Example

Bird Droppings February 28, 2022
Example

“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans

For nearly fifteen years, I have looked to the wisdom contained in Nerburn’s writings many times. In a recently completed graduate school project, I used similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words, “children learn what they live.” They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them. I grew up in a household where what we saw in our parents and grandparents was how life was to be lived. They set examples for all of their children in how they should treat others and how they would-be parents. As I watch now the third generation of great-grandchildren starting school, I see that they were successful.

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear

“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan

As so often happens when several educators get together, the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up. I often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education, the topic will become education and learning. One afternoon, while sitting in my mother-in-law’s house, we talked about teaching and working with special needs children several years back. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail, sometimes we forget that simple things can help us learn, study, and open our eyes to that which is around us.

“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller

So much research has been done on learning and how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers who have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on learning ideas. Developmentalists have written and been written about, and numerous other philosophies, constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an exciting field.

“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts, the creator of Learning-Focused Schools

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

We have to want to learn, and I have found that apathy is a challenging part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their existence. It isn’t easy to learn if you choose not to, and conversely, it is ever more challenging to try and teach a person who determines not to learn.

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a learning capacity that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

Sitting in with a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an exciting situation. I often find myself in that situation with the particular students I work with. One of my students rationalized that since he would fail anyway, why do any work. Trying to unravel that logic is rough. Even though his grades were improving in recent days and he actually did his work over a break, he decided to quit and not care. He was asking why it was even more interesting.

“Whatever”
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school.”

These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn, and they put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed. Sadly pieces of their logic are dead on. We have taken the school curriculum to a level where a good bit is often meaningless to some students. It is hard for me to recall any time in my life I have ever used trigonometry. We have stripped away so many functional courses and provided in return college track sciences and math that can be overwhelming and often frustrating for some students and then exit tests that have to be passed.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

Several years ago in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention, and as I read, I realized I, too, have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries, McJob has been described as a meaningless job with no direction and very little in requirements. McDonald’s has sued to have it removed, stating that jobs at Mcdonald’s are meaningful and do have direction. I know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in Business School now and owns his own Starbucks. Many years ago, before he passed away, Ray Kroc began selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers, who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow, in her will, did leave one and a half billion dollars to charity, all based on working in McDonald’s. Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with nothing but an idea and hard work.
It was not apathy that built Mcdonald’s, and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self-empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.

“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota’s existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was casual and commonplace. The Indian – lived in every sense of the word – from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing, I see people who often are not experiencing life for lack of a better word. They are simply occupying space, as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test, often used in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some I had data for graduate schools showing scores for acceptance, and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class, I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat. Several, however, actually have difficulty reading the test, and I will read the questions, too. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were terrible, yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low, over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted, this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However, imagine the self-esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a master’s program and 45 for their Specialists programs. I had three students go over a score of 45. I also said there were teachers at the high school who only scored thirty.

I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out, and some accept; some dodge them, and some quit. Earlier in my writing, a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…” and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how difficult but continually mentioned I thought they could do it.
SUCCESS is more than simply doing something. Success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, Satisfaction, and Self. It is a simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts, as our efforts to bring peace to the world become more difficult with each moment; it seems namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird 

All of life is connected and intertwined.

Bird Droppings February 27, 2022
All of life is connected and intertwined.

“In all likelihood, one is in the past while in the present. The present is then veiled; the past is manifest and apparent. However, so transparently present that is veiled., and one assumes oneself to be in the present when one is not. To ascertain where one is when one is, one must locate the past. Locating means identification means bracketing the past. Locating means looking at what is not ordinarily seen, at what is taken for granted, hence loosening oneself from it. As the past becomes, the present is revealed. So it is we aim at freedom from the past, freedom in the present. Such objections require entrance into the past as a first step.” William Pinar, Autobiography, Politics and Sexuality, 1992

AS I am working on my dissertation in Curriculum Theory, it isn’t easy to escape the works of William Pinar. The past and present are intertwined and connected, and we need to embrace our past but not let it overcome the present. As I thought about the Sydney J. Harris passage below, I recall a walk last Saturday morning to a quiet spot where I meditate. Something hit me as I faced east towards the rising sun, the gossamer threads of life interconnected with everything. They were iridescent and softly moving with the wind. Occasionally one thread would disconnect and float effortlessly upwards, sparkling and dancing as it went ever so slow. Each twig, plant, and branch seemed to be connected. A tiny thread was weaving through the entire visage before me, each rock and branch.

Most people would read this and scoff, yet in the early morning, as the sun rises and begins to move across the sky, spiders have been at work all night moving between plants and rocks, trees and leaves, leaving threads of silk. If you were standing in the midst of them, they would be invisible, yet with the sun behind sparkling in the light, a beautiful scene. Occasionally one thread disconnects and floats off, sparkling along the way as I sat pondering as to an old man sitting looking towards the east in the early morning many years ago and coming in to tell his grandchildren as I started the passage. On the back of my t-shirt, it reads all things are connected and rightly so by a thin gossamer strand of silk.

“Our task is to make our children into disciples of the good life, by our own actions toward them and toward other people. This is the only effective discipline in the long run. But it is more arduous and takes longer than simply “laying down the law.” Before a child (or a nation) can accept the law, it has to learn why the law has been created for its own welfare.” Sydney J. Harris

Today I am faced with dealing with how to accomplish all that needs to be finished over the next few weeks. There is a house to clean, goodwill run, groceries, papers to write, and so much more. Often in the teaching of special education, we use the term manifestation. Is it a manifestation of their disability, or are they choosing to do whatever got them in trouble? I find myself needing a manifestation. Am I lazy, or is my back keeping me from getting my yard work done?

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle

“Self-command is the main discipline.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I spent six months involved in counseling on a psychiatric unit in a state mental facility many years ago. There was never a question about why something happened, being that they were considered combative psychotic adolescents, which was the term used to describe the unit. When someone got upset, solitary confinement and rather large doses of drugs were employed, and a few strait jackets. Little was occurring to change the behavior, rationalize those behaviors, and find why that behavior had occurred, simply dealing with the moment.

“Anybody who gets away with something will come back to get away with a little bit more.” Harold Schoenberg

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” John Trapp

Often as I find a quote, the person behind those words has more to offer as if the situation with Schoenberg, a scholar of music. He is also a very prolific writer about great musicians and their music. John Trapp was a bible scholar with several biblical commentaries to his credit. Both men were writers who themselves were very self-disciplined.

“THE STUDY OF WORDS is useless unless it leads to the study of the ideas that the words stand for. When I am concerned about the proper use of words, it is not because of snobbism or superiority but because their improper use leads to poor ways of thinking. Take the word ‘discipline’ that we hear so much about nowadays in connection with the rearing of children. I know something about word derivations; you know that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same Latin root discipulus, which means ‘to learn, to follow.'” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly speaking

Sitting here looking up references and quotes related to discipline and ending up with the example, learning and following this is semantics as we go. To operate a public school, we have to have standards, so we have rules. From a behaviorist standpoint, it is easy to say ABC, Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence. First, you have an antecedent that stimulus is what causes the behavior. Then you have the behavior, which is the event or action that we see, feel, or hear about. Finally, we have consequences which can be what we do in response or what the students or person issuing the behavior receives for eliciting that behavior.

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

“Act the way you’d like to be, and soon you’ll be the way you act.” George W. Crane

“To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

It is always about what we do. Over the past few days, I have been discussing perception that is how we see events and happenings with several teachers and friends. One of the categories in writing a behavioral plan for a student is planning to ignore that is often simply tuning out a behavior. Often with no stimulus to keep it going, a behavior will disappear. So often, it is getting the attention that is the desired consequence.

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” B. F. Skinner

These lines from a football hall of fame quarterback and the father of behaviorism are intriguing. These two men from distinctly different arenas yet have come to remarkably similar conclusions in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It has to make a difference to the person for them to change. Skinner sees we can manipulate the subject matter to offer alternative consequences to change the behaviors to ones we can accept hopefully. A Sydney J. Harris line caught my attention this morning as I started on discipline as I prepared for several IEPs later this week, some related to behavior.

“…by our own actions toward them and toward other people.” Sydney J. Harris

So often, it is not the consequences that deter or change a behavior but our actions towards the person and those around them. It is the example we set and not what we say that matters. Please, today, as we venture out, keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart, and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

A series of paradoxes and bewilderment

Bird Droppings February 25, 2022
A series of paradoxes and bewilderment

I received the following in an email back a few days, a friend of mine sent it out and as I read the first time it was humorous. However as I pondered then as a teacher I read deeper into what was being said. I listened by coincidence to a few words from a former Georgia Congressman and former Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. I recalled about nine years ago early in the morning as I by chance I hit the AM button in my car. It was obviously a very conservative talk show and on the extreme conservative side. But the comment was “If a Democratic Congress gets in they will spend the first two years investigating the last two years of the current administration and then raise taxes and…”, and he went on. It interested me that is he saying something has been done wrong that needs investigating and then we go right back investigating now in a reverse situation. The news stories daily seem to imply that or are they just trying to stir up conservatives to get out and protect their money. Anyhow my email forward from a friend:

“Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s: Teaching Math in 1950’s – a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit? Teaching Math in 1960’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit? Teaching Math in 1970’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit? Teaching Math in 1980’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20. Teaching Math In 1990’s a logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.) Teaching Math in 2005-6 un hachero vende una carretada de madera para $100. El costo de la producción es $80”

As I read this I wondered if this is really what the general public thinks. There are numerous books out on the dummying down of America. No one ever mentions we are one of the few countries with free public education to all children regardless of race, sex, disability and or income and in turn the only one trying to hold accountable educational systems for getting everyone to the same level. Each of the eras above has issues in its systems. However let me add I took a general biology course in my second year of college and the current general biology text for ninth graders at our high school is significantly more in depth and has numerous subjects and information not even conceived of in 1968.

So I look at the above email and see 1950 all was well, 1960 we are concerned about fractions, 1970 we are concerned about semantics, 1980 we are now worried about correct underlining too much Christmas treeing of answers on standardized tests and in the 1990’s we are concerned about environment and each other and asking why and how come questioning and wanting to perceive how this as wrong. I was amused at math in 2000’s and how it was touchy feely sort of kind of thing. They left out math in 2010 where a forester pays poachers in the rain forest of South America to strip a piece of land unregulated by an laws and sell to him at a dirt cheap price and then wander off so literally we have a near 100% profit.

In 1919 John Dewey was using reflection as a teaching tool very successfully he was considerably ahead of his time. Sadly reflection and discussion take time away from memorizing and with teaching to the test as we are now. Our students have to memorize volumes of material in every subject and many teachers do not have the time or they at least think they do not to offer context. Then looking back at 2005-2006 math comments and inferences to diversification it was not too many years ago women could not go to school and or hold positions in many companies and such. Even today woman are stereotyped into certain positions.

A friend who recently passed away was writing her dissertation on gender biases in administration in public schools. Sadly all the public hoopla in one arena is about immigration. I still recall a parent conference five years ago when a good old boy wearing scruffy shorts no socks, boots untied, and a dirty white T-Shirt explained it so eloquently to me. It seems he was out of work as he was a construction worker and at that essentially a gofer. He would be the one toting boards and bricks whatever. I was filling in forms since he did not read or write and his son was about to end up in the alternative school. I asked what he did for a living and he informed me he couldn’t get work. Obviously I was aware of the construction situation in our area of very few houses being built. However his answer took me by surprise. He commented with a few expletives “The @#$% Mexicans work too #$@% hard.” For him it could have been Afro Americans, Native Americans, Eastern Europeans, and or Hispanics, it was anyone who was actually willing to work and different than or not like him. Did I mention he did not smell very good sort of like a few old beers and cigarette stale smoke a paradox of sorts?

And so why am I bewildered we so often complain and whine and criticize and often only because we do not understand or lack of information. Simply put it is ignorance among the so many wonderful reasons. Parents expect wonders from teachers and many times we do deliver but years ago I wrote about the sixteen hour syndrome. Teachers have kids for eight hours and are expected to work miracles only to go home to parents, TV, video, friends, drugs, and many other misc. other distraction and they have sixteen hours to undo all they learned in those eight. It is sort of a losing battle in many situations.

“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.” Black Elk

As I read this thought from Black Elk a Lakota Sioux holy man written some years ago I was intrigued how we adults take these innocents and make them adults today losing all of their innocence. I watch the four year olds around school from our demo school they are inquisitive and wondering and yet in a few years they will be blank eyed and listless stripped of all of their joy and purity by our cultural efforts to make automatons and provide vehicles for the productivity of our manufacturing and corporate greed. This could be why I am bewildered that we have come to this in a free society and in reality are more imprisoned than many so called third world countries. We are imprisoned by our self-serving, self-centeredness and greed and watching calmly as monopolies are forming again and the big three oil companies are the only oil companies and ma bell is soon to be in charge again. I am paraphrasing and borrowing from an old folk song, where have all the steel mills gone or where have all the textile jobs gone. It is very simple they have gone to countries ever where. Then the chorus, oh when will we ever learn, oh when will we ever learn.

Paradoxes and complexities bewilderment and wonderment, I look at Black Elks words and wonder why can we not learn from children and maybe get back some of our lost innocence. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Glistening of wisdom on a gossamer strand

Bird Droppings February 24, 2022

Glistening of wisdom on a gossamer strand

Many years ago, I was sitting alongside a fence in a field far away from houses and people, and I watched a spider spin a web. We see webs all around, and I read there are thousands of spiders per acre in any field. Many of the spiders are minute and nearly microscopic. Anyhow the spider climbed to a point and dropped, leaving a strand of silk climbed and descended and so forth, building a base for her web. Next came the cross lines, and soon a web was built over an hour or so in the process. We see webs and quickly sweep them away, but the spider’s design and care in the making are engrained in their being. Life is weaving and spinning a  web of sorts, and yes, so often is swept away. Occasionally someone will stand back in awe of the artistry if only we would take note every time.

I receive several daily readings from groups with differing world views. One morning I read this piece by a Christian monk living in India about the sacredness of life. Father Bede Griffiths is a Christian Monk who has lived in India for nearly fifty years and embraced the spiritual flow of the country. Matthew Fox, in his daily blog Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox, Bede Griffiths on Hinduism, Wisdom & the Sacred (2001).

According to Bede Griffiths, Westerners most need to learn from India the “sense of the sacred” that pervades “the whole order of nature.” This is creation spirituality, indeed. “Every hill and tree and river is holy,” and the simplest human acts are also. We in the West have emptied the daily of “all religious meaning.”

I stumbled my way back into education and teaching in 2001, and I have shared many of the stories in previous sections of my dissertation getting to this point. My goal with this chapter is to reflect and tie all of my experiences and happenings together. My spiritual experiences and educational experiences seem to connect on many levels, and I strongly feel this inner connection between the spiritual and the education and, ultimately, learning that it is all very connected and intertwined. Parker Palmer, in his book The Courage to Teach (1998), offers:

“The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so the teacher and students and subject can be woven into the fabric of community that learning and living require (p.11).”

Many mornings, I have walked out into the sunrise, and strands of spider silk connect everything across the grass. The dew glistens on the strands helping to make them visible. I have pondered many moments as I stared at those strands of silk. I find some solace in nature and meditate, often listening and observing what is about me. In 1995,  Ted Perry used a copy of Chief Seattle’s speech to develop a script for an environmental film short. He utilized Native linguists to be sure and stay close to what Chief Seattle is recorded to have said. The following is often attributed to Chief Seattle, but the words are still meaningful, and from Perry’s book, how can one sell the air? (1995).

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself (p.47).”

I will spin and weave the pieces of wisdom I have shared and connect them, leading to where I am now as a teacher and learner. As I walked out in the morning cold today, I kept thinking of a morning when a little more than a third of a full moon’s glow was lighting the area, giving me a vivid view of all around; I was taken back. While only just a tiny part of the moon, it was still a beautiful picture presented. There was a sense of light about as I stood looking around, thinking as I do every morning. Sitting here today, I will ponder my day ahead and the week coming even though I have several errands to run, including Wal-Mart for odds and ends. I read very early this morning on one of my friend’s pages and commented about me being a searcher. I have often felt that way as I wander through life. What was said about me once many years ago from all places, a psychic I had the chance of running into as I do find myself in those sort of places at times. She said I had been a searcher for a long time and perhaps still was. I am a Daniel Boone of continually learning, searching, and pondering. I reconnected with an author and poet in graduate school, someone I read back in my hippy days of long ago, James Kavanaugh wrote.

“I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach; we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery, and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know unless it is to share our laughter. We, searchers, are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all, we want to love and be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or to compete for love.”

As I read this passage, I thought of people who draw my attention and I theirs. Years ago at Loganville High School, my room would be filled before class started with ten or fifteen teenagers drawn there, perhaps for donuts, but I quickly hid them. It seems I lost a bet in the fourth block, and it was for donuts. I wonder why many times kids come to talk and interact. Often I am too much for some, and they tend to back away. Others get drawn in to hear what I am ranting about, listening to a story, or reading a thought. As Kavanaugh eloquently writes about in this passage, it is often kindred spirits looking for and searching. Perhaps we are searchers looking for answers in the flow and ebb of life’s forces. Walking in the moonlight that morning was, for me, an awakening and energizing of sorts as I watched wisps of smoke rise and circle about as I blew on embers of sweetgrass and sage. The words of James Kavanaugh perhaps point a direction. “…each of us must follow his path… Wherever we are, whoever we are, there is always quiet water in the center of your soul.” Perhaps those philosophical silken strands of thread are interconnecting us all. 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)

bird

Wandering about while I am waiting

Bird Droppings February 23, 2022
Wandering about while I am waiting

I was sitting listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash acoustic while writing today. I have been saving my pennies to get a new camera, hopefully, ready for spring. There are so many possibilities with various flowers blooming and baby ducks and geese soon at local lakes and ponds. I have been making do with 55mm and 80mm lenses for nearly four months now and get some good shots.

Back to my writing, I recall a paper I had been working on that frustrated me and yet was very interesting; how did the denominalization in the antebellum period in the history of the United States affect higher education? After writing about faith and religion a few days back, this thought returned to me. I had been pouring through books for nearly a week and knew what I wanted to say, but it was a research paper, and I had to cite sources and use others’ views, not my own. Jefferson’s quote might fit with the new cabinet members pushing religion and a new word, deconstruction, being thrown out in terms of the education department.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” First amendment to the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson

Several weeks back, a student used this amendment to justify mandatory school lead prayer in public schools. As is, for me, a violation, as are so many of the efforts to teach Christianity or any religion in public school. Yesterday in a blog discussion, various views on the afterlife and or no afterlife went in numerous directions and even challenged George Washington’s faith that I had mentioned in previous writing. As I read and thought back in the day, the first six presidents were college graduates, then a trend toward doers and not education starting with Andrew Jackson. As higher education progressed in the United States, there was a period just before the Civil war where churches were splitting and forming new denominations daily. In doing so, to justify existence, colleges started to educate their clergy and members.

This is not a history lesson, but as I read and looked through the hell blog, it became apparent how many different believers and how many different things they believe. All are going back to our first amendment. We can believe what we want. Interestingly, belief is based on traditions and innuendos and less on fact not to push science versus faith, but not that long ago, people were burned at a stake for saying the world is round and not flat as advocated by the church. I wonder sometimes, and well, it has been said that ignorance is bliss, and maybe that is why people are so gosh darn happy—a terrifying thought in the news a few years back. A powerful representative is stepping down for improprieties and is publicly saying he will be more powerful out of the house than in. That is a scary thought. In other words, he will be doing what he is being punished for, lobbying votes for various entities. One of his friends has just been found guilty of multiple illegal issues dealing with lobbying, and we still elect these guys.

It is so amazing how we do find these people electable. It started back in the 1820s when intelligent people were not as important as what you could do for me became the trend. A significant effort of Andrew Jackson was displacing eastern Native Americans to Oklahoma and giving their lands to his friends. Isn’t it wonderful how this system works? But quickly back to faith and belief, it should be a personal thing, something in your heart and soul if you consider the soul an entity.

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance, and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun. Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices no more easily made. And give, give in any way you can, of whatever you possess. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than for how it is shared, and your life will have meaning, and your heart will have peace.” Kent Nerburn

As I close, I thought of something this morning, reading a note from a single mother. For children from broken homes, we always tend to believe divorce equals a broken home, but in reality, a broken home is one “needin fixin” that could be many reasons other than divorce and can often be kids with both parents. Sometimes I wish Elmer’s glue made an adhesive for broken homes a simple fix for a complex problem, so as always, 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)

bird

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It has been a long time

Bird Droppings February 22, 2022
It has been a long time

I was sitting along the edge of reality yesterday evening after having a bad day with bronchitis and asthma. Somewhere I was in my backyard listening to the wind blow through the pines; it seemed pine trees make a better sound till the oak trees have all their leaves in place. Sort of a circular thing as the wind seemed to blow around the tops of the trees surrounding my house. The sound and movement in the air were exhilarating. It has been nearly forty-one years since our oldest son was born. As a parent and now as a grandparent, I wondered if we have done all we should or could. I think parents question themselves often. I think parents always wonder whether I did the best job I could have. Perhaps even thinking about what could I have done differently? As I ponder, I am very proud of my children, all three, and now three daughters-in-law and three grandsons, and two granddaughters. Hopefully, they know whatever roads they travel in life, we will be there for them if they need and I am sure they will be happy and successful.

“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.” William D. Tammeus

I have been to the nurseries at the local hospitals when my wife gave birth to all three sons and when my sisters and numerous friends and now nieces and nephews were all having children. As we sat around eating, I watched my nephew, granddaughter, grandnieces, and grandnephews a few weeks back. Several are still babies, and great aunts, great grandmothers, and grandmothers take turns holding them. Great-grandma was working on getting a photo of all of them together, and trying to get fourteen or so little ones in a confined space for enough time to get one picture with all faces looking forward is quite an effort.

“It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they watch us see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, I.” Joyce Maynard

I have watched my brother and sisters grow as they raised their children and now grandchildren. I have witnessed firsthand my wife and me growing up and raising our children, and now the changes taking place with a grandbaby. There are challenges and pitfalls, those moments that we will never live down. I recall a little spat between my middle son and youngest at Disney World when the middle son would, while my wife was watching for our ride to Discovery Island, karate kick the youngest, and he would, of course, holler and hit his brother. The latter was claiming innocence to his mother. After three times of their little interaction, I interceded even though I had been videotaping the whole scene; watching it now is quite humorous. Even now, my middle son still denies any wrongdoing saying I altered the film.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum

So often use the term setting an example; we as parents have that responsibility, and we as teachers, it is a double-edged sword, and often there is no chance to waste time.

“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” C.G. Jung, Integration of the Personality, 1939

I recall my wife coming home from the hospital many years ago when she first became a nurse. She was working in GYN-OB and had delivery and nursery in her unit. One day, she told me of a thirteen-year-old mother whose twenty-six-year-old mother was there, and her thirty-nine-year-old grandmother was also there. The examples we set are seen by our kids every day, and then they try and emulate them. Watching my granddaughter try and imitate us as we make faces or stick out our tongue is amusing, and her faces as she tries and mimics. Sadly children are always watching, and our behaviors beyond making faces are seen as well.

“Most of us become parents long before we have stopped being children.” Mignon McLaughlin

Each day as I walk down the hallways in our high school, I am made aware of this with so many students pregnant and some married or soon to be.

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone

I sit quietly in my dining room at home, reflecting on parenthood and teaching. Today I wonder what direction the wind will blow. Across the nation, teachers, parents, and students want an excellent educational system. Sadly, some seek profit, not considering children are at stake, just simply seeing dollar signs. Article after article, research after research show and indicate today’s reform is not going to work. Creating schools that can eliminate some aspects through a charter or raising stakes so high through testing that students are simply learning to take a specific test and not the material of that subject is creating pitfalls and chasms that may not be within the future fixable. So in a few weeks, my oldest son turns forty-one, and it is hard to believe as I hold my tiny granddaughter that he was once just as small. As I finish up today, so much out in the news around the world is saddening, so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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Getting over the speed bumps

Bird Droppings February 21, 2022
Getting over the speed bumps

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” Hannah More

Perhaps ahead of her time Ms. More wrote in abundance in the later 1700s and early 1800s. She was writing when women should have been sitting at home according to the customs of the time. She had her goals and strived to achieve them daily, and several middle and high schools around the country still bear her name. When I am driving about the countryside, I think back to days when the wonderful speed bump was purely a southern thing. Sadly they are now used across the country. We are often surprised when we approach a stop sign or crosswalk. Sometimes, some grocery stores will mark pedestrian walkways with those wonderful, often unseen obstacles. They are put there to slow us down in our hectic lives.

However, when Hanna More wrote that line, speed bumps were many years ahead, and she looked more at life metaphorically. As we journey in life, we become complacent and begin to slack when obstacles become frightful. I drove into Atlanta regularly to take things to my son at Georgia Tech before he graduated. There is a stretch on North Avenue where you look down the hill and, of course, look up. When in a lazier mood, it is fun to see how fast you can coast down and then see how far up the other side you can go without using the gas pedal. Hoping all the red lights are green through your free fall and ascent of the hill.

By chance, several months ago, when downtown going to Piedmont Park, I was thinking how hard it must be to walk up and down that hill. Even in a car, as you begin up the hill after the momentum wears off, you have to increase the pressure on the accelerator. Life is very much the same way, and living can appear more complicated when we lose focus and become bewildered. I was thinking about learning and education as well. In my earlier days, I would wander for semesters at a time, losing focus beyond staying out of the draft college had little other meaning for me. I floundered around for several years.

Today in teaching, I stress context and content that give meaning to my students’ learning.

“It is not so important to know everything as to know the exact value of everything, to appreciate what we learn, and to arrange what we know.” Hannah More

Ms. More was perhaps more organized than I am, and even her contemporaries claimed she was a Methodist. Methodist was the word used to describe John Wesley, founder of The Methodist Church, and his friends because they were methodical in their teachings and beliefs. At that time, the word Methodist which for The Anglicans, the Church of England, was sometimes a dirty word or jest depending on who they were referring to.
But this second quote knowing the value of everything and appreciating what we learn gives that learning context, meaning, and substance. This is what proper education should be about, and better yet, parents and teachers provide context so that learning lifts us over obstacles and carries us through our lives. There is extra pressure on the accelerator we need to climb all the hills on North Avenue that we have in life. Please, my friends, provide context and content and keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds as we go out and about our business today and always give thanks namaste. Peace!

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

Bird Droppings February 20, 2022
Practicing Patience

It has been nearly thirty-five years since I first went to Hemmingway’s just off the interstate in Decatur, Georgia. It was a favorite local entertainment establishment. My wife and I would go before and after our marriage primarily to listen to a local singer who provided a fantastic evening of music with his band. I recall my cousin Bill sending up a napkin with a Deep Purple song written numerous times. Ron Kimble and his band tended to cover southern rock and country songs more than anything else, so it was always a big joke when our hard-core metal cousin would pass the napkin up to the front. But one night, Ron took the mike and said, we have received quite a few requests for this song seems to be all in the same handwriting, though, and they cut loose on that song.

So here I am at eight-thirty in the morning, sitting and listening to a song written and sung by the late Ron Kimble. By most standards, Ron is a big man, and his voice is even bigger. The song is entitled, My little granddaddy; it is a story of his granddaddy telling stories and always having a “sweet tater” for his grandson. Every time I listen to this song, I obsess and play two or three times, and even after a million plays, a tear trickles down my cheek. It seems it has me thinking about my dad and granddad to my sons and how he rode around on his golf cart with a load of grandkids telling stories about World War II and about the local hermit that lived in the woods below his house or about Little Strong Arm a Native American chief. I miss my dad, and my wife misses her dad, and as I talk with people who have lost parents over the year, little things remind us as we go through our days. It for me could be picking up a piece of blue lace agate or gold ore at school, but for now, I sit and listen to a simple little song and a catchy little tune and thank Ron Kimble for it and for giving me a tie to my father.

“Now, there are many, many people in the world, but relatively few with whom we interact, and even fewer who cause us problems. So, when you come across such a chance for practicing patience and tolerance, you should treat it with gratitude. It is rare. Just as having unexpectedly found a treasure in your own house, you should be happy and grateful to your enemy for providing that precious opportunity.” Dalai Lama

Over the past few years, I have worked on getting annual Individual Educational Plans completed for my caseload where ever I Ws working. It seems that on top of the stress and emotions of dealing with parents and kids trying to come up with how we should provide education for this child, the kids this week after a break are wound up as well. One day back, after finishing class, I told a dear friend that it is more exhausting to practice patience than getting upset, and it takes effort to contain oneself rather than blow up. I have come to find that when kids are agitated, there is a reason, and far too often, it has nothing to do with us but something from home or outside school compounded by whatever issues that particular child is involved.

As I read the statement from the Dalai Lama and how we should be happy for the people who provide us with the opportunity to practice patience, it can be hard to understand what this man is saying. But as I ponder, and I do a lot of pondering this time of day, I am thankful for the week trying as it may have been, and all of the people who added to and provided me with an opportunity to be patient. Within these problematic relationships and interactions, we can practice and hone our patience skills. It is Friday, and this week while perhaps it has flown by, has seemingly dragged on for so long in other ways. So as I close today and as I have for many years now, my dear friends, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and our hearts namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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Is it only a dropped feather?

Bird Droppings February 19, 2022

Is it only a dropped feather?

“If we consider the eagle feather with its light and dark colors, we could argue that ‘the dark colors are more beautiful and, therefore, naturally more valuable,’ or vice versa. Regardless of which colors are more beautiful, or necessary, or valuable, the truth is the bottom line: Both colors come from the same feather, both are true, they are connected, and it takes both to fly.” Dr. Michael Garrett, Medicine of the Cherokee

A seemingly inconsequential event is that of a bird dropping a feather only to be found along the way by someone like you or me. I am always amazed at how special that moment becomes. Maybe back when I started this morning venture of rising early to journal, read, and write for me, it was a way of dropping feathers, and it seems nearly every day, one or two emails reinforce my thoughts.

Earlier today, I saw a post on a group I am a member of on Facebook, Native American Spirituality. Someone from the group was asking about the appearance of a hawk, and the hawk came and sat next to her and looked her in the eye. A few moments ago, I was sitting on my back porch, and a dove panicked and flew almost against the screen of the porch. Within a second, a hawk was swooping in and barely avoided the screen as well. I am always excited by the presence of hawks; seeing the hawk so close to the house was very exciting to me. I paused a second and thought had I gotten up only a few seconds sooner and gone inside, and I would have missed this event. We are often meant to be at a particular place at a specific time. Carl Jung called this synchronicity.

“All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with human beings. The reason WakanTanka does not make two birds, or animals, or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by WakanTanka to be an independent individuality and to rely upon itself.” Shooter, Teton Sioux

Several years ago, we had several large ferns on our front porch. I was checking the ferns and forgot about the nest of purple finches which had adopted our ferns and front porch; three babies sat there looking at me as I checked the fern for moisture, surprising me as much as I them. Three tiny babies were sitting huddled in a fern basket, all expecting breakfast, and it was only me. As I think back, I am not sure who was the most scared, me by the shock of three hungry mouths gaping or those tiny birds with a big hand poking in, checking the moisture of the fern.

“We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit.” Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker

It has been a few years since my first trip to Piedmont college, and I am sure there will be many more to come as I am working on my doctorate in conjunction with several faculty members at Piedmont. However, that first trip was meeting the Dean of Education for acceptance into the School of Education when I was working on my master’s degree. It seems I had forgotten getting accepted into the education department required an interview. That aspect of my journey, something you are to do first rather than last, to be accepted into the education school. As I left the education building, walking to the parking lot, a flock of geese met me walking along weeding as they do across lawns at Piedmont back before the lake was drained, fifty or so Canadian geese scurrying about looking for tender shoots in the morning coolness. As I walked a bit down crossed my path a tiny feather. I picked it up, and my immediate thought was of Forrest Gump sitting on a bench waiting for a bus and the feather that starts and ends the movie.


I thought deeper as I saved the feather and still have it pressed in a book on my shelf. So often, that little bit, that tiny piece of fluff that we often miss does not have to be a feather; it could be a kind word, a handshake, or a certificate from first grade for spelling everything right, and it can provide the catalyst for the next day and some a lifetime. As a teacher, parent, and friend, we often have to drop a feather now and again, a tiny piece of fluff to keep another person going. I ran a Day Camp program in my backyard many years back, Camp Ringtail. I share quotes daily, and yesterday I shared one that struck a note with a good friend. He was named principal of the year several years back by the Washington Post. “I had this quote on my office wall for many years. I sat next to Mrs. Graham at a dinner many years ago. She was a big supporter of public education. She encouraged me to be a principal. I received the Washington Post Distinguished Education Leadership Award (Principal of the Year) many years later. Mrs. Graham had passed by then, but I gave her lots of credit at the Washington Post ceremony for motivating me to be a principal. I also told the audience I received two important awards in my life that served as bookends to my career. The first was Camper of the Year at Camp Ringtail, and the second was the Post Award!” Rob Hindman

“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren, and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves, such as the birds, animals, fish, and trees.” Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

In primitive societies, a feather can be sacred and holy. The Aztecs made the cloak for the king from Quetzal feathers emerald green iridescent, and no one else could even own one of these feathers under penalty of death. Native Americans would use feathers as signs of bravery and honor, awarding an eagle feather for counting coop, which is not killing your enemy, simply touching and riding away, and other great acts of bravery. I am intrigued as we now wage war often from an office with drones and smart bombs. What a battle that must have been back in the day to see a brave ride in touch a few people and ride out.

We have come so far in today’s world we “nuke em” no need to touch, no need for honor for a bit of fluff blowing along the ground as I walked about my yard a few nights back getting some exercise along with my wife. She checked her plants to see if any bulbs were sprouting, and a feather caught my attention. It was a black tail feather from a crow. My day was made as I placed it on my desk with a hawk feather and owl feather from previous walks. It is the tiny pieces that count on our journeys. So, for 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)

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Doing what you love is not work

Bird Droppings February 18, 2022
Doing what you love is not work

“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham

It seems I learn something every day as I wander about the internet and read books I find along the way. For the past twenty-two years, my life’s journey has been one of excitement and constant challenges. When I closed my business of twenty-three years and left publishing, I first tried to stay in that industry, but very few companies hire older folks in sales. I had been away from production far too long, and computers had replaced most of what I had done when I started doing graphics arts by hand. I talked with our graphics teacher at the high school, and literally, the graphics industry is now almost totally on the screen in front of you. No more negatives and paste-ups; even plates for presses are generated by computer direct to press. Publishing is literally in the palm of your hand.

As I write each day, I enjoy sharing the words and thoughts of great thinkers. One note of interest is as I find quotes, I tend to either save or use them directly in my writing; however, today, the starting quote is from my father’s book of quotes that he had saved over the years, which is a three-ring binder full of quotes he had used or was pondering using. This quote caught my attention as I see teaching for me. I love teaching, and each day I am working with students, I feel it matters, maybe not today but one day. As I looked up Katharine Graham, I found that she was one of the most powerful women in Washington in her time. She was the publisher of the Washington Post, and it was with her permission the Watergate scandal was reported and published. She was on the elite social list in Washington and personal friends with John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, Ronald and Nancy Reagan. She never had to sneak into White House functions which seem to be the fad these days.

As I looked further into her life and very interesting as her husband was for many years’ CEO and publisher of The Washington Post; however, it came to be known that he suffered from Manic Depression and after a series of nervous breakdowns and residential psychiatric treatment took his own life in 1963. Upon her husband’s death, Katharine took over the company and built it into the company it is today through careful planning. I found the following quote that hit me as I read further.

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” KG, speaking at the CIA Headquarters in 1988

As I watch our news and media sources banter about half-truths and often totally misleading stories, I wonder if there is material even in our high-speed world that needs to be withheld. So often in apocalyptic movies, the president hesitates from telling everyone that the earth is in line to be hit by a planet-sized asteroid and destroyed or that the sunspots are flaring up and we will be crispy critters soon. Is it better to panic and get crushed in the milieu or not know and fry at some point in time? I come back to my original quote, and for me, finding that place in the circle of life that makes sense to you and that you enjoy doing. For me, it is teaching. When I was down about not finding work in the publishing world, my wife said, go back to teaching; you enjoy that. I was at the right place at the right time. Synchronicity, as Karl Jung would say. A very progressive principal had just had a teacher resign due to a nervous breakdown, and a job opening was there working with Emotionally Disturbed High School students. The next thing I knew, I started back teaching on September 11, 2001.

“I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That is the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I’m choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world.” From the blog of Elena Aguilar, School Improvement coach from Oakland, California, 2008

I am talking with former students and teachers of the Foxfire Program in Rabun County and other Foxfire teaching settings. I am finding that so many former students were influenced beyond the academics of the classes. They had each a different story, but as I gathered the words together, each was influenced positively, and each has used what they learned as they go about their journeys in life. I happened to find a site discussing a book based on why I teach. Each section of the book draws from teachers around the country and their feelings toward teaching. I like this concept of a life-toucher.

“As a teacher, I want children to leave school with a social conscience, an appreciation for diversity and life, a thirst for learning, and an understanding of how knowledge can allow them to achieve their dreams. I also want them to leave the classroom with good memories because, since teachers are life-touchers, we want to be a part of children’s childhood memories. Other teachers might not admit this, but I will: Even if I might never get to hear it from their lips, I want my former students to recall their time in my class. I want them to remember something worthwhile, great, or small that happened there. I hope that my students will remember my class not because it was perfect but because of its unique flaws. Hopefully, they also will remember that I was a teacher who truly cared and strived to teach them. This is my definition of a life-toucher.” Kerri Warfield, Visual Arts teacher, Westfield, MA

As an active teacher, I hope, in my way, I am influencing kids positively so they can better manage the journey ahead. Perhaps my rationale that it is equally about that life journey and academics learned along the way is in contrast to the current teach to the test idea that is driving education now. Sadly, it is a long time later that daily life touches, as Kerri Warfield states, are seen. It might be ten years after you have a student, and you see on Facebook a father holding a little boy and discussing how much something meant to him back in high school. That something just happened to be a small gesture you made, giving a book or a word of advice in time of need. I guess I had too many directions to go today and as I wind down, as always, 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)

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