My pedagogy is evolving as I learn, see and listen more

Bird Droppings April 25, 2018
My pedagogy is evolving as I learn, see and listen more

 

“We would do away with examinations. They measure the inconsequential type of learning. We would do away with grades and credits for the same reason. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks the end or a conclusion of something, and the learner is only interested in continuing the process of learning.” Carl Rogers

 

Sitting at home reading several essays by Carl Rogers made for an interesting start to my morning just prior to a driving to doctor this morning. In our world of No child Left Behind and for me teaching Special Education I see the ones that tend to get left behind. As I read this thought from Rodgers I enjoyed the thought of no tests and no grades. Over the years in one graduate class after another the idea of a portfolio following the student through their school career has always intrigued me and in my own room I have done such while in a resource setting. As I thought this morning would not some sort of portfolio or culminating, or I should say ongoing project indicate mastery or development of learning better than a multiple choice test done with a number two pencil on a scantron answer sheet. Of course in chemistry we might have a few explosions if learners were not listening along the way. In my understanding of the Dewey based Foxfire program what is now Core Practice eight developed into the Foxfire magazine for Elliot Wiggington’s students at Rabun Nantahochee School in 1966. I find it fascinating how often great teachers follow parallel routes albeit different wording and yet seem to find the same ideas. Going back to John Dewey and his premise that experience is the best teacher.

 

“The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.” Foxfire Core Practice eight

 

“Learning doesn’t stop at 3:15. You can help the teacher do a better job by encouraging your child to show you something he’s working on at school, suggests Ron Martucci, who teaches fourth grade in Pelham, New York. It doesn’t have to be a big deal: ‘Ask him to demonstrate how he does long division or to read his book report out loud,’ says Martucci. ‘Every time your child gets a chance to show off what he knows, it builds confidence.’” Good Housekeeping, Hearst Publications

 

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

 

Pulling together my first thoughts this morning as I unravel the essential Bird Pedagogy, previous or past experiences of the learners is a key starting point as I discussed yesterday to a degree. Building on that as the learner progresses trying to find ways that truly show how the learner is developing rather than static limited tests and grades. I like the idea of Rogers about how grades and tests are end points and should be simply points along the line rephrasing a bit as I go. Education is more of a continuum than a finished product. It is sad that so many want to have education be a period at some point. Even as I accumulate degrees I find I am learning constantly not focusing on that end point but where do I go from there.

 

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” John Dewey

 

I am sitting in my writing nook at home this morning a quiet day and one of excitement as I think ahead of driving back up to a to visit with Foxfire. I started thinking about what I was going to write today as a continuation of my effort yesterday. My thoughts took me back to a question on my Doctorate Comprehensive exams offered to me by one of my professors and then how I responded. Out of John Dewey came two streams of thought although intertwined, that of experiential constructivist thinking and or art and aesthetic based learning. I answered or should say started to answer yesterday using Aldus Huxley who had published a book in 1932, Content and Pretexts.

 

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

 

As I read this simple line by Huxley I could not help but go back to my readings on John Dewey and his direct influence on educators and education past, present and future. Dewey saw education as the basis for society.

 

“I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race. This process begins unconsciously almost at birth and is continuing shaping the individuals powers saturating his consciousness forming his habits training his ideas, and arousing his feelings and emotions.” John Dewey Pedagogic Creed

 

In my classroom I try and tie to contextual aspects of where we are in the content oriented material that students are being taught. An example would be the word taxonomy that came up a last semester in our biology class. Most students had no clue what this word meant and by some prompting we made a comparison of sheep and goats, one of the student’s families raises goats and we learned about taxonomy. We could show differences and similarities which is how we classify living organisms, or do taxonomy in terms of biology. One of my favorite examples of context and content is going back many years to listening to my father explain tying a square knot you learn best when you actually do it rather than simply hear it explained.
As I explore my own pedagogy I am drawn back to my earliest college and work in psychology. Dr. Abram Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs that I have used over the years many times showing an idea of how people relate and understand in this world of ours. Maslow started with five needs and over the years added some additional clarification.

 

“Maslow’s five needs:
Physiological needs are to do with the maintenance of the human body. If we are unwell, then little else matters until we recover. Safety needs are about putting a roof over our heads and keeping us from harm. If we are rich, strong and powerful, or have good friends, we can make ourselves safe. Belonging needs introduce our tribal nature. If we are helpful and kind to others they will want us as friends. Esteem needs are for a higher position within a group. If people respect us, we have greater power. Self-actualization needs are to ‘become what we are capable of becoming’, which would our greatest achievement. Maslow added over the years three more needs. These are the needs that are most commonly discussed and used. In fact Maslow later added three more needs by splitting two of the above five needs. Between esteem and self-actualization two needs were added. Need to know and understand, which explains the cognitive need of the academic. Also added was the need for aesthetic beauty, which is the emotional need of the artist. Self-actualization was divided into, self-actualization, which is realizing one’s own potential, as above and transcendence, which is helping others to achieve their potential.” Maslow and Lowery, 1998

 

As I move towards a defining point in my essential Bird Pedagogy bits and pieces of Rogers and Dewey along with Foxfire are intertwined with Maslow’s ideas. We need and seek socialization we are a social animal. We seek recognition and want to be secure in our lives. Maslow in adding cognitive which Rogers uses and aesthetic which Rogers alludes to and Dewey as well as Elliot Eisner build on this. Each day as I sit pondering reflecting on what is my pedagogy my ideas seem to flow a little more freely. I do believe pedagogy is an individual entity and has fluidity to it. There is not an end point or limit or rather there should not be since we need to be ongoing learners and thinkers. Perhaps I will as the week progresses resolve my own ideas and be a bit more definitive in what my personal pedagogy truly is but for today please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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

Reading a friend’s book a sixth time

Bird Droppings April 24, 2018

Reading a friend’s book a sixth time

 

I was so tired when I laid down last night after staying awake to watch American Idol, running errands, working around the house, fixing supper and attempting to get into my reading and writing. My youngest son in now a nurse at Athens Regional hospital in Athens, my son’s wife a nursing assistant and in the nursing program at Piedmont College. My niece is a nurse in savannah and my wife is a nurse practitioner. There is a community among nurses.

 

It has been some time since the morning five student nurses at Georgia Southern were killed in a severe car accident on their way to a final clinical. As a graduate student from Georgia Southern it impacted me. One of girls injured in the accident is from our high school.  She has now completed her program and is a nurse. I recall an evening my son called trying to find his wife she was late from work. About four years ago my son fell asleep on his way home from a long day at work and was involved in a serious accident. All of these made for an intense evening and troubled sleep. Past events do impact us and at surprising points pop up again.

 

My oldest and I have been working on some outdoor ponds for a couple years, summer homes for his many turtles and to various water plants. Hopefully if the rain lets up we will  get some serious work done this weekend. Physical labor and getting old seem to not be compatible. Our dog did not wake me up to see the moon due to cloud cover and the whippoorwills were hushed but are nice even though I was so tired. I thought back to a young man who has been in five schools in four years a few years back getting his IEP in order. So as I prepared to finish that IEP I got thinking about Dr. Sutton’s book. I recall usig it in that IEP and sharing with his parents.

 

Dr. James Sutton sent me a copy of one of his books nearly ten years ago, What parents need to know about ODD. Dr. Sutton is one of the leading writers and authorities on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the country. One of these days when, Bird Droppings a teacher journal, comes out the forward is by Dr. James Sutton. I have been reading academic books lately with numerous big words, long words, often times useless in normal setting words like post-structuralism, phenomenology; semiotics and hermeneutics are a few good ones. It seems many academics want to use words and pages to bolster their endeavors and then question why common folk don’t understand.

 

I responded to Dr. Sutton with the following sentence or two in response to his book. My first experience with Dr. James Sutton was going to a conference in 2003 in Macon Ga. and listening to his ideas on working with some of the hardest kids to deal with in education in Emotional Behavior Disorders. His ideas hit the nail on the head and this latest book, What Parents need to Know About ODD, is an easy to read, understand and to use tool for parents and teachers who daily have to deal with the trials and tribulations of kids who are ODD. I recommend this book to my student’s parents and educational associates almost daily. This was not a sales pitch but when combined with another issue our federally mandated NCLB, the law requires teachers to use evidence based practice, EBP when dealing with exceptional children. This becomes a problem in special education because there is not that much to work with and as I thought today a good teacher with a good idea could be hindered by a packaged program that is an EBP and not as effective and there have been many cases where teachers have been criticized for not using a recommended program.

 

Every year we lose good teachers who are hindered by administration and packaged programs of which many were researched by the company publishing the program. I had a situation myself a few years back and was told this program was what I was to teach to a specific group of teenagers and it was research based. I called the publisher to verify what research was done. It was never done with a population anywhere near what it was being recommended for and the one study that was done was with kids ten years younger and 20 IQ points higher but it did work with them.

 

A Harvard study posted June 14, 2006 states “…the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over academic competitiveness.” from the  The New York Times referring to NCLB. Funny how we keep trying to make schools better or I should say politicians keep trying. I often wonder when teachers will be asked.

 

“I will stake my reputation and over thirty years of experience on this: Real change occurs when relationships improve.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

 

I have watched wheels spun, testing kids at the end of semesters and courses and at the end of high school and all because laws say we have too, all established by politicians. Yet all you are truly testing is what someone knows at that moment and not what they learned in any given time frame or how well a teacher taught. My son now a science teacher, graduated as biology major. He could take have taken the end of course biology test without the course in high school and pass it. Does that measure how much he learned or simply what he knows? Sadly teachers and administrators are losing jobs and schools are being threatened by these tests.

 

Recently in a discussion in an online class I raised a question about NCLB and how kids were being left behind and a teacher an advanced degree teacher offered “well some children want to be left behind”

 

“The power paradox is a simple concept. It suggests that the more force we put into controlling an ODD child, the less effective those efforts become. Golf pros will tell you that, when you try to muscle that ball down the fairway, looking for distance alone, there’s no telling where it’s going to go. When you focus on form rather than force, however, the distance takes care of itself. It’s much the same idea in managing an ODD child.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

 

So often when I read Dr. Sutton’s ideas they apply elsewhere in life. The power paradox is in education all the time it is in relationships between people, in government and definitely in the working of a school.

 

Far too often we go for power not form as I recall many years ago the TV show Kung Fu in which David Carridine was a Shaolin priest who had escaped to America for killing someone in self-defense with his martial arts. It was not about power but form the swan or deer almost ballet movements yet lethal as well. It is so easy to get caught up in just words. I read numerous writers words each day in blogs, books and articles and a thought I have been having keeps coming up the reader has to be able to understand the writer for communication to occur.

 

The experiences and perceptions have to be there so what is written is understood?  One excellent writer I read daily uses riddles and word puzzles and play on words and many have not a clue what is being said and or why. That is part of her mystic and then all of a sudden it hits you.

 

“Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centered society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.” Nelson Mandela, speech at the opening of the South African Congress

 

It has been nearly thirty years since South Africa truly became democratic and how long will it be till we here in the United States can say democracy is back and not rule of the dollar and lobbyist. Much of what I have been reading lately addresses the issue of education and how it is that today’s education is to make good consumers. Customer’s, one author calls college students and on many campuses that is the word used by the administration very much a corporate world. Historians have said over and over wars are always fought for money and if we look back at any war in history always money was a key factor. I questioned Viet Nam and Johnson wanted the war effort to continue as industry was getting a shot in the arm and the economy turned around. The power paradox in Iraq and most of the Middle East is a very interesting thought. I wonder have we ever focused on the form, for example the individual in Iraq. Maybe we need to ask for Nelson Mandela’s help in Iraq. 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

Wondering about the song lyrics of an old friend

Bird Droppings April 23, 2018
Wondering about the song lyrics of an old friend

 

I first started listening to Neil Young’s music in 1967 or so possibly even earlier if you count Buffalo Springfield, a short lived band and of course 1968 with Crosby Stills, Nash and Young at Woodstock and Deja vu, their first album which I am sitting here listening too. While I did not make it to Woodstock I can say my old sleeping bag was there, a good friend at the time borrowed it. When I made my way south into the land of The Allman Brothers band, in the fall of 1971, on my way to Florida, the flower petals were still in the streets from Dwayne Allman’s funeral a month past, music and lyrics had become a part of who I was.
I was reading on line last night and I recalled a friend on line lists the songs of Neil Young on her website. I responded to her with a note that I did not think anyone under fifty had ever heard of Neil Young. I should say outside of my house, my kids grew up with Neil Young. Several years ago Neil Young had a medical crisis and a sort of mid-life crisis all about the same time. After finding he had an aneurysm in his brain, he decided that he needed to record immediately. As life goes he was afraid might this might be his last CD. He took it upon himself from being warned he needed surgery and postponing the actual surgery for a week to write and produce an entire CD, Prairie Wind. A few days after leaving the hospital from successful surgery on the brain aneurism, the spot on his leg where the catheter had been inserted broke open and he collapsed outside his hotel, nearly dying from blood loss.
The words to this song caught my attention this morning, a questioning of who and why we are. Several of my friends and I have been discussing free choice, student choice and other great philosophical topics in our blogs and on line discussions which perhaps led me to this today. The title of the song is, When God made me, by Neil Young.

 

“Was he thinkin’ about my country or the color of my skin? Was he thinkin’ ’bout my religion and the way I worshipped him? Did he create just me in his image or every living thing? Was he planning only for believers or for those who just have faith? Did he envision all the wars that were fought in his name? Did he say there was only one way to be close to him? Did he give me the gift of love to say who I could choose? Did he give me the gift of voice so some could silence me? Did he give me the gift of vision not knowing what I might see? Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil young, When God made me, Prairie Wind

 

I walked out into the stillness of the morning earlier today. It has been raining all night so the pollen has been washed away. There was a lone bird I think one that was mixed up on its timing and weather (I wonder does anyone give the daylight savings time to nature). Maybe the bird was still adjusting or maybe migrating in from another time zone, might have been a Yankee bird as a friend would have told me. But here nearby singing all alone deep in the woods is a single bird. I like days a hint of green and the lace work of twigs and opening buds provide a great background for thought, everything smells so good with rain and sounds so new in spring.
Thinking back a year or two to coming back to school after a spring break it always amazed me. More than half the students will have T-shirts from Panama City Florida air brushed with a boyfriend’s name and or girlfriend’s name and various partying information and or connotations maybe parents should not know about, and of course tan. There will be a lot of shell jewelry and then there is the other half still asleep from staying in bed till one or two and having a hard time readjusting to school hours, with their puffy eyes and dozing off during the day. It is so difficult to get started the week or so day after spring. I offered to an administrator why not start back on a Tuesday instead of Monday and we both agreed we could all use that one extra day. On a sour note all this leads into mandatory testing in some systems starting this week.

 

“Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil Young

 

Funny, how a line sticks with you in a song or poem or book. I keep thinking about this line yesterday. Between oil spills, getting tough on North Korea and as always the breaking news today IRS broke down, a leak from a Washington reporter in 2009 all seem insignificant now, over 2346 lie’s since starting presidency, a smiling first lady and controversy over renaming Mar Go Largo the Southern White House. Some want to attack Iran after we try diplomacy again. I wonder if the word compassion ever made it into Washington.

 

I was walking through a Wal-Mart a few days back, sort of the entire world at a glance; everyone ends up in Wal-Mart. One of my former students came in he was all excited he had just gotten a job there. But as I walked through the Wal-Mart an employee near the pharmacy was explaining the new Medicare drug plan to an elderly person. They actually had a booth set up with a fulltime staff person. They are to be helping elderly folks and they need to have people telling them what is going on since most people including myself haven’t a clue. Ironic and they wonder why so many people haven’t joined up yet the line is too long at the explanation booth.
Compassion is such a simple word. It has been several years since I did work with indigents finding housing and food for families. I recall several bits of wisdom coming from Washington, for example cutting off welfare if a person was not looking for a job. A favorite is if you fail a drug test no more welfare. If you are homeless by choice you are off of welfare, that one sort of floored me. It had to do with issues of not paying taxes by one person somewhere in Texas who found he could save money being homeless. Another was if income was too high cut out Medicaid.
Cutting health care was always one that intrigued me. I worked with a fellow who had worked all his life till a massive heart attack disabled him and he was limited to drawing disability. His wife due to illnesses all of her life had never worked enough combined quarters to draw anything more than a minimum disability check. I find it so interesting that anyone can even consider we do not need health care reform. Unfortunately between them their medical bills exceeded their monthly government disability checks and because their income exceeded federal standards they did not get Medicaid. In a compromise they took turns each month on which medicines to not get. They were getting help from one agency but doctors had to fill in paper work literally volumes each month for them to receive free medicines. Sadly eventually the doctor’s office stopped filling in the paperwork for them. Compassion is such a powerful word.

What of a disabled man I worked with for several years who lived on about 350.00 per week. He is a severe diabetic and has numerous other health and psychological related issues and virtually spends a week in the hospital a month. However his monthly disability income keeps him from Medicaid and so he moves periodically to avoid harassment and bill collectors from hospitals. Having a quality of life is that compassion? Are we helping our fellow man? As I watch what we do worldwide as a nation I seriously wonder sometimes. 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

Going to school again for the first time

Bird Droppings April 20, 2018

Going to school again for the first time

 

So often as I start my writings each morning there has been an experience recently to build upon. It is utilizing these previous experiences that provide windows and doors into future experiences. I was driving through our town and a shop I had seen numerous times caught my eye. It is a store that caters to cooks, selling fancy cheese, wines and utensils. I actually stopped in I needed a good knife to cut and chop herbs as I cook. As I walked in a wonderful lady greeted me and we talked for nearly an hour about education and cooking. It turns out she was also prior to retirement a teacher of Emotional and Behavior Disorders. A small world or is it synchronicity, I think I know what Dr. Carl G. Jung would say. My major in graduate school always causes confusion as most teacher graduate students go for that Leadership degree required for administrative positions and mine was in Emotional Behavior Disorders.

 

It has been nearly eleven years since I started my doctoral studies at Georgia Southern University. My major for some may be a bit obscure that being in curriculum theory with an emphasis on Teaching and instruction, it is a relatively new endeavor actually entitled in the course catalog as Curriculum Studies. One of the first pieces that caught my attention in my early readings was, “the autobiographical method of currere, a method focused on self-understanding” by William Pinar in his book What is Curriculum Theory.  As I discussed with this retired teacher and now shop owner and purveyor of fine cheese, wines and meats we talked of education, along with various cuts of meats and where my livestock background came out.

 

I have been listening as I read, write and study for a number of years now to R. Carlos Nakai, a Navaho-Ute from Arizona. Nakai is a classically trained coronet and trumpet player who thirty years ago took up the Native American seven note flute. He actually carves his own flutes from cedar and his haunting melodies stir the soul and calm the wild beast. I play his music in my room at school. As I was thinking of Pinar’s thought on the autobiographical method I recalled a note in one of Carlos Nakai’s CD’s.

 

“A lot of what I’ve been taught culturally comes from an awareness of the environment. …How I feel is based on my impressions of being in certain spaces at certain times. Thinking back…on personal tribal stories and the history of my culture figures into how I organize my music.” R. Carlos Nakai

 

One of the founders of pragmatism in philosophy is John Dewey who is also well known for his contributions to education and progressivism. Many of his ideas are from the early 1900’s. Dewey based his thinking on our experience.

 

“Every experience lives on in further experiences. Hence the central problem of an education based on experience is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and create subsequent experiences.” John Dewey
Dewey is a hard read and since I was only looking for a quote he is back to the shelf for now but only a minute or two as I am using several Dewey books in papers I am currently working on. As I switched CD’s to a Hawaiian themed CD where Nakai and Keola Beamer, a Hawaiian slap guitar master combine for “Our Beloved Land” another jacket note caught my eye.

 

“We were put on the earth to experience life in its totality. And if you’re not doing that, you’re essentially wasting your time.” R. Carlos Nakai

 

I thought of my professor in that first doctorial class as I read and a comment she made about how many of the courses are on line and the evaluations that follow online of professors. She said she always gets better reviews with the online courses then in person. On one of the first days in class she wore a black suit and starched white shirt long sleeves with dark shoes and argyle socks. She had one pirate type earring in one ear and after removing her jacket and rolling up her sleeves tattoos to her wrists covering her arms granted it was interesting especially to one such as I who is constantly observing human nature. When she offered she is in counseling and on meds for psychosis things made better sense.

 

As I watched my class watch her as she came in who being mostly relatively conservative southern teachers the reactions were interesting but as I thought to my professors comment about why she did not understand why she always gets better reviews online I thought as I listened to her lecture being a recognized scholar in the area of curriculum theory. Maybe the biases of the masses of people in the world really are insignificant you need to live life and if you are not doing that you are wasting time.

 

I got the impression within a few minutes my professor is not wasting anyone’s time she is who she is and comfortable with that as maybe we all should try and be who knows what might happen with self-understanding and experiences. It comes down to all of the pieces to our life’s puzzle falling into place one by one. As I close as always please keep all who are in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and most of all too always give thanks.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Is a circle a confined space or infinite undertaking?

Bird Droppings April 18, 2018
Is a circle a confined space or infinite undertaking?

 

My own philosophical meandering focuses on life as a circle. My thinking today revolves around that thought. Does a circle have a beginning and or an end? As learning begins often with a question so today a start and a beginning to my writing and thinking with a question. Many of the philosophies of life use comparisons to circles as a visual tool to simplify what is being said. Native American truth is often found centered and focused on a circle. When I taught summer school or resource Biology I use Disney’s Lion King as a base for the circle of life. The movie even has a theme song to that name.

 

“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, Sioux Holy man

 

I started a book recently again for the tenth time at least, “The Tao of teaching” based on eastern philosophy of the Tao, a circle essentially. I bought the book nearly ten years ago and have returned to it numerous times for thoughts. As I stood talking with students in the hall ways just before school let out Friday I was watching the circle move. Something that most of the thinking leaves out is that a circle is fluid there is movement. While described within a confined space of a circle as Black Elk speaks of seasons changing in a circular motion, people move in a pattern, a circle in life perhaps confined yet fluid always moving, continuing, changing, yet staying the same.

 

“It seemed that each time we would become proficient at a given task there would be a change made for no apparent reason. It sometimes appeared that changes were made simply because sufficient time had elapsed since the last change. And then our efforts would begin again from the beginning.” General Adalphos

 

In learning is it change or simply movement, the fluidness of life as we step from a basic knowledge to a complex thinking beyond instead of within is that a circular motion which then raises up another question. I do think it is funny; recently it is the questions that provide the learning as we ask a question we generate more, in a Socratian method. Just as the great teacher and philosopher used questions, we in our answers produce questions from the original question.

 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

 

“We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

It is the seeking of answers that is learning and that is the change that occurs in man. That which raises us up and provides what we need to be more than we were yesterday is how we can knowledge. I sat and discussed Ansell Adams with a student and watched as I do responses among other students one or two had a clue what was going on some were not aware a discussion was taking place and one was yawning bored. As I watched and observed even in the context of a discussion the child who was bored was not bored from knowing about what was being said but because they did not even hear or try to hear what was being said. They had set limits themselves on their world boundaries had been put them in place to avoid change or to lessen the chance a question will or could be asked shy of can I go to the bathroom?

 

“Life has got a habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it like you find it. You got to change with it. If a day goes by that don’t change some of your old notions for new ones that are just about like trying to milk a dead cow.” Woody Guthrie

 

In a recent seminar on teaching the comparison to trying to ride a dead horse was used. Trying to milk a dead cow I like better. You can actually sit on a dead horse at least for a while till it falls over, but no matter how hard you try a dead cow won’t give milk. For those of you who are folk music buffs, Woody Guthrie is considered one of the founding fathers of folk music in the US. He traveled the country hobo style writing songs of the depression and dust bowl looking for answers and asking questions.

 

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that; it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.” Washington Irving

 

Look for questions in your answers as we begin to finish this week and for me a day one of six more weeks before summer. In reading the news this morning it seems little is positive in this crazy world. So as I have for quite a few years now 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

A man before his time

Bird Droppings April 17, 2018
A man before his time

 

“A man can do what he wants, but not want what he wants.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Many great thinkers have found their motivation and beginnings in Schopenhauer. Arthur Schopenhauer was one of the first westerners to read and understand traditional Eastern thought. He was well read and his writing easy to read, which was interesting as so many of the German philosophers were difficult to read and understand even glimpse a possibility of where they were coming from, writing in such difficult terms and verbiage.

 

“A man’s delight in looking forward to and hoping for some particular satisfaction is a part of the pleasure flowing out of it, enjoyed in advance. But this is afterward deducted, for the more we look forward to anything the less we enjoy it when it comes.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

As a child I recall wanting Christmas so bad and the presents we knew would be there. Often we knew what was coming due to list to Santa and or parents asking us what we wanted. As I read this statement and thought about it how true as we plan and set goals and objectives that have significant meaning when we establish that goal. Then as we accomplish the goal while meaningful much of the significance has been spent along the way. This is not bad it is what often keeps us going giving us the energy to go another step.

 

“After your death you will be what you were before your birth.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

So many ways to look at this statement probably somewhat contrary to European thought at the time. Over the years however I have found a simple explanation in “The circle of life” from the Disney movie Lion King, even though Schopenhauer was many years before the Lion King came out.

 

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Having been in education I have watched great thinkers in their time be ridiculed and then years later their ideas fully implemented. John Dewey as one example in the early 1900’s developed ideas and understandings of education that today are still considered progressive a hundred years later.

 

“As the biggest library if it is in disorder is not as useful as a small but well-arranged one, so you may accumulate a vast amount of knowledge but it will be of far less value than a much smaller amount if you have not thought it over for yourself.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Schopenhauer writes about books quite often, both in a negative and very positive sense. In his time he was very well read himself looking for and gathering from many sources. He was one of the first European philosophers to read and think about Eastern thought and religions. But he is so critical of vast libraries if they are unused. Much the time we humans collect and simply put the books on shelves to impress the rest of humanity. In today’s world we Google it.

 

“Compassion is the basis of morality” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Compassion is an active part of life and through it finding our morality. Morality is in action not just in statement and it is an active ingredient in life.

 

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

This could be how politicians exist to begin with. I often do not watch the news for lack of anything worth watching. Here in Atlanta area everyday a shooting or two well three or four maybe, gets to be very disconcerting. I have been watching the events of the past few days. The State Senate and House are offering bills and closing doors, side swiping issues that go unanswered and yet allowing others to pass that cater to big business and special interest groups. Amazingly we sit and watch and wonder how the populous can allow this. A headline yesterday included more budget cuts so pet projects could be continued.

 

“Every possession and every happiness, is but lent by chance for an uncertain time, and may therefore be demanded back the next hour.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

“Honor has not to be won; it must only not be lost.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

The more I read of this man’s thoughts the more I see “doing” as a key aspect of his philosophical thought. He is a philosopher who demanded action to be a part of reality and not just be limited to thought

 

“I’ve never know any trouble than an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

As soon as this book came out I bought a copy of Kent Nerburn’s “Chief Joseph and The flight of the Nez Perce”, a history of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe. I immediately read the preface and skimmed the book and now have since read the entire book. I used to read a book cover to cover in one sitting now I sit and ponder as I read and spend an hour on a page gleaning ideas, bits and pieces of what the author is showing me.

 

“It is only a man’s own fundamental thoughts that have truth and life in them. For it is these that he really and completely understands. To read the thoughts of others is like taking the remains of someone else’s meal, like putting on the discarded clothes of a stranger.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Often during the day I get “what do you think Mr. Bird” and I try so hard not to offend and ask back first “what do you think” about this or that. Initially I was cautious as my own thinking tends to be a bit more liberal than most Georgians and perhaps humanity as a whole. But as I look at philosophy and great teachers it was in questioning that we illicit from students thinking rather than have them just mimic back to us our own thoughts.

“Just as the largest library, badly arranged, is not so useful as a very moderate one that is well arranged, so the greatest amount of knowledge, if not elaborated by our own thoughts, is worth much less than a far smaller volume that has been abundantly and repeatedly thought over.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

We have to be actively involved in the processes of our own thinking. It is not simply to have that knowledge. I wonder as we embark in education with teaching content to the test on a daily basis. I think back to John Dewey and Progressivism and we need do context and not simply content or our own children will not be thinking and understanding.

 

“Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

We always seem to speak to the climb what about the descent sometimes we need breaks after pushing so hard in the climb

 

“Martyrdom is the only way a man can become famous without ability.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

I found this statement interesting as I look back historically. I have found most men and women that I recall in history who were martyred I recall the event of death. How do we remember them it is for their death or for their life? Could it be that through their death we see their life? I wonder or is it because of their death only? I was wondering as we have nearly daily martyr’s in the Middle East blowing themselves up in search of heaven.

 

“The alchemists in their search for gold discovered many other things of greater value.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

So often it is in our mistakes and errors we find the answers. One of my premises of learning is through our mistakes.

 

“The first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

I know for me I am still learning still defining who I am and why. Maybe one day I will get to the commentary and truly understand and see myself for what and who I really am.

“The man never feels the want of what it never occurs to him to ask for.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

“The more unintelligent a man is the less mysterious existence seems to him.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

I look at my students who often range in intellectual pursuit from college level to first grade. I wonder often how they perceive and view the world. I use a house, tree, person test occasionally to get glimpses of a child’s world and the pictures can range from elaborate to stick figures. So often with the elaborate come stories and mysteries versus the black and white starkness of others.

“The wise have always said the same things, and fools, who are the majority, have always done just the opposite.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Reading that simple line and wondering at happenings of today and now. “I told you so”, seems to be the catch phrase down the line with so many people and amazingly on both sides of the fence. I found myself saying this to and can be bad about it as well.

 

“Without books the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are the engines of change, windows on the world, “Lighthouses” as the poet said “erected in the sea of time.” They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind, Books are humanity in print.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

It always saddens me when a student says they can read well enough to get by. I hear that every day. Reading can separate us from the masses. It can lift us up and show us new heights, new worlds. Reading, hopefully one day will alleviate the pain and suffering and harm of the world. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Going up a mountain takes effort

Bird Droppings April 16, 2018
Going up a mountain takes effort

 

I am looking forward to my next trip to Black Rock Mountain in North Georgia. It is the site of the Foxfire Museum property and was the site of Piedmont College’s teacher’s class in The Foxfire Approach to teaching. My oldest son took the course as a piece of his master’s degree program at Piedmont College nearly seven summers back. But interestingly enough several folks from Loganville Georgia were in attendance at his course. One of the teachers as we went around the room doing introductions made a comment about an interesting point for her was the first time she had ever held a snake was in my room at Loganville High School holding Stevie my ball python. Stevie has moved home with my room change a few years back sadly. I do bring her back in for show and tell every now and again and of course to grandkids rooms at school. Sitting here thinking actually there is a picture of that teacher when she was on our LHS 2003 State Champion Softball team on my wall as well.
The course lent to sitting and listening to teachers and teachers to be in the discussions that going around the room with lead facilitators, providing a frame work within which to expound or expand the conversation. Generally this is a starting point of a weeklong session. Just prior to leaving our house to drive up two summers ago I had hit on an idea for my dissertation topic which has been eluding me for some time. I had been sitting in a discussion with a former student and he offered the idea of that I had shown him or helped him find, the Art of Learning. As I pondered deeper into that morning this idea stuck with me and from it a topic. The Art of Learning using the Foxfire Core Practices as a palette and it was only a few days ago my idea evolved again and now is, Crossing the stream of education: Using the Foxfire Core Practices as stepping stones. Since that moment with some help my topic has evovled further to, Birddroppings: Teaching as Improvisional Art

Inspired by the Foxfire experience. An autobiographical look at how and why I teach as I do.

 

When I left Mountain City that last time and drove back to the lower lands of Walton County I felt excited about the course going on and my own epiphany that morning with the idea of learning is an art form. John Dewey’s book, Experience and Education sits to my left as I write and the past few days I have borrowed from it several times as I jotted ideas down. But it is within the community of fellow learners and teachers we find answers and again more questions to ask. I thrive on the idea of learning even though I am sure many of my high school teachers and some college professors would argue. When students want to learn and desire to learn amazing things can be accomplished.

 

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Core Practice One from The Foxfire Core Practices

 

John Dewey and his thoughts run through the Foxfire Approach to Teaching with an emphasis on a democratic classroom, experience as a means of learning and student input into the process of learning. I find that this is a rather simple statement this initial core practice which along with the other nine have evolved over the past nearly fifty years of teacher interactions and discussions from literally around the world. But so often a key attribute is missed and that is that students and teachers do this undertaking together. Last summer listening to sixteen nearly teachers and active teachers respond to why they were involved in this class provided me with a sense of maybe there are a few who get it in the world.
In education we talk about test scores which are also what is used to measure in most schools to federal and state guidelines. Standardized tests given to all students at the end or near end of a school term on specific subjects that are to measure what students have learned. Sadly many students could take the same test at the beginning of the term and score the same so is that really a valid measure of what is learned probably not. Far too many teachers avoid discussing the concept of learning; they are engrossed in standards, curriculum, forms and teacher manuals on the subject. So I sit here offering learning is a stream to cross and or an art form. Both of these ideas are fluid, moving and ever changing.

 

“Measuring tools lead to quantification; the tools in the arts lead to qualification.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

Do we ever truly measure learning? I have been wondering this since I started back into teaching although in various different words and meanings. A simple measure would be giving a pre-test and post-test which would show where a student started and where they ended. On a far more involved scenario would be that of using portfolios gathering the evidence as the student progresses through material. They are effectively used in some schools to measure learning and students growth. These would consist of gathering artifacts along the way from the student. Essays, reports, assignments, any piece of material that is involved in the student’s educational life could be considered an artifact.

 

“With respect to art and its meaning I share Dewey’s view that art is a mode of human experience that in principle can be secured whenever an individual interacts with any aspect of the world.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

So I am wandering as I sit here this spring morning pondering an article to write on critical pedagogy after a weekend playing with grandkids. I sat down Sunday after Charlie and Mattie left trying to write but my energy level has deteriorated even after a quick nap and I did little more than ponder a moment. I am excited thinking about the summer ahead and perhaps working with future teachers who will be experiencing some interesting and enlightening ideas and concepts across their course of study. 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