About birddroppings

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

Hearing and listening are critical

Bird Droppings July 9, 2020
Hearing and listening are critical

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus

A simple analogy yet we far too often we as parents. Teachers and or friends do not understand that statement. Perhaps it is because we have more jaw muscle than ear muscle. In education ninety-nine-point nine percent of the time if you the teacher listen, students will learn more. That almost sounds like a paradox.

“Lenin could listen so intently that he exhausted the speaker.” Isaiah Berlin

I have never seen nor heard this about Lenin, as I recalled the many pictures there are of him all show him intently staring. Even in death with his glass coffin that still is on display.

“Listen or thy tongue will keep you deaf.” Native American Indian Proverb

Anyone that knows me has seen me taking pictures tens of thousands of pictures of school, grandbabies, nature and athletic events. Digital cameras can be wonderful tools in the classroom as well. I was taking some pictures of twin day last year and soon to be again during one of our Homecoming dress up days and one little girl was blurred in every photo. She is very ADHD and evidently that day was a bad day for being hyper. But in her constant moving she wouldn’t stop talking as well and I would say be still and bouncing around she would ask what did you say? Even in taking a picture of two of her friends she moved and she wasn’t in the picture till she moved.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill

Far too often we do not stop to hear what is being said both as teachers and students of life.

“The young people who come to me in the hope of hearing me utter a few memorable maxims are quite disappointed. Aphorisms are not my forte; I say nothing but banalities…. I listen to them and they go away delighted.” Andre Gide

When teachers ask me how I know something about a student I generally say I listened to them.

“I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.” Charles C. Finn

In our chaotic world so often we miss pieces, bits and tiny segments sometimes what is not said or done is as crucial as all that happens.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter F. Drucker

The great business consultant and author Peter Drucker offers again we need to not only to listen but to understand and then read between the lines.

“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” Tommy Smothers

I was always a big fan of The Smothers Brothers back in the day and find interesting how such a simple thought could in effect be a powerful one. If you do not want to hear it don’t listen but let the person speak their piece.

“I guess I’ve spent my life listening to what wasn’t being said.” Eli Khamarov

If we could perhaps things would be different. In politics a journalist is free who was jailed for not speaking out and telling sources however now she is speaking and repercussions could be great.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum

Dr. Laura Nolte so long ago said “Children learn what they live”. I would offer that we should as parents have another line. Children learn to listen by from parents who listen before speaking. In native cultures listening to elders was how education, culture and life was transmitted. I read an article on an elder in South America who was the last of his tribal medicine people. No one wanted to earn the old ways anymore and were too into their modern technology. He was one of the last that still knew the tribal tongue and a National Geographic writer took it upon himself to record the language and ways of this elder. An outsider saw a piece of humanity that was nearly extinct and sat and listening for several months. Hopefully one day these words will be shared and others can listen. I listened to the famous Beatles song Blackbird in the Mohawk tongue yesterday. A beautiful rendition. Sometimes we need to sit, stop and listen.

“Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James Baldwin

Each day I watch and listen and deal with issues of friends, passerby’s, high school teenagers and so many others imitating what they have learned from home. Often simply mirror images of mom and dad or whomever is the one at the house. For today 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

Just a morning observation

Bird Droppings July 8, 2020
Just a morning observation

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

My wanderings are the expanse of several days of traveling and thinking and observing mankind. Just a few nights ago my son and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature was only a few feet away in its wildest. I was thinking this morning about my quiet spot near my home in Between Georgia where for nearly fifteen years I would sit and ponder until a developer put houses up and it is not quite the same. A trampoline sits on a spot I considered sacred.

A few years back in a small town in the north east quadrant of Georgia sitting on a porch of an old mill house the quiet was over powering along with the gentle breeze and sunshine. Around me birds would occasionally fly into and out of the trees but most of the time without a sound. I was essentially alone sitting listening while everyone else was inside. Only a few hours earlier I had a wonderful experience watching by my own house as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.

Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. This past week or so as we drove home from a quick trip to see my son and his wife and our grandbabies we noticed nearly fifty red tailed hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground.

“Clearly we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

We are going through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter presidential period I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads and rhetoric are the vast majority and from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with another time then that was questionable. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. In New York City a billionaire has been arrested for charges he thought he could escape through political connections. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”.

I received a copy of a book in the mail from a friend in New York several years back after he was published. I had known the title for months prior but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today.
Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all experts liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past year lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. I grew up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions. Even more significant for me was my son while in nursing school, who was over twenty-five was covered under the health care law. If not for that not sure where we would be after his accident in May of 2014 with over three hundred fifty thousand in medical bills that were covered.

I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai who is a seven-note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage of a clear sky and quiet surrounding the trees. I had to stop listen to the music and see this quiet still image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house.

To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Foxfire is a name for a fungus glowing in the dark, until you wander up Black Rock Mountain

Bird Droppings July 7, 2020
Foxfire is a name for a fungus glowing in the dark, until you wander up Black Rock Mountain

A few weeks back I was involved in another synchronous adventure, as I am literally daily. I have been thinking about it ever since. I have been a fan of Carl Jung and the idea of synchronicity for many years and often write about it. I was out and about and by chance had not made breakfast being still out f sync from vacation. I stopped at a local Bojangles to get a chicken biscuit. As I am standing waiting a boisterous voice bellows out Mr. Bird. Standing next to me waiting on his breakfast is a student from 2001 and my first day back to teaching. Oh, the stories I could tell I mentioned to his son about ten years old standing next to him. I started back to teaching after a twenty plus year period away from the class room on September 11, 2001. This fellow walks into the room, a tiny room currently occupied by six girls and myself and loudly proclaims in his booming ninth grade voice “I hate girls.” As the story progresses we became friends and still remain in contact through social media. I had not talked with him in person in at least ten years. All is well with him and his family.

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

In 1965 I was introduced to this author in a tenth grade English Class. The book we were reading was Brave New World, written in 1932. You would think that a book thirty years old at that time would not have been that controversial. However, for our class and the reading list we had an English teacher was let go. What amuses me is how these books we read did impart more than simply the words contained between the covers; it was a catalyst for thinking that was developed.

Today in 2020 with a new school year about to start English teachers use the books my tenth-grade teacher was fired for as part of their reading list, as do many high schools across the country. These were 1984, Anthem, and Brave New World which were so controversial in their time more than fifty years ago. Still today these same words can inspire students and adults to think and ponder. I fear the undercurrent in politics in some areas of the country towards education may again squelch such reading.

“To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot cease speaking — and since it cannot, in order to become its echo, I have, in a way, to silence it. I bring to this incessant speech the decisiveness, the authority of my own silence.” Maurice Blanchot

“Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” Sir Winston Churchill

Each day as I sit down and wonder about the direction that the ideas may or may not flow I try and find a spark a starting point for the day. It is sort of my kick-start to the day to revitalize my own cerebral cortex. I was thinking of experience as a start earlier but within the semantics of the word so many limits to the concept of experience. I was seeing a teacher and most as I read were seeing experience as a limit. In previous weeks I journeyed up the mountains of North Georgia yesterday to visit the Foxfire property. I had the privilege to speak with a foxfire fellowship student up on the Foxfire Museum property. Foxfire has transitioned to a new idea of summer fellowship student’s developing and writing stories, over a class at the high school. Initially as a student of the Foxfire approach I was concerned. Then my thoughts shifted and even this morning a new epiphany. As I thought the idea of a container as a student. Then I reread this line from Huxley. It is what we do with it. Students were turned loose to learn in 1965 and the culmination is this property and museum of Appalachian culture on the side of a mountain. Now others can relive and see the history of the Rabun county area not simple learn about it in a book.

Over the past few days numerous emails from former classmates in high school perhaps prompted by nostalgia and finding a few in Facebook, remembering fondly a nearly forgotten class of tenth grade yet one that truly started a process of thinking that has continued for me nearly sixty years later. But the direction changes as I look, it is through writers and writing that we convey so much.

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.” Charles Caleb Colton
“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” William Faulkner

Each day I walk outside and look at the sky on clear mornings today vacationing a slight mist and cloud cover greeted me. For some the stars and constellations provide direction and as the seasons pass the constellations change which denotes time of day and position in the sky and often as I go out I am greeted by a new or slightly different sky appearing before my front door. If by chance I am writing at home and not on vacation I can go out into the back yard surrounded by pine, pecan, black walnut, persimmon and oak trees depending on where I stand much will be obscured and I see only a shrouded sky laced with the branches.
As I read Faulkner’s note so often this is true, we do not think about something till we read what we have written. Many the times I will return to a piece, weeks and months later and find a new meaning or understanding of what I was thinking at the time. I wrote a philosophy of teaching paper and until it was returned with comments I wasn’t sure what my philosophy was. A journey that began in reading, then in experience and moves through writing for it does take written word to read.

“You must often make erasures if you mean to write what is worthy of being read a second time; and don’t labor for the admiration of the crowd, but be content with a few choice readers.” Horace

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” Samuel Johnson

It is as true as I write each morning glancing through previous writings and reviewing articles and emails and any books handy at that moment looking for and pondering where and how I will direct my thoughts. Often my morning consists more of reading than actually writing words to paper or computer screen. It is so many times a search for an idea a thought that has eluded me.

“If written directions alone would suffice, libraries wouldn’t need to have the rest of the universities attached.” Judith Martin

“Although most of us know Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Paul Gauguin in Tahiti as if they were neighbors — somewhat disreputable but endlessly fascinating — none of us can name two French generals or department store owners of that period. I take enormous pride in considering myself an artist, one of the necessaries.” James A. Michener

What comes so easy for some it has been said may not be for others. I sit each morning writing two or three pages reading numerous articles and emails and then go onto class and ask students to write 500 words about what they learned this year in school. Most will say nothing, since that makes it so much easier to write. As I think as to where that student is coming from, maybe they never read Brave New World. It could be because somewhere, somehow, and or someone did not give them the opportunity.

In my room often, it is because somewhere and someone did not teach them to read effectively or to think beyond just surviving day to day. It might have been that was the only alternative. I was reminded in an email of Dr. Laura Nolte’s famous poster, “Children learn what they live” as I spelled checked I made an error I had typed “Children learn what they love”. As I thought a bit you know what? That is just as true too. So how do we help children love learning, and love reading? I wish it could be an easy answer. Perhaps we can start with ourselves. Let’s all set an example today and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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

The ability to surmount those learning difficulties

Bird Droppings July 4-6 2020
The ability to surmount those learning difficulties

We celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence across the country and we each seem to have ways of doing this. For several years, my oldest has been a demolition expert f sorts sharing his fascination with fireworks with the family. This year was not an exception. We gathered at my brother’s property and the fireworks commenced. Thinking back, it may have been the first time since my mother passed on over a year ago that we gathered as a family. Yesterday morning my youngest son and his family my wife and I escaped the real world for a few days to get some sun and seafood all social distancing and while wearing masks. My granddaughter was getting on the elevator and a custodian told her she was the first child he had seen with a mask on that weekend. Charlie di not bat an eye and responded my grandmommie is a nurse, my daddy is a nurse and my momma is a nurse I know better.

I have watched the materialism of our culture run rampant as a celebration was held at Mount Rushmore and Saturday in Washington another gaudy display. I did not be watch either but spent time with my family. My oldest of course was involved with planning fireworks and we were getting packed etc. Perhaps I should not have read Indian rights activist Russell Means thoughts on the Fourth of July. But I will be cheerful and frivolous and come back to my original thought of learning.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

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

An interesting start to my thought process after a wonderful experience the past few days. I was working on some statistics and had an epiphany sitting looking at columns of numbers manipulating data. 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 quotes, one from Dr. Seuss and the other 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

I was watching a student one day working on what for some was a quick assignment merging several different graphics and or creating graphics into a calendar for 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 are involved. Somewhere he was said to be ADHD.

“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 over the years who are world class procrastinators but watching this particular student work at his project meticulously detailing each image is not procrastination and definitely not ADHD.

“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.

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

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

What amazed me was that this student had begun to grow. In many ways he still was very lazy and often would start an assignment in great zeal only to stop before it is completed and be content with a 70%. His attitude had usually been 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 special piece, that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life that 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 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, this work of fiction was penned by Elizabeth Silance Ballard in 1974 and printed that year in HomeLife magazine, a Baptist family publication, where it was clearly labeled as fiction and presented as such, not as an account of a real-life personal experience. Although Ballard based some of the details on elements of her own life.

This story is fiction but a great fiction story. 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 to teach an existential lesson to other teachers, as I joke about so often being an existentialist. One day as I walked down the hall with another teacher, we were commenting on how many teachers had been teaching here six or more years and it was more than half. Last night I ran into a teacher who no longer taught at that school from our hall. The teachers who are gone had learned and 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.

“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

So today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not be simply learned. 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

In a world of data can we still use intuition?

Bird Droppings July 2, 2020
In a world of data can we still use intuition?

I had a thought this morning and it’s kind of depressing when I think about it. We are basically training our new teachers in all the things that we as older teachers find wrong in education. (pre NCLB) It hit me as we are teaching all these new teachers how to take tests the “right” way. We are teaching all these new teachers that standardized testing is good and essential. We are teaching all these new teachers to skip the critical thinking parts of life in order to adhere to mandated standards. We are skipping the pieces that teach about imagination. Sadly, we teach we need to skip all these things because we need to concentrate on testing. I see far to often their courses are now being focused around how to take tests, how to teach kids to take tests, and how to talk to kids about testing. We are losing imagination and we are losing critical thinking skills in our new teachers. A piece I find disheartening is we too are losing all the stories. We are losing all the creativity and losing the individuality of the students by taking it away from the teachers.

It is the inherent skill sets that often make a great teacher. I am speaking of those almost instinctual attributes. Granted in a scientific study more than likely these are learned skills but there is an aspect that is still not with all teachers. I mentioned to a fellow teacher I can tell when a child has emotional issues after observing a few minutes and listening. Granted observations are part of most evaluations but I was referring to an intuitive aspect of observation. Something we learn perhaps as we experience and live life. Over the years several children I have worked with I have recommended additional involvement and unfortunately also got to say I told you so in future although I have refrained from actually saying that.

“Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” Edwin Hubbel Chapin

As I was discussing the final class debriefing as it is called in a teacher training program. I recall a thought hit me as to why some teachers can do more than others. Why some teachers succeed where others flounder, intuition, a simple thought and a difficult concept to teach to another. This is an area most education classes forget. I have for many years considered teaching an art form. There is an aspect of teaching that separates great teachers from poor teachers.

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” John Steinbeck

“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” Michael Burke

Knowing what to do at a specific moment intuitively is not easily taught in a classroom it has to be experienced and understood at a deeper level.

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” Dr. Benjamin Spock

“Instinct is untaught ability.” Bain

In a teacher training session on grading one time, I listened to seasoned teachers discuss how they would do this or that. One teacher said do you have that written down, what is your starting point? How much planning time do you allow? I watched and heard in disbelief in this situation that was one of a teachable moment go by the way side. The person speaking turned around stunned as I was and said I really do not plan it takes ten minutes to jot down a daily note to my students and each day they experience new things and we build on that.

“Instinct is intelligence incapable of self-consciousness.” John Sterling

I began thinking of key words in teaching, intuition being a good starting point. Always when teaching anachronisms help and I found, IESP, Intuition, Empathy, Sympathy and Perception. These are all aspects of a good teacher and a good parent and a good person as well.

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

In doing research on intuition in years gone by, many psychologists believe we have stored experiences and concepts that we do not even recall that are the basis for intuition.

“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.” Florence Scovel Shinn

There are other researchers who consider aspects yet undiscovered as a basis for intuitiveness and intuition.

“A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action.” Jawaharlal Nehru

So many years ago Nehru was the first Prime Minister of an independent India and as well a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

“Instinct is the nose of the mind.” Madame De Girardin

I saw this note and it intrigued me. Instinct being a door opener and perhaps starting point, a beginning it could be possibly even one of our senses.

“I would rather trust a woman’s instinct than a man’s reason.” Stanley Baldwin

I do not know exactly what this entity is we call intuition. I have observed many teachers and parents, workers and managers. Some know answers and others have to understand and solve the issues. As I was thinking and pondering the past few days I always seem to come back to a favorite quote.

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

One of my red neck buddies responded, “what the h— does that have to do with intuition”? Some of us have a goal a destination but the journey the getting there is as critical and crucial as the end result. Each aspect of the pathway is essential rather than simply the end of the trip. When you are looking as you go you see so much more. I recall a long trip as a child and we would play games looking for animals. If you choose to look only for red tailed hawks, it would be miles and even hours between birds. If you choose birds and how many different ones you can see we up the chances of every few seconds or minutes seeing something. Open that to all animals and now every few seconds and you are looking for details in the road side and trees and grass. Life is so similar some people are looking for specifics so minute they seldom find what they are looking for. Others see every nook and cranny. Intuition is in the crannies I think.

“The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.“ Anonymous

I wish I had said that. 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

Teaching and or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

Bird Droppings June 30, 2020
Teaching and or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu
I walked in the house from running a few errands and after unloading my car, swam about a half mile and sat down to write. I will be missing out this year on my first day of school teaching high school in nearly twenty years. I will just assume retirement will not be as tense and hectic as my first day teaching high school on September 11, 2001 was. While driving home I was thinking back to a song one of my students chose to write about several years ago, Live like you were dying by Tim McGraw. A dear friend passed away and it is difficult as I write today to not think about how many friends, do I want to see and talk to one more time. I have been sorting through books and files and found a small inspirational book based on that song. The song came up when I had given a writing assignment to pick a favorite song, find the lyrics then explain the song. There is something about country music and lyrics and emotions that hit you.
As various music genre came forth that one song stood out among all the rest that day. Here we can argue genres and such although I did use Beyoncé and Bob Dylan in a sarcastic graphic mainly pointed at our system of measuring schools. Bob Dylan if anyone is not aware has been chosen as the greatest song writer of all time. Some can argue and I got into this the other day with a fellow teacher and friend as I was picking on his heavy metal blaring after hours. I used the rock and roll hall of fame as an example and Dylan has songs covered by the greats, Knockin on Heaven’s door, All along the watchtower to name a few.
“You have to do what you love to do, not get stuck in that comfort zone of a regular job. Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.” Lucinda Basset
“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better
Searching for words midst a deluge of thought I got caught up in Tim McGraw’s words from that assignment so many years back.
“I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about” Tim McGraw
We take life so often for granted, wasting precious moments, missing bits and pieces as we go hurriedly to the next event of the day. My dear friend I had not seen since 1978 but we communicated regularly on Facebook. Sharing all of those years in photos and one line captions.
“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” Josh Billings
“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth
“I went Rocky Mountain climbing I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu and then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter and I watched an eagle as it was flying and he said someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.” Tim McGraw
All week in the morning I walked out as I do. Over the years so many mornings early in the day, to my right a clearing the pines often a great smile of a moon almost half a full moon but still a smile. The stars add to the effect and surrounding me that great chorus of crickets and tree frogs, it was literally over whelming. I have yet to figure how crickets in our neighborhood can harmonize. Perhaps they were singing for my friend.
“The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, and passion.” Nadia Boulanger
“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.” Buddha
We each search and try to find the pathway that is best for us as we journey through life. How and why we go the direction we do is our choice and the attitude that we have again is our choice. As I am reading again the words from Tom McGraw’s song and listening to teenagers respond is interesting, living each day to the fullest is not just about riding a bull named Fu Manchu for 2.7 seconds or mountain climbing in the Rockies. It is more about loving deeper and speaking sweeter, it is the moments not the events, it is extracting as much as possible and giving as much as possible in each second of each day.
“I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t and I became a friend a friend would like to have” Tim McGraw
Again, a flash back, to a phone call several years ago. It was again a few years back another incident struck me, my middle son called from college and sounded upset there was an un-easiness in his voice. A female student had killed herself in the dorm; several of his friends were peer leaders on that hall. In another situation I was informed two students I have been talking with for three years were both pregnant distant events each encompassing in its own, a life ended and lives starting. One of the girls came by to tell me personally after I had heard rumors.
“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle
“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
It has been many years since I would walk out into the pastures at night and hear the snorting of our buffalo. It is so hard to explain seeing a bull buffalo’s breath blowing across the grass in the wee hours of the morning on a cool day, or watching fireflies skirt the kudzu and sumac of our back yard. A young lady takes her life, she had a plan with a stopping point I wonder if she lived as if she were dying or was she dying so she could live? What a paradox we set in motion as we journey each day.
“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“I asked him when it sank in that this might really be the real end how’s it hit you when you get that kinda news man what’d you do…….live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about what’d you do with it what did you do with it” Tim McGraw
I won’t be riding bulls or skydiving but I will be smiling and I will love and I will be living each moment that I have got and hopefully set an example for the those I meet along the way. I may make a few more day trips this summer to spend precious moments with friends. So my dear friends take a moment and truly think about it, live your moments to the fullest and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please be sure to give thanks for the moments namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Life is making a quilt

Bird Droppings June 29, 2029
Life is making a quilt
It was thirteen years ago today my wife walked in and told me that my mother said this was to be a happy time a joyous occasion as we celebrated my father’s life. She said I think we are even having a snow cone machine. I thought to myself it gets hot in Georgia on an afternoon in June. About this same time another event was transpiring in our family’s lives. I helped my son with a project of repairing the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech. Twelve years ago my son and acquaintance a 1968 Ga. Tech graduate of Tech and I were talking about a body shop and getting the Wreck ready for first football game. Somehow or other the idea of how things fall in place came up and after they headed out I started on my idea of a quilt.
I had started thinking about my father again, talking with my son’s friend, how my father had been all over the world lectured and taught in countries most people will never know. Another email I recall mentioned how dad was always giving something; it could be a necklace with a rock from South Africa or a bola with some African trinket or South American artifact as the clasp. Sometimes it was a story or just wisdom from his years working with people. Then a few days back my brother shared a treasure trove of digitized old 8mm videos. Looking back in time it hit me my father’s life and each of our lives are like a quilt.
“People come out to see you perform and you’ve got to give them the best you have within you. The lives of most men are patchwork quilts. Or at best one matching outfit with a closet and laundry bag full of incongruous accumulations. A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.” Jesse Owens, 1913-1980, American Olympian
I use the comparison to a puzzle often nearly each day as I write. But when I read this idea of a quilt of our lives it hit me. A patchwork quilt, with each piece a significant event in life yet alone not enough to make the whole. Each piece of the quilt is still independent of each other piece. My wife has a quilt from her grandmother whose grandmother made it; each little piece of fabric is sown to the next each little section connects to the next and in the end a quilt. We have several quilts made for our sons by a friend’s mother many years ago. A good friend in Holland is a quilter and she post pictures of each intricate masterpiece as she sews.
For nearly fourteen years during my summers I go up to the mountains of North Georgia and have been involved with the Foxfire program for teaching. The instructors have used an exercise where each participant makes a piece and together a quilt is created each session. The quilt is hanging on the wall with pieces added as the week progresses. Traditionally in the mountains there are sixteen stitches per inch which is the measure of a quilt I learned that while up at Foxfire talking with one of the women at the museum center. Often when I am talking with kids I will use timelines to piece together but I think I will try this idea of a quilt each piece adding to the whole yet alone just a scrap of fabric. As I look back at so many memories and you know it seems to all be flowing piecing together, I like the idea of a quilt. 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

Amazing how intertwined the strands of life really are

Bird Droppings June 28, 2020
Amazing how intertwined the strands of life really are

I was asked at dinner one evening 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. From that point now nearly sixty years ago it has taken many twists and turns in the journey for my own philosophical view of life and how I viewed teaching and to evolve as a teacher and educator. That journey has wound around many switchbacks, trails and pathways and now focuses on the interconnectedness of all that is. Earlier today a dear friend and former professor posted a picture of a eastern box turtle.

“It’s interesting; finding images on the shell of the Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina). Our brains are always looking for patterns and we do not always see the same things. It says a lot about human nature. One person’s certainty is another’s folly!” Dr. Michael J Shirley

As I looked at the picture of an older box turtle its shell each scale filled with numerous growth rings I thought back to a hatchling box turtle and how as babies their shells have scales but no rings within the scales, these come as the turtle grows. Earlier in the day I offered a thought when another friend posted a note from 2016 trying to connect it to todays news. The crime had been solved and perpetrators incarcerated. It had no significance to what is going on today. As I researched further post originated with an extremely sexist web site, that was also extremely racist. “We do not always see the same things,” as Dr. Shirley said.

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

I was sitting in a condo in Pawleys Island South Carolina writing only a few days ago and will be returning in a week today. I had walked out on the beach to a sunrise and low tide as I do often when I am visiting the island. I do miss my June retreats to the mountains of North Georgia and gatherings of teachers to discuss John Dewey and Foxfire. As I think back on the excitement and power emanating in a room full of teachers nestled on the side of Black rock Mountain, I started thinking about what I was going to write about today. Perhaps a continuation of my reflective effort from my readings this past week. However, 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 or 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 for a Thursday afternoon and shared on my own Facebook page. In class Thursday 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 twelve or so summers to a program taught by faculty from Piedmont College and housed on the Foxfire Property in Mountain City Georgia. The course that is taught is for 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 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, 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 thirteen years every summer I have returned to the mountains of North Georgia to revitalize my teaching heart and soul. Piedmont College in conjunction with The Foxfire Fund teaches a course on the Foxfire Approach to teaching. An approach to teaching based on the philosophies of John Dewey. Technically it is simply a program of thought focused around six core practices. These were revamped and a better word might be have evolved into six words, choice, collaboration, connection, climate, critical reflection and community.

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 has been the school field trip for the Early Childhood classes of four-year old’s 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 snake’s cloacae. So often children are stifled by time and by constraints imposed with standards and a teacher understanding of what is to be accomplished in each 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

Teaching can be successful

Bird Droppings June 27, 2020
Teaching can be successful

As I do on many mornings when I get the time I try and find a quiet spot to ponder a few minutes, this morning I was sitting calling to the cardinals with my Audubon app on my phone. Developers have purchased the former bank owned land in our subdivision and new houses have taken the place of trees and shrubs. After thirteen years of solitude on our lot we have neighbors. No more quiet and peaceful time, bulldozers and construction folks have taken away my wilderness. First it was a bush hog machine that came through and destroyed the pathways and rabbit warrens. So, what was nestled in a patch of weeds and brush where I laid claim to my quiet spot and look toward the east in the morning is now the neighbors back yard a trampoline and fort for their kids. .

It was about a year ago my daughter in law pointed in in the direction of a writing spider at breakfast remembering those few photos might hit the spot. For any years I have been amazed at the orb weavers spinning the massive circular webs to ensnare insects. I have accidently walked into many over the years the strands of spider webbing to natives are part of the interconnectedness of nature, still hanging connecting everything. The scientist part of me knows that they are simply webs from wandering spiders the previous night out hunting but the mystic in me sees the connections. I do see the interconnections but many do not.

I am concerned about learning not as much the process of education. That is a strange statement to make coming from a teacher by trade. We have institutions established called schools where learning is supposed to occur. Sadly various interfering elements within state and federal polity contradict and totally destroy the ability to provide learning experiences for children. Yesterday several editorial cartoons were sent through the internet showing a group of students all connected with wires from their heads staring ahead and one trying to climb out a window to the outside and nature, it has been around for some time but caught my attention. The just of the image was education reform wants us all to be education zombies all learning the same thing at the same time. If we cannot reverse the decline in learning our children will be simply pawns of whoever is or whatever is in power at the time.

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

I received an email yesterday or I should say a response to a Facebook post I shared from a friend. The video clip I shared many months back was directed at the Teach to the Test mentality that is sweeping education due to high stakes testing being mandated by states and federal law. A young man a recent college graduate stated he could not get a job because his method of teaching was more hands on than what administrators were looking for. Daily I see the frustration of my son who was trained to teach in experiential manner and is now limited by what is on the curriculum map today. I am co-teaching with teacher in physics who likes to provide context to the learning. This past Friday one of our physics classes in getting ready to study the concepts of velocity and acceleration did a slip and slide lab to take our data in order to calculate acceleration and velocity. It will be interesting to see if they can make physics come alive for these kids and still comply with the curriculum requirements. If I was wagering I would definitely say they will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You cannot have a learning organization without a shared vision…A shared vision provides a compass to keep learning on course when stress develops. The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.” Peter Senge
Dr. Peter Senge is a professor at MIT and renowned scholar in the field of learning. His books and theories are used in management schools and education studies. The idea of a collaborative effort in learning falls back into many ideas that have been mentioned in previous droppings dealing with Foxfire and John Dewey and the democratic class room. Students learn more when it is relevant to them and they have some buy in. Proust provides that we need a new perception to see rather than using the same old mythology to view education and learning. We have to develop new skills not just use what is available. Although John Dewey’s ideas are still considered progressive at over a hundred years old always strikes me as interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking a destination whiling traveling life’s journey

Bird Droppings June 24, 2020
Seeking a destination whiling traveling life’s journey

“Life is about the journey not the destination; we don’t know what tomorrow brings” Steven Tyler, AEROSMITH

Every once in a while I get totally amazed, and as I was driving from point A to point B not going on vacation yesterday I actually had this song come up on my iTunes in the car and it happened to be the album with that line in it. It is from the song Awesome. As it might be just Monday morning before beginning this trip, I put a sticker on the back of my new car. I have always been a fan of VW busses and perhaps it is the hippie in me that attracts me. I have had three over the years. My sticker is of a VW bus and the words “Do not worry about the destination enjoy the journey.”

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating you.” George Bernard Shaw

We each get up in the morning and begin the day usually remarkably like the day previous. As it is on many days in the wee hours it is quiet Pat went for her morning walk. Last year this time one son was in Portugal on business and vacation. My youngest son and family have moved to Middle Georgia and my oldest son has moved in with his girlfriend. One son is making his life in Southern Pines North Carolina having graduated from Georgia Tech in chemical engineering. Another son graduated from Piedmont College with a master’s degree in Science education and teaches in the local community. My youngest son also graduated from Piedmont College and is a registered nurse is working in Cardiac ICU at CHOA. I am up early in the morning on the computer studying, researching and writing working on my dissertation through Georgia Southern university.

I recall a few summers back my youngest was at music camp for a week, it was that week my father passed away. My youngest son’s passion has been the blues harmonica back in the day as he says his cousin and my oldest were jamming together, focusing on old southern rock and blues. Who knows maybe they will turn some folks on to some old Robert Johnson songs instead of the pop music so many teenagers listen to now a day? So many memories’ as I think this morning.

I went by my mother’s house about a little over a year ago to drop off her supper as I did many times a week. I was not thinking it would be the last time I would be going by to visit her. Sometimes I would drop off digital photos for my mother’s hobby, she is had over the years created greeting cards from photos and artwork. Her cards used an image on the front and then she will write a poem or phrase to go inside. I went driving around months ago looking for a picture of a spider web one day for her and in the process took 60 other photos. One I had used as a screen saver for many weeks for my laptop of my oldest son’s saltwater tank. It has been nearly ten years since he has had a reef tank, basically a saltwater aquarium that simulates a coral reef, in miniature. The denizens are primarily colonial polyps and other invertebrates which from a few feet away look like lumps of rock in a very brightly lit tank. However, when you get up close and the rocks have quarter inch creatures with tentacles waving in the current, they are very much alive. One of the pictures I took was of a group of anemones that cluster together each only a quarter inch wide covering a piece of coral rock with what looks like hair till you look closely and it is tiny tentacles catching microscopic creatures in the water. A tiny mantis shrimp that hatched in the tank was swimming about and got his or her picture taken, each of them less than a sixteenth of an inch long. What is amazing is how much beauty is contained in a space so small.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

So many people are not content and struggle looking for what may be right in front of them. It is our outlook and perception that are crucial to truly seeing and hearing in this reality. Daily I hear people complain about teaching how they do not like teaching or do not like working with children. I keep wanting to say well do something else then.

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” California special Olympics song

“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” Walt Disney

It is the entire journey, it is walking along seeing all there is to see, not missing that minute detail, or word and with conviction achieving your goals. No one can see what you see or hear what you hear only a vague proximity and only you will know when your goal is met. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary stepped to the top of the world on Mt. Everest 29,000 feet plus above sea level no one else had ever done that, now Nepal is a tourist trap with thousands coming through not all to climb but many to say they were there.

I heard from several friends lately through Facebook from so many years ago and one used the word new when describing those days from so long ago. I wrote to another friend this morning about how that was such a good word for back then so many things were brand new almost like opening presents. But today I just do not rip off the paper and see the new toy I look at each minute detail. I try and listen far more carefully granted I am old and hearing is slightly going still better than most peoples. When I was younger, I was rushing through life and things were new and so much to see like running through the park to simply say I have been there. I now stop and ponder and wonder about the details the pieces to the puzzle. No longer is it about getting done it is truly about the journey.

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” Sir Edmund Hillary

We all can achieve, we all can do great things, we all can overcome obstacles, it is confidence, constancy, courage and curiosity as Disney said. 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