think, ‘Well, I’ll have a go, too.’” Margaret Thatcher

The first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain was in her time the most powerful woman in the world. She discusses her philosophy of success here and is simple,  one step, one at a time to the top. So many folks want to jump from the ground to the top and forget there is much in between. Seldom do you hear negative comments about Prime Minister Thatcher of her time in office and the great dignity and poise she brought at a difficult time in our world’s history?

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it’s the same problem you had last year.” John Foster Dulles

One of the significant ways that we, as humans learn, is through trial and error. However, true success is not repeating the mistake repeatedly but doing anew, and that is when we are succeeding.

“What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind, there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team.” Benjamin F. Fairless

As I read this note and the four simple rules or ingredients to success, I was amazed at the simplicity. First, love what you do, and then give it your best, thirdly seize opportunities, and finally, teamwork and success can be yours. In no other field have I ever seen people seize opportunities, such as in teaching. As I walk through the doors of a school and look at teachers so often, you can tell good teachers by who is smiling, a sure sign that they want to be there. For these teachers, it is not just a job. They love what they do and do give the job their best. When paper is allocated or budget cuts restrict supplies, you learn quickly to be resourceful and work with others; it is so much easier to accomplish than working independently.

“Success is that old A B C; ability, breaks, and courage.” Charles Luckman

We acquire ability through learning and effort, taking advantage of breaks that come along, keeping our eyes open, and always being ready. Courage is that character aspect of us that is that inner drive that can lead a person upward.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.” Colin Powell

As he led US forces back a few years and then as Secretary of State, Colin Powell has put it all in order as far as life goes. To find success, you must prepare to do your homework. Then you do the work and get it done and finally learn from your errors, from your mistakes and use them to succeed. As I read this afternoon between cleaning and shopping, I found a thought I would like to end with.

“It is more important to be of service than successful.” Robert Kennedy Jr.         

For many people, success is a selfish thing, but finding true success is when what you do affects others positively. As I think back to so many, who are taking time today and yesterday to help with the pain of losing a loved one and so many other pieces of life’s puzzle, let us all take heed of the time we have. Today in this coming holiday, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and heart and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related)

bird