Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Bird Droppings May 22, 2022

Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln

Perhaps some people are inherently grouchy in the scheme of things, and or by Lincoln’s view, they want to be grouchy. Sitting here pondering this morning, I can recall bumping into many people like this. They are inherently grouchy, and I am sure my students would say that about me on certain days. Perhaps we should label these folks and walk away. As I look deeper into the simple words above, we all can be happier as I think about Lincoln’s thoughts. It is just wanting to be that way.

“Whatever happiness is in the world has arisen from a wish for the welfare of others; whatever misery there is has arisen from indulging selfishness.” Buddhist Proverb

I had not thought of happiness previously as simply as this idea. Happiness is oriented around others, and therefore unhappiness is more self-oriented. Lately, in a series of commercials, the ad focuses on cows in various situations of being happy, as the ads portray; happy cows make California cheese or some such thing. One commercial is a cow as she escapes from Wisconsin, and the other cows are watching, and one asks the other how long she has been gone, and it has been several days, and the cow is only a few feet past the fence. Maybe happy cows can’t make Limburger cheese?

“True happiness arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of oneself, and in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.” Joseph Addison

“Happiness is some sort of action.” Aristotle

Happiness seems different for different people; for some, it is in doing for others; for others, it is friendship. As I read this morning, I agree with Aristotle it is a word of action.

“The really happy man never laughs — seldom — though he may smile. He does not need to laugh, for laughter, like weeping is a relief of mental tension — and the happy are not over strung.” Prof. F. A. P. Aveling

“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” Mildred Barthel

As I think of students, and occasionally some shift from happy to sad, I try to ask them if everything is ok. I can think of one student, I don’t even know her name, who always looks unhappy, never a smile and often alone, and perhaps it is in the aloneness is the unhappiness. When I am out in large shopping venues, which I try and avoid, a mall or such many times, I will observe people while my wife does whatever women do at malls. That isn’t a sexist statement, but I am still figuring out what malls are for other than observation projects for doctoral dissertations. I know there are various stores with goods that run the gambit of humankind; perhaps it is a social gathering place to meet other people.

“When one is happy, there is no time to be fatigued; being happy engrosses the whole attention.” Edward Frederic Benson

“The world’s literature and folklore are full of stories that point out how futile it can be to seek happiness. Rather, happiness is a blessing that comes to you as you go along, a treasure that you incidentally find.” Louis Binstock

It is difficult to explain a way of seeking happiness. Perhaps we cannot indeed seek happiness. I recall several months back, even in today’s modern age, a rainbow was blazing in the sky, and people were parked as close to the end as possible, looking for the end and who knows a pot of gold. Thinking about happiness, I ponder what makes me happy. It could be as simple as laughing with students and fellow teachers in the hallway. Years ago, my Para pro and I would stand at my door deliberately talking to students back in the day. Often, we would try and single out students who are quiet and often alone. We might ask if they were lost or looking for a room one day. We are not good ones at directions. We have been known to give wrong directions around school, but we try and laugh with students. We would try and make the passing by our door more than just like everyone else’s. We would ask about their weekend or who won last night’s softball or basketball game. We are actively involved, and you know what, unintentionally, we come back in after the bell, and we are happy, usually laughing pretty good, at least smiling ourselves. Sometimes I forget to be that special teacher, and it takes reminding. Teachers can be sad at times too.

“It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first. The very first condition of lasting happiness is that a life should be full of purpose, aiming at something outside self.” Hugo Black

“The truth is that we all attain the greatest success and happiness possible in this life whenever we use our native capacities to their greatest extent.” Smiley Blanton

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world. It is having; someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Allan K. Chalmers

If all were so simple, and maybe life is this simple, and as we move through what we do and what we hope for, we seem to grow proportionately. Our needs and wants tend to fluctuate around being wanted and our understanding of that. What it would take for me to be happy and content today may be different than forty years ago and forty years from now, more different if I am still around.

“Happiness comes more from loving than being loved, and often when our affection seems wounded, it is only our vanity bleeding. To love, be hurt often, and love again — this is the brave and happy life.” J. E. Buckrose

“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.” Albert Camus

I remember years ago watching the infectious smiles and happiness in a small church in Macon, Georgia, The Church of The exceptional. The church was founded in 1971. The idea was a place where mentally and physically impaired children and adults could worship together. Many times parents would leave children at home and or not go to church. I recall one fellow, Mike Porch, who would greet everyone as they came in the door. He had a smile ear to ear and would shake your hand like there was no tomorrow and welcome you to his church. Mike had never been to public school; he had Downs Syndrome, which in 1971 meant you would never do well in school. Amazing how a change in the law provided education for all students only a few years later, in 1974. He was at that time a student and employee of The Macon Association for Retarded Citizens workshop. Mike has passed away since that day, but that smile and joy were infectious, and many of the people were cheered up by Mike as he greeted people joining him for church services.

“Did you ever see an unhappy horse? Did you ever see a bird that had the blues? One reason why birds and horses are not unhappy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses.” Dale Carnegie

“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” Hugh Downs

I thought I was a creature of routine; it is hard to get sorted out and back on track after having my son’s dog for a long weekend. My son has been in crazy testing mode at school, so we kept the dog for an extra day. I am still getting sorted out from being retired, even though it has been nearly two years. What is funny our dog is out of sync too. A shift n who took him out and a late morning Sunday and he is off a bit as to what he is supposed to do go out stay in. Mine, however, is not as routine as I was missing contact with students and people. Interacting is where ideas and thinking permeate. When someone thinks differently, pulling away is not the answer; it immerses in and offers the differences. Who knows what doors may open or windows close?

“There are two ways of being happy: We must either diminish our wants or augment our means — either may do — the result is the same, and it is for each man to decide for himself and do that which happens to be easier.” Benjamin Franklin

As I close for the day, leave it to Ben Franklin to have the solution for today, and 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)

Innocence is more than a definition.

Bird Droppings May 18, 2022

Innocence is more than a definition.

“Look at children. Of course, they may quarrel, but generally speaking, they do not harbor ill feelings as much or as long as adults do. Most adults have the advantage of education over children, but what is the use of an education if they show a big smile while hiding negative feelings deep inside? Children don’t usually act in such a manner. If they feel angry with someone, they express it, and then it is finished. They can still play with that person the following day.” the Dalai Lama, “Imagine All the People.”

It has been quite a few nights since my wife, and I had a chance to go out together. I was thinking back to one evening as we sat down at our booth at a country restaurant, an elderly couple (older than me) carefully made their way to the adjacent booth. Both the husband and wife helped each other move ever so slowly. After his wife had seated herself, the husband fixed a plate at the buffet for her. When he returned to the table, my wife glanced over, and the woman was smiling as her husband came back to their table. My wife said, “she looked like a child” the child in her was coming out as she smiled.

 Many years ago, for a class in graduate human development, I developed a chart on the development of faith and trust. I had been reading a book by Dr. James Fowler, professor, and Director of Emory Candler School of Theology’s Ethics Center, on the development of faith. It was interesting as I read and saw correlations of various concepts to other educational developmentalists such as Piaget, Erickson, and even Freud.

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” John Ruskin

 When I read the passage from the Dalai Lama, I was reminded of a stage I wrote about in my subsequent paper after researching and reading Fowler’s book, the idea of learned trust. When they are born, children inherently trust, and, in my paper, this is what I call Universal trust. A baby instinctively trusts as it survives by instinct and, in effect, a trusting behavior, sucking reflexes only require milk to satisfy. A bitter taste, and the baby would soon withdraw. The baby would learn not to suck.

A simple example is that as the child grows becomes more complex. Each new facet of life requires new information and understanding, and soon a child learns to trust. We go from an instinctual universal trust to a learned trust.

“Who would not rather trust and be deceived?” Eliza Cook

 A few Sunday nights back, going on seventeen years now, I delivered my youngest son to a local restaurant where the Early Learners had their Christmas banquet. Our high school has a group of fifteen or so Four-year-olds under the supervision of a lead teacher involved in teaching Early Childhood Education. This is a technical class in our school, an experimental school, and in some ways, a teaching school for high school students. Many of the little learners are children of teachers within our high school.

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” Frank Crane

 My son had been Santa Claus for two years for the little learners. Matt inherited my father’s Santa suit. For as long as I can remember, my father had been Santa for our family. I recall a night in Modena, Pa., Santa came through the fire escape window when I was four years old. This image is still vivid in my mind, and many things are not as I get older. I check my driver’s license for name and address periodically. For one reason or another, Matt had to wait, which meant sitting in the restaurant’s waiting area. Little children came through, some would hide behind their parents, and others would go up and sit beside him or ask him questions. Each child was unique.

“No, I don’t understand my husband’s theory of relativity, but I know my husband, and I know he can be trusted.” Elsa Einstein

“Trust men, and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When Matt finally went into the Christmas party, each child came up to him, and I would take a photo. There was no questioning who this was, and it was Santa. After all the little learners came up, the teenagers and high school girls sat on Matt’s lap. Now I know why Matt did this each year. But within the context of these moments, trust was adamant. Children have learned to believe in or not Santa Claus; that is not an instinctual event.

“Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love — and to put its trust in life.” Joseph Conrad

So often, we take the innocence of children and convert it to the learned ways of adulthood; greed, envy, and all the other influences of humanity are learned. But I have found in life’s journey that trust does begin to filter back as time and age goes on. Thinking back to dinner with my wife and how she noticed the older woman’s smile, sometimes it is the glint in an eye or a smile from an elderly person that shows the inner child is still there. Perhaps that untouched innocence and universal trust have returned, or maybe like me, you forget everything you have learned not to trust. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and give thanks namaste.

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


Is curriculum sacred?

Bird Droppings May 16, 2022
Is curriculum sacred?

My wife and I are talking about taking a few days’ hiatus to head to the South Carolina coast with no schedule and little baggage. Just a spur-of-the-moment trip. I was thinking back to our last crazy trip, which included a nursery or two, tourist traps, museums, and good food. As I sit here thinking so often, even a minuscule idea will trigger with me a significant memory.

We have a standing joke about the rabbits around our yard at our house. My wife continually mentions the book Watership Downs when addressing the bold creatures. A few days ago, I was heading to the front door when a young rabbit was standing at the door. The rabbit had no sales flyers or sample cases, so I am sure it was not a traveling sales bunny. But as I pondered, and I did get photos of our door tapping rabbit, I thought back to one of my earlier undergraduate experiences. I had a professor in 1969 at Eastern College in St. David’s, Pennsylvania, Dr. Tony Campolo; he was, and last I checked, still a professor of sociology. He has made more of an impact on me in the years since I sat in his class, and it was not because he was not a great professor, for he was, but it has been in reading and pondering his books since.

“While the would-be spiritual oracles fail to understand about our ‘advanced’ capitalist social system is that the means have been devised to make spiritual realities somewhat unreal to us. More accurately, ways have been found in our consumer-oriented society to reduce spiritual hungers to emotions that can be gratified by purchasing the things being sold to us through the mass media.” Dr. Tony Campolo

It is not just church-related spiritual realities Dr. Campolo is talking about here, and it is the just of who we are that inner being getting to know where we are in the world and why. Dr. Campolo was a theologian first and often would use Greek as he taught periodically to make a point.

“Koinonia (fellowship) supposedly can be generated simply by drinking the right beer,” Dr. Tony Campolo

As I have been reading in some curriculum texts, it is an interdisciplinary event and an all-encompassing lived in totality undertaking? The curriculum is not just the linear understanding of a schoolroom and class XYZ. Seeing curriculum as the tracks that my life’s train is riding on is perhaps a metaphorical stretch at best, yet it is so in the true sense of understanding.

“It is through a concern with problems as they are relating to mankind at large that it may be possible to create the type of understanding that will enable man to use with wisdom those tools which have made this century the most promising and the most perilous he has ever known.” Elliot Eisner

For many years, I have embraced a different sort of understanding of the world within myself. In Native American culture, all is sacred, every leaf, twig, rock, animal, and human being.

“It was a quote from Krishnamurti that said – he was talking about education being the understanding of the self, and he said, ‘For it is each of us the whole of existence is gathered.’” K. Kesson

Spirituality is simply walking out the door to a brilliant sunrise or full moon as it inspires and fulfills that within me. I similarly see curriculum as one of the sacredness of spiritual and fulfillment more so than a curriculum map on a wall next to the day’s essential question. As I read curriculum theorists, this group brings back the sacredness of learning of understanding and perhaps returning to a culture lost while being found.

“The Community of truth, the grace of things, the transcendent subject, the “secret” that “sits in the middle and knows” – these images emerge, for me, from my experience of reality as sacred and of the sacred as real. Others may arrive at similar understandings from different starting points. But I believe that knowing, teaching, and learning are grounded in sacred soil and that renewing my vocation as a teacher requires cultivating a sense of the sacred.” “I think the problem we are up against is that we are crippled in this modernist culture in speaking about this dimension, and the people that have experienced it throughout history – the mystics, the sages – it seems to me they do come back and report it as a deeply meaningful and moral realm.” Ron Miller

I was first introduced to Black Elk by a Creek friend whose grandfather was also a holy man. He said I should read the book and get a feeling for what spirituality is about. As I read, I also found this is what learning is about.

“You have noticed that everything, as Indian does, is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves” Black Elk

This is the outlook of Black Elk, Oglala Sioux holy man, in his discussions and narrative of his visions as a child and as an elder in the tribe with John Neihardt in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This view Native Americans have of life we civilized folk have a difficult time with. Black Elk perceived that there was an all-encompassing view of all that is. In my naive beginning study of curriculum theory, I see aspects of this philosophy in curriculum theory and my analogy of a track on a circular journey in life of education and learning.

“One of the paradoxes of our times is that in an age pervaded by the clash of conflicting ideologies, so little effort is spent in enabling students to critically examine their values and beliefs.” Elliot Eisner

We tend to lose individualism in trying to accomplish everything and standardize and sanitize and provide “curriculum” to our schools. I became a big fan of Elliot Eisner while studying at Georgia Southern University, borrowing from Eisner again.

“As David Hume suggested, one cannot logically proceed from a description of what is to a conception of what ought to be.” “If the concept of mankind were used as an organizing element in the curriculum, certain differences in school programs might emerge.” Elliot Eisner

The curriculum is a living thing, ongoing and pervasive, and it is not a limiting plan of strategies as so many teachers presume. I think I have been pondering too long today, and who knows, maybe there are answers after 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)

In the pursuit of excellence

Bird Droppings May 13, 2022
In the pursuit of excellence

I was listening to crickets and tree frogs as morning sounds surrounded me with the rustling of leaves in the steady breeze as I sojourned out in the wee hours with a cup of tea. It is a great day to walk this reality and say thank you. A few days ago, I was wondering about my mortality.

“We are surrounded by actors who cannot act…singers who cannot sing…teachers who cannot teach…writers who cannot write…speakers who cannot speak…painters who cannot paint…and we pay them fortunes for their mediocrity.” Ernest Hemmingway

As I read through the news earlier, I was looking for a starting point today. Several emails had me wondering why we do what we do and how we do it. Seldom do I question my teaching capabilities, but as I read an email I received last night with suggestions, it makes me think, and sometimes as I ponder why I teach the kids, I do reasons elude me. I happened on a Labor Day talk by William Edelen entitled “In praise of excellence.” Contained within Edelen’s essay was the following excerpt.

“Observe, I suggest no sense of service. More hypocrisy is poured out to youthful ears in the name of serving mankind than would fill a library of books. I can remember the droning on that score that I had to listen to, that I should become a drudge in some distasteful pursuit to assist a mankind not visibly affected by similar endeavors. If it be selfishness to work on a job one likes, and live as one wants, because one likes it and for no other end, let us accept the podium. I had rather live forever in a company of Don Quixote’s than among a set of the walking dead professing to be solely moved to the betterment of one another. Let us then do our jobs for ourselves, and we are in no danger of deserving society. Though six associations, groups, companies, combinations of societies for the improvement of mankind, with their combined boards of directors, secretaries, stenographers, and field agents, were to be put into some scale against six honest carpenters who liked their job and did their work with excellence, they would kick the beam as high as Euripides. The six honest, excellent carpenters may serve as a beacon for all time, and men will love them, but be that as it may, six honest carpenters who do their job with excellence because they like it and for no other reason will save themselves. That is quite enough to ask….” Judge Learned Hand

I sat thinking about excellence in whatever it is we do. Judge Hand used the illustration of carpenters as he explained excellence. In doing your job with excellence as the goal, imagine what a world we would have. I have been reading and sharing a book by Charlotte Danielson on evaluating teachers; she points toward developing excellent teachers and distinguished teachers in her book. In their Specialist program, Piedmont College used a rubric for evaluating candidates based on Danielson’s ideas and has named it using the acronym STAR. When I was teaching in the early 70s, I felt a need to have an evaluation tool that could pinpoint quality teachers and help establish teaching excellence.

In carpentry, we can see excellence as the pieces come into place within the fit and finish of the built item. The product can be seen, touched, or heard in many areas and quickly evaluated as excellence. In teaching, it becomes more difficult. How do we evaluate the student’s end product in ten years or twenty to see how effective a teacher was.

“If we lose the sense of excellence in our daily labor, we will become weak as a people and as a nation. If we lose our respect and admiration for craftsmanship, our vigor as a people will decline.” William Edelen

“Those who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability or to misfortune rather than to insufficient application. Thus…talent is a species of vigor.” Eric Hoffer

Each day I hear the words I am passing. That is enough. Trying to instill in students who have known nothing but failure in their lives and defeat can be difficult. As I was writing this morning, my dog wanted another outside break, and I walked out into the near darkness of the early morning with some slight cloud cover. It is easy to feel the start of the storm around the corner. There is a slight chill in the air and a breeze, but still warm enough for the crickets. It would be silent save for the drone of crickets even in their monotonous chirp, a harmony.

“People do not stumble into excellence. It requires application and tenacity of purpose.” William Edelen

As I ponder, tens of thousands of crickets are chirping, yet it sounds as if only one is sounding off; it is so easy to get lost in the midst of s cricket chorus. We do this every day as we go to work; we get lost in the cricket chorus, the constant chirping of the same note, the same beat, and soon those around pick up, and soon everyone is in tune, and all is well but no excellence.

“Our schools are crying for uncommon teachers who are excellent, outstanding, and distinguished.” William Edelen

It is difficult to sound and act differently in a world of constantly chirping crickets, to perhaps change the note or pitch and try and get more done or get it done better. It seems that the status quo is not enough for some people. I went to school one morning. As I did, another teacher was sitting, putting in grades. This teacher was sent a message about parents complaining about their teaching style. One note and a teacher is upset. Here I am pondering not a complaint or a suggestion and only because that suggestion had been made and completed but not advertised without fanfare. It was just part of the normal daily activity. I thought back to my friend who was writing notes and questioning the style of teaching that had been done and at what point we ever grade the desire of students and the political repercussions people viewing from without.

“The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together.” “In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

I have used the term osmosis to describe the teaching relationship. Perhaps I should add to that excellence in osmosis. Regardless of the field, we need to strive for more than just passing; we need to push for excellence in parenting, friendship, and all of our endeavors. We as teachers have a tiny window, for me, a hundred or so minute window to impact a student, and if every teacher that student has are equally as impacting, about a seven to eight-hour window each day. But when evaluating and judging excellence that student has a sixteen-hour window or more like a garage door to unravel and disperse any impact received during school. It could easily be parents who are angry, upset, out of work, sick physically or mentally, friends who put peer pressure on them, jobs, athletics, relationships, and the list could go on and on. It has been many years since I jokingly referred to this as a sixteen-hour syndrome and wondered if we could develop a vaccine. 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)

Trying to find a way back to normal, or is it abnormal: Is your child a hippy?

Bird Droppings May 12, 2022

Trying to find a way back to normal, or is it abnormal: Is your child a hippy?

“Your son or daughter may be flashing warning signals that he or she will soon drop out of society and join the “hippie” movement. If you know what to look for, you may be able to prevent it.” Jacqueline Himmelstein, How To Tell If Your Child Is a Potential Hippie and What You Can Do About It, 1970 PTA Parent Education Pamphlet

I noticed a note on Facebook on a rather interesting site, Word of Mouth Critical Pedagogy, that I am a member of and post to.  It caught my attention being a post for parents to catch warning signs of their children becoming hippies, which I have often called. I recall a homecoming dress-up day not too far back, it was decade day for homecoming week, and I pulled out a tie-dyed shirt. As I read through, I found it most interesting, and having been involved to a degree in that era of change, seeing the reminders from back in the day struck a chord. The first sign is “a sudden interest in a cult, rather than an accepted religion.” I found this intriguing as many of our large churches are cult followings and are now considered the mainstream. The second followed the first with “the inability to sustain a personal love relationship drawn more to group experiences. I see being part of a group now as more significant than individuality for so many people in so many instances. One of my favorite musical artists is Neil Young, and falling right into that period of time seems about right.

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer, I hear the drumming Four dead in Ohio. Gotta get down to it; soldiers are cutting us down should have been done long ago. What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? How can you run when you know?” Neil Young

Perhaps it was just a wandering thought. It had been a few days since we had a school shooting, granted most schools had been closed or on virtual for nearly two years. Sadly as soon as they were back in full swing, shootings started again. It has been about twelve years since the shooting in Arizona of a congresswoman. But while I was sitting thinking and pondering now a few days back one afternoon listening to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, the song Ohio played stuck with me. It has been a busy week as I had a job interview and PT twice and made significant headway on my dissertation editing. My oldest is teaching at my old high school, and they are testing for most of the next two weeks; he has finished AP testing for this year. I am trying to find my way back to normal, and it is taking a few days or more to do it.  I miss and want to hold my grandbabies, and then I remember they are not here and not traveling. I am amazed at how quickly we change our lifestyle and focus as grandparents and in retirement. Back to my original thought, I was listening to “Ohio” by Neil Young, and the song stuck with me as I pondered how you ever get to normal after an event like that. One of the shooting victims from the Arizona shooting was at Kent State nearly fifty-two years ago and lost a friend. I went looking for a few notes on the song and borrowed from Wikipedia the following:

“‘ Ohio’ is a protest song written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’ ‘Find the Cost of Freedom,’ peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although a live version of the song was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation album Decade, released in 1977. It also appears on Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.” Wikipedia

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things: for the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order and only lukewarm defenders from all those who would profit by the new order.  This lukewarmness arises partly from the fear of their adversaries who have the law in their favor and partly from the incredulity of mankind who do not just believe in anything new until they have actual experience of it.” Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)

My mother sent this Machiavelli quote to me, and back in the day and today so many similarities in our public awareness on both sides of the fence. I skip back to this past holiday season, and for us former and current teachers in our county, an extended break with a shortened calendar year and longer days to save money and then an extra week due to ice and snow. I find I am seriously a creature of habit, and being out of routine for so long, it is tough to get back to normal. As I look at the national scene in politics and legislation, I often wonder if we ever will do things for the country’s people and no longer for sponsors of politicians. On a passing thought, maybe, politicians should be required to wear stickers like NASCAR of sponsors.

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

It has been some time since I came back to Thoreau. I recall reading about him and Walden back in high school, but it was just an assignment. I, was a student, was living this quote. I was going through the motions of being a student but never quite understood what I was doing there or why. It clicked somewhere in Macon, Georgia, at Mercer, and I became a student and found that being a student and learning were two completely different things. This is like realizing how engrained our routines are in our daily lives. I come into school, clean my room each morning, get ready for the day, sit and write, read a bit, feed my various room critters, and get ready for students. I had more to do since my classes changed almost daily this past week, students in and out, so my writing time was affected in the morning, and now, not having all day to run errands, it is confined to a narrow window in the afternoon and then home to cook dinner and rest for another day.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. “Henry David Thoreau

I took a picture on January 4 of this year at sunrise and posted it on Facebook like I post many images. I previously had used this Thoreau quote on my “Wall of Fame” at school, and in looking through my images, this sunrise was so intense it just seemed right, and it became a cover for my Facebook page. As I read over this quote from Thoreau, it started to sink in. I need to think over and over those deep thoughts that I want to attain and accomplish and, rather than procrastinate, go about following my pathway to completion. So, I am slowly getting back to normal and just emailed a friend. After a long break, it takes four or five days to get back in the groove. As a nation, state, county, school, and family, we have so many things ahead of us we need to begin working through and around and over so we can get back to normal. Then, of course, I don’t think normal is where I probably ever will be, according to many. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


How do we make learning successful?

Bird Droppings May 11, 2022

How do we make learning successful?

As I do on many mornings, I walk out to a quiet corner of my backyard when I get the time. Nestled in a patch of weeds and brush, I laid claim to my quiet spot and looked toward the morning east. It was still dark when I headed out this morning to glimpse the sunrise or the threads of life, as I call them, glistening in the early morning light. These are strands of spider webbing that are still hanging, connecting everything. The scientist part of me knows that they are simply webs from wandering spiders the previous night out hunting, but the mystic sees the connections. I do see the interconnections, but many do not.

As I see my grandchildren and interact, I become deeply concerned with their education in public school, and I am concerned about learning even more than education. That is a strange statement to make coming from a teacher by trade. We have institutions established called schools where learning is supposed to occur. Sadly, various interfering elements within state and federal politics contradict and destroy the ability to provide learning experiences for children. Yesterday, several editorial cartoons were sent through the internet showing a group of students connected with wires from their heads staring ahead and trying to climb out a window to escape nature. The just of the image was that education reform wants us all to be education zombies all learning the same thing simultaneously. If we cannot reverse the decline in learning, our children will be simply pawns of whoever is or whatever is in power. I have raised a simple question for nearly twenty years. I can, through “DATA,” show a direct correlation between the standardized biology and literature tests in Georgia and reading levels.

A co-teacher used terms and numbers that I questioned and said these are the numbers the state uses to evaluate schools. It was 80% and above. Of all the scores I checked, 100% of students with 80% or higher in the biology 2019 EOC test read on grade level or very close. I randomly checked to find where the magic cut-off was for failing and found that a Lexile score of less than 950 had 94% of students. We were asked to find ways of teaching biology differently. I raise the question, how do we teach kids to read in high school? Different teachers’ same results. Read on grade level pass, below, and fail.

“The first object of any act of learning, over and beyond the pleasure it may give, is that it should serve us in the future. Learning should not only take us somewhere; it should allow us later to go further more easily.” Ted Sizer

I received an email yesterday or responded to a Facebook post I shared with a friend. The video clip I shared many months back was directed at the Teach to the Test mentality that is the driving force in education due to state and federal law-mandated high stakes testing. A recent college graduate, a young man, stated he could not get a job because his teaching method was more hands-on than what administrators were looking for. Daily I see my son’s frustration; he was trained to teach experientially and is now limited by the curriculum map today. I have co-taught with a teacher in physics who likes to provide context to the learning. To study the concepts of velocity and acceleration, we did a slip and slide lab to take data to calculate acceleration and velocity. It was interesting to see physics come alive for those kids and still comply with the curriculum requirements. If I were wagering, I would say we did.

“A vision without a task is a dream – a task without a vision is drudgery- but a task with vision can change the world.” Black Elk

“Too much emphasis has been placed on reforming schools from the outside through policies and mandates. Too little has been paid to how schools can be shaped from within.” Roland Barth

Just a few days ago, I addressed that we are educating more diversified students in the United States than anywhere in the world. I borrowed from Black Elk, a Lakota Sioux Holy Man who passed away nearly sixty years ago. Black Elk believed in the power of visions. Roland Barth was a professor at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. His book Improving Schools from Within was a best seller in 1991. His latest book, Learning by heart, addresses the need for school reform and changes and that they need to come from changing the culture of schools. As I read both pieces and thought of a Sioux holy man talking about making a vision real and a renowned educator saying we need to look within to elicit change, maybe we should be listening to them and not politicians.

“Rarely do outside of school remedies work their way into the fabric of the schools or into the teacher’s lives, and more rarely into the classrooms. Therefore, they only offer a modest hope of influencing the basic culture of the school.” Roland Barth

“Community building must become the heart of any school improvement effort.” Thomas Sergiovanni

“The best we educational planners can do is create the conditions for teachers and students to flourish and get out of their way.” Theodore Sizer

As I ponder the various authors I am reviewing and borrowing from today, Barth, Sergiovanni, and Sizer, in the quotes above, I find continuity. These men are all innovators and have made significant and influential suggestions about education. Many school systems use learning communities that Sergiovanni promotes in his writing. I know that Roland Barth’s ideas are taught and re-taught in graduate schools nationwide, and teachers seldom leave college without hearing the name of Ted Sizer. What concerns me is why it has the potential to change education; we seem to be in a rut and going nowhere different. Why do we continue to know what to do to educate kids better and not do it? I wish an answer were simple to place in writing, but I see blame as being in schools’ leadership. I see blame in school boards, state education boards, and eventually at a federal level. As the ideology leaves the classroom, it goes from being real and meaningful to being business, and is it cost-effective? Can we afford this? Should we spend dollars on this? Somewhere children get left out, and learning gets sat by the roadside.

“To cope with a changing world, ant entity must develop the capacity of shifting and changing – of developing new skills and attitudes; in short, the capability of learning.” A. DeGues, The Living Company

“The challenge of discovery lies not seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

“You cannot have a learning organization without a shared vision…A shared vision provides a compass to keep learning when stress develops. The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gaps, there would be no need to move toward the vision. We call this gap creative tension.” Peter Senge

Dr. Peter Senge is a professor at MIT and a renowned scholar in learning. His books and theories are used in management schools and education studies. The idea of a collaborative effort in learning falls back into many ideas that have been mentioned in previous droppings dealing with Foxfire and John Dewey and the democratic classroom. Students learn more when relevant to them, and they have some buy-in. Proust provides that we need a new perception rather than using the same old mythology to view education and learning. We have to develop new skills, not just use what is available. Although John Dewey’s ideas are still considered progressive at over a hundred years old always strike me as interesting.

“We learn best from our experience, but we never directly experience the consequences of many of our most important decisions. In the absence of a great dream, pettiness prevails. Shred visions foster risk-taking, courage, and innovation. Keeping the end in mind creates the confidence to make decisions even in moments of crisis.” Peter Senge

“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. It comes from non-conformity, the ability to turn your back on old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesteryear for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.”  Thomas Sankara, African leader

“Schools are among the very few institutions that have remained almost entirely unchanged for most of this century.” Judith Aitken

“No other organization institution faces challenges as radical as those that will transform the school.”  Peter Drucker

“Today’s Schools are not Tomorrow’s Schools. That’s a fundamental misconception.” David Lange

Authors, speakers, management consultants, professors, educational leaders, and great teachers in their own right have been outspoken for years about our schools and learning. Why do we let politicians decide what our students should be learning or evaluate these students? Why do we put arbitrary numbers on children with disabilities who can and can not be exempt from state-mandated tests? One IQ point separates two students, one who, because they cannot pass the High School graduation tests is and receives a special education certificate of attendance and is counted as a dropout because they did not graduate, and the other by submitting a portfolio of what learning occurred in high school graduates with a legitimate high school diploma and is a graduate. One IQ point separates the two and how they are assessed.

“The overwhelming number of teachers …are unable to name or describe a theory of learning that underlies what they do.” Alfie Kohn

“It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather… I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” Haim Ginott

“In teaching students to think, the emphasis is not on how many answers they know. Rather, the focus is on how well they behave when they don’t know.” Art Costa

I recall reading Alfie Kohn for the first time in 2001 at the suggestion of my principal, who had formed a book club. The title of the book is The Schools our Children Deserve. As I read through these authors and quotes last night as I researched my morning wanderings, I wonder, can we ever really change the industrial complex that drives education? Can we unseat lobbyists and politicians who seek profits at the cost of our children’s learning? I wonder as I finish up today if we can overcome.

“In the absence of a great dream, pettiness prevails. Shared visions foster risk-taking, courage, and innovation. Keeping the end in mind creates the confidence to make decisions even in moments of crisis.” Peter Senge

I started and ended with a vision. “A vision without a task is a dream – a task without a vision is drudgery- but a task with vision can change the world.” Black Elk The great spiritual leader Black Elk spoke of his visions, and Peter Senge offered a shared vision. I was once told it took leaders who had the vision to lead. I wonder if we can find those people who care enough about children and learn to pave the way to a new understanding and realization of our educational system. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


I am pondering and researching education while remembering a waterfall.

Bird Droppings May 10, 2022
I am pondering and researching education while remembering a waterfall.

It has been eleven years since I stayed at the Sylvan Mills Bed and Breakfast in a room literally over a waterfall. I went up to North Georgia to recharge; perhaps another word might be to rekindle my passion for education and learning. I have been participating in and attending Foxfire training programs for nearly fifteen years. I started writing before daybreak, listening to nature’s sounds. Today the whippoorwill chorus was surrounding me. It was quite an experience staying in a room overlooking a waterfall. At night, with my windows open wide, I took in the sounds that produced some of my best night’s sleep.

However, trying to write in the lulling sound of water running was difficult, and I would doze off. With the sun up, I would move my computer to the porch overlooking the falls, fully intent on pulling out my Bose earphones and listening to Crosby Still Nash and Young. The sounds and energy of the water mesmerized me, and I walked about the area just before dark, taking pictures. I have attempted to recreate my nights at Sylvan Mills several times, but they are always booked.

 I have been pondering the John Dewey and Foxfire program and the implications in a teacher’s classroom. I am behind in my reading now, so I will try and get some additional reading and writing done this weekend. With the bulk of education in the early 1900s following the Industrial Revolution and mass production closely, a few great thinkers took the concept of the individual child in psychology and education in new directions as to its relationship to children. How children were viewed became the basis for several educators to develop their theories and ideas. Child psychology and child-centered educational ideas flowed from these thinkers. John Dewey reminded us that the goal of education is more education. To be well educated then is to have the desire and the means to make sure the learning never ends.

 Alfie Kohn, educator and author, refers to Dewey and his idea of providing for a lifetime of learning. In his book, What does it mean to be well educated? Kohn points out, “many classroom teachers asked to specify their long-term goals for students, instantly responded with the phrase life-long learners.” Dewey was not alone in his thinking which was in direct contrast to the traditional educational practices of his day. Dewey was frustrated with the rationale of educators when he wrote

“Why is it, in spite of the fact that teaching by pouring in, learning by a passive absorption, are universally condemned, that they are still so in trenched in practice. That education is not an affair of “telling” and being told, but an active and constructive process.” John Dewey

The traditional philosophy of education focused away from children and their interests and did not try to understand children, simply seeing them as miniature adults. Traditional education is about efficiency and production, which were carryovers from the Industrial revolution. It was time for serious educators to get away from the assembly line processes of traditional education. One of these new educators, a thinker, author, scholar, and advocate for children throughout his writing, Alfie Kohn, illustrates this point.

“Looking at the long-term impact of traditional teaching and the push for Tougher Standards, then we are finally left with Dewey’s timeless and troubling question: “What avail is it to win ability to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win ability to read and write if in the process the individual loses his own soul.” Alfie Kohn

In a burst of educational energy just before the turn of the century, numerous educators and scholars were developing ideas that often parallel John Dewey as they sought to develop a better way to teach children. In his book The Unschooled Mind, Howard Garner discusses some of the basic history of progressivism.

“Progressivism is most frequently and most appropriately associated with the name of John Dewey. In fact, however, the practices of progressive education had already begun to be implemented in the period before 1896…Leaders like Francis Parker, first superintendent of the Quincy Massachusetts Public Schools, later principal of the Cook County Normal School in Chicago, and finally a founding member of the Chicago Institute, which ultimately gave rise to Dewey’s educational facility at the University of Chicago.” Howard Garner

While Dewey was establishing himself in educational history in the United States across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe, Dr. Jean Piaget was developing child-centered education, leading Dewey and Vygotsky to the concept of constructivism. Piaget believed each aspect of child development followed clearly defined stages, and this did not change from child to child but could occur at differing speeds. Dewey saw the past experiences of children so often not even being recognized and yet at that point is the basis for their ability to learn.
Similarly, a medical doctor working with mentally disabled children in a residential setting in Europe looked at the child-centered aspect of education. She developed a methodology with a developmental learning process in mind. In her book The Advanced Montessori Method, Dr. Maria Montessori describes her philosophy and understanding of educating children.

“Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.” Dr. Maria Montessori

Another psychologist looking at children in a developmental approach was the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky whose work was not discovered by western educators till the later part of the twentieth century. Vygotsky also saw experience as a significant factor in children’s development. Retention of previous experiences facilitates adaptation to the world around them and can give rise to habits when those experiences are repeated. Vygotsky differed from Piaget in that he said learning could precede developmental stages. We can acquire the use of a given tool to attain a particular stage of development. Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development is “the distance between actual development determined through independent problem solving and the level of potential development through problem-solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.”

There are some similarities to Dewey with Vygotsky; much like Dewey, he also felt a significant element of group interaction needed for education to be meaningful. The ideal school for Dewey took the form of an “embryonic social community,” one in which students were encouraged to cooperate and work together and learn from each other and their teachers.

The originators of constructivism, Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Dewey, all started with psychology. The child is unique as they develop their interpretations and understandings of learning and education. Even today, the child is not the focus of education. One need only to leaf through the tables of contents in recent educational journals to discern that the individual child is not the focus of educational reform. Each of these great educators believed in doing as a way to learn, and as Ted Sizer points out, there is context. “What I have learned is context is everything…… The memorable learning was that you have to be very respectful and sensitive to the values, attitudes that youngsters bring into class, that their parents have, which the community has”. Montessori and Piaget leaned towards the developmental stages in child development. Dewey and Vygotsky, while accepting developmentally sound stages as accurate, felt the community, peer group, and teachers elevated learning past developmental points of reference. Maybe it is time to look back to Dewey.

“Curriculum has held our attention for generations because those who think seriously about education understand its inherent possibility. Maxine Greene’s call for a return to the search for John Dewey’s great community, her call to rise to the challenge of coming together without losing each person’s unique way of being in the world challenges our educational imagination.” Mary Aswell Doll

For Dewey, an educational experience had to be connected to students’ prior personal experience and a widening or deepening of future experience. Through reflection, Dewey saw the ability to go beyond where you were now. John Dewey reminded us that the value of what students do “resides in its connection with the stimulation of greater thoughtfulness, not in the greater strain it imposes.” The act of reflection is taking a given reference and moving ahead to a new possibility, and often it is the teacher who provides the window for reflection to occur.

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connectedness among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.” Parker Palmer

This reflective, imaginative undertaking of Dewey provided ideas and thoughts that led Elliot Eisner to Art Education. In his writings, Eisner looks to the arts as a basis for education, and his ideas and thoughts offer a new stream from Dewey. John Dewey once commented that the aesthetic stamp needed to be on any intellectual idea for that idea to be complete. It feels both imaginative and sensible that the so-called academic studies would foster if modeled after the arts. Dewey identified making things as one of four fundamental interests of children. Unhappily, because schools put so little value on making things, most of us grow up with contempt for work done with our hands. Eisner often drew from Dewey’s idea of needing context and relevance for learning to be genuine and lasting. Eisner places experience at the center of learning.

“It is through the content of our experiences that we can perform two very important cognitive operations: we are able to remember and we are able to imagine…. Imagination …works with the qualities we have experienced. What was not first in the hand cannot later be in the head.” Elliot Eisner

“One of the potential virtues of situated learning is that it increases the probability that students will be able to apply what they have learned. When the conditions of learning are remote from the situations or tasks in which what is learned can be applied, the likely hood of application or some would say transfer is diminished.” Elliot Eisner

The idea of imagination needing to have a basis in reality, in the context, is of significance. It is imagination that brings meaning, purpose, and application to what is learned.

“Imagination for Dewey explores alternative possibilities for action within a selected context of ongoing activity. Imagination enables the search for ideas that can reconstruct the situation. It takes the context and its data, including emotional sympathetic data, as intuited and determined by selective interests and transforms them into a plan of action, an idea that if acted upon might allow the agent to achieve the desired ideal in reality.” Jim Garrison

Elliot Eisner believes in diversity and that this is the key to education and learning and provides richness for our culture as well. Continuing in that same line of thought, Maxine Greene, educator, philosopher, and pioneer, sees reality, after all, as interpreted experience. Limiting learners to a single dominant mode of interpreting their experience may frustrate their individual pursuits of meaning and, consequently, their desires to come to know and learn.

Much of her work is based on the concept of caring. Nel Nodding defines education “as a constellation of planned and unplanned encounters that promote growth through the acquisition of knowledge, skills, understanding, and appreciation.” Eisner and Barone understand that the aesthetics of experiences build those in our minds and provide the means to imagine and be creative. The concept of Aesthetic Learning and Education is one of understanding, perception, and creativity. Eisner looks at teaching as artistry, and it is the ability to craft a performance and provide the students with the mediums and means to perceive and understand their world.

For John Dewey, aesthetic experiences are not confined to high art but arise from human organisms’ interaction with their surroundings. Thomas Barone points to Dewey being the primary thinker who envisioned art and aesthetics as having a central role in education and learning. As are many other progressive educators with the linear format of traditional education, Thomas Barone is concerned with the linear format.

“If students are not given access to metaphoric learning activities if the shape of their learning is always linear and closed, how will their capacity for creativity and invention be developed?” Thomas Barone

Perhaps in my research and reading, I am getting a bit over board with Dewey and education, but I see tie-ins to daily living, how we respond to others, and what the future holds for our grandchildren and us. If each of us took a bit more time to try and understand why so much of what is going on in society is going on, maybe we could finally realize much of this does not need to be happening. So again, after nearly thirteen years of daily writing, I ask, as I do every morning, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


Life and acceptance are often getting over fears.

Bird Droppings May 8, 2022
Life and acceptance are often getting over fears.

As I stepped outside into a beautiful morning, we were hoping for a bit of sunshine, but rain is in the forecast and the humidity is hanging in the air. The grass was like walking on a sponge soggy and wet but then again it could be from my wife’s pressure washing the porch and sidewalk. I was thinking back to one of my recent classes actually what should be the easiest class was the hardest to teach. Kids that could do but do not are much harder to work with than kids who have physiological or psychological problems. These kids choose to not learn and a group of them feeds off each other and then you have acceptance of that do-nothing norm. My premise is that this does nothing is based indirectly on fear. In education, it could have started as a fear of failure or lack of self-esteem but relegates itself to doing nothing rather than risk ridicule.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Carl Rogers

As my days go often in opening a book or researching a thought quote or statement I am curious about, I find ideas and inspiration that lead me further in my endeavors. It was two years ago about this time I was thinking about being retired and having just completed four surgeries and got a clean bill of health, I was getting ready to go back to teaching after a long break.  I missed the clamor of the hallways and interactions with students I got to thinking, I find I draw energy from the communications and feedback. I found a statement that for many reasons drew me to it. I found more as usual. I am working on an idea that deals with a student’s depression and so often getting that student to open up and talk about their issues aids in overcoming the withdrawal and educational barriers of depression.

Rogers’s statement is not a paradox as much as a truth. In 1967 Carl Rogers wrote, the interpersonal relationship in the facilitation of learning, in which he emphasized three factors. The first factor is realness in the facilitator of learning, the second prizing which is acceptance and trust, and the third is empathetic understanding. As I went through graduate school and came back to teaching I had been looking for explanations on how and why my teaching style worked. Amazingly I see this in Rodger’s three points. Yesterday I was discussing why some teachers are so much better than others and it was these three issues.

“When the facilitator is a real person, being what she is, entering into a relationship with the learner with out presenting a front or a façade, she is much more likely to be effective. This means that the feelings that she is experiencing are available to her, available to her awareness, that she is able to live these feelings, be them, and able to communicate if appropriate. It means coming into a direct personal encounter with the learner, meeting her on a person-to-person basis. It means that she is being herself, not denying herself.” Carl Rogers

Looking back nearly fifty years, pronouns for teachers were consistently she and her and I recall a dear professor at Eastern College telling me there should not be men in elementary or special education. As I look at Roger’s words teaching and education could be set aside and life reinserted. We should enter into all relationships without facades and utilize ourselves as human beings not trying to be someone we think we should be instead. Our best visual aid is ourselves and we are the example for life and others.

“There is another attitude that stands out in those who are successful in facilitating learning… I think of it as prizing the learner, prizing her feelings, her opinions, her person. It is a caring for the learner, but a non-possessive caring. It is an acceptance of this other individual as a separate person, having worth in her own right. It is a basic trust – a belief that this other person is somehow fundamentally trustworthy… What we are describing is a prizing of the learner as an imperfect human being with many feelings, and many potentials. The facilitator’s prizing or acceptance of the learner is an operational expression of her essential confidence and trust in the capacity of the human organism.” Carl Rogers

I have written about trust so many times, it is in accepting people and trusting people inherently that we find difficult. Almost twenty years back for my former professor in Human Development, Dr. Udhe at Piedmont College I did a paper on the development of Trust. I had researched the concept of faith and found faith and trust synonymous in definition and development. Dr. James Fowler a professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology wrote a book on the development of faith borrowing from educational developmentalism including Piaget and Erickson. As I read Dr. Fowler’s work and looked at others I found parallels in the development of trust and evolved over several months a chart.

Watching my grandkids as they grow up I am seeing this now as they are acquiring the ability to choose through their little responses to life. Only a few years ago they would cry when hungry or wet. Last weekend as I played with them I had been noticing how they will use words to describe and words to clarify what they wanted but still occasionally here and there and then little whimpers that escalate if they do not get their way. It may be they want to sit differently or want their momma, or a specific toy. They have learned this ability rather quickly. Last weekend on one occasion as one of them whimpered and turned towards her momma from my lap she pouted her lower lip and whimpered her mother said to come to momma and picked her up and she looked over her shoulder right at me and smiled her impish little smile. That is acquired learned behavior at its best.

The Bird development stages of trust
Stage 1 – Unconditional Trust – a baby’s view of trust as totally unconditional
Stage 2 – supportive Trust – a child begins to feel trust in the support of family and parents
Stage 3 – Learned Trust – venturing out the learn and acquire trust
Stage 4 – Experienced Trust – trying and experimenting they experience trust
Stage 5 – Questioned Trust – first love and friendship and questions arise
Stage 6 – Answered Trust – slowly we work through events and answer questions
Stage 7 – Universal Trust – As we mature we find trust is there
Stage 8 – Unconditional Trust – very few come back to unconditional trust

The graphic that I did is very colorful, and I have put into comparison other developmentalism in various fields including Kohlberg and Gillian. We do move through these stages as we go in life, some fixate at one point and never move past. But in Roger’s statement acceptance is paramount to trust. The third component of Rogers’s thoughts is empathy.

“A further element that establishes a climate for self-initiated experiential learning is emphatic understanding. When the teacher can understand the student’s reactions from the inside and has a sensitive awareness of the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, then again, the likelihood of significant learning is increased…. [Students feel deeply appreciative] when they are simply understood – not evaluated, not judged, and simply understood from their point of view, not the teacher’s.” Carl Rogers

Nearly ten years ago I ended a paper on my philosophy of teaching with the idea that empathy was a key element. There is an aspect to life that some people have and many do not. I have watched my wife with patients as a nurse practitioner understand where her patient is coming from and then able to better deal with that person’s illness. Years back reading a sales book by Harvey McKay I recall a secret of his. When walking into an office of a customer take notice of what is there and build a repertoire. Do you see University of Georgia signs, bulldogs, and or logos? Where did they graduate from college and high school? Building a relationship was McKay’s secret and then he made notes for the next meeting. As I am sitting here remembering from way back when I still keep notes on people. Today when I meet a new student or anyone I try and find a common ground to start with. I try not to prejudge and push aside but try and find where we are similar. Sometimes in life, this is hard but understanding goes far and empathy is also a powerful tool in life. As usual, looking for Harvey McKay’s book I found another aspect of Mr. McKay’s writing of his daily moral or quote so for today coincidently.

“Teachers strive not to teach youth to make a living, but to make a life.” Harvey McKay

Far too often we get caught in the trying to make a living and lose the three elements of Rogers thoughts and that applies across the board not just to teachers but to parents too and friends. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and as the great Sioux Chief and Medicine man Sitting Bull offered to always give thanks namaste.

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

Pondering early in the morning in my search for wisdom

Bird Droppings May 6, 2022
Pondering early in the morning in my search for wisdom

I started my day as I routinely a cup of green tea on my back porch, check bird feeders, fix breakfast, and today run to the corner and fill my wife’s car with fuel. I walked out checked the outside ambient temperature and air, cleaned up the kitchen proceeded to get a shower, and get ready for a day of shopping for my grandson’s birthday coming up. Last year around this time I was getting fatigued just going upstairs to my writing area or after a few minutes of work in the yard. Every few minutes of work outside and I have to rest. Pat wanted me to rule out heart issues since I had some blockage a few years back. After extensive testing of every organ in my body my heart rate has slowed down. My cardiologist recommended a pacemaker. Now I am enjoying my time and my heart rate is most of the time right at 60 beats per minute a far better time than last year when it would drop to 28.  

I have been sort of out of sync being retired from the school and not getting into a routine. I am seriously ready to get going on yard work, writing, and finishing up several pieces of my research since I have been lazy. I had planned on picking up a few plants to work on our carnivorous garden and it seems I will put it off till tomorrow. I sent out a few emails and did my postings on social media and almost time to head out.  

I forget not all people live by my sunrise to sunset standard. Later I will go by my favorite store, Kroger after we get home to pick up things for grilling for supper. Hopefully, between grandson shopping and Kroger, I can get serious about my paper today.  

On the front page of today’s paper, the lead story was how high school graduates are not ready for college, and right next to it was an article on an assistant principal who is still being investigated in a past Atlanta school system cheating scandal claiming she did not know they were cheating only cleaning up eraser marks so testing machines would not err. One comment was essentially in Georgia twenty-five percent of the graduates have to take remedial courses in college. As I thought about this pondering as I do I recalled I too took a remedial language art course my freshmen year in college. Took it twice since the first time I did not go to class very often. How valid is taking a remedial class in terms of success in school?

Why did I have to take a remedial college course and yet I was accepted into all three colleges I applied to. My SAT was a few points too low for the school I applied to on the verbal portion and yet today it would be more than enough to get into any college without remedial classes. As I think about my days in High School Literature except for maybe one or two years I hated it and could not understand why we needed to listen to a teacher’s opinion on why Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. As I think back I did not like Math classes, Spanish classes, and all but one science class. Considering we had math, literature, and science all four years of High School I did not like high school, and perhaps my GPA reflected this. Even though my SAT scores were what got me into college and conversely in a remedial class, my saving grace in education was standardized tests which I seemed to always do well on. My first set of SAT scores was in today’s terms over close to 1400 for verbal and Math which really would get me into most undergraduate schools shy of Ivy League today.

The second time I took SAT I decided I would see how fast I could take the test and in twenty-three minutes had completed the SAT and scored only a few points lower than my previous testing. So where am I wandering today? The conclusion that I came to after reflecting on my own High School experience and that many kids I talk to within High School today are that we are teaching subjects that many consider irrelevant to them, even kids going to college. Some students will strive and get high grades seemingly acquiring the content that is provided so they take End of Course Tests and do great. But as I look at High school subject matter and even the photo used in explaining how deficient students today are in Math I looked at the problem on the board behind the teacher being interviewed and in real life shy of being in physics or math as a job you will never see that material.

Real learning is what is missing from education today. It is about that desire to learn and making it relevant to students who more than likely do not even want to be in that class. So how do we get teachers on board that has been brought up in the same system? We have taken the passion out of learning. We have stripped learning of imagination and creativity.

“The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results; all his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge. The wise, ever satisfied, have abandoned all external supports. Their security is unaffected by the results of their action; even while acting, they really do nothing at all. Free from expectations and from all sense of possession, with mind and body firmly controlled by the Self, they do not incur sin by the performance of physical action.” Bhagavad Gita 4:19-21

I can easily substitute learning and wisdom as I read through this ancient passage from a Hindu holy text. It is a matter of who you are with and when and how you have been told is this learning? But as I read this passage that is many years old, a person is wise when what you do is done without anxiety about results. You are not concerned about your grade or what college or who has the highest GPA. We sadly live in a competitive world where being number one is even a marketing tool for advertisers. I often wonder if politicians get stressed out, other than around elections over what they do. I always thought of my grandmother as wise for her understanding of life. As a small child perhaps, I saw only that her knowledge was what she needed to know to raise her children justly and correctly and how to make really good Grandma Seitz chocolate chip cookies. As I grew up there was a different understanding on my part of her deep faith and wisdom maybe one day I can come close too?

“This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety…. It becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” The Dalai Lama

As a society, we seem to encourage anxiety and stress often at the expense of our children and grandchildren. Our previous elected government pushed to spread democracy through numerous wars and our current government has continued and added a war or two to the pot which has caused tension and insecurity in our children according to Progressive Curriculum Theorist Henry Giroux. Is it turning to a deeper meaning a spiritual center as “the only firm base” as The Dalai Lama states?

“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate well, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.” Alex Noble

How many of us take this approach to life I use often the term being a searcher in that I am always searching. When walking in the forest I have the urge to check under rocks could be the unrelenting herpetologist in me searching for a snake or lizard. As I sit or stand in the hallway at school observing, searching for faces, listening, empathizing, and trying to understand.

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed, there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of a trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significance in the factual is wisdom.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I used a statement several weeks back about seeing the bubble in a thousand clear oceans. Bonhoeffer addresses that same issue here. In education it is about context, not content, that is being able to apply what knowledge we have and that can be more significant than an encyclopedia of information.

“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” Helen Keller

Many times, I will sit and think about people I would like to meet. My biological grandfather on my mother’s side is one, Gandhi another, and Ralph Waldo Emerson but if I was allowed another it would be Helen Keller. Few people have overcome such insurmountable odds and then accomplish what she did. The title of the book about her life does not do justice to the real-life situation, The Miracle Worker.

“It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Henry David Thoreau

I need to be more cautious as I write, the other day Thoreau was searching for calm rather than calm, spell check does not read minds as of yet. But Thoreau eludes back to that thousand-plus-year-old statement from the Bhagavad Gita,” when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results”. Being wise is being in tune so to say with all around and to borrow another word perhaps harmony could be used.

“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” Immanuel Kant

In education, there are in The Common Core Standards points of reference in each subject to attain or to have knowledge of. We in Georgia had a system in place of Performance Standards and previously to that Quality Core Curriculum which was every aspect of what the educational committee thought was important in that subject. Teachers were teaching to QCC’s and it was almost purely content. There was excitement as new standards came out and the school administration’s “curriculum” people got hold of them and unpacked and now we have curriculum maps and curriculum pacing and what was to be wonderful has become a monster. The heart and soul have been stripped out and, in its place, organizational overload.

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” Lin Yutang

I have several times used my example of a liter bottle and having three gallons to put in it, how do we do it? A funnel still only fills to a liter and the rest spills out. I use this illustration in educating special needs kids and I believe it applies to all children and adults. It has been a few months since my last trip to Mountain City and the Foxfire property. I am heading up in a week or so. If you are in Mountain City Georgia take a look it is well worth the drive up the mountain. The museum will provide a guide to take you around. I recall the late Robert Murray and numerous walks with him around the property, here and there he would pick a plant leave or three or four telling about what they could do and what they can be used for.

As he would go building to building explaining mountain life he eventually gets to a shed with a large copper coil sort of device and asks “So what is it” and answers run the gambit? Finally laughing he explains it is a condenser for making moonshine. If you have watched the miniseries Hatfield and McCoy’s you will know. So how do we fill a liter bottle? We condense and we synthesize and much like making cane syrup we boil the cane juice down to get the good stuff. Wisdom is knowing what the good stuff is and being able to transcend the frills and extras.

“The perfection of wisdom and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.” Mark Twain

Make that number five on my list of people who I would like to meet somehow Mark Twain could always have the right words and thoughts. As I meander about today searching for books and ideas, tilling in my garden, and planting plants I will end with a line from a founding father and one maybe our current in power folks should read.

“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” Thomas Jefferson

I hope we will listen to Jefferson please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


We should many times question our questions?

Bird Droppings May 5, 2022
We should many times question our questions?

Yesterday I was sitting in my computer area after a week or two of articles and innuendos about who and why Georgia students in high school and middle schools across the state do so poorly on certain mandatory tests. These are Georgia’s version of course end tests in subject matter. Sadly, the state knew in some instances ahead the failure rate would be high and still administered the tests. I am always amazed by state educational systems and by individual teachers who teach to fail students. I just finished a discourse with a colleague about passing a fellow who had a 79 on his end of course test in Algebra and was failing the class due to homework not being turned in. When you look at his overall work he has an eighty six percent disregarding homework portion of grade based on his test scores and quizzes. For me that was a no brainer he mastered the material and do you cause trouble for next year’s teacher failing a kid who knows the material and also happens to be SEBD, severely emotionally and behaviorally disturbed and refuses to do homework and hates this particular teacher.

“To find the exact answer, one must first ask the exact question.” S. Tobin Webster

“Ask the large questions, but seek small answers, A flower, or the space between a branch and a rock these are enough” Kent Nerburn

I wrote an email to a friend only a few moments ago sitting here gloating at issues I should have and could have addressed before they were issues. Some days I am bad about letting the flow go and spill over as it may be. I read this line from a book I am reading and wonder now as to answers I was seeking, maybe too often we seek large answers from small questions or ask the wrong questions thinking we know the answer.

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” Anthony Robbins

Somewhere on my shelves in my office maybe in a drawer are a series of tapes from this guru of self-help, he occasionally has a good thought or two. Max Thompson of Learning Focus School fame uses the term an Essential Question. We need to ask an essential question and build from there as we develop our course or train of thought. Several weeks ago, I used some thoughts from Zen teachings over a thousand years ago and from Socrates who also taught by asking questions.

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Naguib Mahfouz

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” Anthony Jay

A wrong question, can that even be? Could a wrong question be asked?

“If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems.” Edward Hodnett

Over the years I have acquired many books dealing with the care of animals and have even participated in publishing several in days gone by when I was in that line of work. Years back we found a book for diagnosis of fish disease and problems. It was questions with various answers, such as if answer A go to page 3, or if B go to page 6, then on page 3, if A go to page 34, and on 34 if C this is the disease. In looking at questions and answering you literally could follow your way to a diagnosis. Essentially it was dichotomous key of fish disease. A good friend in Virginia literally borrowed the idea and wrote a sheep manual in a similar fashion that has become the Ovine diagnosis book of choice across the country. Actually, have my name in there somewhere as a resource and editor.

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” Decouvertes

I had to think as I read this if you know the answer why question. Is the paper white? I know it is but I am questioning and in questioning will show it to be white so in effect proving its whiteness or not. I learned it was white even knowing it was.

“He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked.” Voltaire

“To find the exact answer, one must first ask the exact question.” S. Tobin Webster

“For example, when you sail in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as you can see at that time. All things are like this.” Eihei Dogen, 1200-1253

Maybe we who ask the questions need to listen more carefully to the answers and in listening learn as well, a symbiosis of sorts. It is about another day beginning and another sunrise to see. In talking with a friend through messaging on the computer that is all she looks for and as she rises each morning and is thankful for another day. She is a survivor, having survived breast cancer and you know what, as simple as that sounds for some. For her in particular each moment is a miracle and after seeing her each morning smiling and thankful for another day my day goes so easy and I too am thankful. We are getting ready to share a Memorial Day weekend thinking of our fallen friends and family members. I ask with a sincere heart please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

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