Why we are not succeeding?

Bird Droppings September 14, 2018
Why we are not succeeding?

 

Very early this morning I walked out into the pre-hurricane warmth, a few crickets and tree frogs greeted me as I took our dog for her morning reverie. The sky was clear as a bell stars blazing away over my head. Orion was the major force as I peered skyward. Never have quite figured out how someone came up with each of the constellations although perception perhaps is a key. I keep a drinking gourd by my computer, an artifact from Rabun County Georgia. Hold it up and you can see where the big dipper came from. My wife reminded me that our middle son’s birthday is coming up on the seventh even though my outlook account has it on the fourth. A simple error I need to fix since you get what you put in.

It has been nearly twelve years since I went to see a Georgia Tech football game and as I often do I took a camera. I adjusted the settings for the light. I set the film speed. I actually used film and not a digital camera so I had to be sure everything was set as I could not see photos till they were processed. I took pictures actually many pictures as I so often do. Not to brag but they did turn out super one or two are floating around in Georgia Tech websites. My experience in using this camera and lens paid off. I knew what settings and what exposures would give me the best pictures and my reflecting begins.

In graduate school we discussed the history of education and how history is so often has been tainted or subjected to the views of the historian and or politics of the time of that event and then the perspective of the historian, a double whammy. I began pushing this idea further and to how and what we learn. So often it is what we are told to learn not what we want to learn and or need to learn. It is but various pieces of reality in a perception of that we are told to learn and I wonder for whose gain.

 

“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know — and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know — even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction — than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.” Isaac Asimov

 

I have Neil Young blaring away on my iPhone having hearing aids linked to phone has its advantages I can crank up my tunes. “Old man take a look at your life I am a lot like you are”, lyrics from Neil Young circa 1971 when he bought a ranch and an elderly foremen came with it. On another thought it amazes me to listen to students say I am passing I have a seventy percent and that’s good enough. I sometimes wonder if students really learn anything from day one till day seven hundred or eight hundred or do they simply regurgitate data and information to pass tests. It has been a few years since my son commenting as he took the SAT’s several times the more he was in math classes the better his scores and conversely one semester he did not have an advanced or AP English he dropped a few points on language section. So even for a good student is school simply a memorizing forum.

 

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

 

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

 

I found when I began looking for answers that learning became easier. When answers were being given to me in a mandatory sort of way in the process of going to school I learned less. Even in college for many years learning was considered mandatory. I have observed many students and what they learn. If they want to learn a topic they read about it, they look up information about it, and there is a desire to learn more about that topic.

 

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

 

For many years previously I have tacked this quote on the end of my morning Droppings. I continue to ponder how can we make our teaching so potent? How do we get the information we teach to be what students want to learn?

 

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of face within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity” Calvin Coolidge

 

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have not always been an Emerson fan sadly I wish I had begun reading his words sooner or I should say paying attention to the fact I was reading his words. In high school I do not recall even considering reading Emerson and know I did sort of see the page and it went by and I read Emerson. Now in my infinite wisdom do I see the folly of my high school days? Hindsight is only good if you build from it however. As we look back it is so easy to say I wasted time or I should have done this or that. Start today and take advantage of the daylight pack as much in as you can for tomorrow there will be just as much if not more coming your way in the next.

As I think back a few days ago to reading about the concept of a democratic school where students pick and choose topics for discussion and learning each week and in some ways learning is up to them. It would be difficult to plan for a standardized test, especially thinking did we cover that for example (in Georgia we had QCC’s (Quality Core Curriculum) and now we have advanced a bit with GPS (Georgia Performance Standards) and soon the National Common Core which will cover all curriculum that is to be taught. Being so we might have that section II item number 123a is the classification of segmented worms which is to be covered. Somewhere someone determined in Biology that that item was crucial. It may be a history item about the urban myth of were George Washington’s false teeth made from wood, hippo ivory and or ceramics.

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” St. Francis of Assisi

 

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.” Sophocles

 

How would we know what it is we need to know and how would teachers know what it is we need to know in order to teach us? That is a significant question. Using standardized tests provides the vehicle to measure, but then do we teach to that particular test or do we not teach to it and is that measure truly of what a child knows? If most teachers know what students need to know to take a particular test before I start the class then I will gear the class to that understanding before the test. So in effect we teach to the test. We teach what someone somewhere has deemed necessary for a student in that grade and time and that may or may not be what that teacher or student wants to learn. This brings me back to students tend to learn best when it is something that they want to know and realistically teachers teach far more better something they want to teach.

It would be a sad world if parents were told they had to teach their kids so and so today and tomorrow it would be this and that. Now that I think about it maybe that is not so bad in some cases. Except that then someone somewhere will be saying this is what children will be taught and when it will be taught. That system just closed down in Russia a few years back. So if our goal is to train socially acceptable consumers and workers to fill the factories as Karl Marx once indicated the goal of education was we will have accomplished that. Somehow we need to bring back creativity and critical thinking.

 

“If you wish to know the road up the mountain, ask the man who goes back and forth on it.” Zenrim

 

I can set my lenses and camera on manual adjustment and or on program mode. I could fine tune and make adjustments and or set on program mode and allow the camera’s computer to do adjusting for me. I started to think about the P words, program, perception and politics although maybe there is a connection as I think a bit more. So often in life politics determines how we perceive by providing the program setting and far too many people choose to use that since it is easier and simpler. It requires little effort and you always get the same results no matter who uses it. Could it be that in learning the same material the results on a test is the same no matter who takes it. They all conveniently know just the right stuff and just the right answers and just who to vote for and to keep in power. So on a day when war and conflict are part of our vernacular and those in power struggle to keep their seats please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

It takes more than one strand to make a rope, in life and in education.

Bird Droppings September 15, 2018
It takes more than one strand to make a rope,

in life and in education.

 

“You cannot contribute anything to the ideal condition of mind and heart known as Brotherhood, however much you preach, posture, or agree, unless you live it.” Faith Baldwin

 

Every day as I talked to teachers and or students I try and set an example and not every day am I successful. But as I think this beautiful almost fall morning getting up slower today than normal and relaxing perhaps too much I am finally getting into a rhythm. So I am sitting here trying to decide if I should work on writing a papers or be to be lazy I thought I would take a few moments to write. In the end a face time from my granddaughter and invitation to Sunflower festival won out. Since I have been lazy about writing for a few days tomorrow when it’s raining will be for writing. Many of the people I talk to everyday stand alone, often due to their own choosing.

 

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” John Donne

 

It has been several years since I did an experiment with a group of young people using sewing thread. I had a thread for each person and then I asked each of them to break the thread which of course was simple and easily done.

 

“The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” James Baldwin

 

After breaking the threads I gave each of them another piece of thread and one by one we joined the threads together. In the end we had a thirty strand or piece of string/rope and we twisted it slightly to keep threads together.

 

“In union there is strength.” Aesop

 

“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” Alexander the Great

Amazingly enough no one could break the new combined rope even when several folks pulled on each end it would not break.

 

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” Bahá’u’lláh

 

I still carry that piece of string/rope in my wallet. It surely does make a great example when talking to students actual most anyone

 

“I look to a time when brotherhood needs no publicity; to a time when a brotherhood award would be as ridiculous as an award for getting up each morning.” Daniel D. Michiel

 

It has been a few years back that I attended a demonstration up in Mountain City Georgia. The lecturer at the Foxfire Museum was using a couple of folks in the group and had them twisting and turning six strands of twine into a rope.

 

“Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

Real unity, that is the question, and in today’s politically charged atmosphere unity is not to be found. I had shown my students so many years ago that even though having multiply strands of thread all together in a bundle was significantly stronger each time you cut a piece it weakened Exponentially.

 

“In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” Booker T. Washington

 

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

 

Each day as I sit outside in my garden and back yard I think about and ponder what I have I witnessed, the differences in attitude and differences in brotherhood in the world. Many are similar and in a high school that old cliché of school spirit is generally a good indicator of a semblance of brotherhood, a joining force in a body of humanity. But still there are strands of thread dangling outside weakening the whole.

 

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” Virginia Burden, The Process of Intuition

 

I will never say everyone has to be identical. I like Booker T. Washington’s statement of each of being a finger yet still being able to be a hand. I use to think it was cool when I would see a six fingered person and in my old stomping grounds of Lancaster and Chester counties often you would see an Amish fellow with an extra finger. There was a recent ad where everyone was upset with Joe who had extra fingers because he could type so much faster and then do so much more, the ad showed him typing away and multi-tasking with his extra fingers. But the ad was also about change and new equipment equalized the office space. So often we cannot accept the differences.

 

“I have often noticed that when chickens quit quarreling over their food they often find that there is enough for all of them. I wonder if it might not be the same with the human race.” Don Marquis

 

In life far too often we spend our time fretting over differences and not looking for similarities. How can we work as a group a team? I was watching college football Saturday for a few minutes along with a jubilant football throng at football game. In the end teamwork makes all the difference in a win or loss. The winner is not always the better team. Always better teamwork will win and it can be only a minute difference, a single strand could change a game and or a life.

 

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” Kenyan Proverb

 

Interesting while I was writing about unity and I still believe in individuality, I am a very monastic person after all and it is a difficult task. I come back to Booker T. Washington’s quote; I can be a thumb and still work as a hand when needed. It is in believing and in trusting we gain that unity and that brotherhood. Watching the schools now working on homecoming and various rallies one thing keeps coming up, why all the negative why not work together, the problems are here and solutions can be had if there were teamwork. 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

 

 

Overcoming learning difficulties

Bird Droppings September 12, 2018

 Overcoming learning difficulties

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

 

I had been working on an IEP or should say finalizing one before a meeting a few years back. The student has a reading comprehension deficit.  I was reviewing data and test results for this student back then. So in thinking back it was an interesting start to a morning thought process. As I was working with the statistics I had an epiphany. I was sitting looking at columns of numbers and manipulating the data. It hit me 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 quote from 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

 

Many years back I was watching students 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 were involved.

 

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

 

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill

 

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

 

There are times when a student procrastinates and I have had several who are world class procrastinators but having watched that student work at his project meticulously detailing each image that 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. Thinking back my Georgia Tech son would do that in Power Point and make almost photo quality images as a break from studying physics or calculus.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark that trick that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an n email story the other day that was a 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

 

While over the years I have found the story to be fictious it is still a great and powerful story. 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 as I am developing a rough outline of my dissertation. Several days ago while visiting my old high school as I walked down the 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 that same 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. As today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not learned.

 

“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

 

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

 

 

 

Can we see a gray world in color?

Bird Droppings September 11, 2018

Can we see a gray world in color?

 

Seventeen years ago I went back to teaching only to go into lock down. Quite a day and experience for someone who hadn’t been in the class room since 1977. Sharing the fears and anxieties of those kids with me taught me more than many years of education course work. I sincerely hope no new teacher has to learn in that fashion.

 

“Stress is the body and mind’s response to any pressure that disrupts its normal            balance. It occurs when our perceptions of events don’t meet our expectations and we don’t manage our reaction to the disappointment. As a response, stress expresses itself as resistance, tension, strain or frustration that throws off our physiological and psychological equilibrium, keeping us out-of-sync.” Doc Childre and Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution

 

By chance I got into a discussion on perception yesterday amazing how we all seem to see the same world differently. Sometimes it amazes me what my years of experience and age see can be so vastly different. Each of us has been different places, seen different things, and learned different methods and strategies that provide us with a means to view the world. We are constantly applying these perceptions almost without thinking to our each waking moment and every step we take. I recall listening back a number of years ago to an interview with the then great athlete Lance Armstrong before he became not great.

 

“Cancer is my secret because none of my rivals has been that close to death and it makes you look at the world in a different light and that is a huge advantage.” Lance Armstrong

 

I remember waiting to hear after my father was wheeled into surgery for stomach cancer the prognosis. We had been given the grim reality of his possible future by the surgeon just minutes before and were waiting as a family for news after. Amazing how death offers a new perspective to life, it seems each second becomes precious.

 

“Do not say,” it is morning,” and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a newborn child that has no name.” Rabindranath Tagore

 

When the surgeon walked out and said this was the smallest tumor he had ever removed from a patient’s stomach and still paraphrased with but, it was a relief. Life though had been redefined. Meaning to each moment had been altered.

 

“What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also             depends on what sort of person you are.” C. S. Lewis

 

Our experiences and understandings and believes do have input and effect our perception of each instant in our lives. This is sort of the filters we see and hear through and conversely understand through. I have a student who is extremely conservative and views everything as being altered to be politically correct. My student sees each item in their life as having been spun. Many of us do as we watch news biased by opinion of the news broadcaster but I am amazed as I see one thing and my student’s view is nearly opposite.

 

“The solution to stress management lies in how we perceive the stresses in our lives. It’s not really the events taking place in our lives that cause stress. Stress depends entirely on how we perceive the events that happen to us. The good news is that since stress is a response—not the event that triggers the response—we can control it. Once we shift our perception of a situation and see it with more clarity, the stressful reaction can be reduced or released.” Doc Childre and Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution

 

The difficult aspect however is in changing your perception, it has taken time and effort to come to the world view that we have.

 

“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” Ziggy

 

“You have to ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

“The appearance of things changes according to the emotions and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.” Kahlil Gibran

 

A cartoon character, a philosopher and a mystic poet would see a world differently perhaps yet there is an understanding among these three that the world has varying and differing views. Is the glass half full or half empty even though the amount of water is the same?

 

“All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien

 

“It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals.” Charles Kuralt

 

Amazing how a linguist and newscaster see so similar, though one is famous for realism and one for fantasy. Kuralt is known for his to the point clarity in news casting and Tolkien for his brilliance in creating a world where fantasy and magic are real.

 

“We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” Anais Nin

 

“No life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

 

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” Henri Bergson

 

I often wonder as I go about each day as to how people see and hear what they do. What biases and prejudices make their world appear as it does? So many people allow hatred and negativity into their lives through their perception of existence. I sat with a young man last week helping him calm down; he was stressed by the actions of another student. He was stressed to a point of wringing his hands till there were red. The other student walked away I am sure laughing how he had pushed this other fellow to near the breaking point, “all in fun”. He was a big man on campus and it was part of his image.

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not our circumstances.” Martha Washington

 

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” Epictetus

 

One student sees humor another sees ridicule and shame, one walks away laughing and another sits in severe pain.

 

“Miracles seem to rest, not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from far off, but upon our perceptions being made finer so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear that which is about us always.” Willa           Cather

 

It is so difficult to pass judgment when perception is involved, yet life should be about doing no harm and doing no harm means not finding humor in another’s pain. When someone asks to stop, whether you do not see the issue stopping is the only alternative. We have to learn our perception is not the sole perception in this reality. I have seen to many tears this week walking through the halls and at home. I have seen far too many clenched fists. Yet four three ago while officiating at a wedding there were tears were of joy.

 

“Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

 

So often emotion tints the glass of our vision and anger allows us to see color only in grays and not in the true vivid color that is actually there. I left the house unable to think clearly this morning. My little granddaughter has been living away from our house for several weeks. She came down stairs crying from wetting the bed and my wife swooped her up and wiped tears and cleaned her up. She was not really awake yet sort of half asleep. She still wanted her Minnie Mouse night shoes on and went back to sleep.

 

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

 

“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” George Bernard Shaw

 

If only we could provide free Windex to all people imagine what a world we would have. It is such a simple concept using Windex to clean the perceptions of the world, to help clear the grime off so many windows. I really do not want everybody seeing the world alike that would be boring but somehow leveling the playing field perhaps as I drove home a few years back from dropping my son at college an idea hit me I called it the sacred spirit of man. Maybe just providing corrective lenses to others so they can see my way, and I am legally color blind. If only? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Grandparenting/Teaching is telling our students and grandchildren the stories

Bird Droppings September 10, 2018

Grandparenting/Teaching is telling our students

and grandchildren the stories

 

I have been lazy lately. I have been reading and documenting notes for my dissertation but had not pulled up in a few days. Today I am finishing up my preprospectus. My title has changed over the years and days. Engaging curriculum through storytelling is now the title.

I grew up listening to stories from my grandmother, father and mother. My uncles added to and various other family members. All had a wealth of stories. My mother was telling me about my grandfather who too was a story teller before he passed on. I listened to them all.  I Learned from them all.

 

“I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed. In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be lifelong. In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat. In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers. In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed– the link to creation. In my eyes sparkled love and the song floated on the sun’s rays from tree to tree. When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf’s reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out. All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.” Chief Dan George, Salish

 

I look forward to the day I can tell my grandchildren tales told to me by my father and his father. Recently my oldest son and I were standing in the dark listening to a chorus of coyotes call only hundreds of yards away through the dense pines of the nearby forest. Perhaps they had caught a deer or found a carcass left from some wayward hunter and were celebrating their find. The echoes and calls bounced off the trees and literally filled the air unlike anything I have heard this side of the Mississippi river. I am sure when I retell this story it will be embellished a bit but it was awesome just the same to hear personally. As I am sitting here this morning reading again this short passage from Chief Dan George I am saddened by the ending. We are on the verge as we continue to focus on the now of losing our past. We dominant society who have ravaged the landscape, stripped away what we need, technologically impaired our children, and left little possibility that our grandchildren will be able to hear and see what we have even in our lifetimes.

Many will scoff at my feeble words. However as a teacher I see the children of today struggle with imagination and creativity. I see today’s children so entangled in gadgetry that they have little need any more for a stick horse or sock stuffed animal. Few children are building forts and tree houses when they can have virtual worlds to play with. Some of us will recall what it is like to play Robin Hood in a patch of forest. Some will remember days prior to TV and video. Some of us can remember having to ask an operator to connect you to your phone call party. Some will remember dialing with a rotary dial phone other than comedians in skits. I am as much a victim using my smart phone to communicate instantly photos and images and getting directions or weather reports instantly. However it caught me by surprise when a clerk at one of my favorite stores asked me what I did with my herb garden during the winter. It set me back from the fast pace world into one of growing plants and herbs. One of digging in the dirt and growing what we need instead of asking just the price. Several times I had brought bags of mint and stevia by their store and this clerk remembered me. So what will I tell my granddaughter one day when she is sitting on my knee. I might start with a passage I used at her parents wedding ceremony.

 

“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

 

It is easy to wonder sitting in my kitchen typing away on my laptop of days ahead and what lessons what stories I will share. I will walk through the fields and forest and point out leaves and twigs, I will pick up a insect and tell of what it is and why, I will teach her how a great horned owl calls in the evening and the difference between a spring peeper and a grey tree frog, I will show her to avoid poison oak and ivy and look for wild straw berries, but I will also show her how to create images on a computer and how to use words wisely and powerfully and to share with others.

 

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

I read an article earlier, in Child Trends about reading to young children.

 

“Young children who are regularly read to have a larger vocabulary, higher levels of phonological, letter name, and sound awareness, and better success at decoding words. The number of words in a child’s vocabulary can be an important indicator of later academic success.” Burgess, S. R., Hecht, S. A. , & Lonigan, C. J. (2002). Relations of the home literacy environment (HLE) to the development of reading-related abilities: A one-year longitudinal study. Reading Research Quarterly, 37(4), 408-426.

 

In other reading children read to at a young age is more crucial than flash cards, workbooks, fancy preschools, blinking toys and computers it is simply reading with mom and dad. This is where imagination  begins and grows.

 

So I am wondering what lesson I should first impart. There is a lesson that sadly many forget as they go into the world. It has been many years since I first saw these words. It is that lesson of example. Dr. Nolte, nearly fifty years ago gave us a poem of sorts “Children learn what they live”, that critical lesson is one of example providing a life that is a lesson rather than a disaster. So this morning as we start a new week 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

Ponderingerest is that even a word?

Bird Droppings September 8, 2018

Ponderingerest is that even a word?

 

Coming up some interesting days. One is an interesting and yet solemn day; a day marked by memories, seventeen years ago I started teaching again after a twenty three year layoff, thirty years ago we brought a new baby home. So many memories coming up this week.

 

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Charles A. Beard

 

I do recall that my first day of teaching seventeen years ago with much of spent in lock down and confused as to what was really going on. It was many days later I really thought about that day I came back to teaching. I just sent a note to one of my first students in that class I was locked in with for several hours. Charles Beard was a historian and often a controversial one at that it is said he commented that Roosevelt brought the US into World War II for economic recovery. Interesting historically that has been the case several times over as to why we really go to war. When I first looked at his quote I was thinking about little children especially my grandkids being afraid of the dark and night time and several times when out with youth and trying to ease fears of darkness I have used stars as a focal point. It really does have to be dark to see the stars.

 

So often in life we lose sight of the stars until trials and tribulations show in contrast and we again can view our own stars. Folk’s they are there today with all that is going on news about Syria and another potential war, it is often hard to see and remember the shining stars but rest assured they are there and they will be shining when we need to see them. I have been writing and thinking about this day for some time. Yesterday in a response to my Bird dropping I would like to share from a dear friend who I used a thought from just a day or so ago.

 

“You know, Frank, Viet Nam doesn’t seem that long ago, but it was. I’m a Viet Nam combat vet; was Navy, but served for two temporary assignments with the First Radio Battalion, Third Marine Amphibious Force in I Corps (DaNang, the northern part). I was essentially a marine. It continues to be amazing to me how an experience of war is interpreted differently by different folks. I was running a security communications operation and was calling in the Arc Light Raids, precision bombing (for then) with the B-52s. I guess you could say I never saw the ones I was killing … I do believe my work saved the lives of many of our own troops. (They gave me a medal for it; can you believe that?) What’s right, and what’s wrong? When you lose a friend, you want to kill them all. Even today, the flag-folding at a casket just tears me up. All of this to say that, from the standpoint of being veterans who can still function a little, the Viet Nam guys are “old” vets now. I just want the world to know they’re NOT all drunks and drug addicts. You jarred some memories, my friend. A different place … a different time.” Jim, Dr. James D. Sutton, Clinical Psychologist and National recognized speaker and authority on Conduct Disorders

 

I was writing yesterday about my hatred of war and its destruction. As I grew up listening to my father’s stories of WWII and today looking at old photos he had, images of the attack on Iwo Jima where many thousands of American soldiers died and tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers perished as well makes me wonder about war.  Many of my friends from high school and college are Viet Nam vets and often in communications comments are made and I have the utmost regard for these men and women who served in a time so many have forgotten. Many of those same friends passed away in a country they never really understood for reasons that have changed over time.

 

This week we will look at a anniversary of an attack on our country. Does this change my perception of war and revenge not at all there is still nothing solved in retaliation. True a great sigh of relief came when Osama Bin Laden was killed by Seal Team Six. I was at that moment more concerned about my nephew in law who serves in the teams than the fact Bin Laden was killed. My thoughts today are rekindling many images from different people. Hope and fear both rise to the top of the barrel.

 

“The trouble with justifying your violence, your hate, your profitable destruction through your subjective sense of victimization is a)the chain of violence can go on forever b)everyone, since no one has a monopoly on suffering, can use victimization to then justify practically anything for an indefinite amount of time and violence and c)as vengeance only retaliates never returns, there will never be an end to the justification of your violence, and as such your violence itself.” Manny Jalonschi, Publisher at American Ex Pat Books

 

I have known and been reading Manny’s blogs and thoughts for several years now and this one caught me in my pondering state. I posted the following response.

 

“When raised in Judeo-Christian understanding of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth it is hard to separate out the revenge aspect of the equation and throw in staunch capitalism which a long time ago gave up on the Koionia (community) of early Christianity in favor of greed and profit and ran rough shod over indigenous peoples worldwide. Seriously what is to be expected? Sadly how many kids are raised today without a neutral historical understanding of where they came from?” Frank Bird III, Ed. S.  D.D.

 

Over the past few days several friends have made comments to me about my choice of political party and or Represenitives. I find it interesting as while in many ways what they see as wrong they have no way other than saying it will take care of itself if we get rid of this or this program.

 

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

 

I pondered most of the week listening to the rhetoric of war mongering, capitalism and the problems with government’s handouts and healthcare. I grief with and honor those who died in the heinous attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon ten years ago but I also say retaliation is never a solution. We have retaliated for twelve years and nearly destroyed our country.

 

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

 

I honestly wonder borrowing from Gandhi “An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind”, how long we can continue and not lift up and move ahead.

I have worked with and taught numerous autistic children over the years. Dr. Temple Grandin is considered to be one of the leading authorities on animal and livestock handling in the world. She has designed and engineered seventy five percent of the commercial livestock handling facilities for commercial packers in the United States. She has been recognized by animal rights groups for her ethical treatment in design and development and has written college texts on animal science. She also is considered a world leader in autism, perhaps because Dr. Grandin is autistic herself.

 

“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream. I can remember this very clearly.” Dr. Temple Grandin

 

In recent years more and more children are being diagnosed as autistic. As I read her words which applied directly to herself as she grew up frustrated with a world that only heard her screaming and never her words I thought too of those often less fortunate than ourselves who have no voice. Through political maneuvering and redrawing lines and forgetting to advertise the new laws of needing a photo identification to vote we tend to silence many people. I watched several political debates and speeches this past week and Dr. Temple Grantin’s words again hit me.

 

“People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet. I was very lucky to receive very good early intervention with very good teachers, starting at age two and a half years. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher. A good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. Some teachers just have a knack for working with autistic children. Other teachers do not have it. If you find a good teacher, hang on to him or her tight.” Dr. Temple Grandin

 

Yesterday or the day before many days lately have run together I had an issue with my upstairs air conditioning. The thermostat was stuck at eighty five degrees. I poked at it, fiddled with it, no change. At one point even said call the air conditioning guy. But two nights ago I walked upstairs with a screw driver and popped the cover off and low and behold batteries. Two new Duracell triple A’s and the air is working again. On that same note an article on bacteria in the gut and autism caught my attention yesterday. How simple is that. Autistic children often have dietary issues and a study showed significantly different bacteria in the gut of autistic children actually less bacteria of a good kind. Granted it was only an article but how simple is that if a reality.

 

On a day of pondering I wish we never have to go through this again. I offer as a solution that if we keep our eyes and ears open we can find open minded great teachers, we can resolve issues before going to war, and all children can have the opportunity to succeed and learn and in learning never be silent again. Last night we received as staff an email that our board of education tabled a proposed by superintendent change to high schools scheduling going from four block to seven block all in the name of rigor. Ask any teacher about this and the answer is what? A newspaper article ran erroneous information about testing and four block and how math scores would improve. Nothing was said about ridiculous math curriculum and constant changes and a test that in trials fifty percent or more failed. But changing our schedules would cure it. No one mentioned fifteen to twenty percent of high school teachers would be let go and there would literally no electives for students. So I sit back ponder a moment more and as I have for so many years now asked 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

It is about understanding

Bird Droppings September 7, 2018
It is about understanding

 

 

I read a psychological report of a student who could decode most any word put in front of them. The confusion comes when trying to tell you what was read. The two components of reading, decoding and comprehension are both needed in order to be a successful reader. As I thought of how many students I see each day like this particular one. Asked if they can read and of course they can and show you reading aloud brilliantly. As the quiz comes round or even a question and they draw a blank. High school teachers as a rule are not looking for learning issues simply students learning the subject being taught. So many students slip through the cracks of high school with insufficient reading skills. If only we could catch and remedy early on?

 

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. “ Dale Carnegie

 

I wrote a few days ago about forgiveness which we tend to forget about far too often. As I finished my day out with students yesterday another issue came to the front. Seldom do we take time to understand. As I talked with my students through each block (period) of the day little things came out that many times we overlook. What if a student’s parents have just divorced, or a sibling is sick, perhaps an eviction from their home and in one situation a death in the family. As a teacher I try and be aware of what is going on in my students lives but many times students and people in general will not post of Facebook or some other social network but hold it in? Looking for little clues and taking a student aside to ask a question or two without prying sometimes will give an insight as to perhaps some underlying issue that is impacting that child that day.

 

“Keep constantly in mind in how many things you yourself have witnessed changes already. The universe is change, life is understanding.” Marcus Aurelius, 121 ADE

 

“The best cure for worry, depression, melancholy, brooding, is to go deliberately forth and try to lift with one’s sympathy the gloom of somebody else.” Arnold Bennett

 

“Man is always inclined to be intolerant towards the thing, or person, he hasn’t taken the time adequately to understand…” Robert R. Brown

 

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow-men; and along those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” Herman Melville, 1819

 

Life is about understanding and interaction. It is the interconnections that make us who we are. Occasionally I will offer this is where we find the word soul. In my years of writing I have discussed my own symbolic concept of life a jigsaw puzzle many times. I see that we are much like a puzzle with countless pieces falling into place each intricate and each with numerous facets. The pieces interconnect and eventually give us our life’s purpose and provide a more full understanding of all that is. I am starting to get a bit metaphysical but I do have a doctorate in metaphysics at least that is what the paper on my wall states.

 

“Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief in denying them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803

 

“Find peace with yourself by accepting not only what you are, but what you are never going to be.” Author Unknown

 

“Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third.” Marge Piercy

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Kahlil Gibran

 

“The one who understands does not speak; the one who speaks does not understand.” Chinese Proverb

 

As I gathered quotes for this subject it always seems I can find or fit in a Ralph Waldo Emerson statement. Somewhere along the way I listed him as someone I would like to meet. I see Emerson’s view of soul more in line with Special Agent Gibbs’ gut feeling as he investigates a crime. It is that aspect of us where we know. Many people avoid and or deny that part of who they are.

It is difficult for anyone to admit they will never be something. In America we are raised we can accomplish anything. Teaching special education I do my best to keep high expectations of my students but as days go by, weeks and months even with constant focus and attention there are times when cognition, imagination and life experiences will get the best of a student and they will reach a plateau that may go on forever. Even within that seemingly halt in progression more can be done but each step and each piece of the puzzle gets harder to find and harder yet to fit in. One of the big pieces of their puzzle is the sixteen hours away from school time enough to forget and lose what gains were made in the previous eight hours. Gibran brings my heart and soul back to try again with his philosophical optimism. The last quote could be from Luther Standing Bear or Chief Joseph as they discuss how Native American’s find wisdom in silence.

 

“And in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect. More powerful than words was silence with the Lakota.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

“It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand, and what those things are. Human understanding has vulgarly occupied itself with nothing but understanding, but if it would only take the trouble to understand itself at the same time it would simply have to posit the paradox. “ Soren Kierkegaard

 

I find it interesting that often philosophers are victims of their own advice. Much of philosophy is looking for understanding or rationale for our existence and Kierkegaard put a twist on it saying that is all human kind has done is look for understanding and we yet forget to understand ourselves. I was nearly thirty five almost forty till I truly began finding who I was. I had been listening to others opinion of or others interpretation of who I was but never looked into my own heart and soul. It was walks earlier in the morning that helped me settle into a clear view of who I was. I would walk each morning in the wee hours under the stars with a good friend who was at that time in seminary. We would discuss philosophy, theology, education, and life in general as we walked five miles each day.

 

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Kahlil Gibran

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucius

 

“It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.” Harry S. Truman

 

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” Galileo Galilei

 

These thoughts are sort of a mix in this effort to figure out understanding. I liked the first quote of Gibran in that it is what we are searching for more than where we have been that is crucial. The prime component of education is Confucius contribution, for it is through doing that we also truly learn. Had to get some John Dewey in except that it was a thousand years before Dewey that man realized what Dewey preached that experience is the greatest teacher. While I have never been a big Truman fan this statement from the former president is a powerful one. The great scientist Galileo offers that it is in discovery that we find truth and understanding. For me that is the one that giving me a more clear view of this idea of understanding. It is not in seeking a clear definitive point but it is that aspect of seeking to know that provides the fuel and tools for understanding.

 

“This concept of life and its relations with humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with joy and mystery of living; it gave him reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

Perhaps in the world view of Native Americans is an answer. Sometimes acceptance was a key and reverence for life, along with knowing the puzzle pieces do fit together rather than are random parts of nothing as some people seem to think in today’s society. As a day is running its course I will end this discourse and again plead that we each search our own souls and keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird