About birddroppings

I am a College instructor part time, formerly retired Special Education high school teacher in Georgia now back in class room. I have been teaching most recently for twenty years. I have an extensive graphic arts background and industrial management training experience. My education includes undergraduate work in psychology, graduate degrees in behavior disorders, curriculum, education and theology.

How do we make learning successful?

Bird Droppings May 14, 2021

How do we make learning successful?

As I do on many mornings when I get the time I walked out to a quiet corner of my back yard. Nestled in a patch of weeds and brush I laid claim to my quiet spot and look toward the east in the morning. It was still dark when I headed out this morning to glimpse the sunrise or the threads of life as I call them glisten 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 in me sees the connections. I do see the interconnections but many do not.

As I see my grandchildren and interact, I become concerned deeply with their education in terms of public school. I am concerned about learning even more so than education. That is a strange statement to make coming from a teacher by trade. We have institutions established called schools where learning is supposedly to occur. Sadly, various interfering elements within state and federal politics contradict and totally destroy the ability to provide learning experiences for children. Yesterday several editorial cartoons were sent through the internet showing a group of students all connected with wires from their heads staring ahead and one trying to climb out a window to the escape outside to nature. The just of the image was education reform wants us all to be education zombies all learning the same thing at the same time. If we cannot reverse the decline in learning our children will be simply pawns of whoever is or whatever is in power at the time. 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 was using terms and numbers, that I questioned and said these are the numbers the state uses to evaluate schools. Basically, it was 80% and above. Of all the scores I checked 100% of students with 80% or higher in biology 2019 EOC test in our school read on grade level or very close. I randomly checked to find where the magic cut off was for failing and found a Lexile score of less than 950 had 94% of students failing that test. 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 I should say a response to a Facebook post I shared from 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 high stakes testing being mandated by states and federal law. A young man a recent college graduate stated he could not get a job because his method of teaching was more hands on than what administrators were looking for. Daily I see the frustration of my son who was trained to teach in experiential manner and is now limited by what is on the curriculum map today. I have co-taught with a teacher in physics who likes to provide context to the learning. In order to study the concepts of velocity and acceleration we did a slip and slide lab to take data in order 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 was wagering I would definitely 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 school 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 the fact 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 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 a Sioux holy man talking about making a vision real and a renowned educator saying we need to look within in order 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 to create the conditions for teachers and students to flourish and get out of their way.” Theodore Sizer

As I ponder my 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 powerful suggestions about education across the nation. Many school systems use the concept of 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 is it with the potential to change education we seem to be in a rut and really going nowhere different. Why do we continue to know what to do to better educate kids and then do not do it. I wish an answer were simple to place in writing but I see blame as being in the leadership of schools. I see blame in school boards and in 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 in 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 on course when stress develops. The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.” Peter Senge

Dr. Peter Senge is a professor at MIT and renowned scholar in the field of 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 class room. Students learn more when it is relevant to them and they have some buy in. Proust provides that we need a new perception to see 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 strikes 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. In this case, 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 mist 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 Tomorrows Schools. That’s a fundamental misconception.” David Lange

Author, speakers, management consultants, professors, educational leaders and each of them a great teacher 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 how we should be evaluating these students? Why do we put arbitrary numbers on children with disabilities as to who can and who cannot exempt or not exempt 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 drop out 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 for 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 end 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 offers a shared vision. I was once told it took leaders who had vision to truly lead and I wonder if we can find those people within education who care enough about children and about learning 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 in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Pondering and researching education while remembering a waterfall.

Bird Droppings May 13, 2021
Pondering and researching education while remembering a waterfall.

It has been nine years since I was staying 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. For nearly fifteen years I have been participating in and attending Foxfire training programs. I started writing before day break listening to nature’s sounds today the whippoorwill chorus was surrounding me. Thinking back, it was quite an experience staying in a room overlooking a waterfall. At night with my windows open wide taking in the sounds produced some of my best night’s sleep ever.

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 ear phones and listening to Crosby Still Nash and Young. The sounds and energy of the water mesmerized me. I walked about the area just before dark taking pictures. Several times I have attempted to recreate my nights at Sylvan Mills, but they are always booked.

 I have been pondering the John Dewey and Foxfire program and the implications that can made in a teacher’s classroom. I am behind in my reading as of the moment, so I will try and get some additional reading and writing done this weekend. With the bulk of education in the early 1900’s following closely the Industrial Revolution and mass production, 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 as well as the means to make sure the learning never ends.

 Alfie Kohn educator and author refer to Dewey and to 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 was a focus away from children and their interests, and not trying to understand children simply seeing them as small 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 Alfie Kohn throughout his writing 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 prior to the turn of the century numerous educators and scholars were developing ideas that often parallel John Dewey as they sought to come up with a better way to teach children. Howard Garner in his book The Unschooled Mind states discusses some of this 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 which would lead along with Dewey and Vygotsky to the concept of constructivism. Piaget believed each aspect of child development followed clearly defined stages and this did not change 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.
In a similar fashion a medical doctor working with mentally disabled children in a residential setting in Europe was looking at the child centered aspect of education as she developed methodology with a developmental learning process in mind. Dr. Maria Montessori in her book The Advanced Montessori Method 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 the 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 with Piaget in that he said learning can precede developmental stages. We can acquire use of a given tool in order to attain a certain stage of development. Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development which 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 there was a significant element of group interaction needed for education to be meaningful. The ideal school for Dewey was one that took the form of an “embryonic social community,” one in which students were encouraged to cooperate and work together and learn from each other as well as their teachers.


The originators of constructivism Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey all started with psychology and that the child is a unique individual as they developed 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 the act of doing as a way to learn and as Ted Sizer points out that there is context. “What I have learned is context is everything…… The memorable learning was that you have to be very respectful and very sensitive to the values, to the 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 and Dewey and Vygotsky while accepting developmentally sound stages as real 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 the prior personal experience of students and also to a widening or deepening of future experience. It was through reflection that 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. 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

It was in this reflective, imaginative undertaking of Dewey’s that 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 stamp of the aesthetic needed to be on any intellectual idea in order for that idea to be complete. It is this feel both imaginative and sensible that the so-called academic studies would foster if they were 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 drew often from Dewey’s idea on needing context and relevance for learning to be genuine and to be lasting. Eisner places experience at the center of learning.

“It is through the content of our experiences that we are able to 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, that this is the key to education and learning and through this 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 and that to limit learners to a single dominant mode of interpreting their experience may be to frustrate their individual pursuits of meaning and consequently, their desires to come to know, and to learn.


With much of her work is based on the concept of caring, Nel Nodding’s defines education “as a constellation of encounters, both planned and unplanned, that promote growth through the acquisition of knowledge, skills, understanding and appreciation”. Eisner and Barone understand that the aesthetics of experiences is what builds those in our minds and provides the means to imagine and be creative. The concept of Aesthetic Learning and Education is one of understanding, of perception and ultimately of creativity. Eisner looks at teaching as artistry, it is the ability to craft a performance and to 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 within the interaction of human organisms with their surroundings. Thomas Barone points to Dewey being the primary thinker that envisioned art and aesthetics having a central role in education and in learning. Thomas Barone is concerned as are many other progressive educators with the linear format of traditional education.

“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, to how we respond to others, to what the future holds for us and our grandchildren. 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 just 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 in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Can we be about healing?

Bird Droppings May 12, 2021
Can we be about healing?

I came out earlier today into the darkness and the first thing I heard was a bullfrog off in the distance calling that was the first one of the summers. As I listened, I heard more I heard many birds starting to chirp, whistle and call. Somewhere to the left of me was a whippoorwill going way back into the distance to the right great horned owl. I had been for numerous cardiac and pulmonary tests the past few weeks. For some time, I have felt I was getting fatigued far too quick. I could walk to the kitchen and do dishes and I could barely stand in a matter of minutes. After all the tests I have asthma and my heart rate has slowed down which is causing my fatigue. Driving down our dirt road a red-tailed hawk flew in front of me and caught an up draft ten feet from my windshield wings spread full and tail and proceeded to a tree nearby by. I spoke out loud a good sign. A quick turn around and a turkey hen and a dozen chicks paraded in front of me.

My question for pondering today is, what is prayer?

People define prayer in many different ways most I find tend to confine to the parameters of religion. I recall reading Larry Dossey many years ago and now he defines prayer is more of a simply directing energy perhaps towards someone or something and even an idea perhaps. For me prayer is simply being able to sit and release myself from not necessarily the burdens of reality but the stranglehold that we allow ourselves to get into almost daily.

Prayer becomes those moments that are not necessarily quiet, not necessarily peaceful. As for me I was sitting on my back porch looking out, the sun will be up in the next 30 or 40 minutes and it is peaceful. Prayer could be simply thinking, pondering reflecting. I like the word reflecting, it is like seeing a mirror image and yet it is not really what you say or feel. Reflecting can have the ripples going through it like looking at an image on a lake. Life is maybe like that image. It is not the lake that is rippling it could be our life.

I love how John Dewey would teach that through experience we learn. However, it is through experience and reflecting on the experience where the real learning occurs. I try to spend a little time perhaps too much time pondering every day I can get caught up then simply sitting and listening. It would be extremely easy for me to go in my backyard sit on our swing and spend the day there just listening to the world around me.

As I am getting older my hearing, my sense of smell, physical strength all sorts of things are kind of dwindling. But I do surprise everyone occasionally when I do hear, see, and smell minute things others miss. I have always been colorblind, but my colors are more vivid than most peoples. I may be losing my hearing, but I still hear more than most people. Smell I am not going to go there I smell garlic since I really like garlic a lot and use in everything. The birds are starting to get serious in their calls and whispers and twerps. Prayer is a key in healing personal and in others.

“People cannot know how sacred power, or medicine truly works, but almost every Native American knows something of its ways. Often seen as a mysterious force that is fluid, transmissible and important malleable, sacred power can be manipulated by those who possess it – either for good or for worse” Larry Zimmerman, The Sacred Wisdom or the American Indians

It is so easy to get up knowing my children and grandchildren are safe and walk out into a morning unafraid, I have never been in the situation my parents were faced with my two younger brothers and myself. Shortly after I was born, they were unsure as young parents of the medical issues and why their newborn was having seizures. I outgrew that and moved on to polio at about three and a few small minor other health issues in my childhood. My youngest brother also started with seizures and almost immediately the intensity increased, and I think back to how my parents must have felt at that time. My middle brother contracted a bone infection and was on antibiotics and bed rest for weeks.


Watching my own children grow up with so few problems has been easy. A good friend has two small children one diagnosed with diabetes the other with health issues of another sort. A few years past on a Monday a dear friend went in for brain surgery, not something that you volunteer to do, she knew that she may not walk away from it. But in this situation options were minimal, an aneurism on the main artery in her brain could rupture at any time and she would be gone. She had her surgery and survived and is doing fine. We have daily medical miracles unthought-of even when I was a child.


There was calm this morning as I went outside before my wife was awake. It was an uneasy calm outside, as if a storm is coming or maybe just a weather change, yet so peaceful and still. I was absorbed in the quiet, and the stillness, perhaps the storm will come we can always use more rain (sarcasm while dry now we are ahead for the year). But perhaps the calm will stay and continue. I have a spot in the yard actually I call it my medicine circle where I often go to sit and to listen. As I sat birds were chattering about me and I was looking for answers and to what today would be for me. Sometimes I wander in thinking to defining infinite and nothing. Two simple words yet so much of philosophy and life revolve around attempts at defining those two words. Religions are based on and built on finding answers to the infinite and or understanding what nothing is.


Last evening, I walked to my car to get my phone that I had left on the charger. At this time in the evening with little traffic in our neighborhood my front porch is a quiet resting spot as well. I sat down in the rocker and was listening. A buzzing or more humming sound caught my attention, and I was face to face with a hummingbird. We stared at each other for some time till the tiny bird flew off into the expanse of pines alongside the road. Had I been a few minutes later or sooner I would have missed the hummingbird.

“Creative breakthroughs and prophetic knowing will become ordinary. Empathy and compassion will flower as a result of our deeper connection with one another. The awareness of immortality takes the pressure off living and dying. This will not happen automatically, however. We have to do our share and set our biases and prejudices aside. These are urgent matters.” Dr. Larry Dossey, Healing Words

It has been quite a few years since I read Dr. Larry Dossey’s first book. I am coming from a seminarian background; my library is filled with books on prayer and the healing power of prayer. Every day in the local paper articles and advertising for various churches allude to the power of prayer. There have been times in my own life when prayer was a significant issue. I recall my father telling the story of my brother lying in a bed at The Philadelphia Children’s hospital this was in the mid 1960’s and the head doctor Dr. C. Everett Koop (The former U.S. Surgeon General circa 1981-1989) offering a prayer over John. I recall a comment my father said years ago that Dr. Koop offered in all of his years in medicine and dealing with terminally ill children had he ever met anyone who refused prayer. Dr. Larry Dossey in his work however is looking at prayer as a thought of healing intentions. Dossey even removes religious connotation from prayer as he looks at the power of prayer, in a California study where a group focused on the individuals in a critical care heart unit and healing occurred.

“This has actually been tested in certain studies and has achieved positive results. For example, at the University of California San Francisco Medical School, they actually tested healing intentions, which were initiated at a great distance by several individuals, for people with advanced AIDS. This was a double-blind study. The people who received the healing intentions statistically did much better than people who did not. So, this is not just fantasy. This is a valid phenomenon, which has been tested.” Dr. Larry Dossey

I am rambling a bit, a dear friend emailed back a few months several incidents of healing and intuition recently, while she was a pastor in Delaware. A good friend would end his emails to me sending energy south. For a number of years now I have ended Bird Droppings with a simple line, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart, each day. A very simple statement, as I sit and think imagine if we each would do this daily how profound an impact would that make on the world.

“We are made of prayers. With prayer we listen to what is important inside of us and all around us.” Navajo healer

“We are not alone. The spirits of those gone before guiding our steps, our traditions, our beliefs. We are not alone. The care of those around us leads us to healing and wholeness and comfort. We are not alone.” Mohawk/Onondaga healer

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.” Chief Seattle

A good friend from the mountains of North Georgia introduced herself to me several years back as a healer and soothsayer. I have many hours talked with her about medicinal plants and other healing topics. I was reflecting how as I learned more about certain plants, I seemed drawn to specific ones. Her response, she has been healing and working with folks for nearly fifty years, they will let you know when they (the plants) are needed. So, I close today someone needs a soothing word. If we focus on those in harm’s way if we try and alleviate suffering and harm being done to others within our own realm of being, that will spread that will encompass soon all of mankind and the world will be touched. Today make it a point to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and a special thought for a little girl in North Georgia and a local woman in Athens who just came out of surgery and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin ve

(We are all related)

bird

Life and acceptance is often getting over fears

Bird Droppings May 11, 2021
Life and acceptance is 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 of 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 really 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 do 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 fine ideas and inspiration that leads me further in my own 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 actually 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 to 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, secondly prizing which is acceptance and trust and third 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 Rodgers 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 without 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 Rogers 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, many potentialities. 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 difficulty. Almost ten 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 literally synonymous in definition and in 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 developmentalists including Piaget and Erickson. As I read Dr. Fowlers 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 different, 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 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 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 developmentalists 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 Rogers 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 has the ability to understand the student’s reactions from the inside, 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 own point of view, not the teacher’s.” Carl Rogers

Nearly a year 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 to what is there build a repertoire. Do you see University of Georgia signs, bulldogs and or logos? Where did they graduate from college and high school? Build 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 and or anyone I try and find a common ground to start with. I try and 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 powerful tool in life. As usual looking for Harvey McKay’s book I found another aspect of Mr. McKay’s writing 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 parents too and friends. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in 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)
bird

Pondering early in the morning in my search for wisdom

Bird Droppings May 10, 2021
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 checking the outside ambient temperature and air, cleaned up the kitchen proceeded get a shower and get ready for a day of shopping for grandson’s birthday coming up. For several months I have been fatigued just going up stairs 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 is recommending a pacemaker.

I have been sort of out of sync being retired from school and really not getting into a routine. I am seriously ready to get going on yard work, writing and a 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 off till tomorrow. I sent out a few emails and did my postings on social media and almost time for 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’s 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. Actually, 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 too. My SAT was a few points too low for the school I applied too on the verbal portion and yet today it would be more than enough to get into any college without remedial classes. As I think to my days in High School Literature with the exception of 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 really 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 really 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 were in today’s terms over 1300 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 actually 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. My conclusion that I came to after reflecting on my own High School experience and many kids I talk with in High School today is 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 have 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 possibly 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 a 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 of 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 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 an apparently 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 significant 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 the 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. There are few people who have overcome such insurmountable odds and then accomplish what she did. The title to 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 clam 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 literally was each and 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 administrations “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 in 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)

bird

Filling cracks in leaky pots

Bird Droppings May 9, 2021
Filling cracks in leaky pots

Many thousands of years ago Buddha compared people to four kinds of clay vessels. Borrowing these words today as I am thinking to several days lost with the current pandemic. I have been disrupted from my normal routine of teaching, writing and doing things around the house. A couple of lost days but time with my family and actually I got a little gardening thrown in. Today I looked at my calendar and was concerned as I had missed a meeting on at eight o’clock. I looked at the time of my computer and called my fiend to tell them I was sorry I had missed the meeting. Only as I called apologizing did I realize it was tomorrow I was ahead in my thinking. Moving on I have been a fan of eastern thought for many years finding as I research and read often significant words and understanding.

“One type of vessel has holes in the bottom. We can pour in as much water as we like and it runs right out. When this type of person hears and it goes in one ear and out the other. The second type of vessel has cracks. Though we pour in and it seeps out slowly until the vessel is empty again. The third vessel is full to the brim with stale water–views and opinions. One can’t pour anything new in, everything is already known. The only useful vessel is the fourth, without holes or cracks and totally empty.” Ayya Khema,

So often as we go about people seemingly are learning, but for whatever reason the words taught and ideas shown or messages left go unheeded, unanswered and unheard. Comparing us to a clay pot is an interesting analogy. We need to approach life less full, less sure of ourselves and opinions and try and have our views more open minded. There is so much to learn even for an old guy like me.

“It is always in season for old men to learn.” Aeschylus

“Learn as though you would never be able to master it; hold it as though you would be in fear of losing it.” Confucius

Yesterday I responded to a question on an educational blog about motivating students. I would be the first to argue this is a critical part of each day. Others were arguing why should we teachers have to motivate that is up to parents. When I started back to graduate school after nearly thirty years away I was sort of worried but it then I realized how much I enjoyed learning and as I sit in a high school each day it is not teaching a subject that is so crucial it is teaching that joy of learning. When students want to learn being a teacher is the easiest job in the world, it is filling and helping to fill that clay pot.

Teaching or trying to teach a person whose sole goal is getting to their sixteenth birthday and then quitting school is a lot more difficult. Now the challenge is which is more rewarding knowing you have filled a clay jar to the brim which most anyone could do easily or repairing the cracks fixing the holes and removing the stale water. I have this problem with enjoying fixing the broken vessels.

“It seems that we learn lessons when we least expect them but always when we need them the most, and, the true “gift” in these lessons always lies in the learning process itself.” Cathy Lee Crosby

As I used to sit many days after school and often in the morning before school discussing world views and ideas with students who are more like the empty pots, something occurs, a two-way street we are both teacher and student and several times I have referred to this as my philosophy of teaching. Real teaching in real life is about osmosis. Each organism receiving and giving in the relationship neither truly benefiting more than the other a give and take as it is. But during class when I am filling cracks mending holes that is the time when true satisfaction happens when you see someone’s eyes open and an idea slip in, past ten or eleven years of built up defeat or walling up, then the work is worth it.

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

I once had a professor who in class would explain how each person used only a small portion of their brain perhaps less than ten percent even the great intellect Albert Einstein was limited to that degree. So, if that was true we could all be so much better than we are. Many years ago, I had the great privilege of listening to Glenn Doman who is now in his eighties. Doman still teaches that philosophy in Philadelphia at The Institute for Achievement for Human Potential, working with severely brain injured children and adults in rehabilitation. Dr. Doman believes we can work with other portions of the brain not used and not damaged for example in a brain injured child. I have always found this to be a most interesting concept.

Borrowing from other great thinkers and such this idea is being actively used on children and adults. Has it been scientifically proven, maybe not in the purest sense of the word? However, one thing that I did learn from Dr. Doman was to never, ever, lower expectations of any child, always reach for the stars. I see children daily who have had teachers sat the educational limit for them, “this child tested such and such and so will only do such and such”, a limit, a restriction, a parameter, a box and often sticking with the child through their educational career. The data should not be used to define a child but to offer suggestions as to how and reach that child.

I have found that many teachers live in boxes of their own making, limiting, constricting, and defining and often in smaller boxes than they place their students. It would be great if we were all more like amoebas, flexible, able to work around any corner into ever crack crevice and hole, see and do all and then osmosis simply absorb it in. There would be no parameters and no limits. Sadly, the only down side no one will ever accuse an amoeba of being constipated usually it is the other extreme. (sorry for the gross comparison) but when a fixed container keeps packing stuff in it eventually gets stuck or so jammed tight nothing comes out.

“Learning is not compulsory but neither is survival.” W. E. Deming

Only a few hours ago I gassed my car up and was talking with the cashier, a young man who is in college and trying to decide on his future. He asked me about the statement “quality is all”. As I thought Deming came to mind and Phillip J. Crosby great guru of quality and author. We talked a few minutes and I left him with a noble statement but far too often we chose unwisely and in ignorance go the wrong direction.

When all is said and done, learning is daily it is about expectations, keep the sky and beyond as a limit have no limit, absorb not stuff and be osmotic not parasitic, rise above and not fall below. I have said so many times if when stepping to the next rock crossing the stream you fall in climb back up you are already wet and it is in the stepping stones we learn to not wallow in the stream. Today have a safe journey in life and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

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

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

Bird Droppings May 7, 2021

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 in the scheme of things there are people who are inherently grouchy and or by Lincoln’s view they simply want to be grouchy I know I have been called a curmudgeon a time or two. Sitting here pondering today I can recall bumping into many people like this. They are inherently grouchy. I am sure on certain days my students would say that about me. Perhaps we should label these folks and simply walk away. As I look deeper into the simple words above, we all can be happier as I think about Lincoln’s thought 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 more self-oriented. Lately a series of commercials the focus of the ad is 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 one’s self, 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 to be 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 Barthal

As I think of students and occasionally there are some who shift from happy to sad I try and make a point of asking 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 simply observe people while my wife does whatever women do at malls. That really isn’t a sexist statement but I still am trying to figure out what malls are for other than observation projects for doctoral dissertations. I know there are various stores with goods and literally 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 truly 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 in the hallway with students, and fellow teachers. Back in the day my Para pro and I would stand at my door deliberately talking to students. Often students who are quiet and many times alone we would try and single out. One day we might ask if they were lost or looking for a room. We are not good ones for directions we have been known to give wrong directions around school, but we try and laugh with students. We would try and make passing by our door more than just like everyone else’s. We ask about their weekend or who won last night’s softball game 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 all of us 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 only all were so simply and yet maybe life is this simply and as we move through what we do and what we hope for and just seem to grow proportionately. Our needs and wants tend to fluctuate around being wanted and our understanding of that. What would it take for me to be happy and content today may be different than forty years ago and forty years from now more different again 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, and to be hurt often, and to 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 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 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, 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 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 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 was thinking that I was a creature of routine, after a long weekend it is hard to get sorted out and back on track. Especially in our crazy testing mode we are in at school. I am still getting sorted out from a being retired and now back even though it has been several months. What is funny our dog is out of sync too. Saturday morning a shift n who took him out and a late morning Sunday and he is off a bot as to what he is supposed to do go out stay in. Mine however is not as much routine as I was missing contact with students and with people. Interacting is where ideas and thinking permeate. When someone thinks different pulling away is not the answer it is immersing in and offering 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 to do that which happens to be easier.” Benjamin Franklin

As I close for the day leave it to Ben Franklin to have the solution but for today and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

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

Can we die a happy death?

Bird Droppings May 6, 2021

Can we die a happy death?

Perhaps it was the passing of my mother that pulled me to this idea. It may be the passing of so many former high school friends. It makes me wonder why I am writing about a specific topic although often it is something simply on my mind. I had been teaching high school for nearly twenty years and currently looking at teaching college. Retirement for some reason does not sit well I enjoy the classroom. I am sitting here writing and I cannot wait to start back walking in our pool. Six summers ago, we put in a above ground pool for me to walk and exercise my back.

Over the past few years I have been searching through my older writings, editing, cleaning up and often finding a dropping that ties in with my thoughts of that day or even somewhere I went yesterday. Only a few days ago I got in a discussion on fearing death which led me on a search for an email and some thoughts I jotted down many years ago. Since that note nearly twelve years back my friend has lost several loved ones and I have lost loved both my father-in-law, father, mother, several dear friends and as many around us have as well. So, digging in my archives yesterday I started reading a thought from a friend who was trying to generate answers for his niece based on how do we die a happy death?

I was a bit taken back, sitting here only a few days ago not truly giving death much of a thought having the attitude when it happens it happens and for some number of years now I have lost any fear of death. It has been some time since I realized we need to live each day it isn’t about death and what is next it is about what is now and where are we on our own journey. It is not about anyone else’s, though we constantly interact and intertwine in our own cosmic sort of jig saw puzzle of life. I had several answers to share and from a mixed bag of intellectuals across the country when I responded to my friends note. I used to sit in Geometry in tenth grade with the first responder and her thought was this.

“A contented life. One that has (at least partially) fulfilled personal dreams. “ 5/28/06 – A child psychologist From California

As I thought about it dreams and aspirations, are at the center of many of our hearts and souls. I have always wanted to go to Tahiti however I probably never will for one reason or another. It all goes back to my first reading of a Michener book “Hawaii” and how the original settlers sailed from Tahiti. In my romanticism I know it is not the tropical paradise I dream of and I will probably settle for South Florida or the South Carolina coast which today would be fine. My next responder is a mom and teacher from Texas that I have met and known for eight or ten years from correspondence.

“I, personally, have always told myself that there is a difference between three powerful things: 1) mistakes learned from, 2) regret, and 3) a higher God that leaves certain things out of my control (thank goodness)…but anyway, ideally, I want to die having learned from my mistakes, having passed control over in areas of my life in which I have no control, and to die without regret. These are the three potentially negative “things” that will, even during my life, make me lose sleep. All in all,…if we could live surrounded by love, and die surrounded by love (which will happen, of course, if we give just as much) …that would be a happy death.” 5/28/06 – A teacher in Texas

I have read and reread this one several times and always her comments are deep, and heart felt, “Having learned from my mistakes” this is a life lesson many should heed, myself included. Often even within the past few days I have addressed this with several students that I communicate with writing, take and learn from your mistakes and move forward and or backward as a good friend would say direction is not the key but movement and in our world of multiple dimensions it could be anywhere. My mother responded next to the question and this was a year before my father passed away. It is sort of interesting when your mother was an avid reader of my essays and thoughts as I am of her poetry and writing.

“Living a life that is fruitful and true makes for a happy death. Like your father has said many times, there is nothing in this world that he still wants to do. He has been there, done it and seen it and he always did it with love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as his companions.” 5/28/06, My mom Esther S. Bird, author, poet and great grandmother from Loganville, Georgia

My father at that time was eighty-four and had been all over the world teaching about Loss Control and Safety Management. In South Africa a headline once proclaimed he had saved millions of lives in the South African mines. Great Britain proclaimed him the Billy Graham of Safety in news headlines. My dad started out to be a medical missionary and I was the culprit that sent him to the steel mills for work. As a baby I was very ill and hospitalized numerous times with seizures and a stoppage of breathing. My dad had to go to work instead of school. By chance he found good paying work in the open hearth of Lukens Steel Mill and until they needed a Safety guy with a college diploma he was a brick layer in the open hearth. He was offered a job as a Safety man which being nonunion was less pay but it was better hours he thought and an office no more twenty-eight hundred-degree furnaces to contend with.

Shortly thereafter his first book changed modern Safety Management, in the early 1960’s. In 1965 he coined and then registered the trademark statement of “Total Loss Control” and the rest is history. So instead of saving souls in Africa in a mission hospital he was saving lives worldwide through his programs and insights. I began reading the next responders’ poems several months ago and now several hundred later find them exhilarating.

“For me, the idea of a happy death is one where I’ve given my best effort, stayed current with conflict resolution and being in the right place in my God’s eyes.” 5/29/06 Poet from Puget Sound, Washington

I have come to read daily numerous blogs and poems posted by this wonderful person she herself has many life hindering illnesses and still features a giant smiley face as her calling card. She is such a powerful human spirit. I will end today with another responder on a regular basis one who thinks far deeper than most teenagers and surprises me with responses that go far beyond her few years of experience. Today she is a karate instructor in Georgia and I would never have guessed that five years ago.

“I also enjoyed your droppings earlier about a happy death. I like to think of it this way, ‘Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you will be criticized either way.’ Eleanor Roosevelt” 5/29/06, A former student at Loganville High School, Loganville, Georgia

I was wondering with all the death in the news here and abroad is death ever happy. Yesterday I read a blog from a young fellow in the army and the remembrance of a buddy killed a few days earlier in Iraq. Someone posted a series of crosses on a back-country road where three teenagers a few years back hit a tree at a hundred miles an hour. I have attended many funerals over the years and often will do my best to avoid them if I can. I have in recent years been to my fathers, father in laws, several students, friends and other family member’s memorials. When I listen to the comments of joy and the celebrating a life rather than mourning of death it is so different. It is so difficult to lose someone but what if they have done what is it they were intended to do and know that. What if they were happy and knew there was meaning to their life?

I recall a death some twenty or so years ago where a young man came to me. The last time I saw him he was unaware of his surroundings, for I did hold his hand through the night watching monitors blink showing his brain functioning was going and irreversible. I sat and did last rights in my own way as I was holding his hand though there was no movement from him or acknowledgement only monitors blinking and the respirators movement in his lungs. Prior to that at my last meeting with this young man he shook my hand and said not this time Mr. Bird. Normally he would extend his hand and pull it away laughing a joke on me. This time was different as he extended his hand smiling grasping with his other hand mine and saying thank you for everything and we parted ways he was riding in another car going home from a day of tubing in North Georgia. I never spoke with him again. I know to the marrow of my bones he was happy in death. He was always happy go lucky always joking always the life of the party he was the group clown. When we gathered after the funeral each of said something similar he had said goodbye to us each in a different way. That night my son left a yellow sticky note for me on my computer that I shall never forget.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler Aerosmith

I have thought about that note daily every day since, I have listened to the Aerosmith CD version of Awesome many hundreds of times for that line. Somewhere in a box I still have that yellow sticky note over twelve years old now folded away as a reminder about how precious each second is. We honor our veterans who died to provide us with ideas and thoughts about freedom and liberty over the years. I would like to end with, what if we could have world peace? What if, always a what if, it seems. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

We should many times question our questions?

Bird Droppings May 5, 2021
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)
bird

Being reborn is listening with the heart.

Bird Droppings May 4, 2021
Being reborn is listening with the heart.

So often in life we tend to hear words and then we rationalize those utterances, develop an opinion and then in some cases logically state a response. I got thinking back to a conversation sitting discussing existentialism with my granddaughter a few nights back, it was nearly ten years ago as she cooed and babbled trying her best to formulate words. Even as an infant her emotions however were clearly conveyed. As a tiny baby she would be upset, she would cry and you would know her diaper was wet or she was hungry. As she got a few months older she become more sophisticated and she would whimper her distaste at being held a certain way or that she wanted to go for a walk or for granddad to stop the infernal conversation on existentialism and let’s go read, The grumpy caterpillar again.

We hear with our heads it is those vibrations from another person’s vocal cords transmitted through the air that strike the inner workings of our ears and we in our thought processes put meaning to that sound. When I see or hear the word dog I immediately visualize a four legged, barking life form and it literally pops in my mind. Generally, if only the random word dog, that visual in my head is one of my previous pets. Far too often we let the dictionary do our thinking we simply respond to the word contained on a page and how that definition has been explained to us or that has been taught to us. We do not hear with the heart. A grand baby teaches you quickly otherwise. Occasionally a tear or smile will give away from where words are coming and good listeners will understand and hear the inner workings of the words not just the definitions.

“Look at every path closely and deliberately, we should then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn’t, it is of no use.” Carlos Castaneda

It has been a number of years since I first read the meanderings of Carlos Castaneda and his journey as an apprentice medicine man in the mountains of Mexico. Many writers and scientists consider his books to simply be fiction. They are a very intricate fabrication as he developed his doctoral dissertation. I find myself however fascinated with his stories of a Yaqui holy man who took him in and taught this college educated man the old ways. While the possibility of fiction is there for me, it is the story line which is depicted, in the statement above. Far too often we modern day people choose a path of logic, one of definition, one of clear concise rational thought. We forget the aspect of heart. We hear words that are provided in Webster’s Dictionary, or even more sadly google, when looking up online. When reviewed and analyzed they have a specific meaning and soon we leave behind any emotion in what was being said. People speak not in clear and concise words but in emotions and feelings, we speak from the heart. We lose the emotion in our instantaneous, high speed, immediate, and tell me now society.


Many years ago, a great story teller spoke of becoming like children and his follower’s immediate response was we cannot be reborn, physically. The author of this story was speaking of listening with the heart as do children. They haven’t learned all the words and still do not know the definitions so heart is all they have and you know what they generally get it right. As I watched my granddaughter last night grip her upper lip in her two new bottom teeth making faces at us while sitting in her grandmothers lap she knew the response she would get and a whimper her and there and people were jumping getting toys a clean diaper. There were no words spoken simply communication direct from the heart. Please keep all n harm’s way on your mind and most of all in your heart namaste.

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