About birddroppings

I am a College professor and Special Education high school teacher in Georgia. I have been teaching most recently for fifteen years. I have an extensive graphic arts background and industrial mangement training experience. My education includes undergraduate work in psychology, graduate degrees in behavior disorders, curriculum, education and theology.

Why we are not succeeding?

Bird Droppings September 20, 2017
Why we are not succeeding?

 

Very early this morning I walked out into the chill although not quite as cold as yesterday a few crickets and tree frogs greeted me as I took our dog for her morning reverie. The sky was clear as a bell stars blazing away over my head. Orion was the major force as I peered skyward. Never have quite figured out how someone came up with each of the constellations although perception perhaps is a key. My wife reminded me that our middle son’s birthday is coming up on the seventh even though my outlook account has it on the fourth. A simple error I need to fix since you get what you put in.
It has been nearly nine years since I went to a Georgia Tech football game and as I often do I took a camera. I adjusted the settings for the light. I set the film speed. I actually used film and not a digital camera so I had to be sure everything was set as I could not see photos till they were processed. I took pictures actually many pictures as I so often do. Not to brag but they did turn out super one or two are floating around in Georgia Tech websites. My experience in using this camera and lens paid off. I knew what settings and what exposures would give me the best pictures and my reflecting begins.
In graduate school we discussed the history of education and how history is so often has been tainted or subjected to the views of the historian and or politics of the time of that event and then the perspective of the historian, a double whammy. I began pushing this idea further and to how and what we learn. So often it is what we are told to learn not what we want to learn and or need to learn. It is but various pieces of reality in a perception of that we are told to learn and I wonder for whose gain.

 

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

 

I have Neil Young blaring away on my stereo it is early and being alone at school has its advantages I can crank up my tunes. “Old man take a look at your life I am a lot like you are”, lyrics from Neil Young circa 1971 when he bought a ranch and an elderly foremen came with it. On another thought it amazes me to listen to students say I am passing I have a seventy percent and that’s good enough. I sometimes wonder if students really learn anything from day one till day seven hundred or eight hundred or do they simply regurgitate data and information to pass tests. It has been a few years since my son commenting as he took the SAT’s several times the more he was in math classes the better his scores and conversely one semester he did not have an advanced or AP English he dropped a few points on language section. So even for a good student is school simply a memorizing forum.

 

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

 

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

 

I found when I began looking for answers that learning became easier. When answers were being given to me in a mandatory sort of way in the process of going to school I learned less. Even in college for many years learning was considered mandatory. I have observed many students and what they learn. If they want to learn a topic they read about it, they look up information about it, and there is a desire to learn more about that topic.

 

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

 

For many years previously I have tacked this quote on the end of my morning Droppings. I continue to ponder how can we make our teaching so potent? How do we get the information we teach to be what students want to learn?

 

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of face within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity” Calvin Coolidge

 

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have not always been an Emerson fan sadly I wish I had begun reading his words sooner or I should say paying attention to the fact I was reading his words. In high school I do not recall even considering reading Emerson and know I did sort of see the page and it went by and I read Emerson. Now in my infinite wisdom do I see the folly of my high school days? Hindsight is only good if you build from it however. As we look back it is so easy to say I wasted time or I should have done this or that. Start today and take advantage of the daylight pack as much in as you can for tomorrow there will be just as much if not more coming your way in the next.
As I think back a few days ago to reading about the concept of a democratic school where students pick and choose topics for discussion and learning each week and in some ways learning is up to them. It would be difficult to plan for a standardized test, especially thinking did we cover that for example (in Georgia we had QCC’s (Quality Core Curriculum) and now we have advanced a bit with GPS (Georgia Performance Standards) and soon the National Common Core which will cover all curriculum that is to be taught. Being so we might have that section II item number 123a is the classification of segmented worms which is to be covered. Somewhere someone determined in Biology that that item was crucial. It may be a history item about the urban myth of were George Washington’s false teeth made from wood, hippo ivory and or ceramics.

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” St. Francis of Assisi

 

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.” Sophocles

 

How would we know what it is we need to know and how would teachers know what it is we need to know in order to teach us? That is a significant question. Using standardized tests provides the vehicle to measure, but then do we teach to that particular test or do we not teach to it and is that measure truly of what a child knows? If most teachers know what students need to know to take a particular test before I start the class then I will gear the class to that understanding before the test. So in effect we teach to the test. We teach what someone somewhere has deemed necessary for a student in that grade and time and that may or may not be what that teacher or student wants to learn. This brings me back to students tend to learn best when it is something that they want to know and realistically teachers teach far more better something they want to teach.
It would be a sad world if parents were told they had to teach their kids so and so today and tomorrow it would be this and that. Now that I think about it maybe that is not so bad in some cases. Except that then someone somewhere will be saying this is what children will be taught and when it will be taught. That system just closed down in Russia a few years back. So if our goal is to train socially acceptable consumers and workers to fill the factories as Karl Marx once indicated the goal of education was we will have accomplished that. Somehow we need to bring back creativity and critical thinking.

 

“If you wish to know the road up the mountain, ask the man who goes back and forth on it.” Zenrim

 

I can set my lenses and camera on manual adjustment and or on program mode. I could fine tune and make adjustments and or set on program mode and allow the camera’s computer to do adjusting for me. I started to think about the P words, program, perception and politics although maybe there is a connection as I think a bit more. So often in life politics determines how we perceive by providing the program setting and far too many people choose to use that since it is easier and simpler. It requires little effort and you always get the same results no matter who uses it. Could it be that in learning the same material the results on a test is the same no matter who takes it. They all conveniently know just the right stuff and just the right answers and just who to vote for and to keep in power. So on a day when war and conflict are part of our vernacular and those in power struggle to keep their seats 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

Overcoming learning difficulties

Bird Droppings September 19, 2017

 Overcoming learning difficulties

 

“There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter          yourself to meet them.” Phyllis Bottome

 

I had been working on an IEP or should say finalizing one before a meeting. The student has a reading comprehension deficit.  I was reviewing data and test results for this student last night. So in thinking back it has been an interesting start to a morning thought process. As I was working with the statistics I had an epiphany. I was sitting looking at columns of numbers and manipulating the data. It hit me this can be whatever I want depending on wording and what variables I apply. I have often come to this conclusion when looking at research. Ever since I was told a reading program was data based and I called asking for the demographics of the research. The sample was so small and biased the data was in no way viable. But schools were buying the program in leaps and bounds. As for my thoughts and opening quote from a British novelist with over thirty four books to her credit. Working with at risk kids so often in life I find in general we tend to avoid difficulties, we walk away, we steer clear, and we postpone and or we argue.

 

“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if       you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.”      Isak Dinesen

 

Many years back I was watching students working on what for some was a quick assignment merging several different graphics and or creating graphics into a calendar during a project. Each student went in totally different directions. One in a matter of minutes had created a Mario brothers calendar based on old Mario Brothers clips each significant to him. One was on deer hunting there was even a Care Bears focus. However one fellow was taking each frame and altering photos in a photo program eliminating back grounds and only using specific aspects of each image. Each day he would accomplish only a small portion of what others were doing yet he was totally immersed in his task. In the end he will have a really nice artistic piece but many hours were involved.

 

“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small,    by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards,            gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or      honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble    satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.”  John Holt

 

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill

 

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never          start out at all.” Dan Rather

 

There are times when a student procrastinates and I have had several who are world class procrastinators but having watched that student work at his project meticulously detailing each image that is not procrastination.

 

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never          start out at all.” Dan Rather

 

What intrigued me with this project was that this student was normally lazy but this project became of interest to him. Each photo that he had taken in that past semester was being edited and formatted in minute detail and had literally become an obsession. He got in trouble in another class and asked if I would get him out of ISS so he could work on his project. As I looked at the Dan Rather quote I wondered if when he started that he knew he would lose two days’ work when he tried to download to a floppy more than it would hold and crashed. Or that editing a photo pixel by pixel takes time. Thinking back my Georgia Tech son would do that in Power Point and make almost photo quality images as a break from studying physics or calculus.

 

“It is surmounting difficulties that make heroes.” Louis Kossuth

 

            “Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.” Carl Gustav Jung

 

What amazes me is that this student has begun to grow. In many ways he still is very lazy and often will start an assignment in great zeal only to stop before it is completed and be content with a 70%. His attitude is one of I am passing and so what.

 

“You can’t fly a kite unless you go against the wind and have a weight to keep it from turning a somersault. The same with man. No man will succeed unless he is ready to         face and overcome difficulties and is prepared to assume responsibilities.” William J. H. Boetcker

 

“For every difficulty that supposedly stops a person from succeeding there are   thousands who have had it a lot worse and have succeeded anyway. So can you.”             Brian Tracy

 

As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark that trick that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an n email story the other day that was a tear jerker. Granted it probably does not pass the fact check and such but still a good story. Let me share this story with you whether you are a teacher, parent, student and or just a friend.

 

“There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her fifth grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

 

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.” His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

 

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’ laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour.

 

On that very day she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. And she paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class, and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.” A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

 

Four years after that, she got another letter saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

 

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you for much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” A boy named Teddy, Author Unknown

 

I would like to hope I can be like Mrs. Thompson and sometimes all it takes is a teacher or a friend that cares.

 

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned         usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

 

I am sitting here finalizing my thoughts as I am developing a rough outline of my dissertation. Several days ago while visiting my old high school as I walked down the hall with another teacher we were commenting on how many teachers had been here six or more years and it was more than half. Last night I ran into a teacher who no longer teaches at our school from that same hall. The teachers who are gone had learned those that remain are learners interesting as I think back and forward reading Hoffer’s thought. Hoffer was a self-educated man, a philosopher coming from the docks of New York City his first book True Believer was written in the early 1950’s in his middle age and he never slowed down till his death in 1982. As today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not learned.

 

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe;       practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

 

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

I often wonder, why do I write what I write?

Bird Droppings September 16, 2017

I often wonder, why do I write what I write?

 

There have been times when weather, hurricanes, water, various electrical issues and who knows what other gremlins have impacted my broadband service at our home out in Between Georgia. It could be that we are out in the country and only a handful have broadband service or could be the duct tape from repairs of bygone days has worn thin. I recall a day recently as I sent out a message late in the evening one I had done earlier in the day yet for whatever reason my wonderful broadband service was in one of those moments where it does not like my name or Gmail account which is where I had been keeping my contacts. As I checked emails today

 

I noticed that over the past few weeks a celebration of stories of remembering of recalling all the days and years gone by. By chance a fiftieth high school reunion tonight in my home town of Coatesville Pa. I found myself actually remembering stories I had long since forgotten reading updates from friends or as my mother would tell me each day of new finds as she unboxed treasured belongings or as she heard from friends of my father. Last night I woke up around one in the morning and by chance checked my various blogs and emails. A former neighbor and friend had posted an old photo, really old photo from when we were kids in Pennsylvania.

 

Looking back many times these bits and pieces are simple stories ones of joy and or sadness but as the days went on and I checked my email each time what I read was just what I needed. Coincidently over the years so often when I send out a daily bird dropping I will get responses that are about what I had written was just what that person needed. One said did you know my son died, or my new job is just now falling in place or my mother has finally decided to move, each person was appreciative for the words I wrote seemingly oblivious at the time to their thoughts. I wish I had been the author and not just the relay or conduit which is and of itself a part of the story as well.

 

Someone sent me the story and someone had sent her the story, each a piece of the puzzle as it forms. But in life timing is so much the part, saying the right word or emailing the right word at just the right time.

 

“Synchronicity is a word created by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung to describe the alignment of “universal forces” with the life experiences of an individual. Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidences were not merely due to chance, but instead reflected the creation of an event or circumstance by the “co-inciting” or alignment of such forces. The process of becoming intuitively aware and acting in harmony with these forces is what Jung labeled “individuation.” Jung said that an individuated person would actually shape events around them through the communication of their consciousness with the collective unconscious.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

 

It has been several years since I first saw the word synchronicity and what is so funny when I studied Jung in college the word never really stuck with me. It was many experiences later and many years later that those aspects of learning seemed to kick in. Intuitiveness according to Jung is the key. I see often in the reading of people, seeing bits and pieces I seriously wish we could bottle intuition.

 

“Although not scientifically provable in the classical sense, a scientific basis for the phenomenon of synchronicity may be found in the principle of correlation, in so far as a more precise scientific term for Jung’s expression a-causal connecting principle’ is correlation. It is a well-known scientific principle that correlation does not imply causation. Yet, correlation may in fact be a physical property shared by events without there being a classical cause-effect relationship, as shown in quantum physics, where widely separated events can be correlated without being linked by a direct physical cause-effect” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

In 1979 a Harvard graduate Gary Zukav wrote a book the Dancing Wu Li Masters: An overview of the new physics, trying to put Quantum Physics in the words of the laity, the math and science illiterate. The book became a best seller and with subsequent books he has written on the subject they have sold over six million copies. Zukav tied science and the soul together which becomes an interesting mix.

 

“In Synchronicity, Science and Soul-Making, Victor Mansfield, a professor of physics and astronomy at Colgate University, offers up a “new age” amalgamation of Jungian psychology and quantum mechanics. Mansfield provides some inkling of his background and motivation for writing the book in chapter 2, where he states that at one point he dropped out of graduate school in physics because his interests were too broad to be confined to one narrow discipline. He took a job in the experimental ward of a mental hospital, where, he says, “my possession of the keys to the ward doors was …” The Journal of Parapsychology; 3/1/1997; Stokes, Douglas M.

 

As I was researching the why’s and where’s I ended up after quite a few search’s and hunts through the internet at this quote. As I was reading I thought back in my own life to starting as a Biology education major at West Chester State College. To subsequently failings in academics in the midst of the Viet Nam war and failing my draft physical due to a child hood diagnosed condition of epilepsy. I then went to school in Texas where I studied human development from two of the world’s leaders in that field, Dr. Glenn Doman and Dr. Karl Delacato, which by chance their methods and research are still controversial, however so often their theories and ideas do work.

 

When I returned to Pennsylvania I studied Special Education and History at Eastern College. With a slight cumulative average issue and not matriculating as a senior at Eastern due to being still on academic probation I ended up out of school and working for a year teaching disabled children and adults. My family had moved to Georgia in 1971 and I followed in 1972-3 and started back in college at Mercer University in psychology basically since I would not need another math class and refused to take a foreign language. It was as a psych major I first visited Central State Hospital and walked through wards while at Mercer.

 

I graduated in 1974 and attended seminary at Emory University where as a group we went to again to Central State Hospital to do a chaplaincy. I had several disagreements with professors and the group and left seminary but stayed for six months as a volunteer chaplain at Central State Hospital in a psychotic adolescent female ward. With all that verbiage however there is a point. I mentioned in a discussion yesterday with friends how while at Central State I had a key on a lanyard much like so many teachers do now except the key at the hospital was for every door and the elevator and quiet room (isolation room) and freedom. As I pondered deeper about how and why in my own journey that key came into my possession.

 

So often I use the concept of the pieces falling in place. With each moment, each day we experience new and sometimes we even re-experience things. These experiences make up whom and what we are and these become driving forces for us as we go through our days.

 

            “Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious             level.” Dr. Joyce Brothers

 

            “If the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge             world will come round to him.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

We talk about intuition as real, yet so often it is missed but is it not a significant aspect of the human effort? As I look at my own teaching I rely on intuition often when dealing with students who cannot or will not offer other explanations of behavior and or attitudes. I addressed this directly in my writing yesterday.

 

            “Often you have to rely on intuition.” Bill Gates

 

Interesting that the wealthiest man in the world by a few billion dollars would even consider the idea of intuition.

 

            “The struggle of the male to learn to listen to and respect his own intuitive, inner         prompting is the greatest challenge of all. His conditioning has been so powerful that it      has all but destroyed his ability to be self-aware.” Herb Goldberg

 

In today’s technological society we avoid talk of synchronicity and intuition as neither uses a remote nor a cable modem. But these simple ideas are a driving force if we let them be utilized and here is the key. We need to be aware and willing to consider this as plausibility. James Redfield, new age guru made fortune writing about this in his book The Celestine Prophecy. He could not explain what he was feeling and seeing happen so he developed a fictional book to explain and in doing so literally a cult following. I am always amazed at how we respond.

 

His words were not new, Jung was thinking such in 1916 and many philosophers and mothers have known since primeval days. Goldberg’s statement is so true, men in particular have all but forgotten how to listen or how to be self-aware. So as another week draws to an end please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Trying to find a way back to normal or is it abnormal

Bird Droppings September 15, 2017

Trying to find a way back to normal or is it abnormal

 

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

 

I noticed a post on Facebook to a rather interesting website, Word of Mouth Critical Pedagogy that I am a member of and post to.  It caught my attention being a post for parents to catch warning signs of their children becoming hippies which I have been called over the years many times. Matter of fact yesterday was decade day for homecoming week and I pulled out a tie dyed short. As I read through I found it most interesting and actually having been involved to a degree in that era of change seeing the reminders from back in the day struck a chord. The first sign is “a sudden interest in a cult, rather than an accepted religion”. I found this intriguing as so many of our large churches literally are cult followings sort of thing and now considered main stream. The second followed the first with “the inability to sustain a personal love relationship drawn more to group experiences. In so many instances I see being part of a group now more significant than individuality for so many people. One of my favorite musical artists in Neil Young and falling right into that period of time seems about right.

 

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

 

Perhaps it was just a wandering thought of it has been several years since the shooting in Arizona of a congresswomen. But while I was sitting thinking and pondering now a few days back one afternoon listening to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, the song Ohio played and stuck with me. It has been a long short week. Hurricane Irma has taken its toll. My oldest son is going back to teach today only day this week due to school closures. We are all still trying to get back in a routine between clean up and getting power back on. It is literally trying to find my way back to normal and it is taking a few days or more to do it.  As lunch time rolls around I keep thinking I might have to go hold my grandbabies and then I remember they are at school. Adding to my new routine I am amazed at how quickly we change our life style and focus as grandparents. Anyhow back to my original thought I was listening to “Ohio” by Neil young and the song sort of stuck with me and as I pondered how you ever get to normal after an event like that. Incidentally one of the shooting victims from the Arizona shooting was at Kent State nearly forty plus years ago and lost a friend. I went looking for a few notes on the song and borrowed from Wiki-pedia the following:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Life is in telling our grandchildren the stories

Bird Droppings September 14, 2017
Life is in telling our grandchildren the stories

 

“I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed. In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be lifelong. In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat. In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers. In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed– the link to creation. In my eyes sparkled love and the song floated on the sun’s rays from tree to tree. When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf’s reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out. All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.” Chief Dan George, Salish

 

I look forward to the day I can tell my grandchildren tales told to me by my father and his father. Recently my oldest son and I were standing in the dark listening to a chorus of coyotes call only hundreds of yards away through the dense pines of the nearby forest. Perhaps they had caught a deer or found a carcass left from some wayward hunter and were celebrating their find. The echoes and calls bounced off the trees and literally filled the air unlike anything I have heard this side of the Mississippi river. I am sure when I retell this story it will be embellished a bit but it was awesome just the same to hear personally. As I am sitting here this morning reading again this short passage from Chief Dan George I am saddened by the ending. We are on the verge as we continue to focus on the now of losing our past. We dominant society who have ravaged the landscape, stripped away what we need, technologically impaired our children, and left little possibility that our grandchildren will be able to hear and see what we have even in our lifetimes.
Many will scoff at my feeble words. However as a teacher I see the children of today struggle with imagination and creativity. I see today’s children so entangled in gadgetry that they have little need any more for a stick horse or sock stuffed animal. Few children are building forts and tree houses when they can have virtual worlds to play with. Some of us will recall what it is like to play Robin Hood in a patch of forest. Some will remember days prior to TV and video. Some of us can remember having to ask an operator to connect you to your phone call party. Some will remember dialing with a rotary dial phone other than comedians in skits. I am as much a victim using my smart phone to communicate instantly photos and images and getting directions or weather reports instantly. However it caught me by surprise when a clerk at one of my favorite stores asked me what I did with my herb garden during the winter. It set me back from the fast pace world into one of growing plants and herbs. One of digging in the dirt and growing what we need instead of asking just the price. Several times I had brought bags of mint and stevia by their store and this clerk remembered me. So what will I tell my granddaughter one day when she is sitting on my knee. I might start with a passage I used at her parents wedding ceremony.

 

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950

 

It is easy to wonder sitting in my kitchen typing away on my laptop of days ahead and what lessons what stories I will share. I will walk through the fields and forest and point out leaves and twigs, I will pick up a insect and tell of what it is and why, I will teach her how a great horned owl calls in the evening and the difference between a spring peeper and a grey tree frog, I will show her to avoid poison oak and ivy and look for wild straw berries, but I will also show her how to create images on a computer and how to use words wisely and powerfully and to share with others.

 

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

So I am wondering what lesson I should first impart. There is a lesson that sadly many forget as they go into the world. It has been many years since I first saw these words. It is that lesson of example. Dr. Nolte, nearly fifty years ago gave us a poem of sorts “Children learn what they live”, that critical lesson is one of example providing a life that is a lesson rather than a disaster. So this morning as we start a new week 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

 

 

Ponderingerest is that even a word?

Bird Droppings September 11, 2017

Ponderingerest is that even a word?

 

Today is an interesting and yet solemn day; a day marked by memories, sixteen years ago I started teaching again after a twenty three year layoff, ten years ago today I started as a part – time Instructor for Piedmont College. Twenty eight years ago we brought a new baby home. So many memories on this day.

 

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Charles A. Beard

 

I do recall that my first day of teaching sixteen years ago with much of spent in lock down and confused as to what was really going on. It was many days later I really thought about that day I came back to teaching. I just sent a note to one of my first students in that class I was locked in with for several hours. Charles Beard was a historian and often a controversial one at that it is said he commented that Roosevelt brought the US into World War II for economic recovery. Interesting historically that has been the case several times over as to why we really go to war. When I first looked at his quote I was thinking about little children especially my grandkids being afraid of the dark and night time and several times when out with youth and trying to ease fears of darkness I have used stars as a focal point. It really does have to be dark to see the stars.

 

So often in life we lose sight of the stars until trials and tribulations show in contrast and we again can view our own stars. Folk’s they are there today with all that is going on news about Syria and another potential war, it is often hard to see and remember the shining stars but rest assured they are there and they will be shining when we need to see them. I have been writing and thinking about this day for some time. Yesterday in a response to my Bird dropping I would like to share from a dear friend who I used a thought from just a day or so ago.

 

“You know, Frank, Viet Nam doesn’t seem that long ago, but it was. I’m a Viet Nam combat vet; was Navy, but served for two temporary assignments with the First Radio Battalion, Third Marine Amphibious Force in I Corps (DaNang, the northern part). I was essentially a marine. It continues to be amazing to me how an experience of war is interpreted differently by different folks. I was running a security communications operation and was calling in the Arc Light Raids, precision bombing (for then) with the B-52s. I guess you could say I never saw the ones I was killing … I do believe my work saved the lives of many of our own troops. (They gave me a medal for it; can you believe that?) What’s right, and what’s wrong? When you lose a friend, you want to kill them all. Even today, the flag-folding at a casket just tears me up. All of this to say that, from the standpoint of being veterans who can still function a little, the Viet Nam guys are “old” vets now. I just want the world to know they’re NOT all drunks and drug addicts. You jarred some memories, my friend. A different place … a different time.” Jim, Dr. James D. Sutton, Clinical Psychologist and National recognized speaker and authority on Conduct Disorders

 

I was writing yesterday about my hatred of war and its destruction. As I grew up listening to my father’s stories of WWII and today looking at old photos he had, images of the attack on Iwo Jima where many thousands of American soldiers died and tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers perished as well makes me wonder about war.  Many of my friends from high school are Viet Nam vets and often in communications comments are made and I have the utmost regard for these men and women who served in a time so many have forgotten.

 

Today however we look at a sixteenth year anniversary of an attack on our country. Does this change my perception of war and revenge not at all there is still nothing solved in retaliation. True a great sigh of relief came when Osama Bin Laden was killed by Seal Team Six. I was at that moment more concerned about my nephew in law who serves in the teams than the fact Bin Laden was killed. Today rekindles many images from different people. Hope and fear both rise to the top of the barrel.

 

“The trouble with justifying your violence, your hate, your profitable destruction through your subjective sense of victimization is a)the chain of violence can go on forever b)everyone, since no one has a monopoly on suffering, can use victimization to then justify practically anything for an indefinite amount of time and violence and c)as vengeance only retaliates never returns, there will never be an end to the justification of your violence, and as such your violence itself.” Manny Jalonschi, Publisher at American Ex Pat Books

 

I have known and been reading Manny’s blogs for several years now and this one caught me in my pondering state. I posted the following response.

 

“When raised in Judeo-Christian understanding of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth it is hard to separate out the revenge aspect of the equation and throw in staunch capitalism which a long time ago gave up on the Koionia (community) of early Christianity in favor of greed and profit and ran rough shod over indigenous peoples worldwide. Seriously what is to be expected? Sadly how many kids are raised today without a neutral historical understanding of where they came from?” Frank Bird III, Ed. S.  D.D.

 

Over the past few days several friends have made comments to me about my choice of political party and or Represenitives. I find it interesting as while in many ways what they see as wrong they have no way other than saying it will take care of itself if we get rid of this or this program.

 

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

 

I pondered most of the week listening to the rhetoric of war mongering, capitalism and the problems with government’s handouts and healthcare. I grief with and honor those who died in the heinous attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon ten years ago but I also say retaliation is never a solution. We have retaliated for twelve years and nearly destroyed our country.

 

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

 

I honestly wonder borrowing from Gandhi “An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind”, how long we can continue and not lift up and move ahead.

I have worked with and taught numerous autistic children over the years. Dr. Temple Grandin is considered to be one of the leading authorities on animal and livestock handling in the world. She has designed and engineered seventy five percent of the commercial livestock handling facilities for commercial packers in the United States. She has been recognized by animal rights groups for her ethical treatment in design and development and has written college texts on animal science. She also is considered a world leader in autism, perhaps because Dr. Grandin is autistic herself.

 

“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream. I can remember this very clearly.” Dr. Temple Grandin

 

In recent years more and more children are being diagnosed as autistic. As I read her words which applied directly to herself as she grew up frustrated with a world that only heard her screaming and never her words I thought too of those often less fortunate than ourselves who have no voice. Through political maneuvering and redrawing lines and forgetting to advertise the new laws of needing a photo identification to vote we tend to silence many people. I watched several political debates and speeches this past week and Dr. Temple Grantin’s words again hit me.

 

“People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet. I was very lucky to receive very good early intervention with very good teachers, starting at age two and a half years. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher. A good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. Some teachers just have a knack for working with autistic children. Other teachers do not have it. If you find a good teacher, hang on to him or her tight.” Dr. Temple Grandin

 

Yesterday or the day before many days lately have run together I had an issue with my upstairs air conditioning. The thermostat was stuck at eighty five degrees. I poked at it, fiddled with it, no change. At one point even said call the air conditioning guy. But two nights ago I walked upstairs with a screw driver and popped the cover off and low and behold batteries. Two new Duracell triple A’s and the air is working again. On that same note an article on bacteria in the gut and autism caught my attention yesterday. How simple is that. Autistic children often have dietary issues and a study showed significantly different bacteria in the gut of autistic children actually less bacteria of a good kind. Granted it was only an article but how simple is that if a reality.

 

On a day of remembering I wish we never have to go through this again. I offer as a solution that if we keep our eyes and ears open we can find open minded great teachers, we can resolve issues before going to war, and all children can have the opportunity to succeed and learn and in learning never be silent again. Last night we received as staff an email that our board of education tabled a proposed by superintendent change to high schools scheduling going from four block to seven block all in the name of rigor. Ask any teacher about this and the answer is what? A newspaper article ran erroneous information about testing and four block and how math scores would improve. Nothing was said about ridiculous math curriculum and constant changes and a test that in trials fifty percent or more failed. But changing our schedules would cure it. No one mentioned fifteen to twenty percent of high school teachers would be let go and there would literally no electives for students. So I sit back ponder a moment more and as I have for so many years now asked 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

 

 

 

It is about understanding

Bird Droppings September 10, 2017
It is about understanding

 

 

I read a psychological report yesterday of a student who can decode most any word put in front of them. The confusion comes when trying to tell you what was read. The two components of reading decoding and comprehension are both needed in order to be a successful reader. As I thought of how many students I see each day like this particular one. Asked if they can read and of course they can and show you reading aloud brilliantly. As the quiz comes round or even a question and they draw a blank. High school teachers as a rule are not looking for learning issues simply students learning the subject being taught. So many students slip through the cracks of high school with insufficient reading skills. If only we could catch and remedy early on?

 

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. “ Dale Carnegie

 

I wrote a few days ago about forgiveness which we tend to forget about far too often. As I finished my day out with students yesterday another issue came to the front. Seldom do we take time to understand. As I talked with my students through each block (period) of the day little things came out that many times we overlook. What if a student’s parents have just divorced, or a sibling is sick, perhaps an eviction from their home and in one situation a death in the family. As a teacher I try and be aware of what is going on in my students lives but many times students and people in general will not post of Facebook or some other social network but hold it in? Looking for little clues and taking a student aside to ask a question or two without prying sometimes will give an insight as to perhaps some underlying issue that is impacting that child that day.

 

“Keep constantly in mind in how many things you yourself have witnessed changes already. The universe is change, life is understanding.” Marcus Aurelius, 121 ADE

 

“The best cure for worry, depression, melancholy, brooding, is to go deliberately forth and try to lift with one’s sympathy the gloom of somebody else.” Arnold Bennett

 

“Man is always inclined to be intolerant towards the thing, or person, he hasn’t taken the time adequately to understand…” Robert R. Brown

 

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow-men; and along those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” Herman Melville, 1819

 

Life is about understanding and interaction. It is the interconnections that make us who we are. Occasionally I will offer this is where we find the word soul. In my years of writing I have discussed my own symbolic concept of life a jigsaw puzzle many times. I see that we are much like a puzzle with countless pieces falling into place each intricate and each with numerous facets. The pieces interconnect and eventually give us our life’s purpose and provide a more full understanding of all that is. I am starting to get a bit metaphysical but I do have a doctorate in metaphysics at least that is what the paper on my wall states.

 

“Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief in denying them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803

 

“Find peace with yourself by accepting not only what you are, but what you are never going to be.” Author Unknown

 

“Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third.” Marge Piercy

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Kahlil Gibran

 

“The one who understands does not speak; the one who speaks does not understand.” Chinese Proverb

 

As I gathered quotes for this subject it always seems I can find or fit in a Ralph Waldo Emerson statement. Somewhere along the way I listed him as someone I would like to meet. I see Emerson’s view of soul more in line with Special Agent Gibbs’ gut feeling as he investigates a crime. It is that aspect of us where we know. Many people avoid and or deny that part of who they are.
It is difficult for anyone to admit they will never be something. In America we are raised we can accomplish anything. Teaching special education I do my best to keep high expectations of my students but as days go by, weeks and months even with constant focus and attention there are times when cognition, imagination and life experiences will get the best of a student and they will reach a plateau that may go on forever. Even within that seemingly halt in progression more can be done but each step and each piece of the puzzle gets harder to find and harder yet to fit in. One of the big pieces of their puzzle is the sixteen hours away from school time enough to forget and lose what gains were made in the previous eight hours. Gibran brings my heart and soul back to try again with his philosophical optimism. The last quote could be from Luther Standing Bear or Chief Joseph as they discuss how Native American’s find wisdom in silence.

 

“And in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect. More powerful than words was silence with the Lakota.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

“It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand, and what those things are. Human understanding has vulgarly occupied itself with nothing but understanding, but if it would only take the trouble to understand itself at the same time it would simply have to posit the paradox. “ Soren Kierkegaard

 

I find it interesting that often philosophers are victims of their own advice. Much of philosophy is looking for understanding or rationale for our existence and Kierkegaard put a twist on it saying that is all human kind has done is look for understanding and we yet forget to understand ourselves. I was nearly thirty five almost forty till I truly began finding who I was. I had been listening to others opinion of or others interpretation of who I was but never looked into my own heart and soul. It was walks earlier in the morning that helped me settle into a clear view of who I was. I would walk each morning in the wee hours under the stars with a good friend who was at that time in seminary. We would discuss philosophy, theology, education, and life in general as we walked five miles each day.

 

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Kahlil Gibran

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucius

 

“It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.” Harry S. Truman

 

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” Galileo Galilei

 

These thoughts are sort of a mix in this effort to figure out understanding. I liked the first quote of Gibran in that it is what we are searching for more than where we have been that is crucial. The prime component of education is Confucius contribution, for it is through doing that we also truly learn. Had to get some John Dewey in except that it was a thousand years before Dewey that man realized what Dewey preached that experience is the greatest teacher. While I have never been a big Truman fan this statement from the former president is a powerful one. The great scientist Galileo offers that it is in discovery that we find truth and understanding. For me that is the one that giving me a more clear view of this idea of understanding. It is not in seeking a clear definitive point but it is that aspect of seeking to know that provides the fuel and tools for understanding.

 

“This concept of life and its relations with humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with joy and mystery of living; it gave him reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

Perhaps in the world view of Native Americans is an answer. Sometimes acceptance was a key and reverence for life, along with knowing the puzzle pieces do fit together rather than are random parts of nothing as some people seem to think in today’s society. As a day is running its course I will end this discourse and again plead that we each search our own souls and keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird