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.

A spiritual side to teaching

Bird Droppings April 2, 2021
A spiritual side to teaching

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it’s never living apart from one’s self. Not about the absence of other people – it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” Parker Palmer

Dr. Parker Palmer is an innovator, speaker, retreat leader, author, and traveling teacher. He is a senior associate of the American Association for Higher Education and senior advisor to the Fetzer Institute. Parker Palmer received his Ph.D. from the University of California. I was first introduced to his writing in 2001 by a friend who happened to be my principal at the time. He recommended his book, The courage to Teach, and I have given away several copies now over the years.

“Teachers choose their vocation for reasons of the heart because they care deeply about their students and their subject. But the demands of teaching cause too many educators to lose heart. Is it possible to take heart in teaching once more so that we can continue to do what teachers always do – give heart to our students.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I have been teaching in public schools twenty years, twenty years working n training in industry, seven years of teaching before IDEA set in about fifty years now in teaching and training. I have watched teachers burn out and some more of a fizzle out. There is a slight bit of difference between burn and fizzle. Someone who burns out is putting there all into what they do and someone who fizzles out is taking up space and probably should not have been there to begin with. I have watched creative teachers starting out like gangbusters succumb to teaching blues and boredom. They come in full of zeal and within a semester are borrowing premade transparencies from their next-door neighbor because they do not have the time anymore to create new ones.

“Bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching – and in the process, from their students. Good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life.” Parker Palmer

I have for many years considered teaching an art form. I do think it is a place where a person’s soul is laid open for better or worse as you teach whatever subject you happened to be teaching. If you truly want to connect with your students you open your heart as Palmer indicates and this is difficult for many to do. I honestly think it takes a special person to be a good and effective teacher. Parker Palmer in his writing discusses how teaching is a community effort. My thoughts reflect back to John Dewey and his revelations of education as a social event and more critically a necessity.

“As I make the case that good teaching is always and essentially communal, I am not abandoning my claim that teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Community, or connectedness, is the principle behind good teaching, but different teachers with different gifts create a community in surprisingly diverse ways, using widely divergent methods.” Parker Palmer

In my own journeys in life and I use a word whose connotation is plural discussing my journeys in life since I have been in several directions prior to where I am now. I have found that it is in happiness and solace we find peace with ourselves. The quote I started with today reflects on solitude which for me is a few moments each day in a spot I have selected away from the house with a view across a large pasture. I can sit and reflect on my day or my day ahead and I ponder sitting listening to the sounds about me. I claim this spot as sacred and some will scuff how you can say that it does not have a church or any religious affiliation. I titled my writing today as a spiritual side to teaching and these two words for me intertwine as I look at them and ponder further.

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

In the years since I have come back to teaching it has been about respect and trust. I have gone about this through building relationships with students. In my own opinion that is one of the most critical aspects of the teaching process. It is not simply a curriculum and a book or several books, it is relationships. I see what I do each day as a spiritual endeavor bringing new ideas to students who may not have had the chance previously to understand or even experience in any way this knowledge. It has been nearly twenty years since I wrote a trust scale for a human development course I was taking. It follows along with a similar concept that I had read about in Dr. James Fowler’s book, The Development of Faith. We start out as totally trusting and soon learn not to trust and eventually return to total trust. It takes good and great teachers to help along the way. Thinking about a new week ahead and few days left in this week the positive and negative that will come my way. I tend to choose to embrace the positive and not spend as much time considering the negative. I do hope each of you can take a moment to reflect and to 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

Getting ready

Bird Droppings April 1, 2021
Getting ready

“In the government schools, which are referred to as public schools, Indian policy has been instituted there, and it’s a policy where they do not encourage, in fact, discourage, critical thinking and the creation of ideas and public education.” Russell Means

I walked early this morning before the sunrise taking out the trash and looking for a few photos to take. The moon was gone behind a cloud for now as I walked down our walk, streaks of color were forming intermixed with the clouds overhead in all directions. Georgia has been very wet and now temperatures are heading higher, although today there is a freeze warning. We have had rain almost every day or two for several weeks with more coming. A spot here and there, a raindrop here and there I swear some days it seems it rains on the front yard and not the back. Generally, it is quick storms and pouring rain sporadically around it might be in town and drive a half mile and nothing, sort of a typical Georgia spring. We have been lucky we have had the rain at our house and in the surrounding area easily judged by kudzu growth which is just getting started and wisteria that has already bloomed.


As a teacher there is anticipation especially in this online experience that is new to many. Some states have already started bringing students back in person. Our local county has been in class all school year. As the last official day of school draws near one way or another I am sitting here wondering as I look to go back to teaching. Hopefully, I will be teaching college this summer or next fall. Almost like starting a new year do we have the books and paper, pencils and pens, markers, and poster board and all of the materials and such we need to go forth and spread the required knowledge?

In a world of rapid access and instant everything can we even compete with all that is there as a humble teacher. I started with Russell Means who has been a key figure in Indian Activism for nearly forty-five years. Means is an actor having portrayed Chingackook in Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day Lewis.

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun. “ Kent Nerburn

“Yesterday is ashes; tomorrow is wood. Only today does the fire burn brightly.” Inuit proverb

I read this and wondered, perhaps an ancient version of the Aerosmith quote I use so often “Life is about the journey not the destination. “ In the world of the Inuit the moment is of utmost necessity as life literally hangs in a balance constantly. There is a line of forward looking knowing we need wood to keep the fire going, food to sustain living and yet the moment is so crucial. Last night I had a dream of teaching. Odd a teacher would dream of teaching but it had significance to me as it was about teaching swimming. I started teaching swimming lessons when I was twelve or so. In teaching swimming, you have to learn to swim by swimming you cannot learn by reading a book. I find it amazing how we have taken that simple concept of having context to the lesson and forgotten it. John Dewey would be rolling in his grave if he could see how much s\we have bastardized learning.

“Predicting the future is easy. It’s trying to figure out what’s going on now that’s hard.” Fritz R. S. Dressler

“Create your future from your future not your past.” Werner Erhard

Recently I helped a friend write and design a brochure for a program they were doing the front cover had a picture of a foundation and was worded something to the effect of building a strong foundation. For many people life is trying to focus on the future and they literally try and build a foundation based on a goal far off. Often, they lose sight of what is here now and immediate. The Inuit knew tomorrow they would need wood for the fire and it would be found but the heat is here now while it burns. So often we need that goal set off in the distance but we need to live now to reach it.

“There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.” Johann Sebastian Bach

Now right this moment is when you proceed to build toward your goal. Bach could not create his masterpieces without time spent hitting the right keys practicing perfecting the music that would become timeless.

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Yogi Berra

Many years ago, newspapers would make jokes of the yogism’s and pick on the great catcher for the New York Yankees and when he became a Major League Manager they still made fun of his comments. However, looking at this quote, there is little difference when speaking about a fire and wood but when you need the fire there sure is borrowing from the Inuit statement I started with.

“Don’t do anything in practice that you wouldn’t do in the game.” George Halas

The great NFL coach was accurate as to life as well if you practice it in your life you will end up actually doing it. I write often about example and trying to set an example. It is in what we live that others see and understand us. I was walking in and noticed posters on a coach’s wall alluding to this concept. Actually, several of the following were on his wall.

“If I don’t practice the way I should, then I won’t play the way that I know I can.” Ivan Lendl

“We all knew there was just one way to improve our odds for survival: train, train, train. Sometimes, if your training is properly intense it will kill you. More often — much, much more often — it will save your life.” Richard Marcinko

Richard Marchinko was a former US Navy SEAL team commander and founder of the notorious SEAL team Six which is the group that took out Osama Bin Laden. He was an antiterrorist before it was being supported with federal tax dollars. Marcinko now is a security advisor and author writing about his exploits during Viet Nam and after during the tenuous period as terrorism shifted as a means to accomplish a group ends, his concept of practice and training kept both himself and his men alive.

“If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.” Ignacy Paderewski

“An hour of practice is worth five hours of foot-dragging.” Pancho Segura

I received an email months ago and a good friend was going to be singing in a concert and in her email, she spoke of the joy and fulfillment of singing and performing and perfecting the music. She was excited in her description of the event yet to take place and the thrill of performing. But is it the hours of dedication the audience sees, and the emotions poured in over the hours of learning the music that is heard and not simply the one hour recital at 7:00 Saturday night? Life is about practicing and working at knowing the wood will be there to keep the fire going. I will end today my meanderings with a quote from a great football player in his time perhaps the greatest running back ever in High School and he was from a small town in Georgia, went to The University of Georgia, and then to fame in the USFL. He was actually who the USFL built the league around.

“If you train hard, you’ll not only be hard, you’ll be hard to beat.” Herschel Walker

Herschel is now several years retired from football and many years from High School where he still is a legend in football here in Georgia and of how he trained as a child pulling tractor tires around the yard and doing thousands upon thousands of sit ups and pushups. It is interesting how so many know what he did yet do not emulate the feat. They know what got him to his greatness yet and they want to be there but avoid the work. Sadly, LIFE too is similar. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Looking for reasons for why kids go bad

Bird Droppings March 31, 2021

 Looking for reasons for why kids go bad

“Come; let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children.” Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux

Nearly twenty years have passed since I did a research paper on the causes of various emotional issues with children. When I first started back to teaching it really was not all that much different from the early seventies when I last taught. When I wrote the paper I was looking for commonalities among children who had more serious issues in school and in life. I listed drugs use, alcohol use, jail time, probation, age, sex, drivers licenses, wealth, social status, child hood illnesses and whatever else I could find measurable numbers or information on. I did not question students, this was on their school and public record. As I looked deeper at my students and most were still children I concluded that most with problems were made they did not just happen. Indirectly we created each of the issues that manifested it. I found an article in Divorce Magazine entitled Help for Generation. They listed statistics that in 1970 seventy two percent of adult population is married and in 1999 only fifty nine percent. This was an interesting statistic and furthermore the number of divorces granted is down per one thousand people but up per number of new marriages.

As I researched years ago in that group of students that I was using for my data only two out of twenty eight lived with their biological parents, I should say both biological parents.

“It seems that the divorce culture feeds on itself, creating a one-way downward spiral of unhappiness and failure.” David Brenner, New York, July 14, 1999, Associate director of the Institute for American Values

“There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” Leon R. Yankwich

Before Netflix and other streaming services I was hooked on reruns of Law and Order, SUV, the hit TV show which now runs it seems all day long in one form or another. I am captivated by the errors and flaws within our society it seems. As I watched old reruns similarities to former student’s families came out.

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Michael Levine

As I researched deeper in reasons children having issues often I found issues were learned and the examples were set at home. It could be drugs, abuse, alcohol and literally any of issues presented had been directly related to home situations. “Children learn what they live”, both positively and negatively as Dr. Laura Nolte, a favorite of mine, a leading psychologist, writes extensively about and which is featured in her Children Learn what they live poster of the seventies, and programs for children. I Shared her poster from 1972 yesterday.

Yesterday the news was filled with stories of teenagers, young people who had gotten into trouble and teenagers who are trying to make a difference. Thinking back over eighteen years to an event in Minnesota where a young man killed nine people in a shooting spree at his school. For whatever reason this incident seldom is mentioned in schools shootings. Elsewhere drug arrests and gangs make the news, several young black men unarmed have recently been killed in shooting by police.

I recall several years back when I was walking outside my room and a student came up sheepishly and hugged me and apologized. I am so sorry for what happened it was only a few weeks prior this student was in a fight with another student in the cafeteria and I was pulling them apart. She now is a teacher with three kids.  It was a strange feeling being thanked for breaking up a fight by one involved. In that same time period I was at a basketball game and parents were yelling at each other over and about their kids in front of the audience to a point a resource officer was involved. It really is no different than forty plus years ago when I coached basketball in Macon Georgia and the kids liked this old crude gym better than the new gym. I finally asked why and all the kids said parents could not fit inside and kids could just play basketball with no parents yelling at them.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop

I never met the man but my father always spoke highly of him as he was my brother’s physician in Philadelphia back in mid-1960’s when my brother John was at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital.  In later years Dr. Koop was Surgeon General of the United States and one who was always looking for answers midst all the questions.

“Children are curious and are risk takers. They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous. A child initially trusts life and the processes of life.” John Bradshaw

Perhaps it is the breaking of trust that causes issues to arise. Years ago I did a graph on the development of trust. Stages in how trust evolves with a child and then into an adult. We are born with a universal trust as an infant sort of you instinctually trust we then learn to not trust and eventually come full circle learning to trust again.

“Trust evolves. We start off as babies with perfect trust. Inevitably, trust is damaged by our parents or other family members. Depending on the severity, we may experience devastated trust, in which the trust is completely broken. In order to heal, we must learn when and how trust can be restored. As part of this final step, if we cannot fully trust someone. then we establish guarded, conditional, or selective trust.” Dr. Riki Robbins, PhD, The Four Stages of Trust

I have over the years read a book by Dr. Temple Grantin, Animals in Translation. Dr. Grantin’s unique view is she is autistic and provides insights as she looks at animals in a different light than we normal do and she can understand and operate on that instinctual level. She stills functions in a world of trust and maintains trust. In a family setting what more so than parents leaving could display trust in a child let alone destroy trust and then want them to lead normal lives.

“When a parent is consistent and dependable, the baby develops sense of basic trust. The baby builds this trust when they are cold, wet or hungry and they can count on others to relieve their pain. The alternative is a sense of mistrust, the feeling that the parent is undependable and may not be there when they are needed.” Eric Erikson, Eric Erikson’s Eight Stages of Life

Sitting writing here in my writing area in our grandkids room look at pictures of my three sons who are all adults now, it is so easy to say no problem but that would be lying. Then I click to Yahoo News and as I described the event in Minnesota those years ago the Red Lake shootings and headlines of this or that as to why a 15 year old would kill nine people and himself.

“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux, Holy man

In 1973 or so I met a young man in Macon Georgia at that time he was a year older than me and still is from last I heard from his brother a few weeks back. His tribal name translates to Red Clay, he was and is an artist. My family has many of his pieces of sculpture, drawings and paintings. In 1975 or so he went through a divorce right after his wife miscarried their first baby. Every day that I have known him he had been drinking. Once he was the most requested teacher in Bibb County now retired he has been an itinerant carpenter and professional feather dancer. Although I have been told he recently retired from dancing and is now a lead drummer in Pow Wow circles. But a comment that stuck with me and an image he had painted a small acrylic painting that my mother has hanging in her office area. It is of three burial platforms in the prairie. The platform in the foreground is one of a chief or man of importance, the second his wife and the third a small infant burial platform. His unborn baby from so many years ago. He told me nearly forty years ago he would not live past forty he is now almost seventy. As I look back and think of how we respond and how we set that example for our children.

I started reading Kent Nerburn’s books several years ago. He taught at te Red Lake High School in Minnesota and you can find his editorial and blog about this event on his website. As today as I wandered in my thoughts please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks namaste. 

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

So close to finishing

Bird Droppings March 30, 2021
So close to finishing

So often as I start my writings each morning there has been an experience recently to build upon. It is utilizing these previous experiences that provide windows and doors into future experiences. I was driving through our town and a shop I had seen numerous times caught my eye. It is a store that caters to cooks, selling fancy cheese, wines and utensils. I actually stopped in I needed a good knife to cut and chop herbs as I cook. As I walked in a wonderful lady greeted me and we talked for nearly an hour about education and cooking. It turns out she was also prior to retirement a teacher of Emotional and Behavior Disorders. A small world or is it synchronicity, I think I know what Dr. Carl G. Jung would say. My major in graduate school always causes confusion as most teacher graduate students go for that Leadership degree required for administrative positions and mine was in Emotional Behavior Disorders.

It has been nearly fifteen years since I started my doctoral studies at Georgia Southern University and I am nearly completed hopefully my first three chapters of my dissertation will be turned in within a week. My major for some may be a bit obscure that being in curriculum theory with an emphasis on Teaching and instruction, it is a relatively new endeavor actually entitled in the course catalog as Curriculum Studies. One of the first pieces that caught my attention in my early readings was, “the autobiographical method of currere, a method focused on self-understanding” by William Pinar in his book What is Curriculum Theory. As I discussed with this retired teacher and now shop owner and purveyor of fine cheese, wines and meats we talked of education, along with various cuts of meats and where my livestock background came out.

I have been listening as I read, write and study for a number of years now to R. Carlos Nakai, a Navaho-Ute from Arizona. Nakai is a classically trained coronet and trumpet player who thirty years ago took up the Native American seven note flute. He actually carves his own flutes from cedar and his haunting melodies stir the soul and calm the wild beast. I play his music in my room at school. As I was thinking of Pinar’s thought on the autobiographical method I recalled a note in one of Carlos Nakai’s CD’s.

“A lot of what I’ve been taught culturally comes from an awareness of the environment. …How I feel is based on my impressions of being in certain spaces at certain times. Thinking back…on personal tribal stories and the history of my culture figures into how I organize my music.” R. Carlos Nakai

One of the founders of pragmatism in philosophy is John Dewey who is also well known for his contributions to education and progressivism. Many of his ideas are from the early 1900’s. Dewey based his thinking on our experience.

“Every experience lives on in further experiences. Hence the central problem of an education based on experience is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and create subsequent experiences.” John Dewey

Dewey is a hard read and since I was only looking for a quote he is back to the shelf for now but only a minute or two as I am using several Dewey books in papers I am currently working on. As I switched CD’s to a Hawaiian themed CD where Nakai and Keola Beamer, a Hawaiian slap guitar master combine for “Our Beloved Land” another jacket note caught my eye.

“We were put on the earth to experience life in its totality. And if you’re not doing that, you’re essentially wasting your time.” R. Carlos Nakai

I thought of my professor in that first doctorial class as I read and a comment she made about how many of the courses are on line and the evaluations that follow online of professors. She said she always gets better reviews with the online courses then in person. On one of the first days in class she wore a black suit and starched white shirt long sleeves with dark shoes and argyle socks. She had one pirate type earring in one ear and after removing her jacket and rolling up her sleeves tattoos to her wrists covering her arms granted it was interesting especially to one such as I who is constantly observing human nature. When she offered she is in counseling and on meds for psychosis things made better sense.

As I watched my class watch her as she came in who being mostly relatively conservative southern teachers the reactions were interesting but as I thought to my professors comment about why she did not understand why she always gets better reviews online I thought as I listened to her lecture being a recognized scholar in the area of curriculum theory. Maybe the biases of the masses of people in the world really are insignificant you need to live life and if you are not doing that you are wasting time.
I got the impression within a few minutes my professor is not wasting anyone’s time she is who she is and comfortable with that as maybe we all should try and be who knows what might happen with self-understanding and experiences. It comes down to all of the pieces to our life’s puzzle falling into place one by one. As I close as always please keep all who are in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and most of all too always give thanks.

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

All in a name

Bird Droppings March 29, 2021
All in a name

On February 3, 2003 I officially started titling my daily emailing and blogging, Bird Droppings. I went back in my files and pulled up a few old thoughts and ideas. As I was reading the local paper today a street poll was included asking locals about gas prices. In a morning of memories I recalled an email from my mother about starting a gas war. It was a forward from my uncle to my mother. A simple concept we as consumers stop buying gas from the two biggest gas companies and only buy from smaller ones which will drive pricing down. Idea was emailing to 30 people this idea which gets mailed to 30 more, sort of pyramid gas war tactics.

It was in 2001 roughly I started using the name Bird Droppings as a joke and put out several issues of newsletters for my students under that name and sitting here this morning with my tea mug in hand actually it is sitting on the desk at school beside me typing an email out. I thought at the time “Bird Droppings” a good title and subject. Looking back to that day in 2003 much was occurring around the nation as NASA tried to pick up pieces of a space shuttle and sort out the disaster that happened over east Texas. These explorers chose their profession and knew the risks one crew member being remembered by a cousin said she would prefer to die in space doing what she loved. Space was a passion for each member of the crew; it was about the searching and inquiry.

I can remember the Challenger accident before some of you were even born. It was a shock just as this tragedy was. But as a brother of a Challenger crew member said the morning “after their work continues”. Often events in our lives make no sense at that point of happening and later clarify as we go further into the journey. There is really no solace to a family when a loved one is lost even when you knew the risks they were involved in. It is the thoughts and assurances of friends and family that can make the pain bearable.


A number of years ago my brother died during the night in his sleep. When I received the call at work I was in shock and hurried to my parent’s home. Within moments calls and emails and faxes began to arrive from around the world from my parent’s friends and family. That support made that moment so much easier to bear. Back in 2007 with the death of my father in-law and my own father the support of friends and family eased the pain and passing. I recall that day in February 2003 and was running a bit late that morning as I listened to the news and watching a nation morn seven heroes.

Today I found a quote that for some may not apply and for others who knows, as I do each day. Many years ago I read a series of books written by an anthropologist about his studies of herbal medicine among the Yaqui Indians of Mexico. Being a hobbyist botanist and student of medicinal plants and herbs I have always been fascinated with his writings. He eventually found his way to a medicine man that used the Anglo name of Don Juan. After a number of trips and many years Castaneda became an apprentice to Don Juan in his efforts to become a Yaqui Medicine man. Carlos Castaneda wrote of the trials and tribulations of his adventure and studies and his books are used in many classes as case studies still today even though his research has been shown to be fiction in many instances.

“We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.”
Carlos Castaneda

One of the simple truths he found in his studies under Don Juan was how much we ourselves are directly involved in our own situation. That sounds simple but so often we blame the world around us for our plight. A student of life can only blame themselves for all choices made they are ours and no one else’s to make. So in effect we make ourselves happy or sad and only we can redirect the pathway. Those heroic astronauts who gave their lives they could have chosen another path a simpler path and less risky path, but they wanted and chose the direction and they were on and where they were to be. We now can choose how to continue their journey ending in a crash or building upon that and going beyond the stars. Remember the families of those brave men and women who died and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always seek peace namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Not all learning difficulties can be tested for

Bird Droppings March 27, 2021
Not all learning difficulties can be tested for

It has been a few days since my last post. I have been extremely occupied. Last week several doctor appointments, ultrasounds, blood work, and more doctors made it a crazy week. It seems my heart rate or lack thereof has got the best of me. Hopefully, I will get a bit more back on track in my writings.  I was thinking back to what theoretically my last IEP was meeting the student was reaffirmed yes you do have a deficit in math. However, choosing to not do the work and or even try is choice. As a Junior wanting to graduate next year you have to choose to do you want to get out of school or not. There is nothing I can pull out of my bag of magic tricks.

Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites.” John Dewey, Experience and Education

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

An interesting start to a morning thought process after a wonderful experience last night. 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 John Dewey 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

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

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

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill

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

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

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

What intrigued me with this project was that this student was normally lazy, but this project became of interest to him. Each photo that he had taken in that past semester was being edited and formatted in minute detail and had literally become an obsession. He got in trouble in another class and asked if I would get him out of ISS so he could work on his project. As I looked at the Dan Rather quote, I wondered if when he started that he knew he would lose two days’ work when he tried to download to a floppy more than it would hold and crashed. Or that editing a photo pixel by pixel takes time.

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

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

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

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

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

As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark, that trick, that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an n email story the other day that was a tearjerker. 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 did not 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 is 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 does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you for much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” A boy named Teddy, Author Unknown

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

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

I am sitting here finalizing my thoughts to teach an existential lesson, as I joke about so often being an existentialist. Yesterday as I walked down my hall with another teacher, we were commenting on how many teachers had been here six or more years and it was more than half. Last night I ran into a teacher who no longer teaches at our school from our hall. The teachers who are gone had learned those that remain are learners interesting as I think back and forward reading Hoffer’s thought. Hoffer was a self-educated man, a philosopher coming from the docks of New York City his first book True Believer was written in the early 1950’s in his middle age and he never slowed down till his death in 1982.

“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

To die a happy death:

Bird Droppings March 26, 2021

To die a happy death:

My mother’s spirit passed on two years ago. She went to sleep and moved on. As I pondered my thoughts for today, I am always thinking about education. I have been taught public high school now for nearly twenty years and after the coming summer break another year ahead. I am starting my writing day a bit later than normal since I have been running errands and dodging rain drops. I have been sort of wandering aimless for two days. Over the past few years I have been searching for my older thoughts for my dissertation editing, cleaning up and often finding a dropping that ties in with my thoughts of the moment or even somewhere I went yesterday. Only a few days ago I got in a discussion on the idea of fearing death which led me on a search for an email and some thoughts I jotted down many years ago. Since that note nearly ten years back my friend has lost several loved ones and I have lost loved both my father in law, father and now my mother and many around us have lost loved ones as well. So digging in my archives yesterday I started reading a thought from a friend who was trying to generate answers for his niece based on how do we die a happy death?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was wondering with all the death in the news here and abroad is death ever happy. Yesterday I read a blog from a young fellow in the army and the remembrance of a buddy killed a few days earlier in Iraq. Someone posted a series of crosses on a back country road where three teenagers a few years back hit a tree at a hundred miles an hour. I have attended many funerals over the years and often will do my best to avoid them if I can. I have in recent years been to my fathers, father in laws, several students, friends and other family member’s memorials. When I listen to the comments of joy and the celebrating a life rather than mourning death it is so different. It is so difficult to lose someone but what if they have done what is it they were intended to do and know that. What if they were happy and knew there was meaning to their life? I recall a death some twelve years ago where a young man came to me the last time I saw him unaware of his surroundings, for I did hold his hand through the night watching monitors blink showing his brain functioning was going and irreversible. I sat and did last rights in my own way as I was holding his hand though there was no movement from him or acknowledgement only monitors blinking and the respirators movement in his lungs.

At my last meeting with this young man he shook my hand and said not this time Mr. Bird. Normally he would extend his hand and pull it away laughing a joke on me. This time was different as he extended his hand smiling grasping with his other hand mine and saying thank you for everything and we parted ways he was riding in another car going home from a day of tubing in North Georgia. I never spoke with him again. I know to the marrow of my bones he was happy in death. He was always happy go lucky always joking always the life of the party he was the group clown. When we gathered after the funeral each of said something similar he had said goodbye to us each in a different way. That night my son left a yellow sticky note for me on my computer that I shall never forget.

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

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

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related) 

bird

What is it we see looking into a child’s eyes?

Bird Droppings March 25, 2021

What is it we see looking into a child’s eyes?

I woke up at my normal time from a dream thinking I was back twenty or so years getting up and getting the kids all sent off to school and it was pretty quiet around the house. After walking to the kitchen, it hit me it was now. I talked to only my oldest son yesterday about his project he was sure he failed for a graduate class. Usually I will talk to all my sons at least a couple times a week on their cell-phones and it seems they always check in even while away on business or at school. Again, I got thinking back many years ago to another morning much like many others that have passed by. I was sitting and thinking about what is wandering by as I write, people, places, and things.

It was on that morning a friend’s daughter passed away after a battle with cancer. I had read various emails and such about where to send flowers and notes. I had been going all day from 3:00 AM till nearly 10:00 that night and really was exhausted. I lay down and was nearly asleep when my wife called upstairs and said my youngest son wanted to talk to me. I fell asleep. Sitting here this morning in the quiet and dark of early day I am sorry I didn’t take that moment to listen to my son, it may have been important, it was a homework assignment he needed help with but could have been a more serious issue in his life. Our moments with our children and grandchildren are far too few and much too precious to waste, to let pass by or slip away.

“The joys of parents are secret, and so are their grieves and fears.” Frances Bacon

“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Perhaps it is only a passing thought yet it is as heavy as I am thinking of where, when and why each event has transpired in our lives and with our children. Is it dropping off at school for that first day in kindergarten or graduating from high school and dropping off at college the first day as a dear friend recently went through? It could be receiving an email from college that they are bored and an attachment of a Georgia Tech mascot drawn in Power Point.  

“How many hopes and fears, how many ardent wishes and anxious apprehensions are twisted together in the threads that connect the parent with the child!” Samuel G. Goodrich

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” C. Everett Koop

In 1984 or so I was at the Georgia State Lamb show and taking photos of children showing their lambs. An angry mother stopped me as I about to take a picture of a little tiny girl showing a lamb nearly twice her size. I did eventually get the picture and several months later gave a copy to the mother, we have been good friends ever since and that picture is still hanging in her office. That tiny little girl is now teaching in South Georgia.

“Parents are often so busy with the physical rearing of children that they miss the glory of parenthood, just as the grandeur of the trees is lost when raking leaves.” Marcelene Cox

“Don’t throw away your friendship with your teenager over behavior that has no great moral significance. There will be plenty of real issues that require you to stand like a rock. Save your big guns for those crucial confrontations.” Dr. James C. Dobson

I can remember my wife and I sitting by the phone waiting to hear a word from our youngest son away at college for a whole two days. More than likely we would end up calling him and checking in. Keeping touch knowing their children are safe this is what parents are for.

“Your children will see what you’re all about by what you live rather than what you say.” Wayne Dyer

“We must teach our children to dream with their eyes open.” Harry Edwards

When I would walk into class each day I thought about the moments I get to spend with this group of kids and try not to waste it. I try to open eyes and hearts to what is around them and to each other. Some days are great and eyes open and surprise me and others it is like hitting your head against a brick wall.

“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.” Black Elk

“Each child is an adventure into a better life –an opportunity to change the old pattern and make it new.” Hubert H. Humphrey

“The more people have studied different methods of bringing up children the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mother and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is the best after all.” Dr. Benjamin Spock

We need to take that moment and sit and listen it will never come again in exactly the same way with the same feeling and events to drive it. Not too long ago I was asked why you are taking so many pictures. I responded if I didn’t take that particular picture I wonder who would and that moment, a special moment would be lost. My dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and all who have suffered loss may they be filled and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

An eclectic morning

Bird Droppings March 24, 2021
An eclectic morning

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

It has been quite a few years since I watched an episode of Star Trek. It may have been one of the movies where Spock interfered with Star Fleet’s objectives in the relationship to a small group of colonists on an obscure planet. It seems they live forever or at least aging is so minute that lifetimes 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, and all forms of artwork. They spent time simply improving since time was not a factor in their endeavor of life. As I read this quote from Gandhi earlier this morning that particular movie popped in my mind as learning becomes literally eternal.

“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 reflected back on several incidents at school only a few months back. My assistant Principal came in with thirty minutes left in the day before a holiday to do observation or so was said sticking their head in the door. On that day I had two extra students who have been placed with me since they are not functioning in regular classes, sort of a holding pattern for a day or two. I was also in the middle of trying to alleviate a yearbook emergency by rewiring a CD burner and trying to print out a picture for a teacher who wanted their daughter’s angel scene from a Christmas play. It was a picture I had taken for the drama department back at Christmas. I had several extra students assisting in helping download hard drives from refurbished computers. All in all, there were at least ten things happening in the last thirty minutes of the last day before a holiday. Actually, this is not unusual in my room.
I never mind observations and probably have had more in four years than most have in a lifetime, but 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.

“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 Batchelor, Meditation for Life

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 which does not sound that unfamiliar even in our times. That is just human nature many would say, as I think back. I thought back to my episode a back as I observed my two extra students. One of the students I had for one period every day the other I did not know at all. As I thought to why both ended with me it was because of inappropriate behavior in class, acting out, attention-seeking all choice behaviors.
I have used to be a big fan of “Law and Order” a show on television. On one particular show, 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 it was topsy turvy after getting a heart monitor installed. I tried to get out in my yard working with my herb garden and to start planting some cuttings a friend of my wife’s had given her. We all need to be looking at our lives, are we trying to oversimplify, are we being honest with our selves, do we use the word love as merely an attachment or can we be more than we are in our given time. Many issues as we head into the new week. I am taking my wife’s car to the service station one day this week for an oil change and lube on a day off for her while she does graduate work. We are so dependent on cars and gas as I read a headline, she reminded me. One of Saturday’s headlines was about in Zimbabwe where the ruling party was banning all care groups from entering the country and using food to maintain their power in the upcoming election. My wife made a comment and here in the US they use gas, and I thought how true. Living in the Atlanta area and work for so many of us can be 30-40 miles one way which in our community requires driving and or carpooling at best, there is not the infrastructure of the northeast and many metropolitan areas of public transportation.


I recall when one of my students finally came in with a few minutes left in the period; they are working on recovering credits for various classes through an online program with the State Department of Education. However, they have to take tests with a certified teacher. Actually, a very good concept I wish more students would take advantage of it. As I finish up today a reminder from Will Rodgers. Rushing after waking up late I forgot to take my meds yesterday and took them when I got home so slept pretty soundly all night and missed my normal awakening.

“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

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

It is only a dropped feather?

Bird Droppings March 23, 2021

It is only a dropped feather?

Dr. Michael Garrett a Cherokee Indian from North Carolina intertwined his native thoughts in his lessons as he taught college. He wrote extensively on the philosophical and spiritual aspects of native thought.

“If we consider the eagle feather with its light and dark colors, we could argue that ‘the dark colors are more beautiful and, therefore, naturally more valuable,’ or vice versa. Regardless of which colors are more beautiful, or necessary, or valuable, the truth is the bottom line: Both colors come from the same feather, both are true, they are connected, and it takes both to fly.”

A seemingly inconsequential event that of a bird dropping, the leaving of a feather only to be found along the way by someone like me or you. I am always amazed at how special something as simple as finding a feather becomes. Maybe back when I started this morning’s venture of rising early, journal, read, and write, it was a way for me to drop feathers, and it seems nearly every day one or two emails reinforce my thoughts. A student’s mother introduced me to Kent Nerburn’s works, Small Graces, and as I began reading his thoughts and found other books he had written, a deeper understanding of Native thought and spirituality took hold within.  A simple book, The Wisdom of the Native Americans, added to my understanding.

“All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with human beings. The reason Wakan Tanka does not make two birds, or animals, or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by Wakan Tanka to be an independent individuality and to rely upon itself.” Black Elk

Birds and feathers have been along my life journey. It has been some time since we had several large ferns on our front porch and I was checking the fern and forgot about the nest of purple finches who had adopted our ferns and front porch. Three babies sat there looking at me as I checked the fern for moisture surprising me as much as I them. There were three tiny babies sitting huddled in a fern basket all expecting breakfast and it was only me. As I think back, I am not sure who was the most scared, me by the shock of three hungry mouths gaping, or those tiny birds with a big hand poking in checking the moisture of the fern. Kent Nerburn one of my favorite authors had this quote in one of his books.

“We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit.” Chief Dan Brown  

It has been a few years since my first trip to Piedmont College and I am sure there will be many more to come as I am working on my doctorate at Georgia Southern, but I am still in communication with several faculty members at Piedmont involved in the Foxfire program. However, that first trip was one of meeting the Dean of Education for acceptance into the School of Education when I was working on my master’s degree. It seems I had forgotten a small piece of getting accepted into the education department. I had already completed the program classes in the Master of Arts in Education and officially had not been accepted in the program. That aspect of my journey, something you are to do first, rather than last, get accepted into the education school. I was called into the Dean’s office and her first comment was how to get on my blog site. After some discussion, I was accepted as I sat with the Dean and Assistant Dean of the education department after an interview.

As I left the education building and walked to the parking lot, a flock of geese met me walking along, weeding as they do across lawns at Piedmont back before the lake was drained, 50 or so Canadian geese scurried about looking for tender shoots in the morning coolness. As I walked, a bit of down crossed my path a tiny feather. I picked it up and my immediate thought was of Forrest Gump sitting on a bench waiting for a bus and the feather that starts and ends the movie. I thought deeper as I saved the feather and still have it pressed in a book on my shelf. So often that little bit, that tiny piece of fluff that we often miss – it does not have to be a feather, it could be a kind word, a handshake, or certificate from first grade for spelling everything right – can provide the catalyst for the next day and for some, a lifetime. As a teacher, parent, grandparent, and friend many times we are the ones who have to drop a feather now and again, a tiny piece of fluff to keep another person going. Kent Nerburn has over the years addressed the spirituality and philosophy of Native thought in his writings.  

“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren, and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish, and trees.” Qwatsinas, hereditary chief Edward Moody

In primitive societies, a feather can be a very sacred and holy thing. The Aztecs made the cloak for the king from Quetzal emerald green, iridescent feathers and no one else could even own one of these feathers under penalty of death (cite). Native Americans would use feathers as signs of bravery and honor, awarding an eagle feather for counting coop, which is not killing your enemy, simply touching and riding away and other great acts of bravery. I am intrigued as we now wage war often from an office with drones and smart bombs, what a battle that must have been back in the day to see a brave ride in touch a few people and ride out.

Humanity has come so far in today’s world as we “nuke em” with no need to touch, no need for honor, nor for a bit of fluff blowing along the ground. As I walked about my yard a few nights back getting some exercise along with my wife, who was checking her plants to see if any bulbs were sprouting, a feather caught my attention. It was a black tail feather from a crow. My day was made as I placed it on my desk with a hawk feather and owl feather from previous walks since it is the tiny pieces that count on our journeys. So, for today, 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

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