Life is in telling our grandchildren the stories

Bird Droppings September 14, 2017
Life is in telling our grandchildren the stories

 

“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

 

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

 

 

I am where I need to be

Bird Droppings September 7, 2017
I am where I need to be

“A society in which vocation and job are separated for most people gradually creates an economy that is often devoid of spirit, one that frequently fills our pocketbooks at the cost of emptying our souls.” Dr. Sam Keenre

Many the day and time I have said I am where I need to be at this moment retired looking for part time work or as I taught special education in a high school in Georgia. My entire life has been getting to this point and to this degree of understanding of my life experiences. I was addressing prior experiences with several teachers earlier in the week and how we unconsciously expect kids to have the same experiences coming into a class as we do or I should say many teachers see students that way. It sort of hit me hard one semester when I was co-teaching in a class with a former special education teacher who mentioned being of the old school in terms of his style of teaching and is looking at things somewhat different. I was watching kids who have never read a book other than in school try and get involved in a discussion on physics. I got a bit carried away the other day on some topic and was amazed at how all the kids not only were listening but asking questions. We take far too much for granted in our interactions. Maybe today’s youth know more about electronics and computers but when discussing philosophy or theology most haven’t a clue. Most kids have never taken a moment to ponder outside of school.
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” George Bernard Shaw

I taught so many years ago and loved teaching but economic reasons took me into my second love graphic arts. I was paid considerable more to design flyers and transparencies and doing dark room work than teaching would ever have hoped to pay. I often wondered in those twenty three years away from teaching which I do believe is my purpose in life why I was not back where I wanted to be.
“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.” Viktor Frankl

“Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude” Alfred North Whitehead

Often I recall how it took a multitude of events to bring me to my senses and to get me back on track. Each one could have been enough but in a series I was often under pressure just to make it through the day. It was through the course of my daily journaling that I found my way indirectly back to education.
“All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.” James Thurber

My first day back officially in a school building was destined to be more than a normal day as a bit later into the morning September 11, 2001 our school went into lock down. Muslim friends of my sons were picked up by their parents and the grimness of events that transpired eventually sunk in. I actually could not remember the day I started other than it was a Tuesday a week or so after Labor Day. Now nearly twelve years later I am sitting in the school after a long meeting with a parent about a child. I am no longer confused as I sit and write searching for answers. My searches now go deeper and longer trying to unravel this purpose and rationale for why we are here and why we do what we do.
“To have passion, to have a dream, to have a purpose in life; and there are three components to that purpose, one is to find out who you really are, the second is to serve other human beings, because we are here to do that and the third is to express your unique talents and when you are expressing your unique talents you lose track of time.” Deepak Chopra

Truly I have lost track of time as each moment seems to flow into the next and each day into the weeks and months. I enjoy what I do and find solace in the sanctuary of my room at school and in the students I work with.
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Thoughts are things! And powerful things at that, when mixed with definiteness of purpose, and burning desire, can be translated into riches.” Napoleon Hill

“To actually feel like you’ve done something good with your life and you’re useful to others is what I was always wanting, and was always looking for.” Angelina Jolie

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” Helen Keller
I recall some of my first readings on Carl Jung and synchronicity and how this seemed to be an evident power in my life each step leading to the next. I remember the day a consultant told me to close my business and find another line of work and then proceeded to suggest a book for me to read. A new age book James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy. One day by chance I was hit in the head at a bookstore with a book as it fell off the shelf and by chance it was Redfield’ s book. As I look back in my life to each event leaving my home state of Pennsylvania to come to Georgia and each piece of my life’s puzzle I now know there was more than random chance events. I know there was purpose guiding direction in what I learned and what I understood. I often wonder if my parents drew out a diagram of where they wanted me to be as an adult back when I was a tiny baby and then set about sending me on my way. In 1954 a family counselor wrote a poem and put it out to friends. Soon that poem took on a life of its own and millions were scattered around the globe. In 1972 or so the author saw a copy on a refrigerator of a friend and went about copywriting the poem.
“Perhaps you’ve never heard of Dorothy Law Nolte, but you’ve likely seen her most famous, in fact, her only famous work. It might even be hanging on your fridge as it has for decades in millions of family kitchens around the world. Titled “Children Learn What They Live,” the poem begins: If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.” May 6, 2005, Bettijane Levine, Times Staff Writer
So I have gone through the day and am occasionally felt a bit behind with various meetings and such that have slowed me down. The music in my classroom is always playing softly and relaxing and I look forward to another day.
“All programming for prosperity should be built on spiritual foundations. The first step is to enter the spiritual dimension, the alpha level, and determine what your purpose in life is. Find out what you are here for, what you are supposed to do with your life.” Jose Silva

In my studies of Native American philosophies this idea of inner search is the basis for many of the journeys and sources of self-understanding. Perhaps some of my own moments sitting in my quiet place at home sheltered by pecan trees and pines listening to crickets and tree frogs have helped ease me along. I wonder each day as I rise and greet the morning. Reading the news today it seems we are in for a difficult few weeks in politics and as I have for so long now closed each day 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

Understanding that all is connected and intertwined

Bird Droppings September 2, 2017
Understanding that all is connected and intertwined

As I thought about the Sydney J. Harris passage below and walked out to my car I thought of my quiet spot where I meditate and something hit me. I generally sit facing east towards the rising sun, daily the gossamer threads of life interconnected with everything. Spiders busy the night before spin threads of silk across the terrain. They are always iridescent and softly moving with the wind. Occasionally one thread would disconnect and float effortlessly upwards sparkling and dancing as it goes ever so slow into the clouds. Each twig, each plant and leave seemed to be connected. Each rock and branch a tiny thread weaving through the entire visage before me.
Most people would read this and scoff yet in the early morning as the sun rises and begins to move across the skies spiders have been at work all night moving between plants and rocks trees and leaves leaving threads of silk. If you were standing in the midst of them they would be invisible yet with the sun behind sparkling in the light a beautiful scene. As I sat pondering as to an old man sitting looking towards the east in the early morning many years ago and coming in to tell his grandchildren as I started the passage. On the back of my t-shirt it reads all things are connected and rightly so by a thin gossamer strand of silk.

 

“Our task is to make our children into disciples of the good life, by our own actions toward them and toward other people. This is the only effective discipline in the      long run. But it is more arduous, and takes longer, than simply “laying down the law.” Before a child (or a nation) can accept the law, it has to learn why the law has been created for its own welfare.” Sydney J. Harris

 

Thinking back a few months I was faced with dealing with how to accomplish all that needed to be finished by the coming Friday. Several IEP’s and redeterminations need finalizing and or projects I was working on and I had several students who have continually found their way into trouble that needed to be dealt with. Often in special education we use the term manifestation, is their behavior it a manifestation of their disability or are they choosing to do whatever it is they are doing that got them in trouble.

 

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle

 

“Self-command is the main discipline.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

It has been forty years since I spent six months involved in counseling on a psychiatric unit in a state mental facility. There was never a question about why something happened being that they were considered combative psychotic adolescents which was the term used to describe the unit. When someone got upset it was solitary confinement and rather large doses of drugs and a few strait jackets were employed. Little was occurring to change the behavior and or rationalize those behaviors and or find why that behavior even occurred simply deal with the moment.

 

“Anybody who gets away with something will come back to get away with a little bit more.” Harold Schoenberg

 

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” John Trapp

 

Often as I find a quote the person behind those words has more to offer as if the situation with Schoenberg who is a scholar of music. He is also a very prolific writer about great musicians and their music. John Trapp was a bible scholar with several biblical commentaries to his credit both men were writers who themselves were very self-disciplined.

 

“THE STUDY OF WORDS is useless unless it leads to the study of the ideas that the words stand for. When I am concerned about the proper use of words it is not     because of snobbism or superiority, but because their improper use leads to poor      ways of thinking. Take the word ‘discipline’ that we hear so much about nowadays         in connection with the rearing of children. If know something about word derivations, you know that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same Latin root discipulus, which means ‘to learn, to follow.’” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly speaking

 

Sitting here looking up references and quotes related to discipline and ending up with the example, to learn and to follow this is semantics as we go. In order to operate a public school we have to have standards to operate by so we have rules. Looking at this from a behaviorist standpoint it is easy to say ABC, Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. First you have an antecedent that stimulus is what causes the behavior. Then you have the behavior which is the event or action that we see, feel or hear about. Finally we have consequence which can be what we do in response or what the students or person issuing the behavior receives for eliciting that behavior.

 

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

 

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” George W. Crane

 

“To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

 

It is always about what we do. Over the past few days I have emailed and met with several teachers and friends and been discussing perception. That is how we see events and happenings. One of the categories in writing a behavioral plan for a student is planned ignoring that is often simply tuning out a behavior. Often with no stimulus to keep it going a behavior will disappear. So often it is getting attention that is the desired consequence.

 

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

 

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of    behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” B. F. Skinner

 

These lines from a football hall of fame quarterback and the father of behaviorism are intriguing as these two men from distinctly different arenas yet have come to very similar conclusions in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It has to make a difference to the person for them to change. Skinner sees we can manipulate the subject matters we as we can offer alternative consequences to hopefully change the behaviors to ones we can accept. A Sydney J. Harris line caught my attention this morning as I started on discipline as I prepare for several IEP’s later this week some related to behavior.

 

“…by our own actions toward them and toward other people.” Sydney J. Harris

 

So often it is not the consequences that deter or change a behavior but our actions towards the person and those around them. It is the example we set and not what we say that matters. Please today as we venture out 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

Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

 

Bird Droppings August 23, 2017

Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

 

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

 

In all of my years of searching, pondering and wandering about it seems the pathway always continues ahead of me. Many times I am stepping from one stone to another to get across the stream placing one foot ahead of the next trying to stay out of the water. I think I have always tried to leave that life as I wander a little better than when I got there. It does not always work out but I do believe I try. When I am walking down the hall ways at school I always trying to smile, joke with students, get others smiling and joking, and enjoying that precise moment of life. We equate time in seconds and that is only the blink of an eye and so easy to miss.

 “None of us is promised tomorrow. Today in all its beauty and sadness and complexity,  is all we have. This light we see may be the last such day we have on this earth. There is  no certainty, beyond the fact that one day we will have no tomorrow, and that it is not         ours to know when that day will be.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

Just before school was out last year I had to report an incident that was told to me by a student. It is difficult to when told in confidence yet the situation was severe enough to warrant reporting. In my same conversation with this student I was asked if my children ever got in trouble and I said no although tongue in cheek. The student responded, “They have never run away or sneaked out or …..” and again I said no. Immediately I asked instinctively if both parents lived at home. The response was hesitant but came, “no I live with my mom”, “but I don’t misbehave for my dad” and so forth. It comes to be the incident was not a onetime deal it is a regular occurrence and as I talk with parents and students I find my life is not “NORMAL”. It seems normal is having kids who are in trouble, causing problems yelling at their parents etc. It seems it is parents who are hitting their kids drinking with and such that is what society seems to deem as normal. Philosopher Michael Foucault would use the idea of looking at abnormal first to determine normal.

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light       by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life,   nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

I woke up from a vivid dream while I was getting my hair cut and I never fall asleep while getting my hair cut. Just as the hair was being brushed away from my neck and I looked up at a clock on the wall it was 2:30 and I had to get going. But as I am thinking back to my dream, my dreams are generally simple ones with complexities woven in and throughout. As I thought back nearly twelve years to my starting back to graduate school. In preparing for my final presentation in my master’s program, my advisor was continually using the word “weave”. Our project was about weaving all the pieces together. I actually at one point of my thinking was going to produce two covers and weave them together in a symbolic gesture indicative of my professors thought. Life is a weaving in reality as I look at each aspect intertwined with the next. It could be that child growing up in the context of arguing and issues at home finds that is normal and yet asks what it would be like to live in my family where that doesn’t exist. I smile and joke and offer solace for the moment I have with that student not so much as to change the pattern of weaving but to offer stronger thread or a tighter warp to the pattern. I think of my grandkids as they each are traveling in life. How do they see events unfolding and changing around them?

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is         peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for  me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Nearly fourteen years back I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome for the first time and how as a teacher I had eight hours to undo the sixteen hours parents and family have to deal with a child. Mathematically it doesn’t work and logically it doesn’t work and some parents do not want it to work, they have chosen the direction for their children and that is that.  Many times it seems futile as a teacher to even try and make a difference knowing what some children go home to. Jokingly two boys sitting in a physics class said to me they were waiting for antique farm equipment to move so they could do the lab. I was taken back a minute and said what? They looked over at lab counter and six black kids were working on lab. I responded as I do often sarcastically first it bothers me that you both have that kind of attitude but since I know the grades of all six and yours using that as an excuse only proves how ignorant you really are. Neither responded and they know where I stand on the subject.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

 

 “The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.”          Thomas Carlyle

Just before school let my last Friday at the high school, a particular student asked me about absolute truths. I responded and had a response from a dear friend and so forth a dialogue and the context was a positive one as we shared ideas and thoughts. Again just a few days before that I reported an incident that had happened to a student and was told that it was ok, it was discussed. Sadly that child went home thinking this is how life really is. It simply is ok. Normal parents and kids do yell at each other and hit each other and throw things at each other, it is ok.

“We dribble away our life, little by little, in small packages — we don’t throw it away   all at once.” Robert A. Cook

 “Life is a succession of lessons enforced by immediate reward, or, oftener, by      immediate chastisement.” Ernest Dimnet

B.F. Skinner the man behind the concept of behavior modification once said he could change anything and anyone through behavior modification. Who knows maybe he is right, maybe if we continue picking away and smiling and joking and living life as un-normal as it may be to some others will catch on. Who knows maybe just maybe when tomorrow comes that child who was asking about have my children ever run away will be asking how much they study each night instead or what books they have read or what college are they going to.

“Every morning I wake up saying, I’m still alive; a miracle. And so I keep on pushing.”    Jacques Cousteau

I have a friend at school a breast cancer survivor who said something very similar to me. For her “each day is a blessing to make the most of”. How profound and almost understated is amazingly her students love her. She honestly cares about them and they know it. A simple bit of attitude goes very far when wielded in honesty and good faith.

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

Many years ago I raised buffalo and as I would walk out each morning into the dark I would hear an occasionally snort and blow of air from our bull as he checked the cows and calves walking about in the morning haze. I knew life then and even today as I walk out and greet the morning though different sounds living in a subdivision but still I can hear if I listen hard that faint echo of a buffalo snorting in the fog as it drifts in. Life is what we choose to make it and how we weave or how we step into the day it is our choice. In teaching I emphasize setting the example and I have had hanging on my one of the walls in my room at school a poster from my hippie days 1971 or so. Of course it is a black light poster. The posters title is “Children learn, what they Live” and it goes on from there. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and set the example in your own life for others to see and follow 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

Why do we wish, wonder and wait?

Bird Droppings August 13, 2017

Why do we wish, wonder and wait?

 

“Calamity is the perfect glass wherein we truly see and know ourselves.” William Davenant

 

It has been nearly eleven years since we moved last and found ourselves in this house.  I wasn’t sure from where to start several ideas have been running through my thinking the past few hours. I wanted to steer away from the current news cycle of hatred. It has been almost eleven years since I read and heard the news on Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin’s death. As I do my best pondering when alone I went outside thinking and wondering about the shortness of life. I looked about my back yard that I know so well in the dark spending more time here in the early hours than during day light it seems at times even taking pictures by flash of night blooming flowers and tree frogs. We do become attached to routines, people and things. I will miss this year being with new teachers and co-teaching with several great friends. It has taken a few days to adjust granted I actually do like being retired. As I think back I did enjoy co-teaching with some teachers. Funny thing was I fought the idea of co-teaching for several years and in my first ten years of special education never co-taught a class.

 

On another topic grandbabies, my wife and I have been discussing ideas of rearranging and decorating our official grandbaby’s cave (room). Our sons all are in moved out and or in careers and both our mothers are still with us so it is interesting to be thinking of going to Toys R Us again and colors to paint our new project. I have never planned an endeavor previously in detail and actually thought out why and how but in this additional grandbaby event a big change for us we find new sustenance. I know as the days and hours get closer my sons will all join in and we will make new accommodations for our grand babies. My wife and I will sort through the preponderance of materials we have collected over the years, memories from raising three sons. I am a pack rat no doubt about it, but I am sure among the boxes there will be items that we might can use. Many times it is hard looking back at those pieces of our lives together good, bad, calamity, tragedy; up lifting experiences somehow it seems there has always been a light.

 

Nearly fifteen years ago I recall my first email of the day was from a dear friend, Dr. James Sutton who wrote a beautiful forward for my first book to be of Bird Droppings, A teacher’s journey if and when I finish it. I was opening emails not too long ago and another note from Dr. Sutton.

 

“It’s great to be affirmed. A chuckle: I mentioned in a training session one time that we need to always be aware that the boy in our class who can’t keep his hands to himself may well hold a scalpel someday and save our life. One lady in the audience gasped: ‘Oh my God! I just pictured Johnny with a KNIFE!’” Dr. James Sutton

 

In a Saturday BD a few weeks back I was talking about being reaffirmed as a teacher from a previous students comment. But for Today I go back to words from two songs that have been running through my head for some time now. Both are older songs but to me significant. Country Stars Big and Rich claim to fame is the song; Save a horse ride a Cowboy, not one of my favorites though it helped promote them to national fame. It is another song on that same album which to me is a far more powerful message entitled, Holy water. I heard this song a nearly ten years ago and was impressed with the harmonies and words. But as songs go I heard them wrong as we so often do.

 

Holy Water

By Big and Rich

Somewhere there’s a stolen halo
I use to watch her wear it well
Everything would shine wherever she would go
But looking at her now you’d never tell

Someone ran away with her innocence
A memory she can’t get out of her head
I can only imagine what she’s feeling
When she’s praying
Kneeling at the edge of her bed

And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me like holy water
Holy water

She wants someone to call her angel
Someone to put the light back in her eyes
She’s looking through the faces
The unfamiliar places
She needs someone to hear her when she cries

And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me like holy water
Holy water

She just needs a little help
To wash away the pain she’s felt
She wants to feel the healing hands
Of someone who understands

And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me
And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me like holy water
Holy water

 

The first time I heard this song tears welled up I was listening to the words of holy water as if the woman in the song was being washed or cleansed by holy water. I used the words in class many months ago. I took the CD in to sort of a listen and translate for students and asked what is this song about and one of my red necked skate boarders piped up and set me straight.   “Mr. Bird she wants to be held like holy water – special sacred.” The old saying could not be truer, from the mouths of babes. How many of us want to be held at some point in our lives like Holy Water. I thought back to a quote from Parker Palmer from I used a few days ago.

 

“Sacred means, quite simply, worthy of respect.” Parker Palmer

 

Years back for lunch my oldest son and I were eating at a barbeque place and on the TV a Martina McBride music video was showing entitled, God’s Will. It hit me again this time I was in tears and a powerful image as I thought back to what took me into teaching of exceptional children so many years ago. I thought back to my little brother John.

 

God’s Will

By Martina McBride

 

I met God’s Will on a Halloween night
He was dressed as a bag of leaves
It hid the braces on his legs at first

His smile was as bright as the August sun
When he looked at me
As he struggled down the driveway, it almost
Made me hurt

Will don’t walk too good
Will don’t talk too good
He won’t do the things that the other kids do,
In our neighborhood

[Chorus:]
I’ve been searchin’, wonderin’, thinkin’
Lost and lookin’ all my life
I’ve been wounded, jaded, loved and hated
I’ve wrestled wrong and right
He was a boy without a father
And his mother’s miracle
I’ve been readin’, writin’, prayin’, fightin’
I guess I would be still
Yeah, that was until
I knew God’s Will

Will’s mom had to work two jobs
We’d watch him when she had to work late
And we’d all laugh like I hadn’t laughed
Since I don’t know when

Hey Jude was his favorite song
At dinner he’d ask to pray
And then he’d pray for everybody in the world but him

[Chorus]

Before they moved to California
His mother said, they didn’t think he’d live
And she said each day that I have him, well it’s just
another gift
And I never got to tell her, that the boy
Showed me the truth
In crayon red, on notebook paper, he’d written
Me and God love you

I’ve been searchin’, prayin’, wounded, jaded
I guess I would be still
Yeah that was until…
I met God’s Will on a Halloween night
He was dressed as a bag of leaves

 

My son asked, “Dad are you crying again” as I watched a powerful music video and song for some of us who are where we are to be. Over forty five years ago my brother John was born. My mother was in labor nearly two days and John was born with cerebral palsy, severe brain damage. When he was two while in Florida he contracted encephalitis and suffered more brain injury. John lived till a few years ago with his family sharing in all gatherings all the time he never spoke a word. He was never toilet trained yet he left his mark on each of our lives. So much of the past two days got me thinking back in time.

 

The impact my brother John had spanned several states as his influence spread. In 1971 or so the city of Macon was segregated in its education of exceptional children till John came along. Many the teachers of exceptional children who after babysitting or being around John chose this field to teach in this field and in other areas of education including myself, two sisters, my oldest son and several nieces and nephews. My own family ended in Georgia because of John. He is buried on a hill out by my brother’s home in Walton County and not a day goes by that I do not look back and wonder what if he had not happened to our family.

 

My mother has answered in a series of poems and thoughts she has put together over the years. Each of my brothers and sisters has responded in their own fashion and me I respond in Bird Droppings. Sitting here thinking of the passing of a good soul in Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and my brother John and thinking of  these two songs maybe we can begin to set aside differences and challenges and calamities and start seeking out each other. Peace my dear friends and thank you all for the support and emails over the years please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

A spiritual side to teaching

Bird Droppings August 11, 2017
A spiritual side to teaching

 

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it’s never living apart from one’s self. Not about absence of other people – it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” Parker Palmer

 

Dr. Parker Palmer is an innovator, speaker, retreat leader, author, and traveling teacher. He is a senior associate of the American Association for Higher Education and senior advisor to the Fetzer Institute. Parker Palmer received his Ph.D. from the University of California. I was first introduced to his writing in 2001 by a friend who happened to be my principal at the time. He recommended his book, The courage to Teach, to me and I have given away several copies now over the years.

 

“Teachers choose their vocation for reasons of the heart, because they care deeply about their students and their subject. But the demands of teaching cause too many educators to lose heart. Is it possible to take heart in teaching once more so that we can continue to do what teachers always do – give heart to our students.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

 

I have been back in teaching sixteen years and have watched teachers burn out and simply fizzle out. There is a slight bit of difference between burn and fizzle. Someone who burns out is putting their all into what they do, and someone who fizzles out is taking up space and probably should not have been there to begin with. I have watched creative teachers starting out like gang busters succumb to teaching blues and boredom. They come in full of zeal and within a semester are borrowing premade transparencies from their next door neighbor because they do not have the time anymore to create new ones.

 

“Bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching – and in the process, from their students. Good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life.” Parker Palmer

 

I have for many years considered teaching an art form. I do think it is a place where a person’s soul is bared for better or worse as you teach whatever subject you happened to be teaching. If you truly want to connect with your students, you open your heart as palmer indicates, and this is difficult for many to do. I honestly think it takes a special person to be a good and effective teacher. Parker Palmer in his writing discusses how teaching is a community effort. My thoughts reflect back to John Dewey and his revelations of education as a social event and more critically a necessity.

 

“As I make the case that good teaching is always and essentially communal, I am not abandoning my claim that teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Community, or connectedness, is the principle behind good teaching, but different teachers with different gifts create community in surprisingly diverse ways, using widely divergent methods.” Parker Palmer
In my journeys in life and I use a word whose connotation is plural as I am discussing my journeys since I have been in several directions prior to where I am now. I have found that it is in happiness and solace we find peace with ourselves. The quote I started with today reflects on solitude that for me is a few moments each day in a spot I have selected away from the house with a view across a large pasture. I can sit and reflect on my day or my day ahead and I ponder sitting listening to the sounds about me. I claim this spot as sacred, and some will scuff how you can say that, it does not have a church or any religious affiliation. I titled my writing today as a spiritual side to teaching and these two words for me intertwine as I look at them and ponder further.

 

“Sacred means, quite simply, worthy of respect.” Parker Palmer

 

In the several years that I have come back to teaching it has been about respect and trust. I have gone about this through building relationships with students. In my  opinion, that is one of the most critical aspects of the teaching process. It is not simply a curriculum and a book or several books, and it is relationships. I see what I do each day as a spiritual endeavor bringing new ideas to students who may not have had the chance previously to understand or even experience in any way this knowledge. It was nearly thirteen years since I wrote a trust scale for human development course I was taking. It follows along a similar concept that I had read about in Dr. James Fowler’s book, The Development of Faith. We start out as totally trusting and soon learn not to trust and eventually return to total trust. It takes good and great teachers to help along the way. Thinking about a new week ahead, and few days left in this week the positive and negative that will come my way. I tend to choose to embrace the positive and not spend as much time considering the negative. I do hope each of you can take a moment to reflect and to please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and 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

Now my past studies are making sense

Bird Droppings August 10, 2017

Now my past studies are making sense

 

My head feels like a sponge. We have hot weather the cool and high humidity then torrential rain and my head always feels it. Perhaps why I was sitting thinking back to a teacher work day, we as teachers in Walton County were not paid as it was one of our furlough days imposed by our governor. It had been a day to finalize grades for mid-semester and for training.  I did not sit idle but used time to work on research and papers for my graduate school studies. I am sitting here this morning trying to sort through piles of what needs to go first. Print articles to read, apply for part time work, think about dissertation, write and read of course. After teaching many years of high school and college and now back in graduate school I am trying to juggle due dates and names and folders. Maybe that is why my head hurts this morning. In less than a three months I will be sixty eight and that thought has passed through my pondering lately more than once and who knows maybe my brain is getting old and tired.

 

“The more sand that has escaped the hourglass of life, the clearer we should see through it.” Jean Paul Sartre

 

As I was looking for thoughts and ideas to start I actually was going a different direction when by accident or should I say coincidence found this quote? As we get older we have experienced more and if we have learned from our experiences the hour glass does clear. However if those grains have been abrasive and scoured the glass as they went through the glass will be scratched and foggy. It is life’s lessons that determine through previous experiences how we have responded and or would respond.

 

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing it’s not the fish they are after.” W. Whitman

 

I am not a big fan of fishing as a sport and often draw strange looks when my students hear me say I do not fish. I enjoy the solitude and quiet but not the sitting and waiting. Although once or twice I do have fish stories I could pull out both by chance with my cousin from Florida. One took place in Wisconsin when my father took my cousin and me fishing for Muskie and one in Florida with my family when we came upon a group of mating sharks. But they are food for thought another time and writing.

 

“No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings” W. Blake

 

“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” Albert Einstein

 

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake” Henry David Thoreau

 

Choosing to look, to see, to listen and to hear these are all choices we make as we go through life. It is far easier to take ideas and thoughts from others to be subjugated by others. It is so much easier to be what another wants us to be. It is only in hearing and seeing for ourselves we can as Thoreau says wake up to the dawn. We must be awake. As I was reading last night this thought came up and it intrigued me since I started in about using your own eyes and ears.

 

“An anthropologist asked a Hopi Indian why so many of his native songs seemed to be about the subject of rain… he replied: ‘because rain is scarce in our land… is that the    reason so many of your songs are about love?’” from a Hopi elder

 

As I thought is that the problem in our society so easily recognized by a Hopi Indian in New Mexico who had never really been to a big city or “civilized” area of the United States, could it be a lack of love? In many of my readings for graduate school we are looking at whose eyes and whose voice perceives what is occurring in life. So much of history has been interpreted by a limited number of people and in a very select and often biased view. So often it is only the winner’s view of the world we see from history.

 

“Mankind often stumbles upon the truth….but usually picks itself up & goes   along.”  Winston Churchill

 

We so often know the answer and choose not to listen or simply disregard due to politics or popular opinion or majority rules sort of thing. Much of history has been written this way. Many indigenous peoples have been eradicated and literally been the bad guys in history. Their land was taken away and we make them the bad guys. Listening to politicians and power brokers today this is still evident. Calling such endeavors such as bilingual education not in a nice way and or even one of my favorites “voting ghetto” this adds to a couple of the most ignorant statements of recent political gibberish.

 

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”  Albert Einstein

 

The more I read of his ideas and philosophy the more I like his thoughts. I think it is funny how what we remember him for is more military oriented work on the atomic bomb than his philosophy of life which was pacifistic and antiwar. He loathed the fact that he was instrumental in developing weapons of mass destruction and even at one point said he would give up all if he could take that back. So where am I going today perhaps the following thought will offer some aid.

 

“Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more   than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favor of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes men to seek a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position… It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so             aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education… The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at passive awareness of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that our affords are to create.” Bertrand Russell

 

The sad thing is so often we fall victim to 19th century thought and this while applying to education is very much prevalent through all ideas among the “normal” folks.

 

“Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening…The average American should be content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role.”  William Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889

 

It is so sad to think that we actually allowed this type of mentality to lead our nation at one time. There are many times I wonder if anything has changed as you read headlines and newspaper clippings. We do not want to over educate children they might think for themselves then what do we do. The paradox is that in schools the kids who are allowed to think for themselves excel and often are the pride of the schools. Yet all through their education an effort has been made to suppress them. We cannot seem to understand that the ten year trend of standardized testing has done nothing to improve teacher quality and or student’s abilities other than to take tests. I saw this quote from the late John Holt yesterday in passing on another person’s Facebook page and it made me think.

 

“The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any school of education I ever heard of, can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

 

Holt and I disagree on many points I am sure as he was one of the first major advocates for home schooling however it was not based on religion but on learning. I agree with him that traditional schooling is ineffective. I try and function within and try to provide a slight as much as I can alternative to traditional teaching. I have been a fan of John Dewey and experienced based learning for some time and schools using his philosophy in many ways are not schools but learning environments. I watch current “reformers” trying to even more cubby hole and categorize and traumatize teaching and in theory learning. I am sorry teaching to a test is not anything but rote memory practice. A concerted effort is being made by corporate America to strip away individuality, soul from our youth and make a profit at it.

 

I have used this example before but since it is a good one I will again. My son in eighth grade was told his methodology in a math problem was wrong and he had to do it right, the teachers way. Later in high school during his second semester of calculus he found his methodology was absolutely right and more so interesting what was wrong in eighth grade is so correct in twelfth grade and again in four calculus courses at Georgia Tech. His math teacher in eighth grade did not have an understanding of calculus and therefore could not respond other than to say he was wrong. Sometimes we force children to our terms and we are the ones who are wrong. We need to listen to the children learn from them and before I go too far a last quote to end this Monday morning meanderings. This is from ancient Israel.

 

“A child’s wisdom is also wisdom” Jewish Proverb

 

Well I got a bit carried away but several ideas to mull over ponder and reflect on so be safe this glorious week ahead with projected rain and all, and 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