Just a morning observation

Bird Droppings July 9, 2018
Just a morning observation

 

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

 

My wanderings are the expanse of several days of traveling and thinking and observing mankind. Just a few nights ago my son and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature was only a few feet away in its wildest. I was walking this morning and away from my quiet spot near my home in Between Georgia as the developer has been clearing some and not quite the same.

 

A few days back in a small town in the north east quadrant of Georgia sitting on a porch of an old mill house the quiet was over powering along with the gentle breeze and sunshine. Around me birds would occasionally fly into and out of the trees but most of the time without a sound. I was essentially alone sitting listening while everyone else was inside. Only a few hours earlier I had a wonderful experience watching by my own house as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.
Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. This past weekend as we drove home from a quick trip to see my son and his wife and our grandbabies we noticed nearly fifty red tailed hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground.

 

Clearly we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

 

We are going through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter presidential period I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads and rhetoric are the vast majority and from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with another time then that was questionable. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”. I received a copy of a book in the mail from a friend in New York after he was published. I had known the title for months prior but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today.
Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

 

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all experts liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

 

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the newly legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past year lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. I grew up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions. Even more significant is my son still in nursing school who was over twenty five but is covered with new health care law. If not for that not sure where we would be after his accident in May of last year with over three hundred fifty thousand in medical bills that were covered.

 

I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

 

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

 

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai who is a seven note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage of a clear sky and quiet surrounding the trees. I had to stop listen to the music and see this quiet still image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house. As I turned from observing I noticed a flat tire on my son’s truck which brought me back to reality and the moment.
To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Foxfire is a name for a fungus glowing in the dark, Until you wander up Black Rock Mountain

Bird Droppings July 7, 2018
Foxfire is a name for a fungus glowing in the dark, 
Until you wander up Black Rock Mountain

 

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley

 

In 1965 I was introduced to this author in a tenth grade English Class. The book we were reading was Brave New World, written in 1932. You would think that a book thirty years old at that time would not have been that controversial. However for our class and the reading list we had an English teacher was let go. What amuses me is how these books we read did impart more than simply the words contained between the covers; it was a catalyst for thinking that was developed.
Today in 2018 with a new school year about to start English teachers use the books my tenth grade teacher was fired for as part of their reading list, as do many high schools across the country. These were 1984, Anthem, and Brave New World which were so controversial in their time more than fifty years ago. Still today these same words can inspire students and adults to think and ponder. I fear the undercurrent in politics in some areas of the country towards education may again squelch such reading.

 

“To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot cease speaking — and since it cannot, in order to become its echo I have, in a way, to silence it. I bring to this incessant speech the decisiveness, the authority of my own silence.” Maurice Blanchot

 

“Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” Sir Winston Churchill

 

Each morning as I sit down and wonder about the direction that the ideas may or may not flow I try and find a spark a starting point for the day. It is sort of my kick-start to the day to revitalize my own cerebral cortex. I was thinking of experience as a start earlier but within the semantics of the word so many limits to the concept of experience. I was seeing a teacher and most as I read were seeing experience as a limit. I journeyed up the mountains of North Georgia yesterday to visit the Foxfire property. I had the privilege to speak with a foxfire fellowship student up on the Foxfire Museum property. Foxfire has transitioned to a new idea of summer fellowship student’s developing and writing stories over a class at the high school. Initially as a student of the Foxfire approach I was concerned. Then my thoughts shifted and even this morning a new epiphany. As I thought the idea of a container as a student. Then I reread this line from Huxley. It is what we do with it. Students were turned loose to learn in 1965 and the culmination is this property and museum of Appalachian culture on the side of a mountain. Now others can relive and see the history of the Rabun county area not simple learn about it in a book.
Over the past few days numerous emails from former classmates in high school perhaps prompted by nostalgia and finding a few in Facebook, remembering fondly a nearly forgotten class of tenth grade yet one that truly started a process of thinking that has continued for me nearly fifty years later. But the direction changes as I look, it is through writers and writing that we convey so much.

 

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.” Charles Caleb Colton

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” William Faulkner

 

Each day I walk outside and look at the sky on clear mornings today a slight mist and cloud cover greeted me. For some the stars and constellations provide direction and as the seasons pass the constellations change which denotes time of day and position in the sky and often as I go out I am greeted by a new or slightly different sky appearing before my front door. If by chance I am writing at home and not at school as I have for a few months now I can go out into the back yard surrounded by pine, pecan, black walnut, persimmon and oak trees depending on where I stand much will be obscured and I see only a shrouded sky laced with the branches.
As I read Faulkner’s note so often this is true, we do not think about something till we read what we have written. Many the times I will return to a piece weeks and months later and find a new meaning or understanding of what I was thinking at the time. I wrote a philosophy of teaching paper and until it was returned with comments I wasn’t sure what my philosophy was. A journey that began in reading, then in experience and moves through writing for it does take written word to read.

 

“You must often make erasures if you mean to write what is worthy of being read a second time; and don’t labor for the admiration of the crowd, but be content with a few choice readers.” Horace

 

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” Samuel Johnson

 

It is as true as I write each morning glancing through previous writings and reviewing articles and emails and any books handy at that moment looking for and pondering where and how I will direct my thoughts. Often my morning consists more of reading than actually writing words to paper or computer screen. It is so many times a search for an idea a thought that has eluded me.

 

“If written directions alone would suffice, libraries wouldn’t need to have the rest of the universities attached.” Judith Martin

 

“Although most of us know Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Paul Gauguin in Tahiti as if they were neighbors — somewhat disreputable but endlessly fascinating — none of us can name two French generals or department store owners of that period. I take enormous pride in considering myself an artist, one of the necessaries.” James A. Michener

 

What comes so easy for some it has been said may not be for others. I sit each morning writing two or three pages reading numerous articles and emails and then go onto class and ask students to write 500 words about what they learned this year in school. Most will say nothing, since that makes it so much easier to write. As I think as to where that student is coming from, maybe they never read Brave New World. It could be because somewhere, somehow, and or someone did not give them the opportunity.
In my room often it is because somewhere and someone did not teach them to read effectively or to think beyond just surviving day to day. It might have been that was the only alternative. I was reminded in an email of Dr. Laura Nolte’s famous poster, “Children learn what they live” as I spelled checked I made an error I had typed “Children learn what they love”. As I thought a bit you know what? That is just as true too. So how do we help children love learning, and love reading? I wish it could be an easy answer. Perhaps we can start with ourselves. Let’s all set an example today and 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

 

 

Are we missing Creativity?

Bird Droppings July 4, 2018
Are we missing Creativity?

 

This was another quiet morning as I wandered out and about already birds hiding from view are calling. As for the crickets and frogs as always a beautiful chorus for the morning awakening. Yesterday later in the day several tree frogs visited our back porch hiding under pots and a baseball cap. Two of my grandchildren had a blast trying to find the sounds. The air was still, not a breeze as I sat in my old wicker sofa on the front porch. I was listening to the stillness and quiet something about the lack of hum of air conditioners perhaps the ambient temperature dropped enough to warrant quiet.

 

I enjoy my morning chorus yet today perhaps with numerous ideas running through my head quiet was good for a change. Talking with my grandchildren and pretending got me thinking about students and how to deal with issues that are confronting them. I was thinking of my own children growing up and my grandkids. I was thinking selfishly about directions for life and future, so many thoughts and so little time.
I have always been amazed at creativity and often the lack thereof in some student’s maybe we strip it away in favor of repetition and memorizing of bits and pieces and then say someone is so creative for repeating exactly what was plugged in during class.

 

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done — men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

 

I have always considered the idea perpetuated by Piaget of stages of development in children as they learn as a basis for many aspects of human life and the development of creativity is a crucial one.

 

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” Edward De Bono

 

A number of years ago my youngest son was recommended for the gifted program in his elementary school. The various testing consisted of achieving beyond a certain point in three out of four areas and one was creativity. After he was tested, the person testing commented he went off the charts in creativity. It is so easy to stifle creativity throughout our lives we are trained to conform often in ways we never really understand.

 

“The creative person wants to be a know -it -all. He wants to know about all kinds of things: ancient history, nineteenth -century mathematics, current manufacturing techniques, flower arranging, and hog futures. It is because he never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later or six months, or six years down the road. But he has faith that it will happen.” Carl Ally

 

Years ago I would read encyclopedias cover to cover and always I wondered why. Why things were as they were and so much more. As I look at my thinking on Piaget, often time’s children are held back in thinking by a parent or teacher and miss a stage, so to say, in their development. It could be it intellectually, spiritually or even physically and often not intentionally.
“First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” Robert Cecil Day-Lewis

 

“Creativity is essentially a lonely art. An even lonelier struggle. To some a blessing. To others a curse. It is in reality the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.” Lou Dorfman

 

I see every day students that have been limited in their ability to achieve. A teacher here did not look beyond a failing grade, due to a reading issue, and labeled that student. A parent perhaps, never home never provided emotional guidance to their child. A pastor’s words perhaps, far too critical pushed a child away from faith. It may have happened in stages, or steps in development process and so pushed away or torn away in some cases, leaving blanks, hollows, difficult to fill.

 

“The legs are the wheels of creativity.” Albert Einstein

 

“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.” Anna Freud

 

I agree to a point with Ms. Freud eventually a creative mind will push through but when we so diligently hold them back irreparable damage can occur. I watched a young man working on a project in my class room he had been labeled by many as incorrigible and a slow learner. He was working in a project that required much hands on creativity no other student measured pieces quite to the extent he has on this project. As he was setting up templates and measuring guides as he worked and he was several days behind others not because he is slow but in deliberation and perfection.

 

“Most people die before they are fully born. Creativeness means to be born before one dies.” Erich Fromm

 

“Because of their courage, their lack of fear, they (creative people) are willing to make silly mistakes. The truly creative person is one who can think crazy; such a person knows full well that many of his great ideas will prove to be worthless. The creative person is flexible — he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are.” Frank Goble

 

Maybe that is the difference and that might be flexibility, a creative person is flexible.

“The desire to create continually is vulgar and betrays jealousy, envy, ambition. If one is something one really does not need to make anything –and one nonetheless does very much. There exists above the “productive” man a yet higher species.” Fredrick Nietzsche

 

“The person who can combine frames of reference and draw connections between ostensibly unrelated points of view is likely to be the one who makes the creative breakthrough.” Denise Sherarjian

 

Many days ago as I was reading Yahoo news a story came across and as in Yahoo news was only there a brief second or two and a new story more important came over the internet. The movie Rain Man was based on this man from Utah, a magna savant, which is a person whose memory and intelligence is increasing as he grows older. NASA had been studying his development. He had read over 9000 books and could pull from them any passage instantly and precisely. He is fluent in and on a genius level in 15 subjects yet cannot dress himself or find his way home. For this person memory is all and yet there is little or no potential for creativity quite a paradox.

 

“Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” Robert Wieder

 

If only we could always encourage creativity. If we only we were not afraid so many times of creative people. If only we would lift up ideas and thoughts and try not to stifle new thinking. I wonder would we progress as humans perhaps but it sure would be interesting trying. As I think back in history so often those in power have stifled creativity wanting to keep to the status quo. It has been a number of years since I received an invitation to a solo art show unfortunately in New York City from a friend. Creativity has kept her soul growing and expanding some will love her style and art and others will walk away. I was thinking back to impressionists who many distained in their life times and now bring literally hundreds of millions for paintings. Another friend writes and her writing has changed as she is changing. She went into teaching and this opened windows for her ideas and flow of thoughts. Working with children tends to make us creative just to keep up. A new week and new season upon us as the cool weather brings color to the trees and stillness to the mornings. I wonder what this world would be like if we taught creativity in all grades. What if we looked for rainbows rather than simply black and white? What if we tried in see in a kaleidoscopic view rather than in a microscopic? I wonder but for now please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thank namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

the ability to surmount those learning difficulties

Bird Droppings July 3, 2018
the ability to surmount those learning difficulties

 

We celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I have watched the materialism of our culture run rampant. I am equally as involved having grandkids over, planning fireworks, swimming and picnic etc. Perhaps I should not have read Russell Means thoughts on the Fourth of July. But I will be cheerful and frivolous and come back to my original thought of learning.

 

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

 

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

 

An interesting start to a morning thought process after a wonderful experience last night. I was working on some statistics and had an epiphany sitting looking at columns of numbers manipulating data. This can be whatever I want depending on wording and what variables I apply. I have often come to this conclusion when looking at research. Ever since I was told a reading program was data based and I called asking for the demographics of the research. The sample was so small and biased the data was in no way viable. But schools were buying the program in leaps and bounds. As for my thoughts and opening quotes, one from Dr. Seuss and the other a British novelist with over thirty four books to her credit. Working with at risk kids so often in life I find in general we tend to avoid difficulties, we walk away, we steer clear, and we postpone and or we argue.

 

“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.” Isak Dinesen

 

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

 

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

 

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark, that special piece, that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an n email story the other day that was a tear jerker. Granted it probably does not pass the fact check and such but still a good story. Let me share this story with you whether you are a teacher, parent, student and or just a friend.

 

“There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her fifth grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.” His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’ laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. And she paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class, and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.” A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you for much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” A boy named Teddy, Author Unknown

 

This story has been shown to be fiction but a great fiction story. Being someone who truly enjoys a good story I have saved this one.  I would like to hope I can be like Mrs. Thompson and sometimes all it takes is a teacher or a friend that cares.

 

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

 

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

 

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind? Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

 

So today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not be simply learned. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Direction is needed when speaking of velocity

Bird Droppings July 2, 2018

Direction is needed when speaking of velocity

 

Over the past week or so I worked on several paper ideas, sat on my sofa watching netflix,  dabbled in my yard briefly around rain drops, drove up to the mountains for a day with my wife and swam with my grand babies yesterday. But I got thinking back to a party in Pennsylvania that was held nearly nine years ago as I pondered and walked about. It was our high school class of 1967, sixtieth birthday bash celebrating everyone’s coming of age. At that time numerous graduate school and high school projects kept me home or I had planned on being there.

 

It has been nearly twelve years since I had the great thrill to revisit my home town and surrounding countryside for a class reunion. One of the side trips my wife and I made was to Amish country out towards Lancaster PA. We went to a favorite tourist spot, The Amish Farm and House. I went for the first time nearly sixty years ago on a second grade field trip. Now the old homestead and farm sits midst malls and shopping centers. As we went on the tour and listened to our guides talks on various Amish customs one caught my attention. The Amish traditionally heat the kitchen only. A key thought here is the Amish use no electricity so heating and light are still the old fashion way.

 

Within Amish tradition the family that is together more than apart stays together. The kitchen especially in the winter months becomes the family room for meals, play and talks. Kids stay and play while adults work on various projects since during most of the house is too cold. An interesting thought the Amish are growing in numbers and yet their lifestyle by our standards is a hard one. Very few leave the families according to statistics less than two percent and sadly it is that two percent the reality shows are based on. This is interesting in a world of divorce and child abandonment that we have today.

 

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

 

I was sitting outside earlier and it was a bit chilly for this time of year but the cold snap is riding a front which brought some of the previous rain last week and with the high humidity the ninety degree weather feels much hotter. I was listening to the sounds of morning in my back yard, crickets mainly although their songs are slower in the chill and damp. Many sounds were similar in the stillness and solitude of early morning both here and in Pennsylvania growing up. Off in a distance a dog, maybe a coyote is howling. At our last house we would be awakened occasionally by train whistles and it has been over twelve years since I had heard a train whistle from my door step. Although one night outside Macon while staying at a friend’s house who happened to live along a spur leading to one of Georgia Powers coal burning plants I was wide awakened by the coal train whistle and noise about four o’clock one morning. The old house was a rail tender’s house where the occupant would work for the railroad and checked water on the old steam locomotives as they pulled in.

 

I have raised the question of our purpose numerous times over the years and yesterday an email sometime last night got me thinking. A dear friend said four people had raised the issue of their purpose in life recently and she is going through a time in her own life now of seeking purpose. Before I went out I wrote back to her.

“For me it is not, what is my purpose, as much as that I have purpose. It is knowing you are significant in each aspect of what you do. Over the years I always thought I would one day open my eyes and see, my purpose. Years ago a vision or was it a dream of a giant jig saw puzzle falling in place sorted that out for me. I could not see the front of the puzzle and every time I tried and look it would turn away revealing the gray backing. I had to be content to know it was falling in place piece by piece and each piece was more intricate than the last. You can seek direction in your journey. You have a powerful friend in your faith. Doors will open as they need to. I spent nearly two years sorting out where I was to go, some by working with indigent families and receiving enough barely to cover cell phone and mileage. A door opened in teaching and even then I was presented with tests. Five times my name was presented by a principal who wanted me teaching and four times I was turned down. On September 11, 2001, I was allowed to go back into teaching” Frank Bird in an email to a friend

 

I have used the illustration of a puzzle often in my writing and have thrown the word purpose about many times. There is an aspect of our journey in which we are directly involved and that is the direction in which way are we facing as we take that next step.

 

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

 

I was looking this morning for words dealing with direction and each time I tried mapping out my thoughts and the word direction came up. My oldest son finished his certification in GIS several years ago. He had been working with an Environmental Science class at the high school mapping trees and positioning using GPS devices. It is amazing as gadgets get smaller and more accurate, we can map a tree on our planet or a gopher tortoise nest. We are at a point in our technology where we can ascertain that Sumatra moved 20 centimeters in a huge earthquake. My son will take along his GPS just for fun as he travels although several trips to Florida it has proven its worth avoiding hurricane traffic. But so often we have a hard time determining where we are going today let alone in life.

 

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

 

John Dewey is not the easiest read in the world and often his thoughts are in details we are not used too. Could be why so many educators have a hard time with Dewey’s ideas. It is too easy to say he was a communist or socialist and not read that he was perhaps one of the greatest advocates for democracy within education and the nation in modern time. Most recently I have been opening up Dewey’s works again as I am working on my dissertation based around his ideas. Far too often teachers look for an easy fix to a complicated issue. In life far too many times we take the easy road.

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

 

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

 

For so many they see life as a funnel a narrowing down rather than a spreading out as they progress. It has been many years since I walked the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia and hopefully one day soon I will find time to climb the trail again. Often when walking up a mountain there are switch backs, a longer path but an easier incline and you would use them rather than a direct ascent. A switch back is a path that cuts back and forth up the mountain rather than straight up and makes the pathway a bit easier. With a heavy pack a direct route is often impossible let alone dangerous.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Please my friends 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

 

 

In pursuit of excellence in learning

Bird Droppings July 1, 2018
In pursuit of excellence in learning

 

I am working on my paper for graduate school and woke up very early in the morning with several ideas running through my head. I stepped outside briefly and I heard the crickets and tree frogs as the sounds of early morning surrounded me with the rustling of leaves in the steady breeze as I sojourned out in the wee hours. It is a great day to immerse in this reality thank you.

 

“We are surrounded by actors who cannot act…singers who cannot sing…teachers who cannot teach…writers who cannot write…speakers who cannot speak…painters who cannot paint…and we pay them fortunes for their mediocrity.” Ernest Hemmingway

 

I was looking for a starting point today as I read through the news and such earlier. Several emails had me wondering about why we do what we do and how we do it. Seldom do I question my teaching capabilities but as I read an email I received last night with suggestions, it makes me think and sometimes as I ponder why do I teach the kids I do reasons elude me. I happened on a talk by William Edelen, entitled “In praise of excellence”. Contained within Edelen’s essay was the following excerpt.

 

“Observe, I suggest no sense of service. More hypocrisy is poured out to youthful ears in the name of serving mankind than would fill a library of books. I can remember the droning on that score that I had to listen to, that I should become a drudge in some distasteful pursuit to assist a mankind not visibly affected by similar endeavors. If it be selfishness to work on a job one likes, and live as one wants, because one likes it and for no other end, let us accept the podium. I had rather live forever in a company of Don Quixote’s, than among a set of the walking dead professing to be solely moved to the betterment of one another. Let us then do our jobs for ourselves and we are in no danger of deserving society. Though six associations, groups, companies, combinations of societies for the improvement of mankind, with their combined boards of directors, secretaries, stenographers and field agents were to be put into some scale against six honest carpenters who liked their job and did their work with excellence, they would kick the beam as high as Euripides. The six honest, excellent, carpenters may serve as a beacon for all time, and men will love them, but be that as it may, six honest carpenters who do their job with excellence because they like it and for no other reason will save themselves. That is quite enough to ask…” Judge Learned Hand

 

I sat thinking about the idea of excellence in whatever it is we do. Judge Hand used the illustration of carpenters as he explained excellence. In doing your job with excellence as the goal, imagine what a world we would have. I have been reading and sharing a book by Charlotte Danielson on evaluating teachers, in her book she points toward developing excellent teachers, distinguished teachers. Piedmont College in their Specialist program used a rubric for evaluation of candidates based on Danielson’s ideas and has named it using an acronym STAR. When I was in teaching in the early 70’s I felt a need to have an evaluation tool that could pinpoint quality teachers and could then help establish teaching excellence. By no means am I satisfied with the tools that are being used in most systems now.
In carpentry we can see excellence as the pieces come into place, within the fit and finish of the item being built. In many areas the product can be seen or touched or heard and excellence is easily evaluated. In teaching it becomes more difficult.

 

“If we lose the sense of excellence in our daily labor we will become weak as a people and as a nation. If we lose our respect and admiration for craftsmanship, our vigor as a people will decline.” William Edelen

 

“Those who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune rather than to insufficient application. Thus…talent is a species of vigor.” Eric Hoffer

 

Each day I hear the words I am passing that is enough. Trying to instill in students who have known nothing but failure in their lives and defeat can be difficult. As I was writing this morning my dog wanted another outside break and I walked out into the near darkness of the early morning with some slight cloud cover. It is easy to feel the start of the storm around the corner there is a slight chill in the air and a breeze, but still warm enough for the crickets. It would be silent save for the drone of crickets even in their monotonous chirp, a harmony.

 

“People do not stumble into excellence. It requires application and tenacity of purpose.” William Edelen

 

As I ponder there are tens of thousands of crickets chirping and yet it sounds as if only one is sounding off, it is so easy to get lost in the midst of s cricket chorus. We do this every day as we go to work, we get lost in the cricket chorus, the constant chirping of the same note, the same beat and soon those around pick up and soon everyone is in tune and all is well but no excellence.

 

“Our schools are crying for uncommon teachers who are excellent, outstanding and distinguished.” William Edelen

 

It is difficult to sound and act different in a world of constantly chirping crickets, to perhaps change the note or pitch and try and get more done or get it done better. It seems that status quo is not enough for some people. I went into school yesterday evening as I do many evenings and another teacher was sitting putting in grades. It seems this teacher was sent a message about parents complaining about their particular teaching style. One note and a teacher is upset and here I am pondering not a complaint or but a suggestion and only because without fanfare that suggestion had been done and completed but not advertised it was just part of the normal daily activity. I thought back to my friend who was writing notes and questioning the style of teaching that had been done and at what point do we ever grade the desire of students and the political repercussions people viewing from without.

 

“The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together.” “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

 

I have used the term osmosis to describe the teaching relationship. Perhaps I should add to that excellence in osmosis. No matter what the field, we need to strive for more than just passing; we need to push for excellence in parenting, in friendship, in all of our endeavors. We as teachers have a tiny window, for me a hundred or so minute window to impact a student and if every teacher that student has are equally as impacting, about a seven to eight hour window each day. But when evaluating and judging excellence that student has a sixteen hour window or more like a garage door to unravel and totally disperse any impact received during school. It could easily be parents who are angry, upset, out of work, sick physically or mentally, friends who put peer pressure on them, jobs, athletics, relationships and the list could go on and on. It has been many years since I jokingly referred to this as a sixteen hour syndrome and wondered if we could develop a vaccine. 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 can be successful

Bird Droppings June 30, 2018
Teaching can be successful

 

So as I do on many mornings when I get the time I walked out to a quiet corner of my back yard except today it is to move my spot. Developers have purchased the bank owned land in this development and are planning on building new houses. After twelve years of solitude on our lot we might have neighbors. No more quiet and peaceful time, bulldozers and construction folks clambering around. Already a bush hog machine came through and destroyed the der pathways and rabbit warrens. So what was nestled in a patch of weeds and brush where I laid claim to my quiet spot and look toward the east in the morning will be moved. I went out earlier taking our huskie out and nearly walked through an orb weaver web. These are strands of spider webbing that are still hanging connecting everything. The scientist part of me knows that they are simply webs from wandering spiders the previous night out hunting but the mystic in me sees the connections. I do see the interconnections but many do not.
I am concerned about learning not education. That is a strange statement to make coming from a teacher by trade. We have institutions established called schools where learning is supposed to occur. Sadly various interfering elements within state and federal polity contradict and totally destroy the ability to provide learning experiences for children. Yesterday several editorial cartoons were sent through the internet showing a group of students all connected with wires from their heads staring ahead and one trying to climb out a window to the outside and nature, it has been around for some time but caught my attention. The just of the image was education reform wants us all to be education zombies all learning the same thing at the same time. If we cannot reverse the decline in learning our children will be simply pawns of whoever is or whatever is in power at the time.

 

“The first object of any act of learning, over and beyond the pleasure it may give, is that it should serve us in the future. Learning should not only take us somewhere; it should allow us later to go further more easily.” Ted Sizer

 

I received an email yesterday or I should say a response to a Facebook post I shared from a friend. The video clip I shared many months back was directed at the Teach to the Test mentality that is sweeping education due to high stakes testing being mandated by states and federal law. A young man a recent college graduate stated he could not get a job because his method of teaching was more hands on than what administrators were looking for. Daily I see the frustration of my son who was trained to teach in experiential manner and is now limited by what is on the curriculum map today. I am co-teaching with teacher in physics who likes to provide context to the learning. This past Friday one of our physics classes in getting ready to study the concepts of velocity and acceleration did a slip and slide lab to take our data in order to calculate acceleration and velocity. It will be interesting to see if they can make physics come alive for these kids and still comply with the curriculum requirements. If I was wagering I would definitely say they will.

 

“A vision without a task is a dream – a task without a vision is drudgery- but a task with vision can change the world.” Black Elk

 

“Too much emphasis has been placed on reforming school from the outside through policies and mandates. Too little has been paid to how schools can be shaped from within.” Roland Barth

 

Just a few days ago I addressed the fact we are educating more diversified students in the United States than anywhere in the world. I borrowed from Black Elk a Lakota Sioux Holy Man who passed away nearly sixty years ago. Black Elk believed in the power of visions. Roland Barth was a professor at Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. His book Improving Schools from within, was a best seller in 1991. His latest book Learning by heart, addresses the need for school reform and changes and that they need to come from changing the culture of schools. As I read both pieces and thought a Sioux holy man talking about making a vision real and a renowned educator saying we need to look within in order to elicit change maybe we should be listening to them and not politicians.

 

“Rarely do outside of school remedies work their way into the fabric of the schools or into the teacher’s lives, and more rarely into the classrooms. Therefore they only offer a modest hope of influencing the basic culture of the school.” Roland Barth

 

“Community building must become the heart of any school improvement effort.” Thomas Sergiovanni

 

“The best we educational planners can do is to create the conditions for teachers and students to flourish and get out of their way.” Theodore Sizer

 

As I ponder my various authors I am reviewing and borrowing from today Barth, Sergiovanni and Sizer in the quotes above I find continuity. These men are all innovators and have made significant and powerful suggestions about education across the nation. Many school systems use the concept of learning communities that Sergiovanni promotes in his writing. I know that Roland Barth’s ideas are taught and re-taught in graduate schools nationwide and teachers seldom leave college without hearing the name of Ted Sizer. What concerns me is why is it with the potential to change education we seem to be in a rut and really going nowhere different. Why do we continue to know what to do to better educate kids and then do not do it. I wish an answer were simple to place in writing but I see blame as being in the leadership of schools. I see blame in school boards and in state education boards and eventually at a federal level. As the ideology leaves the classroom it goes from being real and meaningful to being business and is it cost effective? Can we afford this? Should we spend dollars on this? Somewhere children get left out and learning gets sat by the roadside.

 

“To cope with a changing world, an entity must develop the capacity of shifting and changing – of developing new skills and attitudes; in short, the capability of learning.” A. DeGues, The Living Company

 

“The challenge of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

 

“You cannot have a learning organization without a shared vision…A shared vision provides a compass to keep learning on course when stress develops. The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.” Peter Senge

Dr. Peter Senge is a professor at MIT and renowned scholar in the field of learning. His books and theories are used in management schools and education studies. The idea of a collaborative effort in learning falls back into many ideas that have been mentioned in previous droppings dealing with Foxfire and John Dewey and the democratic class room. Students learn more when it is relevant to them and they have some buy in. Proust provides that we need a new perception to see rather than using the same old mythology to view education and learning. We have to develop new skills not just use what is available. Although John Dewey’s ideas are still considered progressive at over a hundred years old always strikes me as interesting.

 

“We learn best from our experience, but we never directly experience the consequences of many of our most important decisions. In the absence of a great dream pettiness prevails. Shred visions foster risk taking, courage and innovation. Keeping the end in mind creates the confidence to make decisions even in moments of crisis.” Peter Senge

 

“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from non-conformity, the ability to turn your back on old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesteryear for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We mist dare to invent the future.” Thomas Sankara African leader

 

“Schools are among the very few institutions that have remained almost entirely unchanged for most of this century.” Judith Aitken

 

“No other organization institution faces challenges as radical as those that will transform the school.” Peter Drucker

 

“Today’s Schools are not Tomorrows Schools. That’s a fundamental misconception.”
David Lange

 

Author, speakers, management consultants, professors, educational leaders and each of them a great teacher in their own right have been outspoken for years about our schools and learning. Why do we let politicians decide what our students should be learning or how we should be evaluating these students? Why do we put arbitrary numbers on children with disabilities as to who can and who cannot exempt or not exempt state mandated tests. One IQ point separates two students one who because they cannot pass the High School graduation tests is and receives a special education certificate of attendance and is counted as a drop out because they did not graduate and the other by submitting a portfolio of what learning occurred in high school graduates with a legitimate high school diploma and is a graduate. One IQ point separates the two and how they are assessed.

 

“The overwhelming number of teachers …are unable to name or describe a theory of learning that underlies what they do.” Alfie Kohn

 

“It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather… I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” Haim Ginott

 

“In teaching students to think the emphasis is not on how many answers they know. Rather, the focus is on how well they behave when they don’t know.” Art Costa

 

I recall reading Alfie Kohn for the first time in 2001 at the suggestion of my principal who had formed a book club. The title of the book is The Schools our Children Deserve. As I read through these authors and quotes last night as I researched for my morning wanderings I wonder can we ever really change the industrial complex that drives education? Can we unseat lobbyists and politicians who seek profits at the cost of our children’s learning? I wonder as I finish up today if we can overcome.

 

“In the absence of a great dream pettiness prevails. Shared visions foster risk taking, courage and innovation. Keeping the end in mind creates the confidence to make decisions even in moments of crisis.” Peter Senge

 

I started and end with a vision. “A vision without a task is a dream – a task without a vision is drudgery- but a task with vision can change the world.” Black Elk The great spiritual leader Black Elk spoke of his visions and Peter Senge offers a shared vision. I was once told it took leaders who had vision to truly lead and I wonder if we can find those people within education who care enough about children and about learning to pave the way to a new understanding and realization of our educational system. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird