Is it saying goodbye or is it hello?

Bird Droppings February 13, 2017
Is it saying goodbye or is it hello?

 

It might have been the fact I had never pulled out my Eagle Scout card from 1967 in class before that got me thinking back. While mired in controversy nationally in recent years the Boy Scouts of America have contributed greatly to our culture and country. However in today’s hurried and rushed society it seems fewer children are involved in Scouting. By chance two kids in one block at school were both active in troops in the area and asked me if I had ever been and it was a chance to talk Boy Scouts and I carry my worn and tattered Eagle Scout card in my wallet from so many years ago. It seemed almost yesterday however that it took me back about nine years to preparing for my father’s funeral July 1, 2007. It was exactly seventy years ago that day the first National Boy Scout Jamboree started in Washington D.C. and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an official invitation to Boys Scouts’ nationwide. My dad was the Boy Scout of the year in New Jersey that particular year and of course going to the Jamboree. I had pulled out dad’s 1937 Jamboree neckerchief and his merit badge sash for my mother to put out at his service.
I have written so much on curriculum the past ten years as I work on my doctorate in curriculum studies. William Pinar is a leader in the field and addresses curriculum from its root “curre” which he loosely translates as to run the course. I have written on curriculum several times that it is our life, piece by piece, much more than simply a track of lesson plans as so many teachers have been told. My grandfather was an steam train engineer in New Jersey and in one paper I even used the analogy of a train track for curriculum. We stop here and there visit a bit a move on to the next station. Curriculum is more it is life even more so when you add the daily experiences that build our ability to learn and retain. My father all through his life would borrow from Native American lore and mythology. We grew up listening to stories of the great chief Little Strong-arm and numerous other stories from his experiences and imagination. In my own search in life I too have been drawn to a culture and faith in life that permeates Native American thought, one of sacredness in all. Many years ago a Sioux Holy Man had a vision which was recorded in the book by John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks.

 

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk Oglala Sioux Holy Man 1863-1950

 

I wonder as I sit this morning pondering that day nearly ten years back and celebration of my father’s life. My father’s friends literally came from around the world to say their goodbyes. As a family we looked through thousands of old photos the night before sitting around remembering stories and events that had significance to each of us. I recalled my dad wanting buffalo which fascinated him and how when presented one Christmas with a buffalo robe he sat wrapped up watching TV for several days warm and cozy inside of his robe. We eventually had buffalo on the farm and so many fond memories of my father taking bread out to feed his buffalo. Living deep in the farm at the time Crowfoot’s message and thought was real for myself and my family growing up as we had buffalo grazing in our yard and during the night you could hear the great bull walk about guarding his cows and calves sniffing and snorting till he felt safe to rest.

 

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

 

On that day in July ten years back we gathered as a family and with our friends to say our goodbyes but I truly believe it is only a minor station in my father’s journey. For many weeks after stories and memories flooded the mail, email and phone lines from his friends and our families as they recall trips and lectures and articles all of which made him who he was. Just yesterday as I did a web search I found an author arguing one of the mainstays of my father’s thinking an accident pyramid. He had first seen the idea in a German author’s work and then being with an insurance company at the time gathered data. Nearly one million incidents were covered in the research. The author stating my father’s idea was a myth said no research was used. In writing saying the pyramid of accidental effects was fiction he seemed to ignore the fact it was based on data accumulated from actual accidents. What struck me even more was he had no alternative. Basically accidents are an act of nature.

 

This past week the passage from Black Elk came back to haunt me. Nine years ago I used this passage in a wedding ceremony for a dear friend of my middle son’s. Jamie and Katie wanted a non-religious ceremony and wanted me to officiate. Not religious was easy but I had to get ordained. I finally got that taken care of and sat down and we planned the wedding. I should say they planned the wedding. Last Saturday my wife said John our son had called and was upset. Jamie had passed away. He had collapsed running a half marathon and could not be revived. Reading, listening to and watching videos and photos flash across social media reminded me of the power Jamie held in his soul.

 

In science we show energy cannot be destroyed only altered.  Religion often flaunts the soul and after life. If you do this you will get this and so forth. I do not argue with folks over their own version of what happens beyond conventional life. I tend to treasure the moments alive. It is in our living we accumulate the memories in others and moments and jot them down, take photos, video, and store away all of these for recall one day. I spent most of last week recalling memories and images of a young man. I started to think of a jig saw puzzle vision I had many years ago.

 

In my vision I saw millions of tiny intricate pieces falling into place. I could see the moments and seconds of my life as they fell into the vast image of the puzzle. I could not see what was forming only each tiny piece. As I thought this weekend of losing a friend or loved one and those pieces of our life’s puzzle coming out and going back on the table it hit me. I have beside me those pieces of my life to reflect on and recall. I look ahead watching and wondering what life has in store.
I have been sidetracked slightly thinking, wandering and pondering, while we say goodbye on one hand we embraced a hello to a new journey. Sitting here in the wee hours of a Monday it is amazing what thoughts a tattered Eagle Scout card will invoke. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

What if treaties and promises were all kept

Bird Droppings February 10, 2017

What if treaties and promises were all kept

 

I begin each typical morning waking up and finding my way to my computer taking the dog out if he wants to, checking my iPad, making sure my connection is on or network up since we have an archaic internet provider and grab a bottle of water and go to work. I try and settle in, answer emails, various postings and write a bit before heading to school. I am getting back into graduate school and research writing and writing three IEP’s. My day got a bit hectic I started my wife’s car since it is chilly out, of course fixed breakfast, her lunch, my tea and watched the news with her before she left for work. I have a busy day ahead and am looking forward to hopefully warming temperatures. My son is flying in tomorrow for the day sadly for a funeral of a dear family friend.

 

My original plan was to put out some effort on the word reform. That will have to wait a day or two. This morning as I answered an email with a thought from the other day and in thinking about today I found this thought.

 

“One does not sell the land people walk on.” Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875

 

A great warrior and chief Crazy Horse died on the reservation because he was feared by the army but he never understood why the soldiers wanted the land that was sacred to the Sioux. He never understood the concept of that we wanted to possess it, to own it, and in that comes a driving force for us to win at all costs. Over the years I have been involved in many discussions about culture. Cultures vary and each is often about seeing the world differently. Several of my current reading efforts look at the world through feminist eyes and or those of Indigenous eyes from around the world.
While I finished my graduate classroom studies nearly seven years ago it feels like it was not that long ago we discussed these books and the culture of feminism in a class here at the high school. We discussed how we tend to look at others only in terms of our own beliefs and ideals. Bell Hooks in her writings discusses the appreciation of Paulo Friere and how he never wrote about feminism actually he addressed it but the title sort of went a different direction. A recent blog post on education addressed how could he Friere as a male truly write and or address feminism which is a valid response. Recently a former student of mine wrote about how can anyone who is not mentally ill, truly discuss mental illness. As I look at my direction today how can anyone who does not understand someone’s beliefs and culture even think they can relate.

 

“My father, you have made promises to me and to my children. If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled!” Shinguaconse, Little Pine

 

In many ways we too still do this if we have control we promise much yet it is only to get more and a trusting person would not question a man of authority. If it was a questionable person maybe yes but we do this we use trust to get what we want still today. Look at our politicians on both sides and never before have sides been so distant since the day our current president was elected. Throughout history in the conquest and overpowering of peoples lies have done far more than war. The broken promises do more damage than any weapons. Look at students in class rooms as we go through a school and all the broken promises. We even legislated that all children will be reading on grade level by 2014. I said it was absurd in 2004 when the law passed as a teacher of special needs kids I knew not all children will read on grade level unless we decide to selectively euthanize eighth graders who do not meet standards. Who knows maybe in the political arena that concept will come up. Realistically if all children are homeschooled by 2014 as one candidate suggests or all in select charter schools where special needs are not allowed it is no big issue. People joke but there are charters asking to be and that are exempted from IDEA today around the nation.

 

“I would have been better pleased if you had never made such promises than that you should have made them and not performed them. . .” Shinquaconese

 

As we go through life as friends, parents, teachers, and employers so often we take advantage of the inherent trust. We use it to gain from to go forward with our ideas and concepts. We use promises we know we will never keep to accomplish our goals. The ends justify the means is our motivation. Look at how we are discussing oil exploration and destroying wilderness. No one is going to use it why not destroy it. It has taken me three weeks to get a photo of a male and female duck on a lake nearby so that we could identify them. By chance a large group was near the bridge Saturday and I got a photo as they all took off. In one frame of several images I shot a male and female together and ring necked ducks were identified. This duck is a Canadian winter transplant to Georgia. But what if greed supersedes and we destroy all the rainforest and wilderness and kill all the whales. My great grandchildren will never know what waking to the sound of a red-tailed hawk calling or morning dove sounds like. I am sorry but to me that is worth not drilling or fracking and looking at other rationale to the twisted world of oil and gas profiteering.
I got a bit off on an issue that is bothersome to many but we currently are selling gas in surplus overseas and certain politicians still cry drill, drill, and drill. Public opinion says if we open up more drilling in North America our gas prices will go down. Does not work that way oil prices are fixed internationally and it is a supply and demand. Right now China and Mexico are buying all the gas and oil refined they can get from us. So pricing is based on capitalism not regulation. Interesting fact we sell quite a bit to China who is supposed to be a competitor for our gas and oil. As we do have a free market American oil companies are in business for profit and selling gas and oil where ever the best price is. Currently US consumption is down and many countries are rising and willing to pay more than we are. So we are victim to our own free market capitalism. So sad we never look at both sides of any issue and only listen to what we want. In the current state gas companies are under pressure from low gas prices forced by no cuts in production.
Parents use the promises of a toy or treat with small children and the child quiets down later the parent forgets or maybe never intended on supplying the prize. The child at first is confused but soon as it happens again and again becomes jaded calloused and resentful. In school so often children with learning problems get passed along and soon distrust, resentful, jaded and calloused they are behavior problems or quit. Employers use similar ideas and goals to accomplish the task at hand getting the job out and soon employees are too calloused and unionized. Although now in Georgia we are in effect passing a law that is in direct conflict with the constitution in the freedom to protest against tyranny. A state legislator in Georgia is trying to get a law passed that union organizing is a felony. We are being warned as teachers not to use our “teacher email” for politics.

 

“… I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.” Lone Man (Isna-la-wica) Teton Sioux

 

Imagine a world where word was bond, where promises were kept where a hand shake was a contract for real and students and children knew they were respected loved and would be cared for. Imagine that what was said would be and not change or be different. We do need each other. We are social creatures and dependent on one another. We ourselves are to blame for so many of the issues we are confronted with through distrust and broken promises. A simple guide when you say something, do it. Perhaps I need to begin with myself as we all do. 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

 

Trust and how we have such a hard time with it

Bird Droppings February 9, 2017
Trust and how we have such a hard time with it

 

So many special events coming up, Valentine’s Day, more “possible” snow, income taxes, and best of all one more week till winter break. Do I go out and cut down a tree, I wouldn’t know how to decorate? Do I get Valentines for secret seniors, family members and my mother? I am perplexed.  I did my morning pondering and rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off, getting ready for advisement later this morning. I am ready to roll and do some writing.

 

“The song that I will sing is an old song, so old that none knows who made it. It has been handed down through generations and was taught to me when I was but a little lad. It is now my own song. It belongs to me. This is a holy song, and great is its power. The song tells how, as I sing, I go through the air to a holy place where Yusun will give me power to do wonderful things. I am surrounded by little clouds, and as I go through the air I change, becoming spirit only.” Geronimo, Goyathlay (“one who yawns”)

 

As I went out this morning just a few minutes ago to a silent world, the air was still and the ambient temperature far too cold keeping the local tree frogs in hibernation. I did my morning jaunt Quick Trip to get my morning jump start and gas up my car. Yesterday evening I passed by several opossums that had been killed during the night along the road. My oldest son and I were talking about this a few days ago as it seems the warm and cold weather is bringing animals out at odd times and roads are busier.
Over the years I have mentioned going to Fort Sill what is now seemingly a lifetime ago to see Geronimo’s grave which is set back in along a quiet bend in a small river with aspen trees all about. It is actually a very peaceful spot. The song mentioned above is a medicine song one he would sing at opportune times or simply as a prayer. As he grew older Geronimo became a Christian as he would say just in case and to pacify the overlords at Fort Sill.

 

“I cannot think that we are useless or God would not have created us. There is one God looking down on us all. We are all the children of one God. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what we have to say.” Geronimo

 

An old man approached his new religion in that he felt this was a good example for living. Stories go that he never gave up his old ways as well singing his medicine songs and was participating in tribal rituals till he died. He died at eighty years of age at Fort Sill Oklahoma many miles from his beloved Arizona and New Mexico mountains. I wonder as I think so often how we say one thing and live or do another. As I was reading again about Geronimo this morning and thinking a comment in his biography dictated when he was older at Fort Sill. He spoke of how his people the Apaches would vow to never do harm to each other of any kind and this was a bond of trust.
I am catching up on emails and reading blogs and I find the paradoxes interesting. On one hand speaking of their religion and faith and how steadfast and yet on the other hand a near opposite as you read from the same pen or computer near slanderous remarks about others and life in general. Such a paradox we humans provide. As I thought this morning even the soldiers knew if Geronimo gave his word it was done and nothing would change even though the US government changed what they said, his word was bond. He was one of the most feared warriors of all time in the American west and yet his guards the Fort Sill soldiers knew they could trust him. There were no exceptions to him; if he said he was going peaceful he was going peaceful.
Further west the great Chief Joseph as he surrendered told his people he would fight no more and he stopped which became a bond that lasted till his death even though treaties with the Nez Perce were broken numerous times. I guess where I am going is we live in such paradox of saying one thing and living another of claiming righteousness, and really wanting only to party, of saying we believe on a Sunday and taking a break Monday through Saturday. I recall news from Afghanistan of a young Christian convert who was condemned to death for converting by Islamic law. Our righteous nations intervened and he was released as a mental patient who could not be tried. Clerics throughout the country wanted him stoned and or pulled apart basically dead and we are fighting in that country for freedom. Who can be free with that type of law and beliefs but from another side of the coin who are we to impose our beliefs on them.
All through history western civilizations have tried to impose their morals and civilization on primitives and anyone who disagreed. In Brazil it is now against Brazilian federal law to interfere with primitives and when tribes are found that are still in the wilds of the Amazon that area around them becomes sanctuary. We think of a jungle and it only being a small patch of forest. The Amazon jungle is as big as the USA and holds many secrets we may never know. Sanctuary boundaries are made and traffic is not permitted through that area. If you read jungle signs the various broken branches feathers skulls and such also indicate “You are not welcome.” We are pressuring countries daily in our quest for world peace using threats of war to garner peace. I laugh thinking there has got to be logic there and I say that very sarcastically.
However one thing is lacking from the days of the Wild West when a simple handshake with Geronimo the most feared warrior/terrorist of his time being his bond. There is no longer anyone who can trust. Not that there were many one hundred fifty years ago and six thousand pages of peace agreements all are now broken the second oil or minerals are found and what was a peace agreement now has lists of exceptions even the ten commandments within a few days had six hundred eighty five exceptions back in the day and or we lease the land from them. Trust is a powerful word and one that has lost meaning in our society. We know our politicians are crooks and we continue to reelect them beneath new banners of I will not be a crook this time I promise again. Let us use the NASCAR logic and put stickers on their coats for who they really work for.
I have watched American Idol over the years and I am sorry it was my only reality show with some occasional Walking Dead for comedy. I do I recall a line from last year a profound statement from another broadcasting company’s comic relief.

 

“35,000,000 votes were cast in two hours which really shows us the power of democracy I wonder how many would have text or called if it was a vote on Medicare or immigration.” A news Braodcaster

 

We do have the power of the vote and yet American idol draws nearly thirty percent of the last major national vote as a comparison to the last election. A TV show in two hours received thirty percent of the possible vote, talk about paradox and I did not even vote on American Idol last year one time. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Teaching is a journey it is not copy, paste or bubble.

Bird Droppings February 8, 2017

Teaching is a journey it is not copy, paste or bubble.

 

“To project an image of what Public Education in the US might become in the 21st Century is more to move back and forth between the predictable and the possible.” Maxine Greene, Colombia University, res: Imagining futures: the public school and possibility, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 2000

 

I am reading an article by the late Maxine Greene written nearly twenty years ago. As I read her words ring true as much at this moment and a vote in the Senate as they did when John Dewey wrote over a hundred years ago. Children learn more in the first few years of life, how to walk, talk, read, write communicate and even aspire to religious beliefs than in any period to come later. Maxine in her article addresses the missing piece in today’s so structure driven educational process. Communication, real communication is where learning occurs in the fullest. Technology doesn’t kill off communication but how we use technology can. Standardized tests don’t kill communication but how we use those does.

 

It has been several days well over a week since I had a chance to go out early and ponder as I say. It has been many days since I took a photograph with my good camera since I left the charger at school. But to start my day a thought from a young lady caught my attention. She had posted a status to Facebook that made me think actually think quite a bit. We are all familiar with the Chinese proverb used by many as a poster or card on their walls.

 

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Ancient Chinese Proverb

 

The post that caught my attention was altered a bit. I had a felt banner on my class room and office walls for many years to that effect. Sadly a converse statement was posted which really hit me as I think about politics and education today.

 

 

“Teach a man to fish, and he will still vote for the man who gave him a fish.” Goldman Sachs Elevator

 

I had to search for an author and while I am sure there is a person attached the fact that Goldman Sachs Elevator had posted made my day. This statement is coming from a company that nearly destroyed America and received a paltry slap on the wrist. But I responded to the post. “I would question the teaching and was it simply a matter of test scores.” My comment was removed or did not make to posting. Education is the point here for me not the political implications that others jokingly remarked about. As I traveled around this morning I thought more about this and how we educate kids. I have been talking with several other educators over the past few days and continually the idea of context comes up. We are removing context from our educational system. Think in terms of money being put into computer programs virtual schools so to say. Efficient and cheaper than having a teacher in front of class let alone a laboratory for experiments and context. Goldman Sachs loves it. As I arrived home my son sent me a note that may have been intended for me that came to him. Interesting research is showing tests taken on computers tend to have lower scores than paper tests.

 

 “Good Morning my friend. I have been wrestling with a topic, and I was wondering if you would give it some thought and comment. It might even be a good topic for Bird Droppings. Lately, we have been blasted for kids earning low grades and for not motivating students. The problem, as I have come to see it, is that motivation, specifically self-motivation, emanates from a perception of a desire or perceived “need.” If a student never develops or sees a need for education or never develops a desire to better himself, then all the great teaching in the world falls on deaf ears. I am so frustrated that education has been so standardized, homogenized, and reduced to 4 choices on a page. It has no real value to kids any longer. I am rambling a little, but I know you understand what I’m trying to say. It’s almost like the story of the Lotus Eaters. No needs, no desires, equals no motivation. Getting an A or passing a test, at least to me, is not motivation. Just wondering about your thoughts. Here is a ridiculous thing our county does. Kids take benchmark tests every nine weeks over nothing but the standards. There will be one question such as, “How is the word “superfluous” spelled?” And that measures a kids spelling ability. It’s all a bunch of hooey.” A good friend and teacher in South Georgia  

 

In response another point of interest in my morning travels. I was checking my Facebook and email while sitting in IHOP several days ago with my oldest son. Every once in a while folks are out of town and I get a morning to wander early and feed myself. So I had crepes with fruit and a couple eggs at one of my favorite restaurants. Another friend posted a selfie, one of those photos taken with a smart phone of our selves taken in front of a mirror or window as appeared to be the case here. My profile picture has been a selfie a time or two and I am sure many on Facebook and other sites are as well. I responded to the photo not picking on my friend by any means but my initial thought. My friend is a professor at a Georgia University.

 

“A runner selfie maybe a paper or book out there, in our own self-image as we now instantly see ourselves as others do no longer do we see the reversed image of a mirror. A crazy thought sitting in an IHOP eating breakfast have we taken an omnipotent view of ourselves in this instantaneous world view we have. Are we removing the need for God and prayer for individuality since we now have instant news images at our disposal? There is literally no time for praying and self is then focus of attention.” Frank Bird teacher, photographer, grandfather and ponderer

 

Are we losing that interest as my good friend and music teacher proposed? I am starting to think so as each group of ninth graders comes to high school more self-centered than the last. Are we in our technology leaving out a piece? In this mad rush to standardize and test everything and everybody are we forgetting the self. Are we simply trying to quickly mold each person into a desired person to be and transform society to a copy and paste world? I watch kids copy and paste all day long and even in college classes I teach; I had a paper submitted that registered 99% plagiarized and was still in format of Encyclopedia Britannica on line. Student got a zero I cannot even give partial credit for turning it in that way. Funny thing is kids have a hard time copy and pasting to learn anything only desiring to finish assignment.

 

So where do I go from here today I borrowed a thought for my own Facebook status and photo quote I post from Chief Dan George.

 

“Where no one intrudes many can live in harmony” Chief Dan George

 

I can be quickly monastic and enjoy just like my morning wanderings time by myself. But it is not just about being alone it is about intruding and we as a society intrude constantly on everyone and much is self-imposed intrusion. We post statements about our love lives, partners in crime; some people even post publically their crimes. That is self-intrusion. I enjoy my communications with so many through social media. But I tend to avoid the self-deprecation so many get into. So today I end with my daily rant please keep all in your heart and on your mind that are in harm’s way and please give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Should our children be going to school?

Bird Droppings February 7, 2017

Should our children be going to school?

 

After reading Joel Spring’s book, Political Agendas for Education, one might wonder why we even have schools. Spring’s implies they are simply to create and mold youth into whatever it is those in power deem feasible. His idea is that it is consumers first and then employees willing to work at meaningless tasks and not question those in power. While Spring’s book is not quite to that extreme, the book raises questions about agendas of various groups, political entities and some very powerful people within our nation.
The massive shift to high stakes testing and accountability based on that testing leading to teaching to the tests rather than the actual needs of the children that are involved. Is this where we have come to? Teaching specific curriculum, approved researched based curriculum has become the catch word. The big question always in research is who is backing the research. I used a reading program where all the research was done by the company producing the books and program. In terms of scientific research it was not a very reliable study yet according to Federal standards it is a research based study. I often wonder if the actual students are ever talked too.
One of the segments used in the reading research study which directly applied to the students I was working with at the time was a group of 14 Emotionally and Behaviorally Disturbed middle school students with average to above average IQ’s and one to two years behind in reading. The research showed how successful the program was, with a one hundred percent improvement to where all were on grade level. In years past I was told this study applied to a group of students I was working with who were eighteen to nineteen years of age with IQ’s less than 75 and were ten to twelve years behind in reading level. I did question the data and program and actually called the publishing company to verify what type of student study group the research was done on. My direct supervisor was needless to say upset I questioned the data. So where do we go as teachers, educators and students? When in our gut we know the data those in charge are wrong where do we go?

 

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.” Bill Beattie

 

Each day I get up write and go to school unless I happen to have a day off. Next week I can goof off and write later in the morning and watch the sunrise. I thought we might get a flurry but only under a winter storm watch maybe this afternoon extracurricular school activities will be cancelled due to weather and school is out for winter break.  I don’t think the two inches of snow for North Georgia will do it. As I sit here wondering I hope I am teaching my students how to think. Hopefully I am teaching them a desire to learn.

 

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris

 

I was introduced to Sydney J. Harris’s columns nearly fourteen years ago by a fellow teacher and refer to Harris often in my writing. Each time I find a thought I am intrigued anew. In life this is what education should be about creating windows in people’s lives.

 

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Albert Einstein

 

Far too often we preach content especially now in our teaching to the test mentality, when it is context that is the powerful glue that could hold it all together. I see context as the how does this apply in real life, how is it relevant to me all the pieces of the educational puzzle. I have looked at reports from observers where a teacher ties geometry into the real world and how much more powerful is that lesson when students can see where and when and how it actually has meaning. John Dewey was preaching context and experience in early 1900’s it is not a new idea even today John Dewey is considered progressive. I find so-called education reformers tend to build on new packaging of the same traditional industrial complex philosophy with the added value today of profit as a driving force not education of children.

 

“The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

President Roosevelt said this nearly seventy five years ago and we have said this daily as teachers yet education is one of those things so often put aside when budgets comes up in state and federal spending.

 

“It’ll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers.” Dr. Ronald D. Fuchs

 

Amazing as we have spent hundreds of billions the military and our military spending is significantly higher than what we spend on education.

 

“An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.” Author Unknown

 

Semantics so often is the dividing line and as I read this simple thought about making a living versus making a life I am made aware in a deeper way of how conflicted our system is. We so often put all into economic means a dollar value yet life is so much more than how much do you make.

 

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok

 

Daily I will comment “swearing shows ignorance and currently you are pretty ignorant” as kids utter language of inappropriate content and even context. Yet this is what they hear at home and where many learn the words and meanings. It is these same parents that pay taxes and complain about the cost of education.

 

“Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.” G.M. Trevelyan

 

I put my thoughts on several blogs, websites and in an daily email and as I read comments on student’s sites one that so often bothers me is when they answer the question of what books do you read and many answer, none. Read who reads when you have the internet and text messaging. How scary can it be when our children are not reading since it is far too easy to get on line or on the cell phone and pull up twitter and a hundred and forty characters of gibberish or Facebook or yahoo news? There is even a new program that reads to you from written word although it is being tested in court as a copyright infringement on audio-books.

 

“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.” Abraham Flexner

 

When the military, industrial, oil complex has a means of generating revenue from education, money will be spent there. About six  years back a family friend of George W. Bush in Texas, actually a cousin raised nearly a hundred million in seed money from oil and mining interests for a computer module software company for schools. Interestingly enough it fit into federal legislation, NCLB as an alternative form of education. We pay companies to look for oil to develop new missiles and one of my favorites recently is we have stock piled millions of rounds of VX poisonous gas around the world. There were thirteen million rounds on an island in the pacific, several million in the northwest, and nine million rounds in Anniston Al. and now we are paying billions to clean up since containers are corroding and leaking VX gas. Just for the record that is the stuff movies have been made about and what we didn’t find in Iraq.

 

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” Edward Everett

Would it not be great if we could prove this?

 

“Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” Mark Twain

 

The great humorist and author over a hundred years ago saw what was needed and how it affects society I find that amazing.

 

“Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?” Erich Fromm

 

Wise man and philosopher state that school should not be just for kids but an ongoing ever present learning effort and what a world could be built if we would educate truly educate all people.

 

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” Malcolm S. Forbes

I recall a button my father used in his safety campaigns in the steel mills of Pennsylvania back in the day, it read simply, “IF ONLY”. That was all that was on the button, and it represented, if only we could, if only I would, if only has so many applications.

 

“What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I was never the fan of Thoreau and Emerson back in my own high school days perhaps I never tried to really read into their thoughts. This one line from Thoreau has significance for me. Education should be not forcing the content but allowing that content to be put into context.

 

“Did you know America ranks the lowest in education but the highest in drug use? It’s nice to be number one, but we can fix that. All we need to do is start the war on education. If it’s anywhere near as successful as our war on drugs, in no time we’ll all be ‘hooked on phonics’.” Leighann Lord

 

A bit long winded today but a good thought to end on as I think so many law makers are trying to destroy public education in the US. What if we truly did apply ourselves, what if? So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts till that day when no person is in harm’s way and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Listening to a five note flute and thinking about friends

Bird Droppings February 6, 2017
Listening to a five note flute and thinking about friends

 

I was fishing with my grandson at the Atlanta Children’s Museum, when my wife, who I could see with our granddaughter a hundred feet away playing in the moon sand called me. I looked over as I reached for my phone and she was upset I could see. She informed me my middle son in North Carolina had called and a dear friend of the family had passed away. In my own strange way I was close to this young man who we had known for twenty five years. He came to me almost nine years ago asking if I would perform his wedding service. He and his wife had talked and my name popped up. I had never officiated a wedding and at that time was not ordained. So checking into things I followed up and got ordained those years of seminary and church work paid off.

 

Jamie, Katie and I sat down to plan a service. First thing it was not to be religious, which was easy for me, this was about their love for each other which was infectious to say the least. Second the wedding was going to be in the old Trolley Barn, a venue in Atlanta. The story went on and a wedding service and almost nine years of watching a love grow and flourish on social media and our occasional meetings.  They restored a home in Atlanta and eventually a career move took them to Tampa, Katie kept a running account of their projects and life in a blog. Then a phone call on a Saturday.

 

My wife and I both felt as if this were a dream. We had been through second grade through graduation with Jamie and his parents. Both our boys were band kids and they gathered after school for projects and craziness including several movie projects they all worked on. College many of that crew went to Georgia Tech and Jamie had a loft at Georgia State just a few blocks away. The friendship continued to flourish. I used this passage in Jamie’s wedding service.

 

“You have noticed that everything an Indian does in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball

and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux 1863-1950

 

We each continue our journeys in life. Each morning of school I stop by our local Quick Trip and stock up. Water bottles, protein ng in the moon sandbar, a banana, and whatever else I need to make it through the day. Today was no different till a young man approached me and stuck out his hand, “Mr. Bird great to see you”, and I rushed through my memory banks looking for a name. He began asking about animals in my room, former class mates and was I still teaching. He had seen a photo I posted on Facebook of my room at school and was thinking about me. Funny thing, it just hit me his name was Stephen, we talked for several minutes and I bought his coffee and we parted ways, both of us heading to work.

 

As I drove to work another student popped in my mind. I left teaching in 1977 and this particular student at that time was fifteen. He had several issues all rolled into a neat label of learning disabilities. I knew after two years of working with him more was at stake and administrators did not want to push my more loaded probing. After I left teaching I kept in touch with school and students. He came up the summer of 1979 to work on our family farm for me. We had a day camp and he helped cut grass and work around camp area. One evening he and his buddy another one of my former students asked if we could go to the new movie opening, Dawn of the Living Dead. We did go and about thirty minutes after dropping them off at the camp lodge a knock on our door. Could they sleep in our house that night. Sadly my predictions came through several years later and he is serving three life sentences. I looked him up one day on the Georgia Correctional web page. I recall his sisters desperate call after he was arrested telling me what happened. The family pleaded for life sentences due to psychiatric issues and signed off on no parole he is now a ward of the state.  Could it have been different a gesture here and there a word.

 

I listen quite a bit to flute music played and recorded by Carlos Nakai, a renowned musician and Grammy nominee for Native American music. He plays a handmade wooden five note flute often unaccompanied except by echoes from his own flute. As I looked through news on yahoo earlier this morning an interesting article. The Dakota Sioux are playing scrabble to preserve their language. In the Sioux nation less than 205 members of the tribe are fluent in the old language. A good friend who happens to be Creek told me of going to boarding school in this day and age, he is my age and he was punished for speaking his native tongue, old style Creek. He grew up speaking only Creek from living with his grandfather who was the medicine man to the Creek nation and would only speak Old Creek, while knowing the language he refused to speak English having given up on the white man many years previous.

 

“The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers; he belongs just as the buffalo belonged…. 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.” Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux, 1868-1937

 

I was amazed at offerings that we used to have at our high school. In the previous catalog were courses in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Spanish and Latin and yet in our lifetimes or at least in mine we refused an indigenous people the right to their own language. I recall a scene from “Into the West” a several years ago mini-series that recently replayed, it is a rerun on Home Box Office movie with a different slant. Children were brought to the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania from reservations in the Dakotas and elsewhere and we tried to make them “normal”. Actually I am not just about Native Americans today but our feeble attempts at normalcy. Our guidelines we draw and rules we make it was not that long ago left handed children were forced to write right handed. In numerous research papers the concept of mixed dominance came up and showed significant damage being done to left handed children neurologically. Even today many traditional teachers will try and get kids to write with their right hand. Seems it is easier on the teacher. Here I am with a granddaughter who favors her left hand. We tend to forget you are right or left sided as well, eyed, and footed, literally your entire body.
Normal is such a simple word pretty much everything that is not abnormal borrowing from philosopher Foucault. But in schools it is the norms that drive everything. We look for patterns in testing, for averages, for norms all those things we can put numbers on and measure. I recall year’s back I had a student who would go to the door before a period and ask to be let go early because there were no norms about. He did not want to be recognized as a SPED, a Special Education student. I would have snuck him out the back door but we didn’t have one. What was funny it became a joke eventually as I would go to the door and determine who was a norm or not and clear the way when the bell rang.
I think back to my own high school days before IDEA became law in 1974. This was before most disabled children were allowed in schools. I worked in a private center with severe and profoundly disabled children and adults. Our kids were normal and we viewed the rest of the world as disabled and we talked this way. They were disabled because they were unable to experience what we did every day. To have an appreciation for little things, reading your first word, taking a step without a wheel chair, not having a seizure for a day or two.
I read blogs and bulletins about clothes and music and think back. I see jeans purchased with holes in them, we earned ours and yes I had numerous pairs of jeans with holes and patches my sons have claimed them all now. But we earned the holes and patches with wear and tear on and in our jeans. Back in the day we did not have fifty brand named labels to argue over it was simply Levis or Wranglers period and they all had brass rivets on the back pockets. It was funny as a matter of fact in high school we could not wear jeans because of rivets scratching seats at school. This is what we were told and girls could not wear pants although I am not sure other than the puritanical demeanor of dress code in those days. That was over forty five years ago.
Thinking back to what was normal and what a word that is. I recall special education back then and how one student who was special education all her life graduated from college and retired recently as a teacher. Now a days she would have been labeled as learning disabled and I wonder as I sit here thinking where will we be in another forty years. It was once estimated that by 2025 the Dakota Sioux language will be extinct and many said so what. It is sort of like so what if we lose a piece of wilderness for more oil as some politicians are calling for again with the drill baby drill chant at such endeavors as teabag rallies. So what if the Grizzly bear is extinct or eastern red wolf or some nondescript fresh water mussel no one ever sees or a rain forest tribe who is better off in a house and raising crops than hunting in the forest.
Something we tend to forget is all is interrelated, Mitakuye Oyasin (We are all related in Lakota), each piece connects to the other and by losing a piece, the puzzle will never be complete. There are selfish people who really do not care about 2025 and whether the Dakota Sioux language disappears or the wilderness is gone as long as they make their billions now. I wonder what you can do with billions of dollars when you are gone maybe that is the part I have a hard time with and on a smaller scale looking at lists that drive popularity on Social networks. Things like do you have a cell phone, IPod, car, Jet Ski, etc. I will admit I do have a few collections, still I keep books and I store literally hundreds of thousands of photos all bits and pieces of my life and understanding.
So where do we go and what do we do? We look for each connection to the next. We look for the coincidences and chance happenings we look for the synchronicity in life. I have found after a day or two of looking you will find amazing things. It is if the pieces fall into place and life takes a whole new outlook and what was important may not be as crucial anymore. Try reading Thoreau, there are several good sites on the internet. He walked about for several years just to learn. Enough of my wandering for today peace be with you all and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

The inter-connectivity of all that is; Is it a puzzle falling in place?

Bird Droppings February 3, 2017
The inter-connectivity of all that is; 
Is it a puzzle falling in place?

 

On Monday of this week my co-teaching partner shared a card with me from one of our students. At the beginning of the semester we hand out a card and the kids fill in information about themselves. This student’s card was detailed to say the least. Across the top several small figures representing issues the student has. She is almost blind in one eye from an injury in childhood. She has a brain tumor. My teacher friend and co-worker said but what is this? I knew immediately it was a puzzle piece and beside it was the word autistic. I was entranced and even more so with the number 139 circled in bold. A statement was next to it. “IQ is one point higher than Albert Einstien’s”.

 

I left my house early as I do on school days a few days back. I decided to grab a breakfast sandwich at Waffle House of all places. As I ordered a fellow next to me called my name and was a kid who worked for me thirty years ago. We sat and talked caught up in the brief moments of a morning stop. Later in the day I called my wife on my way to class to check in. She had been out of town to be with her mother for some minor surgery. We talked a few moments while I stood in the breezeway on my way to my next class. As I walked past the building edge and looked over the parking area, a large red tailed hawk swooped to a tree directly in front of me. We shared a few minutes before the bell and students moving sent him to relocate. A morning of coincidence perhaps but uplifting none the less.

 

“Every footstep is the journey. Every sight, every sound, every touch and taste and smell with which we are blessed is the journey. All of the colors before us are the journey, and we are the journey. May we always keep our feet on Mother Earth, our eyes and minds above the treetops, our spirit with the Greater Universal Spirit? And may we always walk the path of Good Medicine in harmony and balance, with a sense of humility, kindness, wonder, and respect for all living things as we follow the sacred trail of those who have come before us and those yet to come.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

 

It has been nearly thirteen years since I last heard Dr. James Sutton speak. When I drove to Macon Georgia to hear him that last time, as I always do I pick up on as many details as I can driving down the back roads that I travel. I never know what pieces may fall into place for me at a later date or as it might be happening right that moment. I was going to listen to Dr. James Sutton, a psychologist from Texas who lectures around the country on Conduct Disorders and Oppositional Defiant Disorder which is quite a mouth full. I had been to several previously of his seminars and always came away renewed. I was in need of a recharge and some energizing as I drove. Occasionally we all need a break from the mundane even though so often I find vast amounts of material in the simple ordinary things of life. As I filled in my evaluation form as I left back eight years ago the question stated; what did I gain from this course and I responded energy and revitalizing.

 

“A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

When I walked in the room Dr. Sutton who I met several times over the years previously in similar seminars and who has been on my Bird Droppings list since that time announced as I came in the room, “Let me introduce the premiere educational philosopher Frank Bird.” I think my hat size went up three notches. As we went into the day pieces fell in place with ideas and thoughts jotted down on bits of paper and class notes. Several illustrations used were referring to puzzle pieces which fit right into my thinking. I have had an affinity for the concept of life being a puzzle for some time and the comments lent well to that thinking. A friend from my school had attended the course with her husband and coincidentally another friend from many years ago was in attendance now a teacher in a nearby county. As I thought of why each person was there was it advertising sent out by the sponsoring group, for me it was an email from Dr. Sutton and then others through word of mouth.

 

“The journey is not ‘somewhere over there’ or ‘some other time.’ It is with us right here and right now. It is a part of us in everything that we do and everything that we are. What we perceive as our “pot of gold” may in fact be something very different when and if we find the end of the rainbow. What if the rainbow has no end? What if it is a circle that wraps itself gently around Earth in a continuous cycle of energy?” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

 

Over the years reading various books by Michael Garrett and his father J. T. Garrett the concept of interconnectivity, which is such a big word flows through their writing as it does in most Native American philosophy. As I went to lunch nearly six years ago we discussed children federal guidelines and spirituality. The discussion wandering about between parents seeking help and my own listening and observing it seemed I was gathering far more than I was sending out. I was given a slip of paper with a similar story to one I used recently about a family pet being put to sleep. Sitting back in the class listening to other teachers and their views gave me ideas on how to deal with and not deal with students I see each day. A little trick from that day that turns out to have a several thousand year old proverb attached to it, when trying to get a child who is defiant to do something offer options. You want three things done offer five. You only get three out five but you only wanted three. Offer ten and the child responds even better amazing thinking that they got one over they only answered three of ten. As I sat down this morning I found this thought.

 

“If one has to jump a stream and knows how wide it is, he will not jump. If he does not know how wide it is, he will jump, and six times out of ten he will make it.” Persian Proverb

 

So often in education especially in today’s test driven society students are failing because that score is out there. The teachers and students strive for that score. As I drove to Macon so many years ago I was thinking about all the, what ifs. What if we tested students coming into school and placed that number on the table as point A and then test at the end of ninth, tenth , eleventh and twelfth grades all points on the graph now we have a true picture of learning with this child not an arbitrary SCORE stuck out in no-where land. What if we evaluated the growth of information rather than what information is available at the end of the journey? I would really rather know what a student learned along the way than what they knew at the end. That would give me a far better idea of what was really learned but this is only me.

 

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

 

I find it funny as I think back to the day I first saw this quote of all the interconnections, those pieces that seemingly are meaningless at one point in life find significance and meaning when all the pieces slowly fall into place. So often it is difficult to see what is forming in a jig saw puzzle when you only have the corner pieces or a few side pieces set in place. The true image does not come into view till more is in place. But each piece while on its own is really just a piece of a puzzle is needed to complete the whole.

 

“As we walk, all of our ancestors walk with us. As we dance, all of our ancestors dance the Sacred Dance. Each step that we place is an important one. All of our relatives are walking with us, speaking through us like the many colors of the rainbow. Listen and you will hear their steps, their voices, their colors. Listen, and you will hear your spirit calling upon all our relations, and you will feel their energy. Our spirit is an extension of them and they are an extension of us. Our spirit connects us with the memories of all that has gone before us, all that is, and all that will be. Our spirit connects us with all of our relations in the Circle of Life. Listen, and you will hear Water speaking, Wind dancing, Sun smiling, the heartbeat of Mother Earth pulsing beneath our feet.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

 

The interconnectivity of life as I was thinking back to that drive to Macon and a conference and to when I had been sitting at lunch discussing a trip to Stillwater Oklahoma which I would never have made had I not been in the sheep business. But the point I recall and borrow on is a side trip to Fort Sill and Geronimo’s grave site not the fact I was in Lawton Oklahoma looking for show lambs for 4H projects. It is the pieces of that journey that are significant not the destination. I am sure as I glean through my thoughts today and tomorrow other bits and pieces will come up. I walked out this morning and felt I needed to share that moment and typed a hasty status update in Facebook.

 

“I walked out into the chill of the morning. I was standing still and to the east a smiling moon and tree frogs chirping. To the south a coyote was calling. North of my quiet spot an owl seemed to be irritating a rooster to the west. It is a good day. Peace be with you all.” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.

 

So sitting in my classroom finalizing a few words for the morning there are pieces that I may not even be aware of as of yet some I simply need to recall and connect with others waiting to happen. In closing today as I have for over a decade now 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