Bird Droppings December 15, 2011
Looking for the simplicity
My reading and writing has taken a beating with the getting ready for the end of the semester and four day jaunt to a wedding in South Carolina and babysitting my granddaughter (actually a lot of fun). Of course nothing would have stopped me from spending time with the grandbaby. But I am looking forward to my son and his new wife visiting for the holidays and of course my youngest son, his wife and granddaughter coming home as well. I also look forward to having nearly three weeks of catch up. I have much gardening to do and a lot of research and reading and writing. It is always that I find solace in my Indian readings and in their understanding of life and reality. Perhaps it is my great grandmother’s influence that draws me to this and various other bits and pieces of my life’s journey along the way. The air was not as cold as I walked out into the early morning hours a few minutes ago silent as it still is a bit cold for tree frogs and crickets although before settling in for the night they were chirping yesterday evening.
“For the Lakota there was no wilderness, because nature was not dangerous but hospitable, not forbidding but friendly, Lakota philosophy was healthy – free from fear and dogmatism. And here I find the great distinction between the faith of the Indian and the white man. Indian faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings; the other sought the dominance of surroundings.” Chief Luther Standing Bear
After a week of testing for End of Course tests here in high school, teachers are on pins and needles and with student’s grades in classes counting on a passing grade on the test tensions run high. Teachers are reviewed based on these batteries of standardized tests. Sadly Georgia may go soon to a standard that twenty five percent of a student’s course grade is the EOCT in those classes with the tests currently at twenty percent which even so in some classes is ridiculous. The subject knowledge of students will be focused on their capability of taking a computerized test not truly on whether they know the material or not. Content not context is the rule of thumb in political arenas. We as a dominant society continually have to prove our worth whether it be it through conquest in olden days or testing as it seems now. A constant struggle to show we are the best.
“There is no ‘happiness index’ for the children in our public schools, and certainly not for children in the inner-city schools where happiness is probably the last thing on the minds of overly burdened state officials.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young teacher
A good friend using a combination of context and content achieved very well with his students on the Biology EOCT. His combination of hands on and relevant experiments in his biology class provide so much more than a cramming for the test that is down in many schools and in so many classes. Several times during the semester he will bring his students by to see various animals as they are studying or grab a beaker of algae water from my turtle tanks. I think as I read the quote from Jonathan Kozol I was thinking of Foxfire and kids wanting to be in classes and teachers that kids want to go see and classes they want to experience. Many the times, I will have kids walk in my room and ask what class do you teach I want this class. Although I am tired right now and my exuberance is exhausted as we wind down these last few hours before the holidays I am still pondering next semester.
As I was getting ready to leave school yesterday a former student stuck his head in the door. “The room has not changed much”, as he peered around checking every nook and cranny and in my room there are many. We held a nice polite conversation catching up for several minutes and I was amazed while still hyper and fidgety he was calm. The inner anxiousness was gone. No one can ever say he is not hyper active but the sadness that permeated his day seems to be at least in a major way lifted. He was smiling from ear to ear and telling about college and a possibility of four A’s and art work he was working on including one of me holding my granddaughter. We walked over to see another teacher friend of his and talked the entire time catching up on five years he had been my student and a year now in college. A simple visit and my day was made. His photo hangs in my room one of him walking across the stage and the other showing his award from the state department of education for his award winning essay last year. I have shared with many his poignant essay of getting ready to go to his brother’s funeral. In showing to hundreds of people many who did not know him always a tear is shed.
As we talked I shared with him a discussion with another visitor just before he arrived. She is heading to Spain and Italy for spring semester to study abroad. Another favorite student although she was never in my class we talked often and we spent ten minutes talking about her upcoming trip. As I talked with her I mentioned seeing “the Pieta”, carved from marble by Michelangelo. In 1964 which was one of the rare visits out of the Vatican for this work of art when it was displayed at the New York’s World Fair. I waited in line nearly an hour to see this magnificent piece of work. As I walked by I explained my feeling to these two students visiting at t=different times yesterday. I felt warmth as if you were waiting for Mary in white marble to breath. I wanted to touch the hand of Christ to see it was soft rather than cold stone. I had never been moved by a piece of art work as much as this had touched me.
Somewhere along the line I have heard art, real art is when you can convey a tiny piece of what you felt and saw as you created the work. Not just show another version but allow an individual to see a portion of what the artist saw as the stone was chiseled away. It is said Michelangelo could see his work in the stone. The quarrymen would call for him as a particular piece of rock was unearthed and quarried. Some he rejected but when he chose a piece of marble the creation was not to make a something for others but to reveal what was in the marble. I thought back to my friend and his essay and how he conveyed a tiny portion of what he felt to everyone who read that story. Perhaps the reason he seems happier is that he has allowed us after so many years to understand a small bit of who he is and why. My morning is closing about me and there are many things to do to get ready for my grand baby’s arrival so please this holiday season keep all in harm’s way on you mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.