Can we define our own success or does it take another?

Bird Droppings January 20, 2020
Can we define our own success or does it take another?

 

Recently teachable moments have been rare. Last week on spur if the moment I drew upon my experiences and while discussing the phylum arthropods. One of my favorites is the black and yellow garden spider, Agriope aurantia, or writing spider. I then proceeded to offer a Creek Indian view of early morning. Few see this unless you go out early in the morning. I will often go and sit watching the sun rise in the east. If you look carefully through the weeds and grass in the wee hours of morning you can see gossamer strands of spider silk literally touching everything. Creeks will call this the web of life where all is connected and as I told the story for my teachable moment this group of ninth graders all were silent listening. Today was a bit cold even for spiders.

 

I left school Friday with several critical calls to make, errands to run and several feelings of people I needed to see and or talk with. As I traveled about going to a meeting a day late for a former student to start there were quite a few people along the journey. I spoke with a retired Air Force electronics expert who had two years ago undertaken a vision quest with the Blackfeet tribe in the western US. I ran into several former and present students, parents and friends of mine. I would consider yesterday very much a success. As I went through the day yesterday I thought about what is it the idea of being successful? Is there some magically way we can tell if we are successful in what we do? I also did get quite a bit of writing completed.

 

Going deeper in thought I would like to consider myself successful at what I do and I think most people would want to feel this way. Wanting to be successful however has its basis on how you define success. It has been nearly twelve years since a fellow teacher handed me an article by Sydney J. Harris, a prolific writer and columnist from thirty-five years ago. Harris at one time was syndicated in over four hundred papers.

 

“You only have to be a little bit better than most in what you do. Just a little smarter, just a little steadier, just a little more energetic, or whatever other prime quality is demanded in your field. If successes admitted this, they would not have cause to feel so conceited; and if the aspirants recognized this, they would not have cause to feel so left behind at the starting line.” Sydney J. Harris

 

“Success is just a little more effort” from his column Strictly Speaking

 

As I read this passage I realized how true it is. So often it is one more step, another few words, fifteen more minutes that make the difference between success and failure or in being just average. In high school sadly getting seventy percent and passing is considered successful by far too many. There are some who do not succumb and try to attain better. It is not that difficult to be a little better than most but we often see that as too much work or effort. This is not strictly limited to students’ teachers as well fall into the taking the easier road syndrome as well. If a teacher chose to only do seventy percent just what is needed and is working with seventy percent students that equates to about forty nine percent of what should have been learned and is a failure in most societies. I often wonder and I am a procrastinator myself what constitute too much effort or too much work.

 

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” Pearl S. Buck

Being of a monastic nature I find some days this to be difficult, to include others. However, we need others to succeed in life and to move ahead if only to provide support. Succeeding is more often than not an effort of a group rather than just one person.

 

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have heard this quote so many times at commencement speeches in lectures on success by motivational speakers and yet each time a little more of it sinks in. Perhaps Emerson was ahead of his time as I read his words the last two lines; it becomes so significant that success is having made another’s life easier a very powerful statement in our selfish society of excess and greed.

 

“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.” Harvey S. Firestone

 

Success is how we leave others as we walk away, the difference we make the level at which we make change in the environment around and in some instances our ability to not make change and still accomplish something.

 

“My definition of success is total self-acceptance. We can obtain all of the material possessions we desire quite easily, however, attempting to change our deepest thoughts and learning to love ourselves is a monumental challenge. We may achieve success in our business lives but it never quite means as much if we do not feel good inside. Once we feel good about ourselves inside we can genuinely lend ourselves to others.” Victor Frankl

 

Seeing ourselves clearly, honestly, and learning to like to even love ourselves is crucial to truly succeeding. Success is about us and how we affect the world and others. Success can be a minute difference we make in what is happening around us. Success can be a simple elevation of a friend or attainment of a goal. Success is effort yet success can be attained with the heart as well as the body.

 

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

 

As I was reading quotes and articles today to write this morning it was interesting how success was defined by various people down through history. Many wealthy people defined success in terms of accumulation of wealth and yet others looked at the word as a gauge of human involvement. There are numerous different approaches and comparisons that are available as I looked, accomplishment, outcome, and achievement were all listed as definitive words for success as I read.

 

As I think back to two of the quotes I used today Dr. Schweitzer spoke of happiness as the key, this man was a musician extraordinaire he played in concert halls all over Europe and used those funds to run a hospital in Africa in the 1930’s till his death many years later. His success in life was his practice of medicine where he was needed. Emerson as he indicates defines success as that difference you make in another’s life. As I look closer at myself I truly believe success is a word needing others to define. It is about your impact and difference you make on others and success is not measured as much in volumes as in quality. If we take quality as defined by Phillip Crosby which is exceeding expectations and draw a loose simple parallel. Then success is exceeding others expectations. A week is drawing to an end and as I have for many years now ended my daily entries 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

 

Taking and making the most of each moment and learning about moleskin: I think we need to find the moleskin in education along with switchbacks

Bird Droppings January 19, 2020

Taking and making the most of each moment and learning about moleskin: I think we need to find the moleskin in education along with switchbacks

 

Waking up to my dog barking because he needs to run outside for a second is not the best way to wake up. My oldest who actually is Timbers buddy was away last night so duty falls on me. I put on my easiest to put on shoes and grabbed the leash and went for a walk in the brisk dark morning air. As I sit here and the morning my birddropping title keeps growing. This isn’t about quick fixes or band aids it is solving the problem.

 

I recall nearly seven or eight years ago after a similar morning. On that day I received a call midday that my mother had to be hospitalized and my wife was heading over to meet ambulance at the hospital. One of the Assistant Principals had come to my room to tell me to call my wife since my cell phone did not pick up service in that building. Since only one or two at the most can be in the emergency room area with the patient I felt it a better use of my time to finish my classes and then head over. I drove by my house on the way to the hospital and as I opened my car door a hawk was calling. I was not paying attention at first, but then I looked and again he called several times and flew immediately over my head to a pine tree not too far from the house. I knew all was well.

 

This morning as I shuffled items from one pair of pants to another, my swiss army knife, my father’s ARAMCO pocket knife, a G2 pen, a buffalo quarter, and my mother’s pace maker. I thought back to taking mom a BBQ plate from her favorite restaurant for dinner, she was ninety and doing great. There are moments I miss my parents and try and make sure to tell grandkids all the stories.

 

Today it is colder gray day than we have had but no rain at least for now.

 

“Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe 

 

But as I sit thinking hopefully winter is coming to an end and school and classes soon will be a part of our daily routine again in many of our lives in this second semester. Our teachers are walking the hallways faced with the challenges of state and federal mandates in test scores going to training and meetings to better teach the submit test material to children. Soon we will be facing that challenge as spring comes around and annual test cycle begins anew. As I think back to days of hiking on the Appalachian Trail and all the switch backs how we approach testing and teaching to tests is much like that mountain climb.

 

Many times, you can see the trail above your head and going straight up rather than following the trail and it may seem easier but carrying a fifty pound back and walking the switch backs for an extra seventy-five feet and not struggling to hang on sometimes is wiser. For those uneducated and mountain illiterates among you, a switch back is a more gradual ascent usually taking a bit longer sort of a handicapped ramp but in reality, safer than scaling a cliff. I see a similarity in how we teach today teaching massive amounts of content to score well on tests and little context to have that material stay with the student.

 

“It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” Robert W. Service

 

Walking for hours with a grain of sand digging into your foot can be painful and from firsthand experience taking your shoe off to try and complete the journey sometimes is even harder. Far too often in education we simply have taken off the shoe. Carefully address the grain of sand when you notice it rather than waiting until it is way too late.

 

“You can do what you have to do, and sometimes you can do it even better than you think you can.” Jimmy Carter 

 

I walked many miles barefoot years ago because I would not take care of a sore foot when hiking, and finally I succumbed to the experience of those around me and learned the value of moleskin. I was five miles from a road and a fifty-pound pack to carry and I was in charge of a group of kids the choices do change occasionally. I had blisters on blisters and they were getting infected from not taking care of a small spot on my foot when it first had occurred a few days earlier. I was saved by a thirteen-year-old boy scout, (and me a former Eagle Scout and scout leader) when he handed me a piece of what looked like soft thick cloth, turns out to be called moleskin. The good Doctor to the rescue so high on a mountain in North Carolina and me who knew all about hiking, I learned a simple lesson from a much younger teacher than myself.

 

“Few people have any next; they live from hand to mouth without a plan, and are always at the end of their line.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I never again went hiking without moleskin and shared moleskin numerous times thereafter and needless to say I never again had a foot problem hiking. As I look back over my thoughts today all can be applied to education and life in general mountains can be issues we face daily family problems, friends, and work. They are but winding trails and there can be solutions.  Sometimes we think far too simple than an all-out confrontation a grain of sand. It could be a rumor that starts so small and grows and festers and soon is great.

 

“You can do what you have to do, and sometimes you can do it even better than you think you can.”  Jimmy Carter

 

Many times, I have surprised myself and achieved far more than I ever intended to in many aspects of life.  I am sitting here procrastinating getting serious about getting back into my research and sorting out files and looking over records and all the fun stuff of teaching. In a few weeks it will be back to writing for graduate school and my dissertation and more reading and writing and learning. I enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship of education perhaps more than the content being taught in some cases and often in that friendship you learn as well. I was reminded of my ending each day in an email from a dear friend in Texas and he offered a thought from his weekly comments on his website nearly five years ago. Dr. James Sutton is a clinical psychologist and lectures around the country on Oppositional Deviance Disorder and Conduct Disorders.

 

Dr. Sutton had been in a meeting and was thinking about his son in law in Afghanistan and how his daughter had recently sent photos of their baby by fax. There had been a bomb in Kabul during the time his son was there which elicited these thoughts.

 

From Dr. James Sutton’s website:

 

  1. We might think otherwise most of our lives, but none of us are ever completely exempt from what happens in this world. Tragedy is not reserved for others only; even the innocent suffers sometimes. That’s just the way it is, and we are not going to change it. If we fail to understand this, our recovery from deep pain and loss can be seriously affected. 
  2. We need not be selfish in our empathy. Just because my son-in-law was spared shouldn’t detract from the fact that others were not. An expression of caring and empathy, even toward folks we don’t know, is a good thing.  
  3. We should all make it a point to never have any unfinished business with our loved ones. (I think I was alright on this one.) Life is a precious and fragile thing. Opportunities to reconcile, embrace and reaffirm might be more limited than we think.

 

It is difficult to follow such choice words and as I responded to Dr. Sutton we as humans have to try and do no harm to others. That should be our sole purpose in existence. Unfortunately, too many are not adhering to or even considering and again I will say please today keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and may peace be with you all and above all please always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

How do we know if we are still human?

Bird Droppings January 17, 2020
How do we know if we are still human?

 

Perhaps it is from growing up in a situation where we were aware of special needs children and adults directly from the birth of my younger brother till his passing almost twenty five years ago that those in my family have had connections with exceptional children directly or indirectly in our careers and life’s endeavors. A number of us went the route of teaching and even there most are in Exceptional Education. Several are in the medical field and several are going into psychology. My brother linked us as a family to the humanness of mankind.

 

“The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self.” Albert Einstein

 

Over the years in my studies and internships I have experienced situations many will never know exist. I recall walking through wards in a state institution where tiny infant looking patients lay in bassinets connected to tubes and not moving. Some were born with no brains and kept alive by feeding tubes and respirators. I asked one of the attendants during a walk through in 1968 how old was this one particular infant. I was informed this was not an infant but probably older than I was I being twenty and the baby at twenty-three. The attendants turned the children to prevent bed sores and occasionally would talk to their charges. Later as I worked on finishing my psychology degree at Mercer I visited several more units very similar at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville and a Regional Hospital in Atlanta. These units were filled with fifty to sixty patients each. Central State Hospital had more than one ward.

 

“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Our society exists through a historical development from a time when the first humans started living in villages and using commodities as exchange for other goods. Many historians and anthropologists will offer that society and civilization began when this early bartering started and a value was placed on a particular thing. A goat is worth a bushel of wheat or rice and banking began. Soon more precious commodities were found metal for weapons and tools, precious stones and gold for adornment. Granted this process happened fairly rapidly in the grand scheme of things and soon someone decided they could get more for an item since they had most of it and price gouging was begun. It was in these days that an imperfect infant would be tossed off a cliff or fed to the sharks.

 

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

What got me started on the idea that maybe we are losing or have lost our humanity? Over the years I will get in discussions and some get a bit out of proportion and over board and some I will walk away from but when we look at cutting programs that provide housing and food for people who do not have anything I take issue. I take issue with the greed that drives bonuses and profits that tax most families to a point of frustration all in the name of capitalism. I get upset when education is first on the chopping block not because it could impact my own pay but because it is through education we can possible regain our humanity. In a recent discussion on drug testing those on Medicaid, Food stamps or any Federal assistance because all on welfare are on drugs and using welfare money to buy drugs I asked what do we do and was suggested I use my own money if I think they need help. Almost immediately in curiosity I should have questioned what religion are you? A legislator from Kentucky wants to cut nearly every federal program. I find it ironic that down through history men and women who try to help others find themselves hated by those in power and usually end up dead.

 

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great one’s exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Credited to Jesus Bar Joseph, known to many as Jesus the Christ, Mark 10:42-45

 

So how is it, a religion based on self-sacrifice is so greedy? How can the image of a religious leader driving a Rolls Royce and living in one of their many multimillion-dollar homes be comforting to anyone? How can anyone say it is a federal healthcare bill that drove up there insurance when a CEO of a health insurance company is making over one hundred fifty million dollars and can deny a claim or treatment due to cost at any given moment? I recently watched the leader of the majority in the house of representatives roll his eyes at comments the President of the United States as he spoke in his State of the Union Address. Of course, Utube flashes the image over and over again as well.

 

“We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.” Parker J. Palmer

 

Having worked in service-oriented jobs, pasturing, teaching, and counseling I have seen people who do not wish to be poor. It is through no choice of theirs that they have a congenital heart defect and cannot stand for longer than a few minutes let alone try and work. I have seen mothers whose husbands left when a baby was born with severe birth defects and requires constant care so the mother does not work and cares for the child. I have seen families torn apart by mental illness and former patients pushed out into a not so caring world to fend for themselves only to end up homeless and destitute. These are not unique cases but magnified many thousands of times over. Sort of like the stories of welfare mother with six kids driving to family and children’s services to pick up a check in an Escalade or Mercedes. Not all on welfare are using the system and not all on welfare are using drugs. Is our system perfect by no means but it is the lack of human civility that bothers me. It is how we can say we are of a religious persuasion and literally live an entirely different life when not in church.

 

“Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” Black Elk

 

In most Indian societies all were taken care of and provided for. I am not promoting a return to the primitive but to a more natural view of life. Indians held all as sacred and in doing so would not demand or extract more than was needed from the land or from another person. It was a very humanistic world view. We stripped away the sacredness of the land and used the resources till they were gone in the name of progress. We do not as a society want to help others is the sound board of many people. I was informed last evening if I want to help others use my own money to which I replied I do. I have for my entire teaching career given to a local charity a portion of my paycheck a very small portion yet it amounts each year to nearly ten percent of the giving from the teaching staff at my high school and I am less than one percent of the staff numbers.

 

“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohican, the Pokanoket, and many other once powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and the oppression of the White Man, as snow before a summer sun.” Tecumseh, Shawnee

 

Our dominate society has all but eradicated the indigenous populations of the Americas from the first slaughters by Cortez’s men in Mexico to cutting of funding to the reservations. Suicides and infant mortality in Indian societies is considerably higher than dominate societies around them. It has only been a few days since I watched the movie about Wounded Knee and slaughter of unarmed Indians the last major Indian war battle even though only one sided. Around the world natives peoples are eliminated for wealth and power.

 

“I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

In a recent set of materials given to me by my mother on the Bushmen of South Africa who call themselves the Sans I noticed the date on the literature and it was pre-mining leases in the Kalahari. There were beautiful pictures of hunting and villages. The Bushmen moved as they needed following the herds of animals and seasons of plants. Today much of the Kalahari Desert has been sectioned off into diamond mine leases and the Sans moved to concrete buildings on a reservation. They are a people losing their identity and culture so greed can fill the void.


I recall watching American Idol and I am enjoying the softer image. The last contestant of the day a few years back was a young man and if you did not watch whose fiancé was severely brain injured in an accident and needs constant care. He dedicated his singing which was awesome to her and is involved in her daily care. I wonder how many people who want to cut funding would have given up much of his own life to care for their beloved fiancée as this young man has. Needless to say, I was touched as was everyone watching with me. Still harboring within the midst of us is hatred rampant and rancid that keeps rearing up. A few years back during an election a young man drove his mother’s car to school with an OBAMA bumper sticker which was torn off in the parking lot and replaced with a derogatory note and the extra addition of never park here again or it will be worse. We have come so far to be so lost. I wonder if it is with a deaf ear I offer each day 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

Who is at the center of your universe?

Bird Droppings January 15, 2020

Who is at the center of your universe?

 

“Tung-shan was asked, ‘The normal mind is the way; what is the normal mind?’ He replied, ’Not picking things up along the road.’” From Teachings of Zen, edited by Thomas Cleary, © 1998

 

One aspect of the Zen teachings is the process of thinking that often is involved in sorting out the statement to begin with. Many times, a day I am faced with defining what is normal versus what is not. It may be working with children and or adults who in some situations who often skirt around what many normal people consider the parameters of normalcy. Sometimes I sit back and wonder who is really normal. Who is out there that can truly define normal. When I read this approach earlier I was thinking about High School students and towards teachers. How easy to define simply those persons who pick up trash alongside the road are they normal if you saw them waking along bag in hand cleaning up after others. Conversely obviously if you throw trash out alongside the road you are definitely not normal. I am amused as I think to how so many just treat their surroundings as disposable maybe that is the point of this statement treating the earth well. It is not just dumping but picking up after others is what should be normal, concern for others.

 

“To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.” Confucius

 

“Human history is the sad result of each one looking out for himself.” Julie Cortazar

 

Several friends are teachers, who also coach cheerleading, which more often than not is predominately girls. Several years back I placed on my door to my room a sign stating as a parent I have only boys. I had been joking with the coaches at how girls can be so difficult at times. There seemed to be a civil war over a boy going on within the ranks of the cheerleaders, accusations back and forth, parents involved to a point of a restraining order. Yesterday in Yahoo news an article about Lovesickness is physiological as well to add to the fray.

 

“If we were not all so excessively interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

“An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own existence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead.” Carl Jung

 

I often wonder working with kids with disabilities if at times ego is not a factor as so many are depressed. Some children have a poor self-image and for example many ADHD and more overt children have inflated views of themselves. One in particular as I think when talking is totally absorbed in herself. Sitting here thinking many high school students tend to be this way even those without recognized disabilities. I would say a vast majority sadly are self-focused self-involved and easily could say self-centered. Alas the majority would not pick up alongside the road conversely then normal is in retrospect not the majority as so often thought.

 

“Egotism is the art of seeing in yourself what others cannot see.” George V. Higgins

 

“The nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people.” Lucille S. Harper

 

“Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.” Frank Leahy

 

We all tend to become self-absorbed. The past few weeks I have been fighting with a cold, when you are ill you tend to become more self-involved, it is so much easier to ask for a drink or blanket when you cannot breathe or have a running nose. But even with a cold I would still pick up from the side of the road and do my best to avoid saying something bad about my neighbor.

 

“Loving is the only sure road out of darkness, the only serum known that cures self-centeredness.” Roger M’Ckuen

 

“The one who overcomes egotism rids themselves of the most stubborn obstacle that blocks the way to all true greatness and all true happiness.” Coltvos

 

Often, I will search the internet when I find a quote or saying to use to see who this person was and why they said what they said. Both of these authors have wonderful words in their quote yet neither is to be found outside their statement. As I sit here this morning wondering at this phenomenon of self-centeredness of egotism, I wonder could we train students to be more aware of others to be less self-centered, to pick up alongside the road.

 

Years ago, I remember a family moving across country and we were driving south to Naples Florida to visit relatives. This was long before interstates and all roads to Florida were two lane and periodically crossed rail road tracks. This family evidently had been pulling a trailer and it was hit by the train and scattered everything along the road for what seemed like miles. I am sitting in the car my dad was concerned about anyone being hurt he was the first aid guy back home. I just remember seeing all the debris and the road was a litterer’s paradise and out of the wood work came people walking up picking up a piece here and there and as we watched the road was being picked up, sadly for today’s quote most were gathering for their own use literally stealing away this family’s belongings as they sorted through the pieces.

 

Perhaps I recall the scene as this was about the time of Lady Bird Johnson’s plea for cleaning up the roads. It used to be you had a coke bottle and were done you threw it out the window no thinking involved. As I think to the first statement of the morning perhaps that is the tie in, normal is picking up no thinking involved, no Lady Bird Johnson to plea and no reminders just it is what we should be doing. So a new morning a new day and which direction will we take. Please keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Passion to learn/teach: Can it be rekindled?

Bird Droppings January 14, 2020
Passion to learn/teach: Can it be rekindled?

 

Many days I wonder who I write for in the morning. Perhaps no one, maybe a teacher who needs just a thought but occasionally I write for me. I needed an uplift, an adrenaline shot so to say. Starting in a new school with a totally different demographic than I had been used too. Apathy has gone rampant in past five years to an epidemic proportion among high school kids in terms of learning. The self-centeredness of today’s students is very intimidating and scary at the same time. Yesterday was one of only a handful of days I did not want to teach. So, I am writing for me and anyone else who needs to read today.

 

“To speak so listeners long to hear more and to listen so others’ meaning is grasped are the ideals of the impeccably great.” Tirukkural 65:646

 

When I first read the passage from the Tirukkural, I thought of the Einstein quote I used to use at the bottom of Bird Droppings for several years. I first used this quote in a presentation for my Capstone in my master’s degree program at Piedmont College nearly five years ago. For me real teaching is making such an impact. I have used passages over the years from Tirukkural always considering it to be simply Hindu literature, by chance I looked it up further and over 2000 years old its original religious significance is questioned by scholars yet both the writer and words are considered holy.

 

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the emotional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

 

As I read about the Tirrukkural, while in translation the flow and pattern that the text was written in are changed slightly from a very specific number of words per line and per couplet to what words can work in English without losing too much meaning it is still a significant piece of literature. I was thinking back to my own classes and could they sit while I read 1330 couplets of seven words, four on the first and three on the second lines. Probably not, paper balls would be winging it at my head. But then how do we make our teaching as potent as Einstein says that maybe just maybe that class would sit through all 1330 couplets. Candy always works many teachers would say, but M&M’s, extrinsic bribery aside what do we do as teachers to bring relevance to our words.

 

“All preschool children are passionate, curious learners. Somewhere along the way in school many, many kids become alienated from the joy of learning.” Robert L. Fried

 

Perhaps not all, how about many lose their drive and passion for learning. I had a “student” whose discipline records went back to preschool and his referrals were numerous until he was transferred to a psycho-educational program in kindergarten.(Think about that psycho-ed at four or five) I am still trying to figure out how you get in that much trouble in pre-K, maybe crumbling a cookie the wrong way. Children are insatiably curious, we as teachers along the way train that out of them. We work towards nice straight lines and always quiet and yes mame or no sir, and no sir and really straight lines and red flowers when drawing only. I recall that Harry Chapin song often as I work with children of any age and see creativity lost at times on uniformity. (Flowers are Red)

 

Not that long ago we made cookie dough from scratch, even in my youth which is a life time ago you could buy cookie dough in plastic tubes. You could take it out and make big cookies if you didn’t cut in quarters like the directions tell you to. Now days you can buy the cookie dough already made into cookies, we like uniformity.

 

”That, so few children seem to take pleasure from what they’re doing on a given weekday morning, that the default emotional state in classrooms seems to alternate between anxiety and boredom, doesn’t even alarm us. Worse: Happiness in schools is something for which educators may feel obliged to apologize when it does make an appearance. After all, they wouldn’t want to be accused of offering a “feel-good” education.” Alfie Kohn

 

I started my Master degree capstone presentation at Piedmont College with students have to want to be in class. If a student does not want to be in school we go back to motivating through bribery and extrinsic methods. I had a student when I asked what would make him want to be in school say, “pay me to come, you get paid to be here”, and it made me think. Recently an Atlanta school started a pilot program of paying students to attend after school tutoring. Amazingly some people were against it without seeing if program had merit. In response to my students wanting to be paid, I pulled out my pay stub looked at the numbers and with a smile showed my student my pay check. Amazing the shock when he saw I get paid nothing for being here. I did not tell him I have electronic deposit and my pay check has zero listed on the amount line. But I really got mileage out of that. I said I enjoy being here I explained and I actually I do, he knew that, but the zero-pay check really hit hard. I thought about the intrinsic reasons I teach. How do you convey that to students?

 

”Students tend to be regarded not as subjects but as objects, not as learners but as workers. By repeating words like “accountability” and “results” often enough, the people who devise and impose this approach to schooling evidently succeed in rationalizing what amounts to a policy of feel-bad education.” Alfie Kohn

 

I have been borrowing these notes from Alfie Kohn; I saved an article a few years back on Feel-Bad Education in Education Week available on line at Alfie Kohn’s website in its entirety for those who would like to read more. Over the years in numerous articles on teaching Emotionally and Behaviorally Disturbed students the sterile classroom has been the norm, no distractions. I found in a trail and error sort of way the opposite; a room filled with distractions provides endless teachable moments and places where a student who needs a different attitude and look from the teacher can find a space. So what for some is clutter can be comfortable for another. But the student needs to want to be there. When this inquisitiveness occurs learning can easily happen.
Of course you will still have that child who started in pre-K;

 

I remember the day a few years back when I asked him why do you not want to learn to read. This was a tenth-grade student who is a behavior problem; he spent eight of ten years in Psycho-ed centers. I was complimenting him on his reading, he has been in a reading tutorial for three semesters and we were working on writing letters for a school project and he was able to read back all he wrote on the computer. He commented “no one ever took the time to show me because I was so bad”, a side note spell check works great if you can read, when you can’t it does not always help. Well he still is obnoxious but slowly the idea there are teachers who do care about him and want to help him is sinking in I think back to Robert Fried’s title for a book “The Passionate Teacher” that is what it is all about. We teachers and parents need to look at our intrinsic versus extrinsic and see why are we teaching, is it purely for M&M’s, are we simply being bribed or is there underneath the passion an intrinsic rational. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart Namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Quietly listening to Bob Dylan and pondering the word inspiration

Bird Droppings January 13, 2020
Quietly listening to Bob Dylan and pondering the word inspiration

 

I woke up a bit earlier than normal although I did not have a very good night’s sleep. I left the class room Friday frustrated. My day had been thrown off by an administrator’s discipline talk. As a result we were dealing with behavior issues basically most of afternoon.  Simply doing class room management is not my style. I enjoy story telling teaching and I finally reached a point where I said to myself “To hell with this”, there are ten minutes left in the day let’s just survive. That bothered me. The saving grace was seeing my grandkids Friday afternoon. I got up this morning and went to my computer to try and do a few things before the day gets under way. Blood on the tracks, by Bob Dylan quietly in the back ground. So I will borrow a few words from Dylan going back to the sixties.

 

“Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Bob Dylan

 

I was pretending I just didn’t see all day, even the past few weeks. A simple idea caught my attention this morning. In biology I talk about pepper moths and evolution and mutation. A research done in England with a moth and industrialization. White speckled moths slowly shifted to black as pollution from factories darkened the sky and soot covered trees. Of all ideas to pop and make me realize I wasn’t teaching only filling in minutes just blowing in the wind. A peppered moth did me in. Inspiration is a key but the lifelong challenge e for teachers.

 

Nearly fifteen years ago at a county wide teacher kick off meeting which was traditionally a packaged inspirational meeting and welcome for the new school year, led by an outsider brought in canned speaker. The county pays big bucks to an inspirational speaker paid to come in and inspire us as teachers. It could be a comedian or professional speaker and it seemed each year the county would try a new approach. A new superintendent back with all the austerity cuts, cut this program out first which most teachers did not have an issue with.

 

Although I would have paid to hear and would enjoy going to hear Nelson Mandela or Bishop Tutu maybe even Jimmy Carter but we never had that privilege. In the past before the county cut out that start up program, we would car pool over to one of the high school gyms near the county office and sit in the bleachers listening to pep talks and such and most teachers leave wishing they had called in sick. I once considered asking for a substitute but our secretary did not think the county would cover a sub. However, a recent speaker to our seniors reminded me of that meeting nearly fifteen years back. A young black college professor stood in front of us. He made his point not one person approached him as he boogied through the crowd prior to the meeting. The guest speaker for our seniors made this point as well about first impressions. So I start today with a quote from a young college professor.

 

“You can teach anyone anything once you get their ATTENTION.” Dr. Adolph Brown, III

 

Prior to at aforementioned annual teachers inspirational gathering in the county this same professor was walking about the crowd clad in hip hop attire, the baggy pants and shirt and baseball cap with a dew rag. He could have been from any street corner in Atlanta or Monroe where the school is located he was just a young black man. As they announced Dr. Brown, a very distinguished man in a business suit and such rises and heads towards podium and then the hip hop fellow moves toward the mike and takes charge and announces he is Dr. Adolph Brown III from Hampton College, professor of psychology and education. He is a world-wide consultant and motivational speaker.

 

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’” Dan Rather

 

We teachers sat listening to this young professor talk about faith, trust and getting students attention.

 

“In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” Jacques Barzun

 

New teachers come in wanting to make changes in student’s lives immediately and it does happen but the real changes are those often years later. Recently a former history teacher joined our high school group site and many of our members were offering memories of this great teacher’s efforts both in the classroom and as a coach. Mr. Ross Kershey was one of the winningest basketball and track coaches in Pa. and a truly great teacher in the class room inspiring students to learn. It has been over fifty years since I was in his class yet I still consider him one of the best teachers I ever had. Over the years I have set at the feet of some great teachers in college classes and in industrial seminars and as a professional management training coordinator.

 

“Most teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum or choice of texts or special placement of students, but most have a great deal of autonomy inside the classroom. To a degree shared by only a few other occupations, such as police work, public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.” Tracy Kidder

 

I had a former student come by to visit me a few years back he had walked across the stage nearly seventeen years ago to accept a special education diploma and then went on and officially finished high school and received his general education diploma and went on to college. Now he is teaching Special education and head coach of a wrestling team with four straight state championships. It was a good feeling to be sitting there talking with a student who kept at it and succeeded even though all the odds were stacked against him.

 

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

 

This is what teaching is about, it is inspiration and I wish all teachers could have heard those comments we heard in our Walton County teachers meeting that year when Dr. Brown offered the key component in teaching it is our example. It is setting the example for students. I have heard that before many times and somehow it does not sink in with most teachers. So as we head towards a school end for the summer and End of Course Tests the next few weeks at our school 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

A chill in the air but not in the heart, thank you Maya Angelou

Bird Droppings January 9, 2020

A chill in the air but not in the heart, thank you Maya Angelou

 

For several weeks now, we have been balancing between warm and cold weather in the early mornings which still is too cold for the crickets and tree frogs who need an ambient temperature a bit more warm, maybe high fifties low sixties. So for today my orchestra was silent as a near freeze not only permeated but encompassed our back yard and today was one of quietest of this year at the house. I keep recalling why I like Georgia it is supposed to be warmer. Last night I watched a couple of minutes of news and I am concerned about things to come.  Walking through the house earlier today I could not get warm it seemed the cold was seeping in the house. Now as I am sitting here writing it dawned on me I may have left the dampener open from our new fireplace insert which is electric and doesn’t need it the night before in the chimney. However, over the years I have found warmth in reading and pondering as I call it. It seems I can always find the right words when I turn a page or two.

 

“A bizarre sensation pervades a relationship of pretense. No truth seems true. A simple morning’s greeting and response appear loaded with innuendo and fraught with implications. Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.” Maya Angelou

 

As I move my thinking to students and people in general we balance our lives in a series of trust and distrust often a teeter totter or see saw effect. Often we become jaded and calloused through constant distrusting and soon we respond as Angelou indicates in a sterile manner. About once or twice a year I will pull my old guitar out and play. My fingers at first feel each string and after a while pain will tear through my finger tips from the pressure of strings on flesh. Eventually after several days I will callous my fingertips back.

 

Rock legend has it perhaps even urban rock myth it should be called is that the late great guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn during a concert super glued his calluses back on when his fingers began to bleed. As I read this first quote, we can become callous we can become sterile but much more is involved. I also sense a similar relationship to my own use of the Hindustani word namaste, both a sterile hello or goodbye for some and for others one of reverence and humility. It is in the eyes and ears of the receiver and the giver. Today I learned a new phrase, sat shree akal that is Punjabi and means truth is the ultimate God and or truth is timeless.

 

“Achievement brings its own anticlimax.” Maya Angelou

 

 “All great achievements require time.” Maya Angelou

 

Maya Angelou writes of paradox of achievement and anticlimax. As I sit and think achievement is an attainment of a goal and with that attainment is a realization of a new goal a new mountain to climb perhaps it is that awareness of the anticlimax and yes most definitely time is always a factor.

 

“All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.” Maya Angelou

 

Maybe most men are prepared would be better. There are many who will still sit on their posteriors. Sitting today reading Angelou’s thoughts is a series of how to and why’s. I have listened many times to Dr. Angelo read her works or discuss topics on talk shows. Her words while calming are twice as meaningful listening to her speak them. There was a passion about her spirit and soul.

 

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Maya Angelou

 

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” Maya Angelou

 

“Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.” Maya Angelou

 

She was philosopher, poet, writer, activist, educator, humanitarian, civil rights leader, and the list goes on but always children are at the center of Angelou’s thinking and thoughts. Any book that can form a habit of reading is good. What a powerful statement in a society that would ban many books in schools and libraries? While not on the news now periodically we have this or as in a nearby county once upon a time, putting disclaimer labels in science books. I often wonder how when opening a book and a label states what you read in this science book may or may not be true is a good way to start a science lesson.

 

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” Maya Angelou

 

“Education helps one case, to cease being intimidated by strange situations.” Maya Angelou

 

Two words that seem to permeate Dr. Angelou’s writing are courage and education. These two words are constantly mentioned described and eluded to. Perhaps the explanation is in the first of the two statements above, “without courage you cannot practice any other virtue”. As I ponder, education requires courage it is that willingness to achieve to go beyond where you are it requires first courage to make that effort and then education to do it.

 

“I believe that every person is born with talent.” Maya Angelou

 

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.” Maya Angelou

 

As I saw this I thought of two individuals far apart historically and in many ways yet similar, George Washington Carver and Bill Gates. Both men through vision and fantasy transformed our realities possibly beyond the actual dreams they originally had.  My morning would be totally different if not for these two men many of the items used in the kitchen reflect ideas from Dr. Carver and my laptop computer and internet use are directly related to Mr. Gates.

 

“If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” Maya Angelou

 

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Maya Angelou

 

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” Maya Angelou

 

We are the beginning and the end of the circle. How we live and interact with others continues and perpetuates the circle. I have never been able to understand why this is so hard for people in general to understand. We seem to be having greed as a human trait. How sad that is to inherently assume man is greedy by nature. Animals only keep what they need for survival. Man is the only creature that hordes and amasses wealth.

 

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.” Maya Angelou

 

Caring and concern begins at home and then spreads out from there. It is not about the face you put on when you need to but that which you truly carry in your heart and live and breathe daily. I enjoy Dr. Maya Angelou’s words. The few times I have watched her on TV and in reading her books that are in my own library. She is a person of concern and of caring. She is trying to do her part in her corner of the world for all of humanity. It is for each of us to try and do likewise where we are in the world.

 

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” Maya Angelou

 

So I end another morning as I have now for some time till everyone listens to Dr. Angelou’s thoughts that ring in my heart today let me repeat this last quote one more time.

 

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” Maya Angelou

 

It brings tears to my eyes as I sit knowing I need to continue ending my daily meanderings as I have for so many years, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird