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.

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

Bird Droppings June 24, 2018
Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

 

In the course of a few days storms passed through quick very definitive fronts literally flying by and all ending with rainbows. On several occasions twin rainbows. On the other hand my sunrises have been off numerous clouds block the sun and offer just an orange or pick band briefly as the sun enters our reality. But still all in all it has been a good week. Yesterday my wife decided on the spur of the moment we needed a quick road trip and we ended up in Nantahochee-Rabun gap. We stopped at Billingsly nursery which is a favorite stop. Sitting in the valley or gap mountains are on both sides. It was a beautiful day and great time.

 

“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. Sitting here pondering this morning I can recall bumping into many people like this. They are inherently grouchy. 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 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 a 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.

 

“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. 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. I am still getting sorted out from a being off from school a few weeks ago. What is funny our dog is out of sync too. After having my son move home sleeping on his bed and me sleeping late she is a bit mixed up. Mine however is not as much routine as 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 even compare ethics and politics?

Bird Droppings June 22, 2018
Can we even compare ethics and politics?

 

I picked up a copy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution some time ago one morning. The front page had various articles but one caught my attention. Having been a student in psychology at Mercer University in Macon and required to go on a field trip to Central State Hospital. The hospital, at that time in 1973 was the largest residential mental facility in the nation. A few months later I was doing a six month internship at the same facility. Today I have several direct links, through patients now being served by Georgia Mental Health. As I read the paper the article hit me hard. It was focused on an appointment to the directorship of Georgia State Mental Health. The person appointed by our Governor was not a psychologist or mental health employee of any sort but the former calendar keeper of the previous governor. Another tie is that she is the girl friend to the current governor’s spokesperson. The new head of mental health even makes twenty five thousand more than previous director. Interesting too in that Georgia is under investigation by federal authorities for the state of its mental health. Is ethics even a consideration of politics?

 

In our local newspaper was a half-page ad stating one of politicians running for congress in the state runoff election was removing his opponent’s signs and there was a video link. There is a video of campaign folks in of course t-shirts for their candidate removing the other man’s signs and replacing with theirs. All I could do was laugh since I would not if paid vote for either. It really made my day when a thought crossed my mind from a line a dear friend uses in his conferences. Years ago I went to a training seminar in Macon Georgia on Conduct Disorders. Dr. James Sutton from Texas was leading the conference. He started asking who was from elementary schools, middles school and finally high schools. He apologized to the one or two high school teachers myself included in the crowd saying if kids have gotten to high school with conduct disorders and little has been done there is a ninety nine percent chance they will end up in jail, used car salesman, evangelists and or dead. I happened to being driving by a used car lot run by a former pastor when the thought hit me about the ad since one of the politicians is a pastor. I am not saying these particular politicians are sociopaths just a statement in a conference from fourteen years ago sort of hit me.
Today’s reality in Georgia our Congressmen can vote a raise. Democrats are trying to tie minimum wage to their own raises which is nice and many workers who are on minimum wage are below poverty level and often for whatever reason limited or hindered in the types of jobs they can get.

 

“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

I find it funny why should we worry about money and success who needs it when gas is nearly four dollars a gallon we all are looking for bargains and stretching each dollar. It is true many folks have not the need to keep up with the trends and are content with what they have. But it is how we tend to overlook selfishly those with less. The raises each year proposed for congressmen per year would be more than the fulltime minimum wage paycheck for a year of a lesser worker. That is sort of like saying I am more than your equal so I deserve this money a slap in the face to so very many. Sadly they have no one to answer to but themselves.

 

“Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

At what point is a lot of money too much. I find it so hard to fathom what some people do with billions of dollars.

 

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, and he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau

 

We have to be able to dream and often that is stripped away with attitudes and structures imposed by various sectors of society.

 

“What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates his fate.” Henry David Thoreau

 

The ideas of self-esteem, self-understanding and knowing thy self as the ancient Greek philosopher said so many years ago are crucial. We need to know who we are and why. I started arguing about the selfishness of so many people including our leaders in Washington who I am sure will justify their raises in some fashion and I am sure through lobbyists they will justify not granting a raise to minimum wage. It is amazing what a few fast food lobbyists can do along with other wealthy business owners. Maybe that is how you justify a raise for yourself with the savings from not raising minimum wage. A long day today discussing and reading so 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

Why do we wish, wonder and wait?

Bird Droppings June 21, 2018

Why do we wish, wonder and wait?

 

“Calamity is the perfect glass wherein we truly see and know ourselves.” William Davenant

 

It has been nearly twelve years since we moved last and found ourselves in this house.  I wasn’t sure from where to start several ideas have been running through my thinking the past few hours. It has been twelve years since I read and heard the news on Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin’s death. As I do my best pondering when alone I went outside thinking and wondering about the shortness of life. I looked about my back yard that I know so well in the dark spending more time here in the early hours than during day light it seems at times even taking pictures by flash of night blooming flowers and tree frogs. We do become attached to routines and people and things. Each new semester being with new teachers co-teaching it takes a few days to adjust granted I actually do like it and am enjoying co-teaching with the teachers I am with. The funny thing was I fought the idea of co-teaching for several years and in my first ten years of special education never co-taught a class.

 

On another topic grandbabies, my wife and I have been discussing ideas of rearranging and decorating our official grandbaby’s cave (room). Two of our sons all are moved out and or in careers and both our mothers are still with us.  I have never planned an endeavor previously in detail and actually thought out why and how but in these grand babies change for us as we find new sustenance. My wife and I will sort through the preponderance of materials we have collected over the years, memories from raising three sons. I am a pack rat no doubt about it, but I am sure among the boxes there will be items that we might can use. Many times it is hard looking back at those pieces of our lives together good, bad, calamity, tragedy; up lifting experiences somehow it seems there has always been a light.

 

Thirteen years ago I recall my first email of the day was from a dear friend, Dr. James Sutton who wrote a beautiful forward for my first book to be of Bird Droppings, A teacher’s journey if and when I finish it. Although now it seems my droppings are becoming my dissertation twenty years of reflections. I was opening emails not too long ago and another note from Dr. Sutton.

 

“It’s great to be affirmed. A chuckle: I mentioned in a training session one time that we need to always be aware that the boy in our class who can’t keep his hands to himself may well hold a scalpel someday and save our life. One lady in the audience gasped: ‘Oh my God! I just pictured Johnny with a KNIFE!’” Dr. James Sutton

 

In a Saturday BD a few weeks back I was talking about being reaffirmed as a teacher from a previous students comment. But for Today I go back to words from two songs that have been running through my head for some time now. Both are older songs but to me significant. Country Stars Big and Rich claim to fame is the song; Save a horse ride a Cowboy, not one of my favorites though it helped promote them to national fame. It is another song on that same album which to me is a far more powerful message entitled, Holy water. I heard this song a nearly thirteen years ago and was impressed with the harmonies and words. But as songs go I heard them wrong as we so often do.

 

Holy Water

By Big and Rich

Somewhere there’s a stolen halo
I use to watch her wear it well
Everything would shine wherever she would go
But looking at her now you’d never tell

Someone ran away with her innocence
A memory she can’t get out of her head
I can only imagine what she’s feeling
When she’s praying
Kneeling at the edge of her bed

And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me like holy water
Holy water

She wants someone to call her angel
Someone to put the light back in her eyes
She’s looking through the faces
The unfamiliar places
She needs someone to hear her when she cries

And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me like holy water
Holy water

She just needs a little help
To wash away the pain she’s felt
She wants to feel the healing hands
Of someone who understands

And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me
And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me like holy water
Holy water

 

The first time I heard this song tears welled up I was listening to the words of holy water as if the woman in the song was being washed or cleansed by holy water. I used the words in class many months ago. I took the CD in to sort of a listen and translate for students and asked what is this song about and one of my red necked skate boarders piped up and set me straight.   “Mr. Bird she wants to be held like holy water – special sacred.” The old saying could not be truer, from the mouths of babes. How many of us want to be held at some point in our lives like Holy Water. I thought back to a quote from Parker Palmer from I used a few days ago. As I think to the ethereal aspect of holding water.

 

“Sacred means, quite simply, worthy of respect.” Parker Palmer

 

Months back for lunch my oldest son and I were eating at a barbeque place and on the TV a Martina McBride music video was showing entitled, God’s Will. It hit me again this time I was in tears and a powerful image as I thought back to what took me into teaching of exceptional children so many years ago.

 

God’s Will

By Martina McBride

 

I met God’s Will on a Halloween night
He was dressed as a bag of leaves
It hid the braces on his legs at first

His smile was as bright as the August sun
When he looked at me
As he struggled down the driveway, it almost
Made me hurt

Will don’t walk too good
Will don’t talk too good
He won’t do the things that the other kids do,
In our neighborhood

[Chorus:]
I’ve been searchin’, wonderin’, thinkin’
Lost and lookin’ all my life
I’ve been wounded, jaded, loved and hated
I’ve wrestled wrong and right
He was a boy without a father
And his mother’s miracle
I’ve been readin’, writin’, prayin’, fightin’
I guess I would be still
Yeah, that was until
I knew God’s Will

Will’s mom had to work two jobs
We’d watch him when she had to work late
And we’d all laugh like I hadn’t laughed
Since I don’t know when

Hey Jude was his favorite song
At dinner he’d ask to pray
And then he’d pray for everybody in the world but him

[Chorus]

Before they moved to California
His mother said, they didn’t think he’d live
And she said each day that I have him, well it’s just
another gift
And I never got to tell her, that the boy
Showed me the truth
In crayon red, on notebook paper, he’d written
Me and God love you

I’ve been searchin’, prayin’, wounded, jaded
I guess I would be still
Yeah that was until…
I met God’s Will on a Halloween night
He was dressed as a bag of leaves

 

My son asked, “Dad are you crying again” as I watched a powerful music video and song for some of us who are where we are to be. Over forty years ago my brother John was born. My mother was in labor nearly two days and John was born with cerebral palsy, severe brain damage. When he was two while in Florida he contracted encephalitis and suffered more brain injury. John lived till a few years ago with his family sharing in all gatherings all the time he never spoke a word. He was never toilet trained yet he left his mark on each of our lives. So much of the past two days got me thinking back in time.

 

The impact my brother John had spanned several states as his influence spread. In 1971 or so the city of Macon was segregated in its education of exceptional children till John came along. Many the teachers of exceptional children who after babysitting or being around John chose this field to teach in this field and in other areas of education including myself, two sisters, my oldest son and several nieces and nephews. My own family ended in Georgia because of John. He is buried on a hill out by my mother’s home in Walton County and not a day goes by that I do not look back and wonder what if he had not happened to our family.

 

My mother has answered in a series of poems and thoughts she has put together over the years. Each of my brothers and sisters has responded in their own fashion and me I respond in Bird Droppings. Sitting here thinking of the passing of a good soul in Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and my brother John and thinking of  these two songs maybe we can begin to set aside differences and challenges and calamities and start seeking out each other. Peace my dear friends and thank you all for the support and emails over the years 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

Constructivism Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky, Dewey and others

Bird Droppings June 20, 2018
Constructivism Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky, Dewey and others

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 this focus away from children and their interests, and not trying to understand children simply seeing them as small adults. Traditional education was about efficiency and production which were carryovers from the Industrial revolution. It was time for progressive thought 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 Vsygotsky 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

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 Noddings 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 eleven 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

 

Don’t cross word puzzles take some time?

Bird Droppings June 19, 2018
Don’t cross word puzzles take some time?

 

Towards the end of my last History class that I taught in college one of my students was working on a particular assignment and had to define bias. She was not sure which definition was correct and asked my opinion. I explained in history bias is that of the historian doing the writing. It is how they see the event and happenings that may have come from that event. A few days ago I threw out an author’s name I have learned much from and enjoyed, Ronald Takaki and his book, A Different Mirror.

 

“More than ever before, there is a growing realization that the established scholarship has tended to define America too narrowly. For example, in his prize-winning study, The Uprooted, Harvard historian Oscar Handlin presented — to use the book’s subtitle – ‘the Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People.” But Handlin’s “epic story” excluded the “uprooted” from Africa, Asia, and Latin America — the other “Great Migrations” that also helped to make “the American People.” Similarly, in The Age of Jackson, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., left out blacks and Indians. There is not even a mention of two marker events — the Nat Turner insurrection and Indian Removal, which Andrew Jackson himself would have been surprised to find omitted from a history of his era.” Dr. Ronald Takaki

 

Takaki offers that so often in history it is the winners that write the history and the politics of the time define said history. It was not that long ago Andrew Jackson forced the migration of Creeks and Cherokees from their homelands in the southern US to Oklahoma and the Indian Territory only to be taken again during the land rush. Andrew Jackson is a dirty word in Okmulgee Oklahoma.

 

“When a man begins to understand himself he begins to live. When he begins to live he begins to understand his fellow men.” Norvin Mcgranahan

 

Often I have a tendency to say something or write something that was intended to be one thing and it is understood to be something else. It might be translated from my meager use of language into a distortion of the direction it was intended.

 

“We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.” Adlai Stevenson

 

So many times our direction changes in midstream and we look hurriedly for a new rock to step too to keep from stumbling. Looking a step or two ahead can often prevent your falling into the water when crossing a stream.

 

“Where I am not understood, it shall be concluded that something very useful and profound is couched underneath.” Jonathan Swift

 

Sometimes it seems as clear to us as we write and discuss and yet to others a fog creates a distance or barrier to what it is we are trying to convey. Swift alludes to a vague understanding being hidden, you know something is there but cannot quite grasp it.
When many look at Einstein’s formulations in physics some see chicken scratching others see magic.

 

“Perhaps I am doomed to retrace my steps under the illusion that I am exploring, doomed to try and learn what I should simply recognize, learning a mere fraction of what I have forgotten.” Andre Breton

 

Returning to graduate school after nearly thirty years away has been many times simply remembering things I have put aside for a time and many times the frustration is seeing as you get older how much you have forgotten.

 

“No person was every rightly understood until they had been first regarded with a certain feeling, not of tolerance, but of sympathy.” Thomas Carlyle

 

“It has taken me all my life to understand it is not necessary to understand everything.” Rene Cody

 

As you grow older several things happen you can see deeper into occurrences because you have a broader base to draw from which makes it sometimes difficult to explain to some people and what appears as prophecy may simply be experience rearing up. I explain the idea of coincidence and Karl Jung’s synchronicity to teenagers and when doing this use a timeline of many years. Most teenagers do not have the timeline to see events pan out and to see that a happening now affects you twenty years from now. Today’s puzzle pieces work in junction with every piece before and every piece yet to fall in place.

 

“I started out with nothing. I still have most of it.” Micshael Davis

 

“If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.” Karl Jung

 

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” Karl Jung

 

In so many of Jung’s thoughts balancing, understanding and seeking to understand are so crucial as he looked at the dreams of his patients and as he tried to put pieces of their puzzles together. As I sit here writing and thinking, in sort of a symbolic way Freud worked with Lego blocks and Jung worked with blocks of Jell-O. For Jung there was barely form and often there was fluidity as pieces would meld into each other. Life is not quite the solid pieces of a Lego set and really isn’t perhaps as fluid as some thinkers would like to think but between the two maybe a plasma sort of effect for lack of terms maybe it is indescribable.

 

“Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux, 1868-1937

 

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

 

I have used this quote from Crowfoot recently possibly even several times. This statement from Crowfoot to me is very profound. Recently I asked the question can you define your God without scripture and without pronouns. As I look and see at Crowfoots statement of life there are so many mysteries. Another author I enjoy William Edelen author of “In search of the Mystery” offers that understanding is a key but seeing all that is presented and not simply individual pieces of life’s puzzle. It is not about looking at life through a toilet tissue tube as I say maybe too often keep use as an example. A wonderful day so far and so many ahead please keep all in harm’s way in our minds and hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Learning and teaching are interconnected

Bird Droppings June 18, 2018
Learning and teaching are interconnected

 

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many can get through to you.” Dr. Mortimer J. Adler

 

Dr. Adler founded the Center for the Study of Great Ideas and has been the Chairman of the Board of Editors for Encyclopedia Britannica; he focused on Philosophy and Liberal Education. One of my traditional writing assignments in class is I have students write an essay for one hundred twenty five words and you get a seventy percent, for two hundred fifty words you get an eighty percent, three hundred seventy five words for an ninety percent and five hundred words for one hundred percent and your choice of plain or peanut M&M’s. The title of the essay was “How should I be taught”. I work with students on using their research, finding and using quotes and citing authors so copy and paste was possible to bulk up a feeble attempt. In a class I did this with three did five hundred words, one fell asleep he didn’t feel good and two only made one hundred and twenty five words.

The funny thing is I deliberately do this by writing on the white board and not one time asking anyone to work. One of the first completed in one class was a student who doesn’t care, wants to quit school and uses the great word of words “whatever” more times a day than his entire balance of vocabulary.

 

“Our schools are not turning out young people prepared for the high office and the duties of citizenship in a democratic republic. Our political institutions cannot thrive; they may not even survive, if we do not produce a greater number of thinking citizens, from whom some statesmen of the type we had in the eighteenth century might eventually emerge. We are, indeed, a nation at risk, and nothing but radical reform of our schools can save us from impending disaster. Whatever the price we must pay in money and effort to do this, the price we will pay for not doing it will be much greater.” Dr. Mortimer J. Adler

 

So a student did an assignment for a pack of M&M’s is that really amazing I have over the years grown away from extrinsic motivation but still occasionally will, just to point things out to kids. In this case, I did not have to coerce, beg, ask, or even remind students I simply wrote on the board and stated the day’s assignment is on the board. Of all my students that one period the one finishing first is the only one who I have to push constantly. The rest knew my tricks basically. I did give him a pack of M&M’s and you know what his essay while not the greatest was complete a first. Since coming back into the teaching field I have found several key factors in teacher student involvement especially in high school, first the student has to want to be in that class, in that same light the student has to have a reason for what they are to do, relevance for that student. It has to be their reason not one imposed by a teacher and ideally that will become a self-fulfilling purpose and or reason to acquire more information as to learn more and move on in life.
Initially it may be a pack of M&M’s but the point of that exercise was to see if this student given a motivator would try versus simply “I do not care I am not doing the work”. Interesting note later in the day I received an email questionnaire about his progress on goals in relationship to his IEP. I have had this student a total of five weeks and reviewed his goals many of which are based on motivation and at least trying. Options to answer are introduced (I) and Progressing and of course a P, and then mastered and a capital M. His case manager said I ruined his report; I said progressing on all counts and was actually optimistic while all others were saying the opposite. I have a major issue and problem, how can you be teaching if a student is not progressing at all.

 

“If, in some way, the generations to come would learn what a good life is and how to achieve it and could be given the discipline, not only of mind but of character, that would make them willingly responsive to the categorical ought’s of a teleological ethics, perhaps, then, the moral and educational revolution might begin and take hold. To hope for this is to hope for no more than that the restoration of a sound and practical moral philosophy will enable enlightened common sense to prevail in human affairs.” Dr. Mortimer J. Adler

 

The idea and organization Paideia, is an educational concept founded again by Dr. Adler. The principles of this organization are as follows:

PAIDEIA PRINCIPLES
1. That all children can learn;
2. that, therefore, they all deserve the same quality of schooling, not just the same quantity;
3. that the quality of schooling to which they are entitled is what the wisest parents would wish for their own children, the best education for the best being the best education for all;
4. that schooling at its best is preparation for becoming generally educated in the course of a whole lifetime and those schools should be judged on how well they provide such preparation;
5. that the three callings for which schooling should prepare all Americans are (a) to earn a decent livelihood, (b) to be a good citizen of the nation and the world, and (c) to make a good life for oneself;
6. that the primary cause of genuine learning is the activity of the learner’s own mind, sometimes with the help of a teacher functioning as a secondary and cooperative cause;
7. that the three kinds of teaching that should occur in our schools are didactic teaching of subject matter, coaching that produces the skills of learning, and Socratic questioning in seminar discussion;
8. that the results of these three kinds of teaching should be (a) the acquisition of organized knowledge, (b) the formation of habits of skill in the use of language and mathematics, and (c) the growth of the mind’s understanding of basic ideas and issues;
9. That the each student’s achievement of these results should be evaluated in terms of that student’s capacities and not solely related to the achievements of other students;
10. that the principal of a school should never be a mere administrator, but also a leading teacher who should cooperate with the faculty in planning, reforming, and reorganizing the school as an educational community;
11. That the principal and faculty of a school should themselves be actively engaged in learning; and
12. That the desire to continue their own learning should be the prime motivation of those who dedicate their lives to the profession of teaching.
Copyright © 1991 by The Paideia Group, Inc. The Paideia Group, Inc. Board of Directors: John Clark, Rosa Blackwell, Vann Langston, Rita Kaplan, Cindy Rutz, John Van Doren, and Patricia Weiss. Honorary Chairman is Mortimer Adler

I read through these principles and was somewhat intrigued, especially in points eleven and twelve, “that the principal and faculty of a school should themselves be actively engaged in learning; and that the desire to continue their own learning should be the prime motivation of those who dedicate their lives to the profession of teaching. I have mentioned numerous times over the past years of Henry David Thoreau leaving the teaching field to become a learner. Thoreau felt in order to teach you have to be a learner first. Several years back in working on a paper for graduate school I used the word osmosis as a representation for teacher student feedback. That student I first mentioned who did not care about school was able to be motivated it was finding a re-enforcer.
Borrowing from the great behaviorist B.F. Skinner for every behavior there is an antecedent and then there is a consequence. We can change behavior by changing consequence and or the antecedent. Ideally we would like the antecedents and consequences to become intrinsic but to get the ball rolling sometimes an extrinsic means can and will work. But extrinsic means generally are only temporary solutions shy of electric shock which is illegal in most states.

 

“If acquisition of the liberal arts is an intrinsic part of human dignity, then the democratic ideal demands that we should strive to see to it that all have the opportunity to attain to the fullest measure of the liberal arts that is possible to each.” Robert M. Hutchison, The Great Conversation

 

“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

 

I have used over and over again this quote from Albert Einstein and it is perhaps one of my favorite. How can we make are teaching so potent? We as teachers as parents as friends need to strive to actively pursue learning in order that those children around us will see and model that behavior and want to learn for learning’s sake. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Amazing how intertwined the strands of life really are

Bird Droppings June 17, 2018

Amazing how intertwined the strands of life really are

 

I was asked at dinner one time when did I start teaching and I responded at age twelve. The group I was with was thinking I was being my typical sarcastic self. Then I explained I started teaching swimming with my father to beginners at twelve. So my father got me into teaching. I have been thinking about him quite a bit lately. Dad passed away in 2007 but for some reason lately it amazes how much he influenced my philosophy and understanding of teaching.

 

So from my father’s start at teaching swimming lesson now nearly sixty years later it has taken many twists and turns in the journey for my own philosophical view of life and teaching to evolve. That journey has wound around many switchbacks, trails and pathways and now focuses on the interconnectedness of all that is.

 

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” John Dewey

 

I am sitting in my writing nook at home this afternoon on a quiet day and one of excitement as I think back on the excitement and power emanating in the room full of teachers at my last Foxfire course. I started thinking about what I was going to write today as a continuation of my reflective effort yesterday. My thoughts took me back to a question on my Doctorate Comprehensive exams offered to me by one of my professors and then how I responded. Out of John Dewey came two streams of thought although intertwined, that of experiential constructivist thinking and of art and aesthetic based learning. I answered or should say started to answer using Aldus Huxley who had published a book in 1932, Content and Pretexts.

 

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley, Content and Pretexts

 

Back in the early 1900’s Carl Jung coined a word, the term synchronicity to describe meaningful intertwining’s in life that appear to be by chance yet have so much significance. My life has been a constant trail of coincidences and synchronous events. I attended a co-teaching seminar on Thursday at our School Board office and was immediately drawn into dialogue with one of the instructors. She had mentioned several points that intrigued me and I went up to talk with her at the first break. I found it amusing to be talking to someone born after I started working with special needs kids who is now teaching the class I am taking. I walked away revitalized over an idea that her thoughts emulated and was on Facebook when I sat down at my computer.

 

“Students, who are loved at home, come to school to learn, students who aren’t come to school to be loved.” Nicholas A. Ferroni

 

I found this simple statement by Nicholas Ferroni, who is an educator, mostly teaching lower-income students focusing on history and deep personal commitment, concern and care. I found it to be a profound thought and shared on my own Facebook page. In class when I had used this there was more follow up about what I consider to be at the heart and soul of teaching and that is building relationships and community.

 

This time of year I am traditionally back and forth to North Georgia or so it has been for the past eleven summers to a program taught by faculty from Piedmont College and housed on the Foxfire Property in Mountain City Georgia. The course was taught to teachers from literally around the world who show up to learn about this simple approach to teaching. Over the years of my own research I have met and discussed learning and education with hundreds if not thousands of students, teachers and trainers. One thought that has stuck with me is from Max Thompson of Learning Focus School fame. “It’s not about the teaching it’s about the learning”

 

“We would do away with examinations. They measure the inconsequential type of learning. We would do away with grades and credits for the same reason. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks the end or a conclusion of something, and the learner is only interested in continuing the process of learning.” Carl Rogers

 

With all the hoopla about testing and evaluation of teachers it is truly difficult for teachers to see the real fruits of their labors their students twenty years from now. In my own research I have discussed and talked with many former students of the Foxfire approach to teaching who were taught in this manner some nearly forty six years ago. A few years back on an afternoon while at Foxfire a good friend joined us who had been a student of the Foxfire program in 1970 and staff member of Foxfire from 1971-76. Laurie Brunson Alteri. Laurie talked about many things in the two hours she kept the teachers and teachers to be entranced with her love of and enthusiasm for the program. But she warned it is not a template to follow it is far more and that is where so many teachers fall short. We all tend to be lazy and want to open the box of education and poof everything falls in place and that is not how it works. Laurie used an example that has stuck with me. “In biology when you dissect a frog and look at all the parts after you are done all you have is a dead frog”.

 

As I thought sadly far too many dissect and then miss the whole point of a way of teaching or way of life. As Laurie spoke she referenced the idea of an organism, a living organism and my small bit of Greek language from my seminary experiences in a bygone era I remembered the word Koininia, which literally is community. Laurie suggested a classroom should be like an organism alive and growing changing as it adapts. This is how she described her experiences in Foxfire.

 

Another student in the class during the following discussions pointed out how teacher personalities often create those great classrooms. But personalities of teachers cannot or is difficult to be replicated. Ron Clark’s school came out in the discussions and his success. However as I thought I began seeing parallels between various programs and approaches to teaching.  Over the past few days I have been exploring my own idea of pedagogy how do I see my teaching and instructional methods. I have borrowed extensively from Carl Rogers, Alfie Kohn, Robert Fried, Maxine Greene, Parker Palmer, Peter Drucker, Phillip Crosby, my father, Carl Jung, Ivan Illich, and numerous other authors, thinkers, teachers and philosophers.

 

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

 

I have borrowed as I developed my own thinking from Carl Rogers, William Ayers, Max Thompson, John Dewey, Elliot Wiggington, and of course the Foxfire Approach. Many of these thinkers were controversial in their own time, considered too progressive and their ideas are still considered perhaps utopian to borrow words from a friend. It is difficult to piece together I have found as so many aspects of how I view teaching that in and of themselves are controversial as well. So much of our world view also reflects through our ideas, perceptions and interactions each day and is directly influencing upon our pedagogical conceptualizations.

 

“As always there is a high ground in the middle. On this knoll gather those teachers who are determined to preserve their spirit and their love for the field. Most of these individuals like myself have a credo that goes something like this: The profession of teaching is exactly that – a profession, not an avocation or a hobby or a marriage of convenience. Because of its goals and its potential; to achieve those goals, I selected it. It did not come knocking on my door. I was searching for a way to be of real service, and I found and choose this field; I believed then as I do now, that this is a profession of honor and true merit, and though I may not remain in it for all of my working days, it will continue to deserve and receive my best.” Elliot Wigginton, Sometimes a shining moment, 1986

 

For nearly eleven years every summer I have returned to the mountains of North Georgia to revitalize my teaching heart and soul. An approach to teaching based on the philosophies of John Dewey. Technically it is simply a program of thought focused around ten core practices.

 

  1. From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.

 

  1. The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.

 

  1. The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.

 

  1. The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.

 

  1. Active learning characterizes classroom activities.

 

  1. The learning process entails imagination and creativity.

 

  1. Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.

 

  1. The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.

 

  1. The work teachers and learners do together includes rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.

 

  1. Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.

 

I think attending this course in North Georgia revitalizes me in so many ways as I ponder scenarios and interactions with other teachers. Being a course and for credit the students (mostly graduate course teachers or soon to be teachers) come from distinctly differing backgrounds and philosophical views of teaching. Almost immediately you can pick the ones out who are simply along for the ride. They do what is necessary because they feel this will never impact their teaching. Then there are a few who see beyond the forced upon us mandated state and federal standards, regulations and testing parameters and can see that there is a fire in the bathroom borrowing from Kathleen Cushman’s book.

 

“Wanted: One teacher. Must be able to listen even when mad; Must have a sense of humor; must not make students feel bad about themselves; must be fair and not treat some students better than others; must know how to make schoolwork interesting; must keep some students from picking on others; must take a break sometimes; must not jump to conclusions; must let students know them; must get to know students; must encourage students when they have a hard time; must tell students if they do a good job or try real hard; must not scream; must not call home unless it is real important; must smile; must help students with their problems if they ask; must not talk about students to other people; if it’s a lady must be good looking.” Eighth and ninth grade students, from the introduction to Kathleen Cushman’s, Fire in the bathroom, by Lisa Delpit

 

On one of my ventures as I walked into the main conference lodge and sort of was introduced since it was in the middle of a presentation I sat down and listened to an excellent group of teachers.  The first one I heard and I am sorry I did not hear everyone presentation was already underway.

 

The first presenter I heard raised questions why does the concept of Foxfire not get going? Why not have every teacher required to attend Foxfire courses? What happens when teachers leave Foxfire that it is not continued? Questions I have raised more than once and come back to teacher personalities. Foxfire is not a template as Laurie Alteri said several years ago. Foxfire is more of simply what good teachers do. I have the Ten Core Practices posted on my wall in my room and daily review and would ask myself am I doing this or attempting that. I connected with this presenters questions. As I sat down thinking I began to more in detail realize how we are connected as teachers. I recalled a quote from a speech in 1854 by Chief Seattle.

 

“Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, 1854

 

The next presenter raised more questions in regards to her own teaching and use of what she had experienced at the program. Laura handed out puzzle pieces to each member of the group and asked them to what about an experience this past week on the back of the puzzle piece. She has only been teaching for a year and was excited about Foxfire and then had the group put the puzzle together. She talked about John Dewey and embracing what we each bring in terms of experiences and the pieces of my own web continued connecting. I shared my business card with her which is covered in puzzle pieces. I have long held education is about putting the puzzle of the child together.

 

“In what I have said I have taken for granted the soundness of the principle that education in order to accomplish its ends both for the individual learner and for society must be based on experience.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

The next presenter continued to interact and connect with the group and I thought it was directly at me. The presenter explained how she had been diagnosed with ADD and was put on medications and as a teenager stopped and forced herself to cope as to not be different from other kids. I thought back to my own high school experience and my own interactions with kids on medications as a special education teacher. I thought back to my Thursday conference and an instructor throwing ideas out that many had never experienced. She brought up the idea of a safe place for kids. An idea I have for many years called a sanctuary. There needs to be a place where a kid who may have an issue can sit down and talk with someone. I tend to not a big fan of many guidance counselors who simply say come back at 2:18 and we will change your schedule. She offered more questions and more interconnections. Teaching is about relationships right up my alley.

 

“Learning is a search for meaning. Therefore, learning must start with the issues around which students are actively trying to construct meaning.” On Purpose Associates

 

A young lady came up to present and started crying she shared her life experience of being in an interracial marriage and the impact that this made on her. As she talked she said her life revolves around the love of her family. I knew immediately even before sarcastically asking if she was a cheerleader in high school and found she actually coached cheerleading now in high school. She had everyone pick up a paint chip sample card and write four important words to them on the card. She was going to make a booklet and send around so each member of the group could add thoughts to the project. Relationships continued to be a building block in the day. A key thought people only ask once when questioning about her interracial marriage. I thought at first how difficult for all of those once’s and then it hit me one times one is still only one.

 

“The gap is so great that the required subject matter, the methods of learning and of behaving are foreign to the existing capacities of the young.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

The young fellow who went next never thought he would be a teacher but an entire sequence of coincidences led him into the MAT program at Piedmont and into teaching. A component of the Foxfire approach that had significance to him was freedom, the ability to do whatever you want. Granted in education and in school there are norms and rules within which that freedom is imposed but still students have input. Motivation came up and a great illustration of a six pack of air in a bottle. Even Foxfire air could not be sold for any amount of money. We tend to try and motivate ids in school using things which they do not want. My Thursday conference went into this same area of thought. It is difficult to motivate if there is no desire for the consequence. The words

 

“With respect to art and its meaning I share Dewey’s view that art is a mode of human experience that in principle can be secured whenever an individual interacts with any aspect of the world.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

My Friday flowed one presenter to the next each adding to my own amazement with how we were so connected. One of the presenters put tape on the floor and used a warm activity from the Freedom Writers. She emphasized that all kids are different and have to be met where they are. She was excited about her week at Foxfire and shared what she was taking home. We need to focus on kids. So many teachers forget they are teaching for the sake of kids and not simply to teach. She confessed it is not about what I want. I shared with her a Harry Chapin song “Flowers are red”. All teachers should listen to it.

 

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing it’s not the fish they are after.” W. Whitman

 

The last presenter of the afternoon that I was able to stay for took the group outside and did a simple game several items that were recyclable were placed on a poster board and each member of the group was to go towards and build a  group around an item With that what else could that item be used for. Everyone had a use for the many pieces of junk. After some discussion she asked, how are you feeling and everyone wrote a word on the poster board.

 

“Man is never alone. Acknowledged or unacknowledged, that which dreams through him is always there to support him from within.” Laurence Van der Post

 

Laurence Van der Post lived some might say in another time. Growing up at the edge of the wilderness along the Kalahari Desert he was raised by a Bushmen nanny and later named as the first non-royal Godfather, in history to Prince William of England. Von der Post often wrote of the bush and life among the Bushmen as well as numerous articles and books of his travels around the world. While a very solitary and reclusive people in part due to encroachment and government pressures the Bushmen were still devoted to their land, tribe and people and to them community was life itself. I started thinking back to my paper I was writing yesterday and the Foxfire Core Practices. Foxfire Core Practice eight: “The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.”

 

“Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening…The average American should be content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role.” William Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889

 

Over the years my room at the high school had been the school field trip for the Early Childhood classes of four year olds and their high school student teachers. My collection of various snakes, lizards and turtles not discounting spiders and hissing cockroaches always amazes kids and questions can be almost infinite if allowed. On one occasion a four year little fellow asked me how do snakes go to the bathroom. Almost immediately his student teacher said that’s a silly question hush. I jumped in before another word was said not embarrassing the high school student but offering some advice that no question is silly and especially from a four year old. We proceeded to learn about the snakes cloacae. So often children are stifled by time and by constraints imposed with standards and a teachers understanding of what is to be accomplished in a given time.

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake” Henry David Thoreau

 

There were so many events through the past few days it is hard to pinpoint any one single event that stands out. There are people I have met and talked with and people who I barely had a word with. I was coming home after dropping off my mother’s dinner last night and stopped at a convenience store to get a drink. A young man came up to me and asked me about antifreeze. He was holding a jug of antifreeze and asked if it was the right kind for a 1993 Ford. On the label very clearly it read 1989 and newer. It hit me he could not read. As all of the events of the past few days made sense the presentations and conferences, discussions and conversations all came together. We are all connected 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