About birddroppings

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

How do you feed the wolves?

Bird Droppings October 10, 2019
How do you feed the wolves?

 

I walked outside very early this morning to a sky filled with clouds leaving and a brisk wind. Crickets were almost silent chirping slowly in the unusually cool weather. My morning started long before sunrise today and the sounds as I went on our porch. Nearby a coyote was calling and an owl’s call added to the moment. My grandson heard the owl and told me.  Numerous constellations were visible through drifting pieces of clouds. I sat my goal to get to go to Kroger early so I could spend some time writing today and with so many thoughts going through my mind I sit down as listening to an old track on iTunes. Bob Dylan’s, Blood on the Tracks is considered by many to be one of his best albums. I picked up my phone and a note was visible on the lock screen. It was a thank you comment from a former student from eleven years ago what a great start to my morning.

 

There are times when it is hard to put into words whether it is because of confidentiality or emotions maybe even words truly do not describe well enough and yet pictures are not suited to define or describe as well either. A large display of Georgia Bulldog marketing materials, cups, flags, caps and stuffed bulldogs reminded me of a past trip. It was several years ago I went to Kroger after school to pick up a few things to make spaghetti, the universally excepted meal in our house. The parking lot was packed from one end to the other so I parked about twenty miles from the door. I read that is a good thing to do for exercise adding a few more steps to your day. After finding all I needed and visiting with at least half a dozen friends I bumped into I started up the book aisle which is sort of habit. It was packed and everyone was in line. A rather assorted bunch of folks were standing in what appeared to be a line.

 

I carefully went back and went down another aisle to head for checkout and as I reached the front of the store there were several men in black suits standing almost at attention beside a table stacked with books. My initial thought was it was Sarah Palin’s book signing but I knew she would have been in a more strategic location than a Loganville Kroger and while she is popular there were a lot of people here. Then I see this old man who is still pretty spry for an old codger sitting shaking hands and signing his latest book. I had forgotten today was Vince Dooley day at Kroger. Dooley is somewhat of an icon in this area. Vince Dooley was the former head coach and athletic director of The University of Georgia Bulldogs. Where else but in Loganville would thousands of people swarm a grocery store to get an autograph from Mr. Bulldog himself. Being an avid Georgia Tech fan, I walked by nose in the air and paid for my groceries.

 

But the events of the week so far and thinking back had me recalling an old email I received nearly ten years ago. The story goes something like this. One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a debate that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” I received this note from a parent of a former student.

 

As I thought back and read over this simple story again I was thinking about how children respond to various situations and we adults then commend or condemn them. Those two words are so closely spelled yet so far apart in meaning and understanding. Yesterday morning a young lady came in and was visibly upset but more of a moping kind of upset. Seems her boyfriend and she were sort of at odds. I shared the Thomas Merton quote I have hanging on my wall and have used here so many times.

 

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we see in them.” Thomas Merton

 

I asked the young lady to look up Merton and see some of his other writings and who he was which she did before school and then she left with a copy and a Kent Nerburn book, Calm Surrender. As we talked I thought of this quote about the wolves inside of us and how we all are fighting as she told me of conflicts in her life and in her boyfriend’s life as well.
Several days back my wife and I were discussing kids as we tend too and the topic of learned behavior came up. We teach kids through our actions and inactions and yet we then punish them for the same exact thing. An attorney was on TV saying parents who knew kids were drinking at a party at their house should not be held responsible for any actions of drunken teenagers. The discussion was on a point, counter point discussion and then the other side mentioned that the person who was involved in the accident had been arrested previously for DUI and the parents knew that so there was a history established. So I sat listening to this back and forth, an underage drinking party led to a teenage driver killing a child. The underage drinker who was driving had left the party at that particular parent’s home with their knowledge he was drunk and had been drunk previously, both parties were found guilty. On the one hand the defense attorney was saying kids will be kids and on the other a dead child.

 

So often in life we are faced with what ifs. We have knowledge of behavior that is construed as dangerous or potential dangerous and yet we tend to shrug it off. A headline yesterday caught my eye where industry is turning its nose on incidents that do not cause major damage or injury. Coming from an industrial safety background it was these incidents that lead to major break -through in safety and loss control. A headline down was about women not getting mammograms anymore till fifty and on the news many women were up in arms who had breast cancer and whose family members were saved by early detection. I recall a young man I worked with back in the 1970’s and how on many occasions I had requested an evaluation and was told keep out of it the young man was Learning Disabled only. After I married and moved to Loganville I actually let him spend the summer with me and work on our farm. Sadly a few years’ later things changed and he was arrested and sentenced to three life sentences. He had killed a woman and her two kids wanting to return to Central State Mental Hospital. Commend and condemn so similar yet differing in the meaning.
I look back at the story which wolf is being fed. We are responsible as parents, teachers, friends and we and others need to be more actively involved in keeping such situations from happening. Whether it be teenage love or teenage drinking there is harm being done around the corner and often under our noses. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

An epiphany of sorts on a chilly October morning  

Bird Droppings October 9, 2019
An epiphany of sorts on a chilly October morning  

 

I spent the better part of yesterday avoiding my direction so intent on the moment I was missing cues to the past and future. In the past several months many things sat me back emotionally and spiritually. We went from being in the country to a subdivision in less than six months, I ruptured my Achilles tendon, my 70th birthday is drawing close, our grandkids moved further away and my own educational crisis hit me. As an empathetic human being I get caught up at times in the emotions and feedback of the present. When I allow my wisdom to kick in and help determine pointing the way so to say I can be a formidable teacher and advocate. John Dewey writes about experiences past, present and future and how they are interrelated and interchanged often. I am working on a notion of curriculum that is continuous not finite as most teachers try and do in practice. William Pinar discusses curriculum as running the course that it is ongoing it intersects each aspect of life and time. So, as I sit here today pondering my previous day, present moment and future I see the interplay that so easily can be hidden in focusing solely on the moment. So, a swig from my meditative mug of strong chai tea and into today’s thoughts.

 

“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 in general are the expanse of my almost sixty nine years of life experiences over several days of traveling, 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 walking this past Sunday morning just in my back yard. I have been away from my quiet spot due to some developer work and bush hogging near my home in Between Georgia. 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 nearby my 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. It has been a few weeks since we drove home from a quick trip to see my son and his wife and our grandbabies we noticed nearly fifty 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

 

Only a few years back we have been through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter election campaigns I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads were the vast majority of all from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with after the election and even 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. 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 after he 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 expert  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 newly 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 is my son still in nursing school who is over twenty-five but is covered with new health care law. If not for that not sure where we would be after his accident in May of this year 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. As I turned from observing I noticed a flat tire on my son’s truck which brought me back to reality and the moment.

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

 

What is that piece you cannot teach teachers?

Bird Droppings October 8, 2019

What is that piece you cannot teach teachers?

 

“Studies suggest that instructional and management processes are key to effectiveness, but many interview and survey responses about effective teaching emphasize the teacher’s affective characteristics, or social and emotional behaviors, more than pedagogical practice.” James H. Stronge, Qualities of Effective Teachers

 

I have been a student in classes with, and have heard over the years many great teachers. If I was to put a characterization on those individuals it would be they could communicate and relate to their students. There was an affective, emotional and social interaction that brought relevance to their teachings. I first gained a serious enjoyment of literature from a professor at Mercer University in Macon Georgia who stood up on a desk and began reciting Shakespeare in his overalls. He had studied Shakespeare in Great Britain and acted in Shakespearean theatre while there. I was enthralled and for the first time in four or five years of college received an A in a Literature class. This professor went on after his tenure at Mercer to work with indigent farmers in rural Georgia which was his true passion.

 

“Why does everyone seem to have a story about how one special teacher got through to them, and reshaped their life forever? Could it be that teaching is just about the most important job in the world? And could it be that in the end, the challenge of fixing Americas schools comes down to putting great teachers into classrooms and giving them the tools, they need to do what they do best.” Karl Weber, editor, Waiting for Superman

 

I am sitting here in the wee hours waiting on rain from various storms lingering over the gulf. I have been up for some time pondering several ideas. My son is heading to get tires for his truck, my wife is playing with grandkids upstairs off limits to me still, so no one around to wake me up if I doze back off. I went outside into the sixty degree oddly cool morning to listen to tree frogs. There were no stars and nightly silence was nearly deafening. I could imagine early people on this spot hundreds even thousands of years ago looking up and seeing and hearing even smelling what I was experiencing. But my experience does have some implication to my topic today as to what it is that in inherent ingredient in a great teacher.

 

“If we can’t identify the best teachers by comparing their credentials, we face an obvious and crucial question: How do we define a good teacher.” Karl Weber, editor, Waiting for Superman

 

It has been nearly fifteen years since I finished my Specialist degree at Piedmont College. I was introduced to the cohort idea in teacher training and on that first day we were presented with a thirty or so page document that at that time was labeled STAR. This was to be the basis for our degree program. Basically, it was a rubric to determine whether or not you as a teacher were proficient, excellent or distinguished and so forth. The rubric was loosely based off of work done by educational consultant Charlotte Danielson who now heads up the Danielson Group based in Princeton New Jersey. I have read articles arguing the merits of Danielson and Stronge but I see good points in their work. I do have issue with some of the bastardization school reformers have done with their words.

 

“An effective system of teacher evaluation accomplishes two things: it ensures quality teaching and it promotes professional learning. The quality of teaching is the single most important determinant of student learning; a school district’s system of teacher evaluation is the method by which it ensures that teaching is of high quality. Therefore, the system developed for teacher evaluation must have certain characteristics: it must be rigorous, valid, reliable, and defensible, and must be grounded in a research-based and accepted definition of good teaching.” Charlotte Danielson, Danielson Group

 

“When teachers engage in self-assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversation, they become more thoughtful and analytic about their work, and are in a position to improve their teaching. Evaluators can contribute to teachers’ professional learning through the use of in-depth reflective questions. By shifting the focus of evaluation from “inspection” to “collaborative reflection” educators can ensure the maximum benefit from the evaluation activities.” Charlotte Danielson, Danielson Group

 

The major goal of the Specialist program was for each of us to leave Piedmont as Distinguished Teachers. Somewhere I actually have a medal on a blue ribbon showing that I am a distinguished teacher. There is a catch to this being a great or distinguished teacher does not stop the day that it is anointed on you. This is literally who you are not a degree or piece of paper. But what makes a great teacher different and what is it that gives us these great teachers? According to the Danielson framework there are some specifics.

 

The Framework for Teaching:
Components of Professional Practice
Domain 1: Planning and Preparation Domain 2: The Classroom Environment
§ Demonstrating Knowledge of Content
and Pedagogy Demonstrating

§ Knowledge of Students

§ Setting Instructional Outcomes

§ Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources

§ Designing Coherent Instruction

§ Designing Student Assessments

§ Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

§ Establishing a Culture for Learning

§ Managing Classroom Procedures

§ Managing Student Behavior

§ Organizing Physical Space

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities Domain 3: Instruction
§ Reflecting on Teaching

§ Maintaining Accurate Records

§ Communicating with Families

§ Participating in a Professional

§ Community

§ Growing and Developing Professionally

§ Showing Professionalism

§ Communicating with Students

§ Using Questioning and Discussion

§ Techniques

§ Engaging Students in Learning

§ Using Assessment in Instruction

§ Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness

From Danielson Group website:

 

So often we need to confine our ideas to lists too easy to understand bits and pieces so we can check off what we have done or will do. Danielson’s four domains are significantly more than most twenty-minute walk through that are the standard in Georgia. But still there are pieces that cannot be pinned down so easily. James Stronge in his book, Qualities of Effective Teachers has a few that stand out.

 

“Effective teachers care about their students and demonstrate they care in such a way that their students are aware of it.”

 

“Effective teachers practice focused and sympathetic listening to show students they care not only about what happens in the classroom, but about students’ lives in general. These teachers initiate two way communications that exudes trust, tact, honesty, humility, and care.”

 

“Effective, caring teachers know students both informally and formally. They use every opportunity at school and in the community to keep the lines of communication open.”

 

It might sound a bit silly but I am bothered when a teacher says they could not live in the community they teach in. How do you ever know your students if you only see them and experience what they experience eight hours a day? So often it is hard for teachers to break through the shell of teacher student barriers that are presented and held in place by tradition and often school policy. Teaching is not just standing in front of a group of students and lecturing for two hours. Generally, most are asleep within the first ten minutes. Relationships need to be developed and cultivated that can bridge gaps. Emails to parents, communications with students and parents to let them know you are concerned. In all of my undergraduate and graduate years I only seriously remember one very bad professor. He would come in put the text book on his podium and then read it to us. When the bell would ring he would fold his book closed and leave. His office when open was rather cold. One girl I recall went to him for some help and came in sat down and he stared at her for twenty minutes and never said a word.

 

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed.  Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block, Ethics and Curriculum

 

Perhaps it is remembering that worst case scenario of bygone years and multiplying it over and over in our heads to help us conceive of and develop what is the way things should be. I think I came to my idea of what makes a great teacher by comparing the worst and best and seeing the vast difference in learning that occurs. I did not need research and data to see kids were reading who used to be illiterate. I did not need a check list to watch people come away from a great teacher with the conversation still going and carrying it to lunch in the commons at Mercer or over dinner at Piedmont or Georgia Southern.

 

“Passionate teachers organize and focus their passionate interests by getting to the heart of their subject and sharing with their students some of what lays there – the beauty and power that drew them to this field in the first place and that has deepened over time as they learned and experienced more.  They are not after a narrow or elitist perspective, but rather a depth of engagement that serves as a base for branching out to other interests and disciplines.” Robert Fried, The Passionate Teacher

 

It is so easy to throw out the word passion and try and point to ourselves and say we are passionate teachers. But you can see quickly the difference between the also run and the passionate in life. As I wander today I have been a fan of Savannah College of Arts Literature Professor Mary Aswell Doll’s thoughts and have used them numerous times as references in papers on curriculum and education. This illustration of an electric current running through us combined with Fried’s passion and these are components of a great teacher.

 

“Curriculum is also … a coursing, as in electric current. The work of the curriculum theorist should tap this intense current within, that which courses through our inner person, that which electrifies or gives life to the persons energy source.” Mary Aswell Doll  

 

You have got soul. Many the time, I have heard that remark in reference to or about someone. One of the experts on soul is Thomas Moore who has written numerous best sellers about this often-ambiguous subject.

 

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves.  It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance.  I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality.  When we say someone has soul we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

 

Soul cannot be taught it cannot be bought and it cannot be traded for. Moore uses some words here going a bit beyond Stronge’s qualities of a great teacher. Depth value, relatedness, heart and personal substance these are attributes are also pieces of who a great teacher is. A great teacher has soul might be my next point. Over the numerous years of teaching I have heard teachers say they have been called to teach. I sort of wandered back into teaching. Finding it was where I was meant to be. Parker Palmer offers to teachers that there is sacredness in our undertaking.

 

“The Community of truth, the grace of things, the transcendent subject, and the “secret ”that“ sits in the middle and knows – these images emerge, for me, from my experience of reality as sacred and of the sacred as real.  Others may arrive at similar understandings from different starting points.  But I believe that knowing, teaching, and learning are grounded in sacred soil and that renewing my vocation as a teacher requires cultivating a sense of the sacred.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

 

Maybe I should have stopped a few hours back but being in my sanctuary here upstairs and totally quiet save for Brewer and Shipley for a couple of hours and I get a bit carried away. I want to stop with a thought that no door can remain closed. We as teachers need to be about self-improvement, becoming students as well as teachers learning and reflecting so that we can always become better at our undertaking. We are critical links in our societal endeavors and it is crucial we hold up our end.

 

“I used to think that any door could be opened. Some stood freely open, some could be opened easily; some were harder to penetrate. Sometimes you had to knock, sometimes bang, sometimes charge; but always the door could be opened.” Susan Thomas Anthony, Walk With Spirit

 

I started this many hour ago and here I am ending an unfinished work. Hopefully over the next few days I can address this idea of what makes for a great teacher but until that time 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

 

Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

Bird Droppings October 7, 2019

Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

 

It seems lately the pressure of old age has been weighing on my mind. Today is the first day in some time I felt pretty good it could be it is fall break and later today my grandkids are coming over. It was last year on a spur of the moment while grocery shopping I bought two pumpkins for my grandkids to paint. That turned out to be a great success along with a herbed pork loin I recall cooking that evening. With the chills setting in my days of getting flower pictures and spiders are numbered. I hopefully will be gathering in my plants that do not enjoy the cold this weekend I missed a mountaineering festival in North Georgia Saturday due to both my wife and I being incapacitated.

 

I am a member of the National Association of Educators and receive their weekly publication. An article caught my attention in a past issue. In Georgia we had Standards that drive the curriculum throughout the state in line with federal and state mandates. Essentially the article was about teaching to the test.

 

“Preferring concrete guidance, teachers make what is tested their de facto focus. The unfortunate result is that tests become the curriculum. And because tests are filled with multiply choice items that do not adequately reflect important higher levels of cognitive demand, instruction becomes less rich that it should be.” Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard, Standards are not enough.

 

As I thought I recalled a quote I have used many times before and how it applies to education.

 

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

 

It was last night as I was working on pulling some files together and books for my ideas that this Wayne Gretzky quote popped up again. Considering that I had played ice hockey in college and most my life it was sort of cool. Gretzky is a hero to hockey kids just like Michael Jordan is to basketball players. Gretzky’s records cover several pages of HHL record books, he holds or shares 61 NHL records. As an example, a recent ESPN top twenty five sports records that will never be broken had Gretzky’s feat of 2857 points (goals and assists) right near the top since number three player, Gordie Howe at 1850 holds the longevity record as well and number two is 1887 points. But what does this have to do with the price of beans or with education?

 

“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their own learning and in democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of Children. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, retired Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College

 

Proactive is a good word. “Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty” is how Dictionary.com explains the word proactive. A good friend has the Gretzky quote up on his wall, I gave him a copy nearly nine years ago and it still is in use. I first used this quote over nine years ago when my friend was principal at our high school. He has moved on but Gretzky’s words ring true, be it in Ice Hockey, teaching or in life. I have expectation as a key element though in this quote, be where the puck is going to be not just where it is. Be thinking ahead rather than thinking in stagnation.

 

“For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much – if he lives and uses that in hand day by day — shall be full to running over.” Edgar Cayce

 

“Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” Richard M. DeVoe

 

Much of Cayce’s reading can be a bit much but these are good words and our daily outlook does mold where and how our day will be.

 

“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” Orison Swett Marden

 

Marden was the founder of Success magazine and is considered to be the founder of the modern Success movement.

 

“We lift ourselves by our thought, we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere – your ideal of what you long to attain – the ideal of health, efficiency, success.” Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924)

 

I am always amazed at teachers who will have few expectations for students. Research has shown time and time again that students live up to the expectations of the teachers. Teachers literally set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little that is what you will get and conversely expect much and you will receive. A bit of a paraphrase of Gretsky.

 

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is” Frank Bird

 

As I thought this morning teaching is much like any other activity you plan, you implement and you have expectations. If we only teach to where learning is soon you find you are truly going nowhere. For years I will at times use words far beyond operational vocabulary of students, my response is always “look it up and learn a new word”.

 

“By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible.” Giovanni Niccolini

 

“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” Ben Sweetland

 

I really liked this concept so often we teach the use of a teaspoon, I do it too, and thinking that this kid will never learn that or this kids’ reading level is too low. Sweetland writes about expectations and offers this.

 

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” Ben Sweetland

When that difficult student succeeds you as a teacher succeed and your path is brighter. Years ago, I worked with severely disabled students and a simple movement often would warrant a celebration. So often I use the quote from Aerosmith’s song, Amazing.

 

“Life is a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler

 

As I was reading this morning Ben Sweetland either listens to Aerosmith or Steven Tyler reds Ben Sweetland’s books.

 

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland

 

After looking up publishing dates Steven Tyler read Ben Sweetland’s book. Many of which were published in the 1960’s. If we as teachers impose parameters on learning, if we set goals far to low and or do not teach to lofty goals we set, we in effect are the issue not the student. Maybe every teacher needs to tack over their door as my dear friend, the now Georgia Principal of the year at Osborne High School has.

 

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

 

Let us set some records now, records of learning of successful students and children in our communities. As I went out into the chill of the morning a bit earlier to walk my dog as I looked to the southeast the constellation Orion was clear as a bell over me. I could not help but notice that today was the first day in months it was silent in the morning. No tree frogs, crickets, cicada’s absolute silence. I have often wondered as to the abient temperature for silence in the morning. I was reading in a small book written between 1953 and 1954 by a Trappist monk, Thoughts in solitude and a passage struck a chord in the silence.

 

“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus, life is always new.” Thomas Merton

 

Perhaps I was not listening close enough as I went out just a few minutes ago when I said it was silent. I stepped out again with my other dog and a great horned owl was calling there is always more always knew if we constantly adjust thoughts and perceptions. Merton was a prolific writer and his works have stood the test of time he died in a small hotel in Southeast Asia in an electrical accident protesting the war in Vietnam back in the late 1960’s and as I ponder this morning please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts namaste.

 

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

An eclectic morning and more than one thought about Thoreau

Bird Droppings October 4, 2019
An eclectic morning and more than one thought about Thoreau

 

I was talking with the cashier at a local convenience store yesterday morning. We began discussing, The Davinci Code and other philosophical diversions and fearing death as a basis for religion came up. The older you get and more of class mates from high school that pass on death is a passenger on our journey. How we interpret and consider death is a piece of who we are. Having a nurse practioner around the house might give me a few extra days.

 

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

It has been a few years since I watched an episode of Star Trek actually it may have been one of the movies. Spock has interfered with Star Fleets objectives in relationship to a small group of colonists on an obscure planet. It seems they live forever or at least aging is so minute that life times are measured in tens of thousands of years. What was interesting is that they by choice became nearly primitive living off the land and pursuing wisdom, reading, writing, all forms of art work. Life became a process of always improving since time was not a factor.  As I read this quote from Gandhi earlier, this movie popped in my mind.

 

“The world is apprehended by way of the mind; the world is acted upon by way of the mind and all good things and bad exist in the world by way of the mind.” Samyutta Nikaya

 

As I thought further about Star Trek and this group of people living on a planet where radiation from their sun seemed to be the key to longevity I was reflecting back on several incidents at school almost ten years ago. My assistant Principal came in with thirty minutes left on the day before a holiday to do an observation or so she said sticking her head in the door. On top of the timing I had two extra students who had been placed with me since they are not functioning in regular classes. They were in a sort of holding pattern for a day or two. I was in the middle of trying to alleviate a year book emergency rewiring a CD burner and trying to print out a picture for a teacher who wanted her daughter’s angel scene from a Christmas play I just took for drama dept. and several extra students were assisting in helping down load hard drives from refurbished computers. So, all in all, ten things were happening in last thirty minutes of last day before the holiday not counting an observation.

 

I never mind observations and probably have had more in my few teaching years than most will have in a life time or was my AP was getting back at me for several previous practical jokes. But we think what we portray in our minds within seconds I was shifted from disaster to plotting a new reprisal. Actually, got quite a good report for diversity and individualizing the learning situations.

 

“Honesty can be cultivated by transforming your inner language. For example, you might think: “I am no good” or “They are not good.” Is this true? For some strange reason, people want to wallow in the idea of being either the best or the worst. What is true in this moment? How close can we get to the reality of our experiences?” Martine Bachelor, “Meditation for Life

 

Thinking back to the movie Spock was trying to save the Utopian society of a small group of people as he turned against Star Fleet in the movie. The reason that Star Fleet wanted this planet was literally to sell and package longevity. They were willing to destroy a people for profit. Human nature many would say. I observed those two extra students I had on that observation day. One of them I have for a period every day the other I did not know. As I thought to why both ended with me it was because of inappropriate behavior in class. Such terms as acting out and attention seeking were used. I used to be a big fan of “Law and Order” a popular TV show. Last night a young boy who had been abused was talking with the prosecutor and recalled a particular day in his life. The very man who had abused him for four years was the hero by chance. He was concerned he was “sick” because the greatest day of his life was also with the person who destroyed his life. Shortly after on the show this young man tried to kill himself.

 

“Real love is not based on attachment, but on altruism. In this case, your compassion will remain as a humane response to suffering as long as beings continue to suffer.” the Dalai Lama

 

Perhaps I am trying to cram too many thoughts into one sitting. It was a busy day yesterday and today a presentation and tomorrow writing and getting ideas formulated for my paper. We all need to be looking at our lives are we trying to over simplify? Are we being honest with ourselves? Do we use the word love as merely an attachment? Can we be more than we are in our given time? Many issues as we head into the holiday season I just need to take my wife’s car to the service station and here in the Athens area soon we will be deluged with all the folks heading south. It seems all major interstates seem to converge here and for a late Thursday just a reminder from Will Rodgers.

 

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.” Will Rogers

 

So, as I am thinking further.

 

“The appreciation of the profundity and subtlety of his thought comes only after serious study, and only a few of the most committed students are willing to expend the necessary effort. Many, upon first reading him, will conclude: that he was a churlish, negative, antisocial malcontent; or that he advocated that all of us should reject society and go live in the woods; or that each person has complete license to do as he/she pleases, without consideration for the rights of others; or that he is unconscionably doctrinaire. His difficult, allusive prose, moreover, requires too much effort. All such judgments are at best simplistic and at worst, wrong.” Wendell P. Glick

 

Interesting I was thinking Glick was referring to me in this passage but alas it is Henry David Thoreau.  In a lesson plan on how to teach Thoreau Glick points out the difficulties even today though Henry David Thoreau is recognized as a great writer it was his idiosyncrasies that kept him from public acknowledgement in his time.

 

“He had in a short life exhausted the capabilities of this world; wherever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a home.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, In his eulogy for Thoreau

 

Early today I was answering an email about how I had gone into teaching. A friend from high school never imagined me teaching. I found that interesting because since I was twelve I have been teaching be it swimming lessons, boy scouts etc. As a parent we are always teaching. I started with Henry David Thoreau in that he was a teacher but he walked away from teaching to be a better teacher. Thoreau left to become a learner. He sought knowledge; he craved new ideas and thoughts. Everything about him was a classroom.

 

“Yet, hermit and stoic as he was, he was really fond of sympathy, and threw himself heartily and childlike into the company of young people whom he loved, and whom he delighted to entertain, as he only could, with the varied and endless anecdotes of his experiences by field and river: and he was always ready to lead a huckleberry-party or a search for chestnuts or grapes. Talking, one day, of a public discourse, Henry remarked that whatever succeeded with the audience was bad.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

In my email this morning my friend wrote about teaching should be fun and how for many years her fellow teachers thought her methods were different. Often, I have other teachers wonder at what I do with students and how and why. But they learn and they ask questions. I was looking back earlier to why I chose teaching. Initially it was because of a Biology teacher I had in tenth grade. I wandered away from direct teaching into publishing of training materials for twenty-three years and came back. Often, I find myself using the statement I am where I need to be at this moment. My pathway has led me to this spot. Soon we will have a day of thanksgiving of holiday family and friends. So often within the constraints of life we find times of sorrow. Please be aware that around you and nearby someone may be suffering as we celebrate offer a hand, a shoulder a thought and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to borrow from a veteran and friend from an email many months back and with veterans day a few days away and still very applicable today.

 

“Please remember the sons and daughters in faraway lands, for once we were them” Reah Wallace, retired Navy

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Seeing puzzle pieces by being patient

Bird Droppings October 3, 2019

Seeing puzzle pieces by being patient

 

A few mornings back before a subdivision moved in I decided to walk out to my quiet spot along an old stream bed by the house. As I ventured back a feather lay upon the path way. I picked up the feather and proceeded to my spot. I lit some sage and sweet grass and sat listening in the stillness of the morning. As I sat a twig moved and caught my attention. A squirrel was sitting beside me three feet away watching me. His mouth was full with a pecan. I did not move and after several moments he or she walked into the trees. I had a bit of sweet grass and laid the feather with the grass on a smooth stone. Over the past years I have learned patience and to listen more deeply to my surroundings and those people around me. Walking back to the house I found a bone from a turtle. As I ponder today about the idea of patience we all need to pay more attention to the details the tiny pieces of our lives. Each piece has significance and meaning.

 

“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

How many times are we told “take your time”? So often in life we are anxious to get the job finished or to get to the top today. We often forget there are many steps along the way; many puzzle pieces needing to be placed in order to see the whole picture. For many months a student I had worked with had issues with sleeping in class and at one point was suspended for three days. I had tried to get his family to get him to the doctor due to large doses of medication and combination of meds he was on. His sleeping is not typical teenager tiredness.

 

Walking through the meat section of Kroger I ran into his mother and his doctor had called back with blood work his level of one medication was three times what it should have been and the doctor was amazed he could even walk. One thing that so often happens in life is we want everything to be what we want now, placing a random puzzle piece on a table does not present where or how the puzzle will turn out. It takes numerous more pieces till we see a bit and we assume to know the whole far too many times.

 

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” Elizabeth Taylor, A Wreath of Roses

 

A good friend asked me the other day about a job opening at another school. It happened to be in EBD, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. He asked what or could he succeed and what was key to my success. Unfortunately, he asked as one of my students was for first time this year making a scene. I emailed back that evening the following. If you can trust the untrustable and be patient with those who would drive you crazy, EBD is no big deal, they soon will do what you suggest. Force them and you are in a fighting situation and ISS and OSS are not meaningful consequences. Building to intrinsic consequences is far more powerful, taking a kid off the computer and or me just being mad at some of kids bothers them more than ISS or OSS. Sometimes little pieces work better than big ones. Solving small issues will eventually accomplish big goals if there is plenty of time.

 

“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” Dutch Proverb

 

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you, so in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

 

“There will be a time when loud-mouthed, incompetent people seem to be getting the best of you. When that happens, you only have to be patient and wait for them to self-destruct. It never fails.” Richard Rybolt

 

A simple word is patience. Often I wonder what might be one of my major attributes and in one word I would say patience. Yesterday a student was asking what would it take to get me mad, calling me names etc. I said it takes a good bit to get me mad and name calling wouldn’t do it. He proceeded to try and after a few choice words actually he wasn’t upset just wanting to prove me wrong. I said first I know the statement to be false and secondly I know the person saying this to be ignorant and or stupid for saying such things. He sat back and said, well I would be mad if somebody said that to me, and I told him that is your choice. Puzzle pieces forever falling in place is my motto. Patience has kept that kid in school versus an alternative setting and is taking a piece one at a time rather than trying to solve a puzzle in one fell swoop.

 

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine

 

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begins the task anew.” Saint Francis de Sales

 

So often a monk can address patience but they have to it’s their job. But monks too are alive and human and the frailties we face they too face or have faced. Breaking a task into manageable pieces often aids in completing the task.

 

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Victor Hugo

 

“How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.” William Shakespeare

 

Looking back on my own life it has been one of pieces falling in place slowly. One portion of my journey was twenty three years in the making. I left the teaching field directly for twenty three years all of that time in graphic arts and publishing for the industrial training industry still indirectly in education. Coincidently during that time having delivered training manuals to most of the buildings at Georgia Tech which is where my son is now graduated from what a small world.

 

It has been so long in coming and even now I know this is only a portion of the puzzle, more is yet to come. In life I have found you savor each moment each second enjoy the cool breeze if only for a moment. Pull off the road if you need to view a rainbow or sunset and truly bask in the magnificence but that is another day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

 

My friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Why are we deliberately wrong?

Bird Droppings October 2, 2019

Why are we deliberately wrong?

 

I stopped playing the lottery many nearly three years ago but I will admit that on a previous Saturday night with a Powerball jackpot of only about one hundred fifty million dollars I was pondering retiring if I bought a ticket and won. I think I would be if I won retiring to devote time to education in a more positive way than what today’s teachers are allowed. Due to so many mandates, edicts, pontifications, justifications and whatever other way of impeding education our school, local, state and federal government has imposed it is honestly hard to teach. Generally, over the years each semester there is a teacher with a hard class and they talk of changing careers or retiring. This year it is epidemic. Teachers I consider some of the best are dwindling and others tired of the constant imposing of near impossible attainments for students with no changes in the curriculum and or courses they are told to teach. As with so many issues education has been bastardized and taken over by those seeking to make more money.

 

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who have no right to talk. Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many misunderstandings have come between the white men about the Indians.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce January 14, 1879 addressing representatives of the President of The United States

 

I am saddened nothing has changed in the over hundred fifty plus years since Chief Joseph surrendered. Today there are over three hundred thousand complaints against the Bureau of Indian Affairs that are unanswered and in courts throughout the country and the highest suicide rate of teenagers in the nation are on reservations. Around the country we are arguing about illegal immigrants. In Arizona and New Mexico many of the ancestors of these people were kicked off their land when we won the Spanish American war. Navahos, Apaches, and many other tribes were dispersed to the Indian Territories in Oklahoma never allowed to return to the ancestral homes. We are so self-centered that we can argue about illegal immigrants maybe it is we who are truly the illegal immigrants. An old Indian was approached by an anthropologist and asked what your people called this land before the white man came. He calmly said, “Ours”.

 

“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to grow and live.” Chief Joseph

 

So often my thoughts come random after a few hours’ sleep and rising to take the dog out and a point or idea will stick. Last night about two thirty, I got off the phone after talking with a good friend from many years ago. We talked nearly three hours and in heading to bed something came to mind. It seems the powers to be back in the day and now always want to mass produce. In the world of the late 1800’s as far as Native Peoples go it was coming up with a blanket policy and no pun intended to cover all tribes. There was no consideration of culture, family; of language and of history just this was it including education using the Carlisle School as an example.

 

Basically, the white Christian way was the best and only way. No exceptions Indians should be farmers like white folk no more hunting and gathering, no more Sundance ceremonies which were banned in late 1800’s or rituals that might offend Christian folk. Treaties and promises were made almost with little or any attempt to truly fund and or implement that plan. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Corruption ruled what little funding did find its way to reservations and holding areas. As I thought it was very easy to coincidently tie this government outlook to education of today.

 

In 2004 a massive educational bill was passed entitled No Child Left Behind. A key point being that by 2014 all children would be on grade level in math and reading. Sadly, funding was left by the wayside and for states to implement as best they could. However, penalties were still in place for not meeting standards imposed. The idea of all children being to standard includes all socio-economic, cultural, children with disabilities, ethnic groups and any other sort of subtitle that might be thrown in. Children would be evaluated with standardized tests given in specific grades and to graduate. Dr. William Ayers, that same fellow accused during the previous presidential election of being too friendly with our now president has and is a nationally known educator and author.

 

“The root of the word evaluation is ‘value’ and authentic assessment includes understanding first what the student’s value and then building from there. Authentic assessment is inside-out rather than outside-in. It’s an attempt to get away from sorting a mass of students and closer to the teacher’s question: Given what I know, how should I teach this particular student.” Dr. William Ayers

 

One of our states efforts to get assessment in line with national standards and accountability has been a new math curriculum and of course subsequent testing. On the front page of a past Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Only 52% of the students who took the End of Course test for Math II in May 2017 passed.” This was across the state averages in high schools on this particular test. State department of education people are saying they will get it just will take time for students to get use to new curriculum. In special education we have been told to start telling parent’s in IEP’s that kids may be in high school for five or six years due to higher standards for graduation. Interesting by chance should you take more than four years to graduate you are considered a drop out up, until just recently when the graduation   rules were again changed.

 

I question who is setting the bar up and why? As I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution it is due to mandated standards set in No Child Left Behind legislation. What about schools that are so far behind that no matter what bar level is set it will not happen. Many reservation schools and inner-city schools have never hit AYP to date in nearly ten years of testing. Another sad point is it is common knowledge among administrators and educators that test scores and zip codes have strong correlation. How is that for a statistic? Borrowing a phrase now that is a Catch 22, yes most definitely. I had an idea last night after a brief discussion in a blog over what could be done. I asked for some time to think about solving this dilemma. By chance I went by Barnes and Nobles to get some back up material.

 

Great educators have known the answer for many years. John Dewey offered suggestions and thoughts well over a hundred years ago. Numerous other authors have expanded on and clarified Dewey’s thoughts and all seem to come to one conclusion the solution is not in one test fits all, one curriculum fits all, it is not about leaving children behind which is happening at an alarming rate currently. So here was walking my dog last night and a thought came to me. It’s about one child at a time.

 

“Teachers are explorers. As they explore the world and lives of their students, they cast lines to different ways of thinking. Teaching is often bridge building; beginning on one shore with the knowledge, experience, know-how, and interests of the student, the teacher moves toward broader horizons and deeper ways of knowing.” Dr. William Ayers, to teach the journey of a teacher, 2010

 

You might say where do we start? Step one we start asking students. After talking with many students of the Foxfire program who have graduated many years back I am seeing that there are commonalities in their opinion of what they learned. They learned about community more so than any other topic this has come up numerous times. It was not a measurable academic lesson or standardized test score it was the interactions with others in a useful and viable manor. It was being allowed to be an individual and to be creative. It was about one child at a time.

 

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuse the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice One

 

John Dewey emphasized the democratic classroom and giving students a voice and allowing their past experiences to be utilized not just those perceptions and experiences of the teacher. This idea of One Child at a Time may sound a bit farfetched but when you look at how we currently test and evaluate it is not truly an indicator of what a child knows or even cares about. It is what has been drilled in the past semester. So often you will hear the term life long learner and yet is cramming for a standardized test lifelong learning? Is 52% of students taking test failing lifelong learning? What if we could take a bit more time learn who the student is allow that students weakness and strengths to be incorporated into the learning process and developed. I would say wouldn’t it be great if we could do an individual IEP for all students instead of a blanket testing policy. Would it not be great if each student had a portfolio that accompanied them in each grade showing progress and showing their achievements? It is one child at a time that is the key to educational success and or failure. I will wander more another time so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird