Sometimes we can offer a sigh of relief

Bird Droppings November 10, 2011
Sometimes we can offer a sigh of relief

“It is about learning not about teaching.”
Dr. Max Thompson

A semester is nearing the end and my daily journey for this semester will end. But it is a relief in some ways. While I have really enjoyed the classes, students and teachers I am working with it in many ways it is still a learning process for me. I have been working the past few days with a young man who is in our Early Childhood Education program. One of his projects is to write a philosophy of education which over the several years of graduate school I have done now several times. Each time it evolves and grows. I am hoping as I help this fellow finish his own philosophy he will gain an understanding of what education is all about. In my own defining I often look to Jean Piaget and his ideas on educating children. .

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

Maybe someday I will be famous too for studying my own kids or grandkids, yet out of that narrow window of research came some very insightful ideas on children and education. Something that intrigues me however is how much time Piaget spent with his children observing listening and I have always wondered if he interacted.

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

Interesting how John Dewey who died in 1952 was making statements like this in 1914 John Garner was making this statement in

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” William Yeats

Several times as I have written I have borrowed from Sidney J. Harris who compared education to stuffing a sausage or finding a fine pearl, which would we prefer. Many so called teachers liken education to the bucket filler we only have this amount to put in and then it’s full in this confined space, limited space at that. I prefer to think that a child is like a vast field or forest and when applied correctly and in a manner appropriate fire can make that field grow and flourish, a controlled burn, years ago lightening would do it now with society so restrictive it is controlled. This is somehow so similar to education.

“Education is too important to be left solely to the educators.” Francis Keppel

We are each directly involved in our own education as well as the education of every person we come in contact with. We are teachers to friends, family and even our teachers, professors and even enemies. Education is something that occurs continually not simply in school or college but it is elemental to existence.

“Education, we see, is not merely gaining knowledge or skills helpful toward productive work, though certainly that is a part of it. Rather it is replenishment and an expansion of the natural thirst of the mind and soul. Learning is a gradual process of growth, each step building upon the other. It is a process whereby the learner organizes and integrates not only facts but attitudes and values. We have been told that we must open our minds and our hearts to learn. There is a Chinese proverb: Wisdom is as the moon rises, perceptible not in progress but in result. As our knowledge is converted to wisdom, the door to opportunity is unlocked.” Barbara W. Winder

So education is far more than the confines of school of a class it is a task we are participating in from the day we are born till the day we cease to function as human beings upon the earth.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb

For many years I had upon my wall a banner with this saying, a simple concept, but when you apply it to knowledge to education it becomes so much more powerful.

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” John F. Kennedy

Dreams and aspirations can be achieved through education, we can and will fulfill our dreams if we continue to learn, to advance in our journey in life. It is those who halt who stagnant and flounder in the stream who never achieves their dreams. A movie title “What dreams may come?” Actually more about a concept of afterlife but as I look back life here now is what we make of it.

“Our dreams, and if we can think of it we can attain it” Frank E. Bird Jr.

My dad once told me that when I was a child and as I think back watching him putter with pieces of plastic, metal and such on the kitchen table, nearly fifty years ago. He was looking at various safety toe shoes as he puttered. I wasn’t sure what was going on but somewhere he had an idea a dream and eventually it became a metatarsal guard for heavy industry and reduced foot injuries and damage significantly. Dreams aided by education and we can accomplish anything.

“Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.” Benjamin Disraeli

It is Thursday morning and a our week is over since tomorrow is a holiday and to finish off one last quote from nearly 3000 years ago and with that have a great week and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

“Only the educated are free.” Epictetus

Can we add color to a gray world

Bird Droppings November 9, 2011
Can we add color to a gray world

In recent days I have been taking brilliant color photos and converting to duotones or simply black and white often with striking results. It was several nights back I had been having a series of vivid dreams or visions some might say. One in particular I was in a very repetitive series of images over and over looking for a solution. After several times waking up and falling right back to sleep and into this same over again dream it hit me. I was missing a simple piece to my puzzle in life.

“Never claim to know anything till you have experienced it.” Bear Heart, The Wind is my mother: The Life and teaching of a Native American Shaman

So much of what we teach in high school is third person and information and students never really gain an understanding because they never experience that bit or piece. It lacks relevance to them and becomes simply a moment in time.

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

By chance I got into a discussion on perception a few days ago in with a graduate class. Amazing how we all seem to see the same world so differently. What my years of experience and learning see and what eighteen year olds limited years and even another person of my own age who has equally experienced life. Each of us has been different places, seen different things, and learned different methods and strategies in life.

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

I remember waiting to here after my father was wheeled into surgery for stomach cancer we had been given the grim future by the surgeon just before he was taken in and were waiting as a family for news after. Amazing how the threat of death offers new perspective to life, it seems each second becomes so much more precious. Friends who have been in similar situations take a new outlook on life cherishing each moment as if it were the last.

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

When the surgeon walked out and said this was the smallest tumor he had ever removed from a patients stomach and still paraphrased, with but. It was a relief, life though had been redefined within our family. Meaning to each moment had been altered and our perception of each new moment somewhat clearer.

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

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

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

The difficult aspect however is changing perception, it has taken time and effort to come to the world view that we have. I think to my student whose views are so conservative at times. While they are hers on one hand many are handed down by her parents and family as well. The experiences of a family or society often impact the view of the individual as well.

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

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

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

A cartoonist, a philosopher and a mystic poet would see a world differently perhaps yet there is an understanding among these three that the world has varying and differing views. Is the glass half full or half empty even though the amount of water is the same? We seem to be asked this in teaching quite a bit nearly daily. Of course then either way we are to fill the glass.

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

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

Amazing how a linguist and newscaster see so similar, though one is famous for realism and the other for fantasy. Charles Kuralt’s trademark was his to the point clarity in news casting and J. R. Tolkien for his brilliance in creating a world where fantasy and magic are real for all who read the words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

One student sees humor another sees ridicule and shame. One student walks away laughing and another student sit in severe pain.

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

It is so difficult to pass judgment when perception is involved, yet life should be about doing no harm and doing no harm means not finding humor in another’s pain. When someone asks you to stop whether you do or do not see the issue, stopping is the only alternative. We have to learn our perception is not the sole perception in this reality. I have seen to many tears these past weeks walking down the halls of the school. I have seen too many clenched fists.

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

So often emotion tints the glass of our vision and anger allows us to see color only in gray or see grays in vivid color.

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

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

If only we could provide free Windex to all what a world we would have. It might take a little Windex to clean the perceptions of the world, and to help clear the grime off so many windows and let in the light. Thinking to a recent commercial where a husband is sleeping in a recliner by a large window and his wife comes by cleaning with Windex and the sunlight wakes him up and he stumbles into the newly cleaned window. I really do not want everybody seeing the world alike that would be boring but somehow leveling the playing field. Maybe just providing corrective lenses to others so they can see my way and I am color blind. Always there is the big if only? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

Hearing and Listening

Bird Droppings September 21, 2011
Hearing and Listening

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus

A simple analogy yet we far too often do not understand that statement and perhaps it is because we have more jaw muscle than ear muscle. In education ninety nine point nine percent of the time if you the teacher listen students will learn more. That almost sounds like a paradox.

“Lenin could listen so intently that he exhausted the speaker.” Isaiah Berlin

I have never seen nor heard this about Lenin but as I thought so many pictures are of him show him intently staring even to the point of death and his glass coffin that still is on display.

“Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf.” Native American Indian Proverb

Anyone that knows me has seen me taking pictures tens of thousands of pictures of school, grandbaby, nature and athletic events. Digital cameras can be wonderful tools in the classroom as well. I was taking some pictures of twin day last year and soon to be again during one of our homecoming dress up days and one little girl was blurred in every photo. She is very ADHD and evidently that day was a bad day for being hyper. But in her constant moving she wouldn’t stop talking as well and I would say be still and bouncing around she would ask what did you say. Even in taking a picture of two of her friends she moved and she wasn’t in the picture till she moved.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill

Far too often we do not stop to hear what is being said both as teachers and students of life.

“The young people who come to me in the hope of hearing me utter a few memorable maxims are quite disappointed. Aphorisms are not my forte, I say nothing but banalities…. I listen to them and they go away delighted.” Andre Gide

When teachers ask me how I know something about a student I generally say I listened to them.

“I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.” Charles C. Finn

In our chaotic world so often we miss pieces, bits and tiny segments sometimes what is not said or done is as crucial as all that happens.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter F. Drucker

The great business consultant and author Peter Drucker offers again we need to not only listen but understand and then read between the lines.

“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” Tommy Smothers

I was always a big fan of The Smothers Brothers back in the day and find interesting how such a simple thought could in effect be a powerful one. If you do not want to hear it don’t listen but let the person speak their piece.

“I guess I’ve spent my life listening to what wasn’t being said.” Eli Khamarov

If we could perhaps things would be different. In politics a journalist is free who was jailed for not speaking out and telling sources however now she is speaking and repercussions could be great.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum

Dr. Laura Nolte so long ago said “Children learn what they live” interesting that what they hear was not as significant.

“Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James Baldwin

Each day I watch and listen and deal with issues of teenagers and so many are simply imitating what they have learned from home mirror images of mom and dad or whomever is the one at the house. For today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.


Bird Droppings June 15, 2011

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” William Faulkner

When I first read this earlier it hit me hard, so often in life we want to accomplish that great task all in one quick movement and all at one time. It has been a few years since I first read a favorite authors email blog and he had been working on an idea and book for years, based on Chief Joseph and he mentioned patience in relation to another Native American work in progress. As he wrote in that blog in the Dakotas nearly fifty years ago sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, promised to honor the memory of Crazy horse by carving out a mountain in his likeness. To this day rock by rock he and his family since his death in 1974 have kept that promise, the face was dedicated n 1998.

“Our patience will achieve more than our force.” Edmund Burke

So often as I teach each day it is not a great lesson that succeeds but simply patience. Being able to deal with difficulties of the day and move into the next without dwelling to long on a single issue, moving small stones one at a time, in our effort to move or carve a mountain as Faulkner points out above.

“The two powers which in my opinion constitute a wise man are those of bearing and forbearing.” Epictetus

“Patience means self-suffering.” Mahatma Gandhi

“That virtue of the mind which is called Patience is so great a gift…” St. Augustine of Hippo

I walked out earlier taking the dog for his morning constitutional before me a clear sky filled with stars and perhaps the most gorgeous full moon in many months. Our home sits slightly off the road with a large back yard going into about four hundred acres of wilderness, actually very private. But it was stars that caught my eye in the brilliance of the moon and each morning they are there when clouds allow lately. I was discussing with my principal and superintendent a few days back the concept of patience. I recall back seven or eight years ago when a former student’s mother had been killed in a car wreck, we were talking how students will come to certain teachers. This former student I had ten years ago yet everyday she would stop by when she was in school before graduation to check on me, consistency came out, students will flock to consistency when meted out with patience.

“Let this be understood, then, at starting; that the patient conquest of difficulties which rise in the regular and legitimate channels of business and enterprise is not only essential in securing the success which you seek but it is essential to that preparation of your mind, requisite for the enjoyment of your successes, and for retaining them when gained. So, day by day, and week by week; so month after month, and year after year, work on, and in that process gain strength and symmetry, and nerve and knowledge, that when success, patiently and bravely worked for, shall come, it may find you prepared to receive it and keep it,” Josiah Gilbert Holland

“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” Barbara Johnson

I typed in Patience’s as a search and the first few were all lyrics for a Guns and Roses song the words are not really applicable or I would use them but the song, there is a whistling start to the song and I am sitting here writing about patience and humming the start to the song. This is one of those songs you can not get out of your head.

“(whistle) …little patience, mm yeah, mm yeah, I need a little patience, yeah – just a little patience, yeah – some more patience, – yeah – need some patience, yeah, could use some patience, yeah, gotta have some patience, yeah, all it takes is patience, just a little patience, is all you need” Axl Rose, Guns and Roses 1989

In all honesty the words really don’t quite do it with out the whistling and tune especially with Axl Rose’s whining voice singing. But patience “is all you need”.

“Consider the hour-glass; there is nothing to be accomplished by rattling or shaking; you have to wait patiently until the sand, grain by grain, has run from one funnel into the other.” John Christian Morgensten

Whether this was made by the 16th century artist or more recently a whimsical poet of the 20 century this is a powerful statement. If you have never watched an hour glass at work, it truly is the best example and analogy of patience, one grain at a time falls through no more no less till the entire mass of sand drops.

“If I have made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.” Sir Isaac Newton

“Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily.” Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

It does take patience, trying to accomplish any task takes patience. I have talked of world peace more than once and am committed to that ideal but it will take patience. However until that time we must keep all in harms way on our minds and in our hearts.