Reconciliation of trust

Bird Droppings January 22, 2022
Reconciliation of trust

I came upstairs to work on my dissertation and got sidetracked talking with my wife headed to a funeral in Dublin, Georgia, for her aunt, who just passed away. Her G.P.S. was taking her a different route than she had planned. However, the route she was following was nearly twenty minutes quicker than the route she had planned. Sometimes in life, tradition routine does hinder us from new experiences. How often do we get caught up in routine and not take a side road or different pathway? I get caught up in my routine and then wonder why I got nothing done. Would it not be great to have a G.P.S. checking each move we make psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally? Today I write that trust has come up several times lately for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is so much easier to function in life in a state of trust than distrust; perhaps reconciliation is such a powerful tool bringing back that harmony that smoothness in life, restoring faith in others in yourself. I came to school after that incident in a state of distrust and, as the day went on, unsure which direction to go. Walking to my room, the student who betrayed my trust came up to me and asked if we could talk after school; I said. There was desperation in the voice, a need for reconciliation, a need to restore harmony and friendship. School went by, and the day ended; I was oblivious to my conversation earlier of talking after school. This student comes in and tries to explain, tears so close to welling up, “I am sorry.”

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

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


It would be great if we could script great teachers

Bird Droppings January 19, 2022
It would be great if we could script great teachers

I watched several various movies about teachers over the years. It hit me as I thought it would be great if we could somehow provide a package to new teachers to do great teaching. Suppose someone could write that perfect script that anyone could follow and allow anyone to be a great teacher. Then it hit me hard, indirectly that is what curriculum, in theory, is for and various educational packages that publishing companies stake their names on. But as I sit back thinking, why does it not work?

I was inputting my last bit of data for a research project and was finding and gleaning pieces of my various former students’ puzzles as I went. Most of my students I have served in the last twenty years had improved grade-wise when they were in my classes, and I was the case manager. Granted, I do not teach like most teachers, and I rely heavily on empathy and innovative, creative ideas to stimulate and make the time they have in my class a learning experience and fun. I thought back to the teacher movies; it is hard to imagine Morgan Freeman not being a great teacher. But I know he studied his character, Joe Clark, thoroughly as good actors do, and his interpretation was an accurate one from what I have read.

There is a personality that you cannot package and bottle in everyone. The greatest possible program in the hands of a sorry teacher will not change the fact they are a sorry teacher. So far, to my knowledge, we do not do personality transplants. In “The School of Rock,” while Mr. S was for a moment content to idle away and collect his substitute paycheck, a note of music hit literally. He found a mutually exciting interest in the students and himself. This is something many teachers do not look into. Are we as teachers enjoying what we do?

Bit by bit, as I watched Julie Roberts’s character, have to reexamine where what and why and then get hit with traditions and the boxes of societal demands. I know this happens every day. I have talked with my professors many times about my concerns, how so many teachers go to a graduate school program and do not make meaningful use after they leave. I am genuinely concerned! I have watched numerous graduates collect their additional money and not once utilize what they have learned, researched, read about, and even seen in practice.

How do we bottle and or script a great teacher? I wish I could come up with a solution and a straightforward method. It is about the person inside. It is about empathy. It is about experiences and utilizing those pieces. There is an adage that many teachers are simply folks who can do nothing else. The drab, boring monotone teacher, even knowing all the content in the world, will teach few. It is about entertainment. Maybe scripts have been written, but then the audience changes, and what do you do? We live in a society of change of flux of disequilibrium. It is about balance but keeping enough leaning over towards keeping growing. It is perhaps about the pathway.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Elwyn Brooks White

Often, I reflect on the journey of life. The many directions I have traveled. I have always been a passionate observer watching other’s step by step along the way. I listened as some stumbled and were lifted when pebbles and boulders were in the way. At times, there are choices which pathway to take as a fork approaches, and we must choose.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it.” Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left

“Life is a cement trampoline.” Howard Nordberg

I am wondering why so many of us each day think, perhaps too much, obsessing over reasons and rationale and tripping over our inadequacies and imperfections. Are we truly desperate, or is this a façade to cover up our lack of enthusiasm and desire? I wonder when I see a young person acting as a mime standing still facing an empty wall and unable to move forward or back, simply immobile dressed in funeral attire waiting for an end? What has slowed their journey to this point? What is it they have missed along their pathway as we cross?

“He who has a why to live can bear almost anyhow.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” Erich Fromm

“To live remains an art which everyone must learn and which no one can teach.” Havelock Ellis

There is no road map and no specific travel itinerary as we journey along each day; it is unique for me as it is for others. Nietzsche offers a why as a reason to live, Fromm simplifies further only a happy moment or a bright morning is all that is needed, and Ellis states an art form, life is an art form perhaps it is the wielding of the brushes and what colors we wield as we paint.

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus

“Following straight lines shortens distances, and also life.” Antonio Porchia, Voices, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

We set the boulders in our pathway; we throw out the pebbles that force us to stumble. We create the forks in the road that force us to choose. I would not have it any other way as I step along the path. However, we need to be aware that we must also clear the pathway. We also must make the choices as to which road to follow. I see my life’s map as a series of zigs and zags, an easy journey constantly sidetracked. It may have been once a straight line between A and B now the page is covered in this way or backtracking and circumventing in overstepping and under stepping. I have come a long way in my climbing of boulders and pushing some out of the way.

In my daily teacher journal, I have used Bird Droppings, a saying by a Native American Orator from back in the day many times.

“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

For many, this may not mean anything. It has been years now since I could hear a buffalo snort and walk across the pasture and see the buffalo’s warm breath blown in the cool of winter. It has been years since I have seen fireflies dance across my front field, now covered in houses and roads. But I still see the little shadow as the sun sets, and I still hear the breeze in the morning, tree frogs calling, and the red-tailed hawks forever crossing my pathway. Our scenery changes, but life goes on. I watched the news last night and all the carnage of an earthquake, so as I have for nearly ten years ended my daily meanderings with 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)

Can we say true heroism and humility are spelled the same?

Bird Droppings January 18, 2022
Can we say true heroism and humility are spelled the same?

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” Arthur Ashe

Even though I am one of the worst spellers in this local area, I know heroism and humility are technically spelled differently. I will concede to using words to develop a perhaps catchy title for my daily morning wanderings. I sat and listened to our past President after the shooting of Congresswoman Gilford nearly ten years ago. He spoke to a group in Arizona at a memorial service for those killed in the shooting in Tuscan. I will admit his words moved me as I think most people in this nation were. It is another special person who was at the scene as it happened words I will start today with.

“Though I appreciate the sentiment, I must humbly reject the title of hero because I am not one of them,” “We must reject the title of hero and reserve it for those who deserve it.” Daniel Hernandez, twenty-year-old intern of Congresswomen Gilford, credited with saving her life by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and by President Barrack Obama

As he was interviewed, Daniel went on to say the real heroes were the First responders’ and doctors and nurses that cared for the injured and prevented any additional loss of life. As I ponder this morning, a young man jumping into the fray as he heard gunshots, as do many servicemen and women, and saying he is not the hero is a humbling moment for me.

I recall my father and stories of World War II and the battle of Iwo Jima in the South Pacific. For you non-history buffs, the US military brass had come up with a plan to island-hop through the South Pacific to Japan as a means to end the war. Knowing we would lose many men, this idea was formulated as the Japanese were well fortified and dug in. The battle on Iwo Jima was a blood bath. US Marines were dropping as they left the landing craft or pontoon bridges from the LSM’s. My father was a medic on an LSM. This was a boat with a drop open front to allow landing craft and tanks to roll out into shallow water or onto pontoon bridges along with the Marines who were on board as well. As my father tells the story, a young Marine nineteen at the time had fallen between two pontoons. These structures are large enough to support a tank and chained together to make bridges from sea craft to shore.

My father heard the young man’s call for help and jumped from his ship to the pontoons. As he looked over the scene, it was not good that the young man’s leg had been tangled in the pontoons’ chains. His right leg was in shambles and nearly sheared off from the chain’s movement with the waves. My father had to move quickly. Tanks and waves were shoving the pontoons together as they moved. Dad jumped down between the pontoons explained he would need to amputate the young Marines leg to get him to safety. He offered a swig of whiskey that he carried in a flask for such ordeals in his back pocket. The young Marine said he did not drink. Using his Navy survival knife, he poured some of the whiskey on the knife and proceeded to take off the Marine’s leg.

As the pontoons came together, dad threw the young man up onto the nearest pontoon, climbed up and cauterized, and sutured his wound. Add to this machine-gun fire and mortar rounds all around as well. Dad then lifted the young man and carried him down the beachfront to the hospital outgoing landing craft.

Across my father’s Navy shirt was embroidered his nickname on board the LSM, DOC. The Navy and Marine corpsmen saw him, heard him barking medical orders about the injury, and assumed he was an officer. The young man was given priority and made it to the hospital ship and did survive. Sounds simple, yet during the several hundred-yard walk down the beach, the dug-in Marines were yelling at my father to get down, and bullets were whistling all around him. As he told the story, a guardian angel was watching over him is all he could recall. He said he was in a daze as he carried the young Marine; it was what he had to do to save his life. Another few minutes were wasted, and he would have died on the beach.

It was days later when questioned about the incident by his commander, he was offered a heroism medal from the Navy, but being a young college man himself, he asked if he could get a raise instead of a medal. It was not until many years later, when he was going for health care to the VA hospital, he put in for a purple heart to get a better-handicapped parking space. He was in his eighties at the time.

Heroism and humility are spelled differently, but there is a fine line connecting the two. It has not been that long ago that the first Medal of Honor was given to a living soldier in many years. We seem to have far too few heroes in today’s world. I look to a shooting in Arizona and see several. There was a nine-year-old girl who believed in her country and in her congresswomen enough to be there to see her. A congresswoman chose to meet with her constituents one on one in public. While he claims he is not the hero, a young man did not hesitate when the shots rang out and did what he could. I also saw our past President, whose gray hair was more noticeable now standing before the families of those lost and grieving, talking about healing. We have a nation of heroes; it seems we so chose to look about as I think back to that day and another comment by Daniel Hernandez.

“On Saturday, we all became Arizonans, and above all, we all became Americans,” Daniel Hernandez

It isn’t easy on some days to try and sort and reflect. Yet, in our reflections, we can find solutions in government, family, friends, or education that I tend to tie in loosely each day I write. Today let us all reflect on our heroes and keep all of those in harm’s way on our minds and hearts and always give thanks namaste.

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.” Thomas Merton

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

I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk

Bird Droppings January 17, 2022

I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk

It isn’t significant for many as I look at that statement; a red-tailed hawk crossed my path as I traveled nearly ten years ago, flying across the road and landing in a tree. Behind our house, a pair of hawks has hunted the fields and hedge rows since we moved in. For some, there is significance as each sighting of a specific animal has meaning to them. I have had an affinity for red-tailed hawks for many years. By my desk at school and home are tail feathers framed and even my daily meanderings; Bird Droppings is based on the idea that not all bird droppings are nasty, a red-tailed hawk feather as an example.

It has been nearly sixteen summers since I had the privilege to teach in our summer school program. We changed to a two-day class time and did worksheets, sort of intercession, and the fun is gone. It was a lot of fun back in the day as we surveyed flora and fauna of the campus. On day one of class, I asked how many plants were on the campus, meaning different kinds of plants, and the answers ranged from ten to fifty.

“Truth does not become more true by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees with it.” Maimonides

That statement has significance in education and politics today. As the summer school session went by, we pressed and labeled over 100 different plants, trees and shrubs all directly on the school campus and still had many more to go. So, where is the significance to a red-tailed hawk? It is only one of several species of raptors in Georgia. It is not uncommon to be seen sitting along the roadside quite often waiting on prey in cleared areas, easements and fields. However, it has been nearly a month since I have seen one, which is significant because I look for them. Much like my students, they really did not know how many plants were so close at hand until they looked.

I am also always amazed when we are looking too hard we miss what is in front of us. Yesterday I was not directly looking for a hawk, and it appeared. A single second or two later, and I would have missed it. Life is much like this as well. I have spent many hours looking for something simple and only have it be where I looked, to begin with, and did not see it.

I usually do not save an editorial page today, and I found one from many, many years ago that I had filed away. I happened to glance through the pages from the AJC (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), and several editorials on one page caught my attention. One opinion was about the sin tax proposed by the governor on cigarettes and alcohol. Now legislators are looking for other ways to cut budget and not do good things like green space purchased by state, layoff in the university system, and cuts TANF. It was finding 400 million dollars of other ways to cut rather than tax cigarettes; it is interesting how we think.

Across the page, a short article on underage drinking and how teenagers consume 25% of alcohol and interestingly alcohol tax and cigarette tax were both indirectly conceived to cut down teen consumption. It has been a few years since the state flag issue, and it got an eighth of a page and several letters to the editor, including a letter from a man in Griffin, Georgia, quoting Gandhi.

“Any country would prefer its own despot over a foreign controlled system no matter how benevolent that government might be” Mahatma Gandhi

This letter was about our taking over Iraq, and the Gandhi quote was about Britain’s takeover of India so many years ago. Now I recall why I saved these pages nearly eight years ago. There was also an interesting letter concerning France. “France might be the voice of reason.” Another headline read to the effect, “US States IRAQ compliance, not the issue we will go to war it is only a matter of when.” I am rambling, looking for red-tailed hawks and reading twelve-year-old AJC editorials all in one sitting and still only three quotes for today.

I am concerned are rational as we wake each morning and go about our days. We have been watching a war unfold and now refold, which is really for most of us simply on the news, although numerous deaths have been hitting home daily. Still, even though many of us know friends and family involved, it is over there. Several days ago, I looked for a red-tailed hawk and was frustrated because no matter how hard I looked, I could not find one. My son would see one and state dad a hawk, and I would miss it. The hawks were there, but I did not see it for some reason; I did not turn quick enough, or maybe it flew by and was gone. It was not until I stopped forcing the issue did the hawk appear. We can set lofty goals and seek to fulfill them, but so many times in our straining miss the accomplishments along the way.

Going back to that old newspaper, Rose Kennedy’s quote spoke of the moments versus the milestones. I used a former professor at Eastern College, Dr. Tony Campolo “CARPE DIEM,” several days back. It is the title to one of his books and is Latin for seize the day. I was skeptical about using a quote with a religious twinge, but C. S. Lewis is not a typical theologian so I may borrow a quote from Mr. Lewis.

“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.” C.S. Lewis

It is about the moment to seize the day, put aside the milestones and seize the moment as I reread Lewis’s quote each time a different view or understanding. Perhaps as I was looking for a hawk, I missed the point until I stopped looking and, in his words find the answer. Each day is a chance again to start anew, fresh as if we can begin again and ponder, think or seize the day, again and again. So for today, CARPE DIEM, and as always, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts, and please always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


Passion: Can it be rekindled?

Bird Droppings January 16, 2022
Passion: Can it be rekindled?

Stirring up Foxfire: Rekindling Personal Passion for Teaching through Storytelling is the title for my paper. It has been an interesting weekend pondering my dissertation and the impacts I am finding, granted I am perhaps stretching the idea a bit. Friday, I found a passage by chance over two hundred years old from an African Bushmen.

“Thou knowest that I sit waiting for the moon to turn black, that  I may listen to all the people’s stories… For I am here in a great city. I do not obtain stories; I do simply listen, watching for a story which I want to hear, that it may float into my ear. I will go to my house that I may listen, turn my ears backwards to the heels of my feet on which I wait so that I can feel that a story is in the wind.”

These are the words of a convicted Bushmen serving time nearly two hundred years ago at the Cape of Good Hope, a penal colony for South Africa. The passage is from Laurens van der Post’s, A Story Like The Wind. Laurens von der Post wrote about Bushmen from a unique perspective. His nanny on the edge of the Kalahari desert was a Bushmen woman. He explains as he notes that the imprisoned Bushmen’s words are some of the most profound he has encountered in the world’s literature. “The living spirit needs the story for its survival and renewal.” As I read further in his book, he compares colonization of the Bushmen and Africans to stripping away the stories and imagination and imposing a rigid fixed belief structure that is foreign. There are similarities to today’s stripping away of creativity and imagination from small children entering school.

Many days I wonder who I write for in the mornings. Perhaps no one, maybe a teacher who needs just a thought, a stir or spark, but occasionally I write for me. I needed an uplift, that adrenaline shot, so to say. I recalled three years ago; I started at a new school with a different demographic than I had been used to. Apathy has gone rampant over the years I have been teaching and is now in epidemic proportion among high school kids in learning. So I am writing for anyone who wants to read today.

“To speak, so listeners long to hear more and to listen, so others’ meaning is grasped are the ideals of the impeccably great.” Tirukkural 65:646

When I first read the passage from the Tirukkural, I thought of the Einstein quote I have used for nearly twenty years. I first used this quote to present my Capstone in my Master’s degree program at Piedmont College about twenty years ago. For me, real teaching is making such an impact. I have used passages over the years from Tirukkural, always considering it to be simply Hindu literature; by chance, I looked it up further, and over 2000 years old, its original religious significance is questioned by scholars, yet both the writer and the writer and words are considered holy. For several years, I had ended my emails with this thought by Albert Einstein from his commencement address at Swarthmore College 1938. Just the other day, I mentioned to a future teacher friend Einstein was equally a philosopher and scientist, and most never will take the time to see that side of him.

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

Going back to Tirrukkural, while in translation, the flow and pattern that the text was written in are changed slightly from a precise number of words per line, and per couplet, to what words can work in English without losing too much meaning it is still a significant piece of literature. I was thinking back to my classes and could they sit while I read 1330 couplets of seven words, four on the first and three on the second lines. Probably not; paper balls would be winging it at my head. But then how do we make our teaching as potent as Einstein says that maybe just maybe that class would sit through all 1330 couplets. Many teachers would say Candy always works, but M&M’s, extrinsic bribery aside, what we do as teachers to bring relevance to our words is what matters.

“All preschool children are passionate, curious learners. Somewhere along the way in school, many, many kids become alienated from the joy of learning.” Robert L. Fried

Perhaps not all; how about many lose their drive and passion for learning. I had a “student” whose discipline records went back to preschool, and his referrals were numerous until he was transferred to a psycho-educational program in kindergarten. (Think about that psycho-ed at four or five) I am still trying to figure out how you get in that much trouble in pre-K, maybe crumbling a cookie the wrong way. Children are insatiably curious; we train that out of them as teachers along the way. We work towards nice straight lines and always quiet and yes mame or no sir, and no sir and straight lines and red flowers when drawing only. I often recall that Harry Chapin song as I work with children of any age and see creativity lost at times on uniformity. (Flowers are Red)

Not that long ago, we made cookie dough from scratch; even in my youth, which was a lifetime ago, you could buy cookie dough in plastic tubes and take it out and make giant cookies if you didn’t cut in quarters like the directions tell you to. Nowadays, you can buy the cookie dough already made into cookies, and we like uniformity.

“That so few children seem to take pleasure from what they’re doing on a given weekday morning, that the default emotional state in classrooms seems to alternate between anxiety and boredom, doesn’t even alarm us. Worse: Happiness in schools is something for which educators may feel obliged to apologize when it does make an appearance. After all, they wouldn’t want to be accused of offering a “feel-good” education.” Alfie Kohn

When I started graduate school with my Master’s degree at Piedmont College, all the students wanted to be in class as I did. If a student does not want to be in school, we go back to motivating through bribery and extrinsic methods. When I asked what would make him want to be in school, I had a student say, “pay me to come; you get paid to be here,” and it made me think. Recently an Atlanta school started a pilot program of paying students to attend after-school tutoring. Amazingly some people were against it without seeing if the program had merit. In response to my students wanting to be paid, I pulled out my pay stub, looked at the numbers, and showed my student my paycheck with a smile. Amazing the shock when he saw I get paid nothing for being here. I did not tell him I have an electronic deposit, and my paycheck has zero listed on the amount line. But I got mileage out of that. I said I enjoyed being here. I explained, and I I do, he knew that, but the zero paycheck hit hard. I thought about the intrinsic reasons I teach. How do you convey that to students?

“Students tend to be regarded not as subjects but as objects, not as learners but as workers. By repeating words like “accountability” and “results” often enough, the people who devise and impose this approach to schooling evidently succeed in rationalizing what amounts to a policy of feel-bad education.” Alfie Kohn

I have been borrowing these notes from Alfie Kohn; I saved an article a few years back on Feel-Bad Education in Education Week available online at Alfie Kohn’s website in its entirety for those who would like to read more. Over the years, in numerous articles on teaching Emotionally and Behaviorally Disturbed students, the sterile classroom has been the norm, with no distractions. In a trial and error sort of way, I found the opposite; a room filled with distractions provides endless teachable moments and places where a student who needs a different attitude and looks from the teacher can find a space. So what for some is clutter can be comfortable for another. But the student needs to want to be there. When this curiosity occurs, learning can quickly happen.

Of course, you will still have that child who started in pre-K; I remember the day a few years back when I asked him why do you not want to learn to read. This tenth-grade student is a behavior problem; he spent eight of ten years in Psycho-ed centers. I was complimenting him on his reading, he has been in a reading tutorial for three semesters, and we were working on writing letters for a school project, and he was able to read back all he wrote on the computer. He commented, “no one ever took the time to show me cause I was so bad” a side note spell check works great if you can read; when you can’t, it does not always help. He still was obnoxious, but slowly the idea some teachers do care about him and want to help him is sinking in.

As I think back to Robert Fried’s title for the book, The Passionate Teacher, that is what it is all about. We teachers and parents need to look at our intrinsic versus extrinsic and see why we teach. Is it purely for M&M’s, are we being bribed, or is an intrinsic rationale underneath the passion? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart Namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


We have to try and care

Bird Droppings January 15, 2022

We have to try and care

So far, for this year and the tail end of last year, all the snow, sleet, and ice predicted have never shown up, just cold, fog, wet and nasty. It has been unseasonably colder than usual, with scatterings of warm weather still only a few nights getting below freezing. I lost my phone briefly yesterday as I returned from Kroger and found it. However, those few moments of thinking it was lost made me so aware of how dependent we have become on our smartphones. I did not know my son’s or my wife’s numbers and had to look up my cellular accounts on the internet. Fortunately, as I walked in, my phone was sitting at my last stop as I headed home yesterday.

As I headed out this morning to catch a sunrise and get some milk to make pancakes, there is a chance of sunshine later, starting tonight, rain changing to snow. An almost full moon was hiding out under the clouds; my wife said when she returned from walking this morning. I am sitting here in my office pondering my writing for today. Yesterday I sat talking with some students on war and faith and how human beings have such inconsistent and often conflicting views, which create much of the tumult in the world. In a roundabout way, the discussion ended up with Mother Teresa. I have always been impressed with the attitude and faith of Mother Teresa.

“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.” Mother Teresa

It is difficult for me even to imagine the ability to do what Mother Teresa did day after day. She was walking the streets of Calcutta, India, dealing with poverty and human suffering I can barely imagine. In the above thought, she asks to light a light in people’s hearts, and I try and compare and feel like a match stuck, barely casting a spark.

“No matter what age you are, or what your circumstances might be, you are special, and you still have something unique to offer. Your life, because of who you are, has meaning.” Barbara De Angelis

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

As I look at my day and my effort to try and emulate some of the humanities great givers, I realize I am here now in this moment. That other person was there at their moment, and for now, even if only a spark, a minimum of light, it is light, and it is shining, and what I can do now within the context of where I am is what is so important. I recall a morning I spent before class in the hall, literally always talking to students, often students walking down the hall simply being there. I interject questions, how are you and such and often more times than not make some smart remark “I wonder if they are still grouchy today?” Yesterday my friend who wasn’t speaking to me I followed down the hall directly behind her with comments like, some people are annoying, they stop talking to other people for no apparent reason anyhow after about fifteen feet of annoying remarks she turned around, cracking up and said ok I would speak to you. Later in the day, I think a well of holding back spilled out. Have you ever tried to listen to a kid with ADHD try and explain why they were mad at you and all that has happened in a week in fifteen seconds or less it requires hypersonic listening?

“It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.” James Baldwin

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

As I read Mother Teresa’s comments, the “L” word comes up time and time again; love is the focus of her thoughts and statements. It is often difficult to use that word; parents find it hard to tell their children. I have heard many times the line “my children know I love them even if I do not tell them.”

“The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one’s self to others.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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

It amazes me that people do not see how selfish love and giving are. When you love and give, it is returned the circle is complete. I know this is an understatement, and love and giving are not selfish by any means, but it is so true that this circular motion occurs. It may be simply the feeling of doing good. I did years back a poster for school about the relief fund one of the classes had started. It is a feeling of goodwill of love while these kids will never witness any effect that what they do here in our town collecting money for a relief fund does there is satisfaction and pride in the effort.

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

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

I have been a visitor in schools where teachers wall themselves up in their rooms’ They open the door for class and lecture, close the door, then open the door and maintain this assembly line routine through the day and never once have actual contact with a student. They take roll I did that the other day started calling names and said we had been required to call roll and students must raise your hand and say present after about two or three students did it one pipes up, “Mr. Bird, but you know we are here” and therein lays the difference. Some teachers are so engrossed in not knowing their students they never know they are there. Many choose not to give for fear of caring.

I called a home I recall a few years back and asked if we could talk about his daughter. He was pleasant and polite. I asked about his daughter, who is a ninth-grader. She was with friends for the weekend, and he had told her she was responsible for her ride to and from a town about thirty miles distant average car 10 miles per gallon that is 3 gallons, either way, a total of six gallons of gas and if careful we can get gas for $3.35 so maybe $20.00 in gas. It seems she could not get a ride back, and he told her he could not afford to come to get her. Perhaps my comprehension was a bit off. If one of my children went out of town for the weekend and could not get home, I would have found twenty dollars in gas or found a way to get them home. My initial reason for calling was due to attendance.

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

“We must give more in order to get more; it is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest.” Orison Swett Marden

“In Giving, a man receives more than he gives, and the more is in proportion to the worth of the thing given.” George McDonald

I was looking through old photos from back in the day and found several friends from Auburn, Alabama. These photos go back nearly twenty-five years. The young man in the photos used to work for me when he was in college. I recalled jokingly talking to his wife after I spontaneously called after looking at the pictures. I remember meeting his wife’s father for the first time. It seems my friend was hiding in our stock trailer at a livestock show. Her daddy did not want her to see him, and he was looking for him; amazing how time changes things. But a small side note they lost a baby several years ago and now have two healthy boys and a girl. As I talked with my friend’s wife, she offered that it was meant to be there was a reason in her heart, and she may never know why they lost a child. It had taken two years, but they had another baby, and you see, every day, I end with remembering those in harm’s way well, in harm’s way is a significant term keep the unborn babies in your thoughts these are special folks.

“If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” Mother Teresa

“I want you to be concerned about your next-door neighbor. Do you know your next-door neighbor?” Mother Teresa

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start.” Mother Teresa

Today make an effort to know your students, your children, your friends, your family, and those you meet, so as I do every day, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


All in words, we find

Bird Droppings January 14, 2022

All in words, we find

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

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

If I were a carpenter

 and you were a lady,

 Would you marry me anyway?

 Would you have my baby?

If a tinker were my trade

 would you still find me,

 carrin’ the pots I made,

 followin’ behind me.

Save my love through loneliness,

 Save my love for sorrow,

 I’m given you my onliness,

 Come give your tomorrow.

If I worked my hands in wood,

 Would you still love me?

 Answer me babe, “Yes I would,

 I’ll put you above me.”

If I were a miller

 at a mill wheel grinding,

 would you miss your color box,

 and your soft shoe shining?

 Tim Hardin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are neither wolf nor dog

Bird Droppings January 13, 2022
We are neither wolf nor dog

It has been some time since I first read a book by this name written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. In much of his writing, Kent Nerburn addresses the spiritual significance and depth of life of our Native Peoples. While this is never an issue for some, it is very much so, and perhaps equally, we as a nation have reelected a nontraditional president who happens to be of a different color than what many so-called Americans would prefer and are afraid to say they are. So easy for some to say, “I am not racist, but his church affiliation cannot be overlooked.” Many who put aside color will go for religion, birthplace, and his friends are reasons to dislike, yet race is underlying the rhetoric. I was listening to several of my students discuss politics, and always the other reason our president is not liked somehow gets mentioned. Although cloaked in political dribble, similar rationales seem to prevail in polls and news, whether Republican or Democrat. While shrouded in history and idealistic notions, racism towards native and or nonwhites has been a large portion of our culture.

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, (Tatanka Iyotake), Lakota Medicine man and chief

This great warrior and a holy man died in 1890, shot by his people as foretold in a vision he had many years before. The federal government was concerned with his affiliation with the ghost dance cult, which was sweeping the reservations. Armed Sioux officers were sent to bring him in, and as the legend goes, he was reaching for his grandson’s toy, and the officers perceived a gun and shot him multiple times. Sadly most of the officers were killed in mysterious ways the following year. Some will say karma but to the Sioux, killing a holy man is a death sentence in and of itself. Perhaps the officers’ deaths were retaliation for killing a great leader from the Sioux nation. Maybe it is a paradox of the Indian wars.

It always seems interesting how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians. Yet, the statement “I would die for my people and country” is a very patriotic statement we still hear from American patriots continually down through history. Today around the world, we are witnessing similar events in many countries. It depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and the enemy.

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or, of principle.” Confucius

“Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of wilderness to conquer as I watch world events. Even the underlying rumor mill says that Haiti now is a possible new territory for the US. Do we need another General Custer and another battle of the little Big Horn? I was thinking back in my own time and war, Viet Nam, and to the Malai massacre, but those folks had no weapons and were only standing around, not fighting back. I am always amazed that Custer was a hero, yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle outnumbered and slaughtered. Perhaps it was the fact the Native Americans had the newest weaponry, repeating rifles, and Custer’s men still had breech-loading single-shot rifles.

Interestingly enough, word had it the unit was offered the new weapons but felt the old ones were good enough for what they were doing. There is a petition going around the internet to recall the twenty medals of honors awarded to some of Custer’s men. Wounded Knee was only a few months before, Custer’s men only days before killed women and children and by chance came into confrontation with the large army assembled under Crazy Horse and directed by Sitting Bull at Little Bighorn.

“What white man can say I never stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet they say that I am a thief. What white woman, however lonely, was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet they say I am a bad Indian.” Sitting Bull

I went to school for a semester in Texas in 1968 and experienced racism I had never seen before to that degree. Hatred for Native Americans nearly one hundred years after the wars were over. Geronimo and Chief Joseph were both refused on their death beds by sitting presidents to return to their sacred lands for fear of uprisings. On a Monday, nearly ten years ago, a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch, Texas.

In 1973 I met the contingency of Creeks working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends, and I was honored to be invited to partake of medicine at the Green Corn dance. Nearly 150 years earlier, under Andrew Jackson’s orders, the Creeks were taken from Georgia to Oklahoma, the now infamous Trail of tears. With the Creeks gone, all the land became available. I searched for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother, an article about my great-great-grandfather George Niper. He lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old and was the last living person to have voted for Andrew Jackson. I found it interesting Jackson was a Democrat, and the Trail of Tears was not a liberal act by any means.

“Now that we are poor, we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die, we die defending our rights.” Sitting Bull

I wonder what slogans were used in the 1880s in presidential elections. Grant wanted a third term. Garfield supported Grant interesting how Garfield’s speech for Grant got him the nomination over Grant and elected. Tariffs were the main issue; high tariffs were what Garfield backed and possibly that which he was assassinated for. The plight of the Native Americans was a minor issue during the years recovering from the governmental corruption of Grant’s time. The government seems to be, by nature, corrupt. We watch as senators and congressmen argue over health care, yet they have universal health care for life. Maybe if on equal footing, the legislation would be different, and possibly if the threat of you could lose yours was on the table, things would be different.

“A very great vision is needed, and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. I was hostile to the white man…we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat, and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape, but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.” Crazy Horse, Tashunwitko

It’s interesting how an invaded people fought back yet we condemned them and how history changed their views. I have been reading a book that I titled today’s wandering about entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn, an interesting book about an old man’s effort to explain who his people are. Nerburn was invited to bring the words of an elderly Native American, a member of the Sioux nation, to the world and explain why and how. One day maybe someone will offer explanations for the issues of today that go beyond the political views of warring parties and ideologies as we wander today. 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)

Is it counting knuckles, or is it no child will be left behind,

doing what we want, and that is considered normal.

Bird Droppings January 13, 2019

Is it counting knuckles, or is it no child will be left behind,

doing what we want, and that is considered normal.

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

I was thinking how great if you could plan your day around the moments a student is willing to count fingers and knuckles, maybe call it “knuckle time.” Those moments when being embarrassed or ashamed of your capabilities are gone, and you can move ahead, even if only in micro-steps. We all experience this at some time or another. As I watch and listen to students, I see pieces of myself in others. How we go about our days, those little things we do to survive the onslaught of society. Some of us have enough to make it throughout the day, and others have only counting knuckles, and when the task goes beyond that capability, frustration and defeat self-imposed. “Give me a zero.” Maybe I need to find a way to stop giving zeros as a teacher. Have I pondered enough why this kid chooses to do nothing?

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

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

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

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

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

I watched the paradoxes of our federal mandate of No Child Left Behind, where frustrated kids quit school because of so-called graduation tests. For example, as things progressed in Georgia, kids who did not graduate years ago because of a Graduation Test score could now get diplomas. Lives were altered, and some even shattered. It is a wonder that frustrated teachers leave due to judges on students taking standardized tests. What about being the teacher of a math class where your entire class failed the prerequisite for your class and now is in your class since prerequisite is no longer offered and you have an end of course test that measures your teaching ability, and sixty-seven percent fail. No one looks at pretest scores and posttest scores and significant improvement and learning that occurred. All that matters is that end-of-course test scores and the failure rate shows you are not teaching. A whole class and teacher get left behind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sailing off the edge and or thinking out of a box

Bird Droppings January 11, 2022

Sailing off the edge and or thinking out of a box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday I bumped into a former student from nearly ten years ago, now a father and married. When he left, I would have placed him in that category of ninety-five percent dead, in jail, used car salespeople, or evangelists. A good friend and leading authority on conduct disorders use that to teach kids in high school with conduct disorders. My former student has done some jail time small pieces here and there but finished high school and is working steady and putting his wife through nursing school. So maybe wisdom came to him eventually. Perhaps in that statement is wisdom and understanding, but we may never see the true nature of all we and hopefully, we are continuing to look. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)