Bird Droppings February 28, 2022

“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.

“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)


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