Looking in a direction to start the morning

Bird Droppings January 8, 2019
Looking in a direction to start the morning

 

“Beginnings start in the east – from where the sun rises we begin a new dawn. Each day is a good new day with a fresh beginning, a new start. East is the direction of the physical body and newness including children and newborns. It is the time of change for all is a new beginning, new ideas and seeing the light. The color yellow is the path of Life, to begin the walk as a warrior, to shine in all that you do. The sun rising in the east empowers each of us. The energy to do and to begin the action of the mind and heart is there. Animals of wings and flight are from the east include the hummingbird, the owl, and the hawk. Our words are given to the east that the smoke in the air or the voices in the air may be carried to Spirit.” Tree Song

 

I was outside much earlier this morning than usual, and in driving to the store I thought I had a low tank of gas. It turned out just I recalled filling my wife’s car and was looking at wrong digital read out. There is still 423 miles left to go at 35 mpg. I saw 35 and thought may need to run to gas station as well.

 

Before I left for the store I was listening to the sounds of morning. The spot where I have been sitting now for nearly twelve years in our backyard facing an open field is now in the back yard of the new model house and all the trees are gone. Fortunately the sounds are the same. Many sounds are just beginning to awaken as the sunrises each morning. The stillness and solitude of early morning, on some occasions is sometimes broken by a rooster calling in the distance or generally more likely starters for the morning are crows and mockingbirds. Today it was a mockingbird that came to visit as I sat listening. It has been some time since I have heard a rooster crow from my door step maybe seventeen years now.

 

“Sioux Morning prayer – Let your voice whisper righteousness in our ears through the East Wind at the break of day. Let us be blessed with love for all our brothers & sisters on Earth so we may truly live in peace. Let us have good health mentally & physically to solve our problems and accomplish something for future generations. Let us be sincere to ourselves and make the world a better place to live. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin” Unknown Author Traditional Sioux prayer

 

The Sioux end prayers and meditations with the phrase, Aho Mitakuye Oyasin, which means, All My Relations. Many will questioned or wonder why end with such a vague phrase? But to the Indian all about is part of who they are and it is to all that they offer this Morning Prayer or thought.

 

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau

 

The other day my mother gave me copy of her notes on my growing up childhood years. One is a story of how when very small around three years of age I ran away. I actually only went across the street into the woods. I will offer the entire story one day but since I was young I have enjoyed the solitude of the woods and nature. Most recently in another dream I was again on that same path leading to a small cave where a medicine man was sitting. There have been many times in the various pathways of my life where I would find places to go and be alone with nature. Seldom have I been confined long in a place where I cannot escape to the calls of the wild and sunrise. Recently a friend posted photos of Cumberland Island which lies along the Georgia Coast and is protected. It is considered a wilderness area and off limits to most exploitation. Sunrise on Cumberland with no one for miles can be pretty spectacular. You have to camp on the island however to see a Cumberland sunrise. While I started with the east today it is about direction that I am writing.

 

“I am always doing things I can’t do; that’s how I get to do them.” Pablo Picasso

 

I raised the question of purpose recently with a student and in an email last night an idea had me thinking. A dear friend said four people had raised the issue of purpose in life recently and she is going through a time now seeking her purpose. Before I went out I wrote back to her, for me it is not what is my purpose, as much as I have purpose and knowing you are significant in each aspect of what you do, borrowing from the Sioux again, Aho Mitakuye Oyasin. Over the years I always thought I would one day open my eyes and see “My purpose” and I have come to understanding it is not a destination that is my purpose it is very much a journey.

It has been many years ago that I experienced a vision or a dream of a giant jig saw puzzle falling in place that sorted it out for me. I could not see the puzzle front every time I tried and look it would turn away revealing the gray backing. I had to be content to know it was falling in place piece by piece and each piece was more intricate than the last. As we seek direction on our journey as I thought and we have a powerful friend in our faith. Doors will open as they need to. I spent nearly two years sorting out where I was to go, working with indigent families and receiving enough barely to cover cell phone and mileage. A door opened in teaching and even then I was presented with tests. It was five times that my name was presented by a principal who wanted me teaching and four times I was turned down. On September 11, 2001 I was allowed to go back into teaching as a long term substitute. Funny thing I started back to teaching again on December 3, 2018. So here I am a special education teacher going back to work on, International Day of Persons with Disabilities. December 3 is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. I Never heard of it before coincidence and or synchronicity.

I have used the illustration of a puzzle often over the years and throw the word purpose about every now and again. There is an aspect of our journey we are directly involved in and that is direction, which way are we facing as we take that next step.

 

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy; a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lays disaster. The other fork of the road, the one less traveled by offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” Rachel Carson

 

I was looking this morning for words dealing with direction each time I tried mapping and directions came up. My oldest son finished his certification in GPS many years ago. He was working with an Environmental Science class at the high school mapping trees and positioning using GPS devices for a project and it hit me how so focused and reliant we have become on technology. We are at a point in our technology where we can ascertain that Sumatra moved 20 centimeters in the huge earthquakes of years past. But so often we have a hard time determining where we are going today let alone in life.

 

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

 

I can always find a spot for a Dewey quote. Dewey is not the easiest read in the world, often his thoughts are in details we are not used too. Far too often teachers look for an easy fix to a complicated issue. In life far too many times we take the easy road.

 

“Instead of looking at life as a narrowing funnel, we can see it ever widening to choose the things we want to do, to take the wisdom we’ve learned and create something.” Liz Carpenter

 

“You don’t have to buy from anyone. You don’t have to work at any particular job. You don’t have to participate in any given relationship. You can choose” Harry Browne

 

For many they see life as a funnel, a narrowing down rather than a spreading out. It has been many years since I walked the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia. Often when walking up a mountain, there are switch backs that would be used rather than a direct ascent. A switch back is a path that cuts back and forth up the mountain rather than straight up, and with a heavy pack a direct route is often impossible. In physics displacement is the straight line distance between two points few could do that in the mountains.

 

“The way to activate the seeds of your creation is by making choices about the results you want to create. When you make a choice, you activate vast human energies and resources, which otherwise go untapped. All too often people fail to focus their choices upon results and therefore their choices are ineffective. If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz

 

So often in life it is the first step, or that opening of the door is so difficult. When I did go back to teaching, I could have stopped at first rejection. I applied at five or six schools. I was not certified, and in order to get provisional certification you have to be employed, an interesting paradox. For some reason a principal thought I might work out and kept pushing, and at the board meeting I was hired, then called back, my sister had been hired who I recommended and so I couldn’t work there. Then my name did not make a meeting and second effort was defeated and a third and fourth. Finally a teacher had a nervous breakdown and was out indefinitely and a long term sub was needed and eventually a teacher. The board made allowances for my sister and I started on September 11, 2001.
It was many months later when the principal was putting a list together that I was asked what day I started and I couldn’t remember, it was the week after labor day and a Tuesday because approval was needed on Monday. The first step is the roughest many times.

 

“You are the person who has to decide. Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; you are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind. Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar. Or just be contented to stay where you are.” Edgar A. Guest

 

“When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.” Dr. Scout Cloud Lee

 

Dr. Lee is a motivational speaker, author of twelve books, a singer, song writer, University professor and former cast member of the survivor series on CBS. She was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Oklahoma State University in 1980, and Oklahoma’s Outstanding Young Woman in American in 1980. In 2002, Lee was honored to carry the Olympic torch exemplifying the theme of “Light the Fire Within”. Perhaps this is a good place to stop today Guest states “you have to decide” and Dr. Lee offers “we participate in the creation of a new world”. I’ll end up with a line from an Aerosmith song

 

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

 

Perhaps ending with a Steven Tyler quote is a good one since he is now one of the judges on American Idol. Maybe he will exemplify his song and provide direction for some young people on their journeys in life. So please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Why should there be no teasing?

Bird Droppings January 7, 2019
Why should there be no teasing?

 

“Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, and is it true, does it improve on the silence?” Hindu proverb

 

So often I speak first and clean up afterwards many times simply walking away quiet generally leaving whoever I am conversing with confused and bewildered. Having a long weekend ahead and hoping to get some serious writing in later today I was cleaning up my email when I found one from a dear friend from nearly fifteen years ago. It was the first one of that day and was about a subject we both were deeply involved with working with high school students.

 

My friend was a youth leader here in Atlanta area and an organic gardener as it goes several years back we discussed teasing and its effects on children. How what is said can often be more potent than any physical contact especially with teenagers. My friend Anna Evans offers this check on teasing and three things to look for.

 

“I have always said you recognize “teasing” if three things are present: There is a shred of truth to what is said, someone has their feelings hurt, you wind up saying …’I was only teasing’. We can’t take those moments back and they are often some of those life changing moments, often not for the “good” Yea, we humans need a 10 second delay like TV so we can adjust what we say…sure would make for a kinder world.” Anna Evans

 

With another Superbowl around the corner for those of you old enough to recall I wonder if Janet Jackson would take her ten seconds back from that Superbowl slip up.

 

“Jests that give pains are no jests.” Miguel de Cervantes

 

As I was wandering about the internet I came upon a website for The Center for Effective Parenting, they offer information for parents and often that same information can be totally applicable to teachers as well. We as teachers often see children for more hours awake than parents do sadly. The Center for Effective Parenting, offers a possible guide:

 

“Parents should try to find out from their children some specifics. For example, parents should try to find out what the teasing is about, who is doing the teasing, where the teasing is occurring, how their children have reacted to different episodes and what occurred afterwards. Parents should try to keep track of such information for a few days to find out what precipitates teasing, if there are things their children may be doing to encourage teasing, and if there seems to be some pattern to it.” TCEP, website

 

“ Teach appropriate responses, Ignore it, develop a quick tongue, Practice, Provide lots of love and encouragement, Discuss it with teacher or day care provider” Kristen Zolten, M.A. and Nicholas Long, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

 

As I look at the expert’s rationale it is a simple ABC’s, the Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence scenario which I have brought up many times in looking at behavior. As I was reading this morning and thinking about zero tolerance for bullying that is in effect for most schools I came upon an interesting website, author and ideas.

 

“Every minute spent in school handling interpersonal problems is a minute taken away from education. Students are all-too-eager to get away from academics. When they discover their teacher is willing to stop what he’s doing to deal with social problems, it is child’s play to fill up the school day with problems.” Izzy Kalman, Bullies to Buddies

 

As I think back to my own teaching style I redirect, ignore often and comeback. Very seldom do I slow down to let teasing take the fore front. Izzy Kalman borrows heavily from old adage of “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”. Kalman takes an opposite view to many educators in that aggression is not learned but genetic. It is an active part of the human condition and so should be dealt with in that manner. Many books and articles and doctorial theses have been written about bullying and teasing. The TABS, which is the Teasing and Bullying survey is produced by The Mental Research Institute and can be a good resource and tool for teachers and parents.

As I sit here pondering listening to the water running in my aquarium by the window and R. Carlos Nakai on the seven note cedar flute hauntingly playing on my hearing aids which on most days I can crank up a bit louder than normal while at home. This issue of bullying is real it is in us and maybe far too often we sidestep and look away as kids tease each other.
I look back to that first statement from so many thousands of years ago, “Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” We can choose what we say that is not genetic that is learned and an active ongoing behavior subject to ABC. We can set an example for children, and that too is learned and not genetic. So in effect if we sat an example can we change the world and maybe through natural selection down through time do away with teasing and bullying. Research is still out but I am still willing to put in an effort. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and regardless of your political followings there are people hurting and dying in Haiti who need our prayers and help and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

 

Decontextualizing – Learning is a journey strewn with boulders

Bird Droppings January 6, 2019

Decontextualizing – Learning is a journey strewn with boulders

 

“In a word, learning is decontextualized. We break ideas down into tiny pieces that bear no relation to the whole. We give students a brick of information, followed by another brick, followed by another brick, until they are graduated, at which point we assume they have a house. What they have is a pile of bricks, and they don’t have it for long.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’S, Praise and Other Bribes

 

For nearly two weeks we had many inches of rain. Now a cold front and clear skies, it has been cold in the mornings. Today I made my first ever cheese grits and I am happily surprised, excellent. It has been interesting early in the morning clear and so far no precipitation including hopefully no snow storm, although we are had so much rain lately with cold front who knows. My wife has to drive in the dark to work as do my oldest son and I each morning. Today we had a few clouds hiding the closing of the moon.

 

It has been many years since I first brought up that we as educators need context to complement the content in education. I have been a fan of Alfie Kohn’s work for nearly eighteen years since I first read a book in a book club meeting held by our then principal now a RESA director. As I read this earlier today and used as a status for my Facebook page the idea of decontextualizing interests me. Real learning involves context and if we constantly are decontextualizing essentially we are unlearning what we are trying to teach.

 

“Who, then, shall conduct education so that humanity may improve?” John Dewey

 

A very deep and broad question, I was thinking back to my own community and associations. We elect school board members who hire teachers and principals, they decide on schools to build and a place to build them and rules to govern schools. In Georgia recently several school systems have lost and or been put on probation due to school boards inappropriate behavior and the politics of those school boards that took away from education. The new kid on the bock charter schools is impacting public education and private schools still thrive here in the Bible belt. In any situation where elected officials are running the show and especially where there are few requirements for the job and it pays little if anything what should we expect? So I turn to my hero, what and how does Dewey the great educator answer his own question?

 

“We must depend upon the efforts of enlightened men in their private capacity. ’All culture begins with private men and spreads outward from them. Simply through the efforts of persons of enlarged inclinations, who are capable of grasping the ideal of a future better condition, is the gradual approximation of human nature to its end possible…. Rulers are simply interested in such training as will make their subjects better tools for their own intentions.’ Even the subsidy by rulers of privately conducted schools must be carefully safeguarded. For the rulers’ interest in the welfare of their own nation instead of in what is best for humanity, will make them, if they give money for the schools, wish to draw their plans.” John Dewey

 

We are manipulated and educated as pawns in a society for the societies own perpetuation and many top educators across the country believe this. There are times when I believe as well, watching new teachers come and teach in a manner that has been that way for a hundred years, as we develop curriculums that are what was and will always be and or design a program simply to sell books much like the integrated math program curriculum in Georgia that is after about three years being done away with because test scores were significantly dropping and over eighty thousand students failed end of course tests it is always about tests. Occasionally a bright note a light on the horizon, a student of education or two sees a different view a different point and follows a different path. Here I am thinking and routine keeps popping up.

 

Today as I do every day I let out Timber our Husky. It is funny back in the day we had Moose our yorkie, and Lil girl our westie and the two could not be in the same space together even though they were raised for several years together. We moved along the way and they could not decide who was boss after the move. Then I go to my computer and write trying to catch up on emails. What is of concern as I think is that this is a trivial item to be concerned about? We want things to be smooth to run efficiently and effectively and “OUR WAY”; the further up the chain of command the bigger the “OUR WAY” is.

 

“The new idea of the importance of education for human welfare and progress was captured by national interests and harnessed to do a work whose social aim was definitely narrow and exclusive. The social aim of education and its national aim were identified, and the result was a marked obscuring of the meaning of a social aim.” John Dewey

 

Teachers and administrators like routine, sameness I call it and easy to be canned and or bottled. Borrowing from Sydney J, Harris “easier to stuff a sausage than cultivate a pearl” The student effectively gets lost in the mandated and regulated manipulations of society.

 

“Is it possible for an educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted, constrained, and corrupted?” John Dewey

 

I find irony in the concept of a democratic classroom which I do believe can be successful. I find paradox in our efforts to be so democratic in our own country and yet we tend to bow to where majority wants even at the expense of free thought. We say individualism on one hand yet want the seemed majority to rule and to dictate. As I was watching the election process in Iraq previously these concepts seemed to be exemplified. One faction has won and another literally did not vote in protest.

 

As I look at education and our own country how often do we do this and then when that which we did not elect nor even cared about happens we whine. We complain and we are faced with a journey that has provisions we do not want nor need. We can be often on that journey in a wrong direction for several years till another change, or pathway appears. Far too often we dictate direction in a top down scenario.  On the path the one on the journey is being told go this way and go that and should be the one directing the effort. It is so easy to raise an issue; following through with ideas is the more difficult aspect. Where in should the direction be set for example in education? I approach students in a manner that may be contradictory to some and way wrong to others. I offer here is where we need to go and ok class how do we get there. At first that is a difficult proposition, many want a map, a guide, a compass at least. The teacher can be that, facilitating in a guiding manner. But for learning to happen students have to be engaged and interactive in the journey each day.

 

“To get where they’re going, navigators first need to know where in the world they are.” Dragonfly web site

 

If we substitute educators and or students for navigators an interesting situation occurs. Any journey needs a starting point and how we find where that is often is the hard part in education. A journey starts at the beginning, where it is going is wherever and whenever but it does start somewhere. As a teacher helps students find a starting point and then provides tools to navigate the journey. 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

 

Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

Bird Droppings January 5, 2019

Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

 

Since starting my breathing treatments for sleep apnea, I awake to vivid dreams on some nights. Today I walked outside briefly as I do listening, observing, trying to understand this reality I am walking about in. The sky was blanketed with clouds with only the horizon and sunrise clear. The air bitter cold as I stood on my porch. Over the years I have spent many days in the mornings alone sitting observing in the wee hours sometimes even wrapped in a blanket for the cold. I would spend my time listening and watching as time went by. There were mornings when falling stars by the hundreds would pass by and I would feel as if I was the focus of their attention watching all in space aim towards me. I would sit and hours later write poetry or verses logging down emotions events and moments in my journal of sorts.

 

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

 

One day recently I was told I had a great vocabulary. I came home and asked my wife; “Do I have a great vocabulary?” I was really hoping for an answer to boost my ego and she said “it really depends on who you are talking too.” You know at first I was hurt but then she said not that many people have seen or heard what you have in your life and sharing that expands their vocabulary as well. I instantly felt better. It is always great to pass on knowledge. Perhaps a reason why I enjoy teaching and sharing experiences I have had over my sixty seven years.

 

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper 

 

In days gone by and even today I will pick up an encyclopedia and read the volume much like a book, ok tonight’s light reading is in the H, Britannica. In our Google it world of today few children have ever seen an encyclopedia let alone open one. Last week in class I was using my ancient Britannica’s to help a student with a Venn diagram on Achilles and Odysseus. Once he started with the book versus Wikipedia he was caught up and started looking through the pages. Even asked if he could take the volume home saying Mr. Bird this is pretty cool.

 

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.”  Sadie Black

 

We have all grown up with the statement about how curiosity killed the cat but a lack thereof will also keep the world at a standstill and nothing will happen as well.

 

“Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” Peter F. Drucker

 

A great guru of business Peter Drucker has written many books helping people manage their businesses. If you look at our society and the pace of new information and technology we are living in a world where while you sleep things change. This statement is even truer today than when Drucker wrote it in the sixties.

 

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have come to enjoy Emerson and I use his sayings often. He was a rather grizzly looking old goat of a man. When I read this I realized several times recently this is how I described what a school should be like. It should be literally a teacher, as a door. With the teacher or door person simply opening the door at appropriate times allowing information to go in. As the student becomes more and more adept the doorman is needed less and less till soon only a receptionist is needed to assist in organizing thoughts.

 

“Knowledge, without common sense, says Lee, is folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, it is fanaticism; without religion, it is death. But with common sense, it is wisdom with method, it is power; with clarity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue, and life, and peace.” Austin Farrar

 

I sat and spoke at length over lunch a few days ago and walking back to class with a good friend who had served a several tours in Afghanistan, we were talking of cultural differences, to us sometimes these differences are ridiculous and yet to the people within that culture they are a part of life. I have been fascinated with a tiny group of people and have been reading several books lately dealing with the Sans or “Bushman” of the Kalahari in South Africa as well as several other indigenous peoples who have been stripped of their homes and culture for the sake of mankind at least that is what we are told.

 

It seems diamonds had been found in the Kalahari and the Sans who have lived there for tens of thousands of years, hunting and gathering now must leave and go learn to farm to be civilized. Perception was left out of many of the verses today for a hunter in the Kalahari may not know of Quantum physics but he or she does know where to find and how to find water and juicy grubs for dinner. What if the antelope has escaped during the hunt as a Bushmen you know the signs to track and finish the job. Knowledge is of when and where you are now is crucial to existence, going back to my wife’s comment to me this morning and my own vocabulary learned through so many experiences and books read.

 

“Gugama, the creator, made us. That was a long time ago – so long ago that I can’t know when it happened. That is the past, but our future comes from the lives of our children, our future is rooted in the hunt, and in the fruits which grow in this place. When we hunt, we are dancing. And when the rain comes it fills us with joy. This is our place, and here everything gives us life. “Mogetse Kaboikanyo

 

Mogetse Kabokikanyo was a Kgalagadi man who lived alongside the Gana and Gwi Bushmen in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In February 2002, he was forcibly relocated to a camp outside the reserve. He died just four months later. He was probably in his fifties; his friends said his heart stopped beating. After years of struggling to remain on his land, Mogetse was buried in the desolate relocation camp, far from his ancestors’ graves. We citizens of the United States talk of human rights and dignity but in a case closer to home, it is very similar.

 

In about 1909 or so Geronimo of the Apaches was told finally he would not be allowed to return to the mountains of New Mexico to die. He must remain at Fort Sill Oklahoma on the Apache reservation literally a prisoner of war where he died shortly thereafter. I have been to the grave site of Geronimo many times in my travels to Lawton Oklahoma. Driving out past military vehicles and such to a quiet spot along the river where no visible modern sights can be heard or seen. Immediately around you are only the rustling cottonwood trees, and the flow of water over the stones in the river alongside the grave yard. This spot provides a backdrop of peaceful sounds. A rolling landscape and meadow of grass go up from a small parking area into the plains of Oklahoma. Not many people come to this corner of Fort Sill. I would use the word sacred to describe if going into detail.

 

Many times as  I sat alone staring across the meadow listening to the stream and feeling a breeze brush lightly it seems as if time rearranged and it was so easy to slip back to days when people buried here had names and were not simply numbered markers. Knowledge is an elusive, ethereal, entity flitting about as a monarch butterfly travels many thousands of miles between hills in Mexico and Georgia. Knowledge is elusive in how it conveys power to some and solace to others. Knowledge is walking along the stream by a grave from a time long gone and knowing we can change mankind we can make a difference. It is the Geronimo’s and Mogetse Kaboikanyo’s, who are the real teachers of this world.

 

It may be one step one small tiny speck at a time but one day others will be able to stand among the cotton woods in Oklahoma or beneath a bush in the Kalahari and know tomorrow is a far better day. Hopefully mankind has learned more as we increase our abilities to convey understanding. One day, maybe not today, knowledge will truly be instilled in everyone. But till then please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and try to offer a hand to any slipping as they cross the stream on their own journey and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Caring is a very precious commodity in life And some thoughts from Maxine Greene

Bird Droppings January 4, 2019

Caring is a very precious commodity in life

And some thoughts from Maxine Greene

 

As I am pondering my early hours today before getting my day started an article dealing with charter schools and how they exclude many students caught my attention. The air temperature is freezing outside and we are under a slight blanket of clouds much like education is shrouded in this mist of uncertainty, even more so with the current Secretary. We have climbed over the mountain in Georgia in terms of budget cuts and now possible increases in education spending.  I spoke with an administrator recently about their possible retirement, I am a bit disconcerted by discussions and newspaper articles recently across the nation regarding teachers. I have always loved teaching and hurts me to see that education could be on the chopping block with new tax cuts.

 

I have thoroughly enjoyed the recent holidays between grandbabies and family it has been wonderful. Now time to pack up lights and trimmings and get into a new year. Several thoughts have been bouncing around in my head in terms of education. I am back working with high school special education and a couple IEP’s coming up.

 

I have found as I read comments from teachers and administrators that have Facebook accounts there are differing degrees of involvement in this teaching profession. On one hand I find this medium a useful tool while some use solely with a few friends. Younger teachers have a large number of college peers and work related friends, some teachers have former students, and some have student’s teacher’s administrators and professors and numerous others. Reading statuses and updates coming from my psychology background I see many teachers who are concerned and caring people. After being back in teaching fifteen years I find caring is a very precious commodity in life and teaching teachers to care is difficult.

 

“Teaching is to move people to choose differently.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, educator, author and caring person

 

Working in what was once a rural county now not much more than an extension of Atlanta there are many who still adhere to the old ways, politically, religiously, culturally, socially and even educationally. I can write my name that is enough. We experienced an assassination attempt on a sitting Congress Women in Arizona several years back. There was a mass shooting in a school in New England and rhetoric is focusing on the heated debates and arguments over the recent actions of our president. The past stand-off in Oregon had people on both sides fanning the flames. The more recent Las Vegas massacre considered. However it was not that many years ago in my home county people would be lynched, moonshine was the main industry and killing someone and losing a body was part of doing business. Early in the week in my writings I issued a line or two about mental institutions closing and how there were many who twenty five years ago would be residents of said institutions are now in politics, religion, military, jail, homeless and or waiting on the right trigger to set them off. It has been made very clear the individuals involved in the numerous shootings were mentally ill which will play well in various congressional, court and civil meetings, hearings and trials. But how do we teacher’s help children choose differently borrowing from that great educator Maxine Greene.

 

“… Martin Buber had what he called a life of creativity in mind, and also a capacity for participation and partaking. He said that all human beings desire to make things, and what children desire most of all is their share in the becoming of things. Through their own intensively experienced actions, something arises that was not there before. This notion of participant experience- and sharing in the becoming of things- comes very close to what we mean by aesthetic education.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

Maybe I should post the Foxfire Core Practices that I have been writing about for several years. I like this idea of participant experience. We need to be actively involved in learning both as teacher and as students.

 

“Not only do we want to keep the aesthetic adventures into meaning visible and potent in the schools, along with the other ways there are of making or achieving or discovering meanings. We want to keep enhancing them with some understanding of contexts- movements, styles, traditions- and connections among diverse works at different modes of history. For one thing, we know very well that none of us comes to any work of art devoid of context or with what has been called a totally ‘innocent eye.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

I have watched a new math curriculum wreak havoc with students and teachers and not just in math as math dictates the entire school schedule now. The idea to simplify titles of courses to Math I, II, III, and IV does not do justice to the texts being used or curriculum proposed. Several years ago the test groups failed the first proto type test miserably and continually the curve has to be extreme to provide some passing numbers. The teachers are the same ones who were good and great teachers just a few months back but a simple change in state curriculum and we go backwards. The content needs context and it needs reasons.

 

“I hope you think about the wonder of multiple perspectives in your own experience. I hope you think about what happens to you- and, we would all hope, to our students- when it becomes possible to abandon one- dimensional viewing, to look from many vantage points and, in doing so, construct meanings scarcely suspected before.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

I am being hard on the math curriculum but the idea we are so far behind is not a valid one. In the US of all the major industrialized countries we are the only one that mandates education for all children. There is a significant demographic left out of scores which is children who live in poverty. On international testing we tend to be down the list in part because of the greater number of children of all makes and models being tested. There are ideas within Maxine Greene’s words from 2003 that could help a teacher or teachers improve how they respond to students. Changing perspective looking from a different vantage point rather than simply that podium in the front of the room can make a world of difference. A simple thought but world changing.

 

“Our object, where public schools children and young people are concerned is to provide increasing numbers of opportunities for tapping into long unheard frequencies, for opening new perspectives on a world increasingly shared. It seems to me that we can only do so with regard for the situated lives of diverse children and respect for the differences in their experience.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

Seeing the differences in children is a sign of a great teacher. For it is in being able to see each child as unique and then in turn being able to, pardon the word diversify the teaching enough to interest all children. That is in and of itself a huge task.

 

“It is sometimes said that ‘all teachers care.’ It is because they care that people go into teaching.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person

 

I honestly do think, no one goes into teaching not caring. Somewhere along the line maybe they forget and get too caught up in teaching to the test, making sure they cover every miniscule detail in the curriculum map or just trying to get a good appraisal. As I have watched good teachers and great teachers it is that caring aspect that sets them apart. They tend to build relationships with students. They try to understand why a student comes to school the way they do not just simply give a zero for a missed assignment.

 

“In a caring relation or encounter, the cared-for recognizes the caring and responds in some detectable manner. An infant smiles and wriggles in response to it mother’s care giving. A student may acknowledge her teacher’s caring directly, with verbal gratitude, or simply pursue her own project more confidently. The receptive teacher can see that her caring has been received by monitoring her students’ responses. Without an affirmative response from the cared-for, we cannot call an encounter or relation caring.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person

 

Teaching is so much more than a job and if only that were a teachable topic. For many years I have searched for what it is that sets apart the truly great teachers and simplified into one word it is caring. If only we could magnify and personify and spread that word through the world. For far too long I have ended my droppings each day with the same line. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Within the circle of life infinity exists  

Bird Droppings December 28, 2018

Within the circle of life infinity exists

 

Resurrection

By Susan Thomas Underwood

 

The universe is energy in constant motion.

There are ebbs and flows;

Outcomes and income,

And change…… Always change.

 

The physical world reflects this motion

In the cycles of life,

There is spring and fall, winter and summer,

Birth and death; and rebirth…

Resurrection!

 

Einstein proved that even time is relative

In his theory of relativity,

All is relative …. All is change

You can count on it.

 

Be then as the willow;

Learn to bend with the wind!

Always dream, though your dreams may change.

Always produce, though your product may change.

Always love, though your love may change.

Always live, though your life will change.

You can count on it!

 

Susan Thomas Underwood is a native Oklahoman, Shawnee, and author. I saw her book of thoughts, Walk with Spirit on Amazon.com and thought I might take a look. This will be a rather interesting week for me and my family. We will be celebrating a third birthday party for our first granddaughter; my youngest son and his wife who live in Thomaston Georgia are having a celebration.  Then our second granddaughters first birthday is this week as my middle son and his wife who live in Southern Pines North Carolina will be having a party. Add to this and now three years ago roughly my middle son asked his girlfriend of over a year if she would marry him and she accepted and their anniversary is near. My nephew and his wife celebrate their son’s third birthday and for an extended family so many blessings these past few days to remember and more to come.

 

As I read this first entry in Underwood’s book I thought to my own existence these past sixty plus years almost seventy and changes I have been through, as a son, parent, husband, father and now a fourth time grandfather.

 

“The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, the summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me. The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning, the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me. The strength of the fire, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me and my heart soars.” Chief Dan George

 

I find myself quoting Dan George many times. Dan was a Salish chief from Canada and an accomplished actor later in his life. Some may remember him from the movie Little Big Man or Outlaw Josie Wales. But he was too an eloquent speaker and poet. He often spoke of nature but also of the intertwining of life. He would speak of the roads we each travel and cross many times. I spent most of the past weekend watching, observing, holding and photographing my grandchildren and helping my wife get the house ready for the holidays while she ran around hunting for bargains. I was at the baker and texted her a picture of the grandbabies birthday cake for the weekend and fortunately this year as she went to reach her phone she did not break her foot as she did last year. It is hard to recall a tiny newborn three years ago when each gesture and smile was first for her. I am so happy on how we as family responded and have encouraged her as she is learning daily. It seems even for a teacher watching my grandbabies learn daily I am amazed.

 

As a teacher being a grandparent becomes our teaching job number one, not so much to have them belief or think as I do but to provide pathways for them to walk and learn on her own. Our journeys in life are not always smooth going and it is being able to offer a hand when needed. I recall several years back watching my granddaughter and my son as we went for blood work the bond that has been made in a few short hours is one of a lifetime. Watching her mother hold and talk softly whispering as she was carefully touching her eyes, nose and cheeks is a bond that is impossible to break. During a brief moment or two, I was peering through the lens of my camera as my granddaughter in a matter of seconds in her grandmother’s lap made a series of facial expressions almost as if she knew I have grandma wrapped around my ever so tiny finger now. As the orator and actor Dan George stated so many years ago, “they speak to me and my heart soars”.

 

It is a new week and grandbabies to visit and hug and share with, it is all happening so fast. May peace be with you all in the coming days and may we all keep those in harm’s way on our hearts and on our minds and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Can we find Responsibility?

Bird Droppings December 27, 2018

Can we find Responsibility?

 

As I begin my morning of writing and wondering and my almost official eighth year as a grandfather the idea of responsibility sort of hit me. We live in a world of passing responsibility off to another generation be it natural resources, fiscal, educational, philosophical, judicial, military, and just about any other issue that you can consider. This is not some new human inability to deal with but an aspect of which we are that has been developed over some time. As family ties have been broken down and survival became a back seat event to accumulation “who has the most stuff”, we lost responsibility.

 

In my life time I have watched efforts to destroy wilderness loom up and always at the effort of someone who is out to reap a profit. It is not a betterment of mankind but a quick fix of accumulation to add to the growing self-centeredness of humankind.  There are many attributes to humanness that provide us an ability to if we sincerely try tale responsibility for and successful provide a world for our children and grandchildren that they can make choices about and benefit from rather than a world that is dying and issues that literally will eventually destroy life as we know it.

 

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have life itself.” Walter Anderson

 

Once before I used a quote from Walter Anderson and found an intriguing situation as I research the man behind the name. Walter Anderson is many people I found literally in that on my search I found a noted commentator and an artist who could have possibly made the statement above. Which if these two men said the words is hard to tell although as I read I would like to think this is the Walter Anderson whose brush strokes and colors emblazoned his art work and scenes of the Gulf Coast in wild vivid paintings.

The artist Walter Anderson was born into wealth and art and he studied the fine arts in college and was awarded scholarships to study aboard. In his travels became fascinated with the primitive cave art of France and Europe. He succumbed to mental illness and depression in his 30’s and spent the later years of his life alone painting on Horne Island off the coast of Mississippi. We know his art from the thousands of paintings drawings and sketches found after his death in his homes and cabin.

 

“Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” Walter Anderson

 

Responsibility is a big word and one that can affect us forever. I keep looking at the words above and thinking of a man alone on an Island painting feverishly getting his ideas to canvas and I think of students in a class trying to deal with what are sometimes the obscurities of modern education. As a teacher you try and point toward responsibility and “whatever” is the response always that classic catch phrase of teenage vernacular.

 

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion

 

“The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of the man.” Roy L. Hunt

 

Daily as I work with teenagers I see a correlation between accepting responsibility and self-respect and or self-esteem. I do not have specific data to back that up but a gut feeling that the child who states so glibly “whatever” as a catch all for their existence has little if any self-respect and or self-esteem and very often does not except responsibility in any shape or form. This seemingly simple concept carries far beyond the high school and into the halls of Congress. It seems few consider anything past the now and self-interest.

 

“We have a Bill of rights. What we need is a Bill of responsibilities.” Bill Maher

 

“The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.” Stanley Milgram

 

As I wonder about the concept of responsibility and that it is so true we want to teach it yet strip it away as well. In a modern school so many teachers want to be the boss, the head honcho and what is so funny I have that on a name plate sitting in my room given to me by students in the 1970’s, Mr. Bird, head honcho. We tend to strip away responsibility as we demand authority to and or demand respect. I learned many years ago respect can never be demanded only earned.

 

“We are accountable only to ourselves for what happens to us in our lives.” Mildred Newman

 

This concept of accountability to ourselves is one that I find interesting and the degree to which we hold that varies according to what you are used to and have experienced in life. What is acceptable to me may be totally different to someone who lives within the limitations of a limited income, different culture, and as I think back to how they are in turn raised as a child.

 

“When we have begun to take charge of our lives, to own ourselves, there is no longer any need to ask permission of someone.” George O’Neil

 

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Ronald Reagan

 

It has been nearly twenty years since I worked with indigent families operating a ministry that helped provide food, clothing and shelter when needed. I met a fellow who had diabetes however he did not truly deal with his diabetes which is point one. This fellow like the artist Walter Anderson who started today’s journey suffered from mental illness though he did not recognize it.  After a severe car accident left him with a broken hip and unable to work I was called in as the motel where he was living was getting ready to kick him out. He was still in bed from the broken hip when I met him and still had on the hospital gown from several days earlier when he was dropped there by a local hospital service.

 

So here I was meeting this fellow who was a chain smoker and obsessive compulsive to a point the cigarette ash was literally in a six inch pile by side of the bed. I helped this man and a long story ensued but I will cut it short and make it quick. This man wanted to work yet as he tried different jobs things would happen as his diabetes was ravaging his body and brain. His personality would show or flare up might be better and his mental condition slipped from a cover he could present and he would be fired.

 

After getting to degree of health and on disability the urge to work was more than he could handle and he worked at a factory for a few days and was injured. A piece of metal punctured his foot and with neuropathy from diabetes he did not feel it. He walked all day with a piece of spring steel through his foot and bleeding in his shoe. As the event played out several days later a severe infection ensued and several more days and a partial amputation of his foot. Now he could not work and accepted to a point his full disability. Why should I even tell this story? This fellow if he is still alive I have not had contact in at least fifteen years lives today in Texas and takes care of himself. We may question how and why he does and I hear so often that welfare and handouts are wrong yet he cannot work and in many situations no one would let him work for more than a few minutes.

 

Responsibility is a big undertaking. I read Ronald Reagan’s statement and thought to recent IEP’s and discussions in educational settings and to a few students I currently have.  So many times we as teachers are guilty in regards to student’s actions yet we want them to be responsible. We set in motion the events that create incidents and actions and the student is held as irresponsible.

 

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will his personal responsibility.” Albert Schweitzer

 

“You must accept responsibility for your actions, but not the credit for your achievements.” Denis Waitley

 

Sitting in front of the computer this morning wondering about the day ahead to be responsible for my actions but not for my achievements a very difficult and almost inhuman task. However I do think this is a point and an interesting thought to end on along with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird