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

 

Watching a hawk fly by

Bird Droppings April 13, 2018

Watching a hawk fly by

 

Sitting writing on Friday the thirteenth waiting on a sunrise. I was able to attend only a few track meets over the past few years due in part to health issues and as always I did take a few photos as I tend to do. I recall about seven years ago when I was not able to get to the region meet till after school and since it started before school was out one of the team managers took my camera to get a few photos of some of the events I would miss. As I looked at old photos of pole vaulting a thought crossed my mind in conjunction with an article I read and have used now in my research by Ronald A. Wolk is the Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Editorial Projects in Education Inc. and the founding editor of Education Week and Teacher Magazine.

 

“Standardization and uniformity may work with cars and computers, but it doesn’t work with humans. Today’s student body is the most diverse in history. An education system that treats all students alike denies that reality.” Ronald A Wolk

 

I reviewed my photos and talked with one of the coaches about a particular student who has really done well that year in pole vaulting. She missed going to the state meet in a tie and she had too many misses as she vaulted.

 

“Standards don’t prepare students for anything; they are framework of expectations and educational objectives. Without the organization and processes to achieve them, they are worthless.” Ronald A. Wolk

 

I have pondered this idea of an event like pole vaulting and comparing to our current trend in education of raising the bar. The practice of making it harder to achieve a high school diploma for example is common place across the United States. We set the bar up and do not have the processes within some students to make it to the bar. I could see in a pole vaulting contest where the high school state record may be fourteen feet and we set the bar at sixteen feet and believe all potential pole vault contestants will now attain that level of skill. Most quit pole vaulting and Wolk uses statistics from various states showing dropout rates as an issue and most recently with national changes in calculating dropout rates even more so. .

 

I have been pondering this concept of raising the bar for some time and teachers have been fired for not attaining goals set by states and federal legislation. I was doing bus duty a few years back one spring and we had several elementary students that catch the bus, children of teachers, to their schools from the high school. Perhaps to none other than educators and parents the stress level in an elementary school during CRCT time in teachers and students should be looked at. If we deliberately stress children over testing are we going the right direction? If we deliberately are causing anxiety among our children over test scores that have little validity other than what the publisher has stated and in reference to state and federal mandates are we even being sane?

 

Thinking back I was working on several questions for my graduate school comprehensive exams a few years back. In that process I would head to the University of Georgia Library on weekends to review material. I recall as I was driving to the University in Athens and as I turned on the highway bypass towards the University a red tailed hawk flew over the road gliding by into a patch of pines. About three hundred yards further a dead hawk alongside the road it appeared the hawk was trying to feed on a dead armadillo which had been hit by a car. The hawk had become road-kill as well. As I drove on I wondered if maybe this was a pair considering how close they were and if they had a nest and young and this might have been the reason to venture that close to highway. I have seen other times similar situations with dead hawks at road kill sites.

 

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach the children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know, the earth does not belong to man, and man belongs to the earth. “ChiefSeattle

 

It has been many years since Chief Seattle spoke but his words ring true today. It may be that in our time that we so often take for granted all around us, the trees, animals and even other people. We live a life so self-centered and focused on us we tend to miss so much. It was many years till man realized he was not the center of the universe and was really just a somewhat an insignificant speck. I am sitting at my writing typing on my laptop wondering about an interesting question. So many people see problems with public education and yet few offer solutions that seem to go in the right direction as I was mentioning in Wolk’s statements.

 

I have been reading numerous books on curriculum theory but I am waiting for a book on curriculum action to be published. Fifteen books are scattered about my table with each a different author and different idea how to solve issues in schools. A graduate school professor made a comment several months ago about how many curriculum theorists have moved to Canada to practice and to learn and do research. It is interesting in this world of we want to be the best that it seems Canadian schools want to get better. In Canada however they are looking for ways to improve beyond politics.

 

We have numerous laws and ideas but never seem to get better in a recent headline in the local newspaper title was and students’ scores highlight disparity. In several systems mentioned nearly a third of eighth graders will be retained because of a test at the end of eighth grade. I wonder how they were at the end of seventh grade and beginning of eighth maybe we should do a sort of a pre-test and post-test thing. A simple practice that would actually give a better indication of learning and it seems we do not do that. We simply test at the end of eighth grade so we know this child is at this stage and knows this at this point but what did that child learn in eighth grade we still do not know.

 

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris

 

It has been nearly seventeen years since a fellow teacher first showed me a Sydney J. Harris column. Often as I watch people in school or out about in the community I hear and see society deeper in action. These people are a reflection of everything around them. Harris says we should be more like windows letting in not just reflecting back.

 

“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education.  Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization.  We must make our choice; we cannot have both.” Abraham Flexner

 

I wonder thinking back to my hawk flying by I hope if there are chicks they were along far enough to survive and as I think maybe it takes action on the part of parents who truly want a good education for their children. In Georgia a big push is for vouchers and Charter schools and sadly both are profit driven not in the interest of children and neither offer much more in terms of new ideas and have from research actually not done as well as public schools. The really sad part is that many kids in today’s diversified world often do not have parents at home anymore and that puts stress on everything including tests and school. As I end today maybe we can all take a moment and try and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Can we find truth in an untruthful world?

Bird Droppings April 12, 2018
Can we find truth in an untruthful world?

 

I went back to a book for the third or fourth time, a book titled, Every day is a good day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous women, by the late Wilma Mankiller. Wilma Mankiller was the past Chief of The Cherokee Nation and a Native American Activist, author, lecturer and several time cancer survivor. I borrowed my status for today on Facebook from her writings. My plans were to be writing this morning about this book but I am heading to the mountains with my wife to visit friends and take some photos. Today I will be addressing an issue at the foundation of why so many issues of today even exist. The situation is there truth or is there a lack thereof in our society today.

 

“I don’t think anybody anywhere can talk about the future of their people or of an organization without talking about education. Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future. “ “In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people. “ Wilma Mankiller

After pondering and reading more of Wilma Mankiller’s book I always find new pieces that just seem to mean more today than they did the previous time reading. One of these aspects is truth. When elected Chief many years back Wilma was the first woman to be elected head of any of the major tribes. She based her life and philosophy on truth. So perhaps it is appropriate today that I will be addressing an issue at the foundation of why so many issues of the day even exist, the truth or the lack thereof.

 

“A king asked a sage to explain the Truth. In response the sage asked the king how he would convey the taste of a mango to someone who had never eaten anything sweet. No matter how hard the king tried, he could not adequately describe the flavor of the fruit, and, in frustration, he demanded of the sage ‘Tell me then, how would you describe it?’ The sage picked up a mango and handed it to the king saying ‘This is very sweet. Try eating it!’” Hindu Teaching Story

 

Sometimes in the simplest way we can get a point across just telling the truth. Nothing can describe more adequately than truth. I have written about truth numerous times and talked with teachers and educational experts about that same subject. It is very hard to always be truthful in our society today. Many times we can question; what is truth much as did the great philosophers of old. As I read the Hindu parable above it hit me. Maybe truth is within the experience, borrowing from the great educator and philosopher John Dewey, truth is within the experience and it is being able to find it through a life event.

 

“It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to standing upon the vantage ground of truth… and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below.” Sir Francis Bacon

 

“It is unfortunate, considering that enthusiasm moves the world, that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.” Arthur James Balfour

 

As I read what these great thinkers have to say about truth it is sad that they see truth as an uncommon commodity, something that is few and far between. We watch news and read papers each day and choose to believe or not believe what we see. Bat boy is having plastic surgery to look normal was the title of a grocery store tabloid many months back. One of my favorites was when Bill Clinton was in office and he was having sex with an alien. Most of us see these doctored photos and total fabrications and pass them off as such but some people take to heart.

 

There are many who believe Apollo missions were total fabrication due to for example the Van Allen Belts and numerous other events in history were fabricated as well. Conspiracy theories abound about daily happenings all leading to this or that conclusion. Many have been scientifically debunked including the attack of Nine Eleven yet they persist. A local science professor comments in class while teaching genetics that the Apollo mission is a hoax. How can one thing he never saw be bogus and yet teach again something he never saw.

 

“Between truth and the search for it, I choose the second.” Bernard Berenson

 

“When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.” Otto Von Bismarck

 

Why is it, that truth is so elusive? I find it so hard to understand that we go at life literally intent on fabrication, deceit and deception. Bismarck’s comment though near a hundred years old is still very much true.

 

“Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed.” William Blake

 

“Truth lies within ourselves: it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness and to Know rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendor may escape than in effecting entry for light supposed to be without.” Robert Browning

 

“A few observations and much reasoning lead to error; many observations and a little reasoning to truth.” Alexis Carrel

 

I look back and see how so many times in avoiding truth the tales grew with each moment and soon a story takes the place of a simple event and soon a novel unravels and the line between fiction and nonfiction becomes literally a canyon.

 

“The pursuit of truth will set you free; even if you never catch up with it.” Clarence Darrow

 

“Time is precious, but truth is more precious than time.” Benjamin Disraeli

 

“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.” Meister Eckhart

Isn’t it sad that truth is so difficult and yet so easy, telling the truth eliminates numerous additional words and time that could be spent perhaps going in the right direction rather than pursuing issues that really may not even pertain. It is so simple and yet so elusive to so many.

 

“The greater the truth the greater the libel.” Lord Ellenborough

 

“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

We so easily get caught up in deceit because this is what we want to hear. Watching news of our current president unfold and spun by each side two seemingly different stories almost opposite in content yet the same event. The truth may be painful or difficult to take and so the fabrication becomes the reality. A movie out a few years back portrays the world of a schizophrenic, “A beautiful Mind”. Dr. John Nash is played by Russell Crowe very convincingly. Dr. Nash eventually realizes the duplicity of his reality and learns to deal with it. Many of us never accept the unreal we create each day as we fabricate and manipulate that around us.
We are brought up accepting untruth; we have professionals, politicians who work at telling half-truths and fabricating it to do their jobs, as they run the country. Wouldn’t it be an interesting world if politicians could take a few drops of medicine and become truthful? Problem is we wouldn’t have a use for politicians and anyone could run for office. Would it not be great if we could believe those who run the country for us, elected by us, and not rely on shock jock radio and TV personalities who literally build there listening audience on deceit.

 

What if the president was telling the truth and the commentators who are angling for listeners are lying? As I look at this concept it is truly sad that we have such a short attention span. We tend to listen to the loudest and most exciting version even when we watch an event unfold and know what is real. I wonder how many people believed the photo of Bill Clinton and the Alien back in the day. Recently a movie The Campaign, essentially a comedy jokingly made its way back and forth until just before the end and the fellow who was down in the poles began telling the truth and changed the election.

 

“Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality.” Frank Herbert

 

“Peace if possible, but truth at any rate.” Martin Luther

 

“You’ll never get mixed up if you simply tell the truth. Then you don’t have to remember what you have said, and you never forget what you have said.” Sam Rayburn

 

We live in a society where morality is bantered about as a catch word. We live in a world where peace is elusive often because truth is nowhere to be found. We live in a world where politicians are counting how many times the other side has changed their minds and or rhetoric on issues. We live in a world where many are in harm’s way and many of these instances are due to untruths, which we then justify through buying into additional untruthful information and rationales. Do we even remember the what, and the why of the actual event? So as I sit reading and writing this morning 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

“peaceful evolution versus violent revolution”

Bird Droppings April 19, 2017
“peaceful evolution versus violent revolution”

 

I have begun reading extensively the past few weeks putting together thoughts for my dissertation at Georgia Southern University and for my own teaching. One of those that passed through my hands these past few days and actually a few minutes ago on my writing table is, The Quality School, by Dr. William Glasser, M.D. It has been sometime since I had looked through it but by chance was among the ones I pulled out as I read this week.
As I went about my day yesterday at working around the house and running errands I ran into a few former students. As I look ahead a week or two as the school year winds down many teachers have and or will have completed their lessons due to early end of course tests from the state and then it will be crazy. As in years past some students will be bored and behavior issues ensue.

 

What always amazes me was my old second hand beat up, rough looking futon used to be like a magnet to students and teachers alike but it has gone the way of extinction. I had kids want to buy it saying it is the most comfortable sofa in the world. So that leads me to quality and how do we define it? As I read through Glasser’s book I recalled one of my own credos. Number one on Bird’s list for schools is that students have to want to be there. If students do not want to be in school you are starting off in a losing mode before you even get to try and teach.

 

“Students tell me that a good teacher is deeply interested in the students and in the material being taught. They also say that such a teacher frequently conducts class discussions and does not place themselves above them, and they are comfortable talking to them.” Dr. William Glasser

 

Something caught my attention as I read what students wrote in my yearbooks over the years. Several have been writing in each yearbook for each of their four years and many are good friends. Some teachers would argue that point, pointing to not building friendships and or relationships with students.

 

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen

 

As I read the various yearbook quotes “Thank you for listening” “Thank you for just being here” “Thank you for understanding me” I started to think what is a friend anyhow? Is not a friend someone who will listen without criticizing and trying to resolve each petty detail?

 

“The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.” Henry David Thoreau

Building on this idea of friendship and going back to Glasser who uses in his idea of a quality school the concept of choice theory; which is providing opportunity for choice from teachers and students. It is building choice into the program so there is ownership of what is being learned.

 

“True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable.” Dave Tyson Gentry

 

It is difficult for me to sit quietly recently I sent an email to one of our assistant principal’s about how our minute of silent meditation went to 2.7 minutes and broke down costs and such I was being sarcastic since I do enjoy my meditative state probably more so than most do.

 

“One doesn’t know, till one is a bit at odds with the world, how much one’s friends who believe in one rather generously mean to one.” D.H. Lawrence

 

One of my reasons for picking up the book by Glasser was to look at similarities to the Foxfire approach taught at Piedmont College and that I am developing my dissertation on and about. Foxfire is based on a democratic class room promoted by John Dewey as early as 1918 a man considerably ahead of his time even considered progressive today.

 

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory will swell when again touched as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature.” Abraham Lincoln

 

I was sitting watching the Trial of Billy Jack a few months back and listening to and watching how Billy Jack conquered his inner demons. He was focusing on the days of turmoil and tribulations that he had experienced. My wife always picks on me when I watch my hero Billy Jack. Yesterday a red tailed hawk caught my attention as it flew alongside me as I was driving home chasing a mouse. When I arrived at my house a small storm was coming through it seemed that with clouds swirling overhead and as I looked out the window sunshine was streaming in as well. I ran out and was thinking perhaps our first rainbow of the year would be across the sky but not yesterday and the clouds blocked the pink full moon as well.

 

“A true friend embosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.” William Penn

 

A teacher then is a friend according to William Penn founder of Pennsylvania and staunch pacifist. If we as teachers would take this view of friendship perhaps more would happen in education.

 

“Education is the process in which we discover that learning adds quality to our lives. Learning must be experienced.” Dr. William Glasser

Teaching is showing and giving quality to life.

 

“Caring for but never trying to own may be a further way to define friendship.” Dr. William Glasser

 

Towards the end of the one of my favorite of all time movies, Bill Jack, as I am listening, a comment is made by the heroine Jean, “peaceful evolution versus violent revolution” and I thought what a powerful and interesting idea. Can we spread friendship; can we be better friend’s higher quality friends? Maybe just maybe we can create a better world if we put our minds to it. Yesterday a bill was signed and some feel money wasted but as I think an effort is being made to better educate and better provide capabilities for hungry and needy children and how can we ever say that is wasted money. Please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Are we experiencing the genocide of learning?

Bird Droppings April 10, 2018
Are we experiencing the genocide of learning?

 

In the midst of my daily journals entries lately it gets hectic I am trying to do research and write for my dissertation I left hanging in 2010. I have been running back and forth to my various doctors the past three months with several bladder surgeries. We had a grand babies over dinner and post Easter egg hunt Saturday. So I am back at work sitting doing research, reading and discussing John Dewey on my dictation app, trying to maintain semblance of order in my herb gardens and final corrections and working on a guidebook to go with my chapter from book on Rural Education. So here early in the morning today as I write I am working on an idea that has been bothering me for some time. I used the harsh word of genocide in my title as I am working on this idea and some will perhaps object to the concept that we as a society are killing off real learning in our schools. All the talk of increasing rigor then combined with budget cuts and increased class sizes and massive standardized testing and you have the making of decreasing what is truly learned.

 

I have over the past few days and years used Carl Rodgers quotes and he uses the term significant learning that which stays with us. I will allow, a student in school can memorize answers for a test and some might be learning but the joy and passion of learning are stripped away far too many times by overzealous teachers trying to succeed with their students on test scores. I have offered numerous times that a test at the end of a class or subject is not a valid measure of what a student learned with that teacher or in that subject without a baseline point of reference.
Earlier in the day I watched a short video narrated by an Australian who happens to be Aborigine. He discusses sharing and how money has changed that process and how words like, mine, have altered society. I am reading a book currently which is a compilation of essays dealing with Indigenous spirituality, The Inner Journey, edited by Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw writer and environmentalist. As I opened the book the first essay is by Vine Deloria Jr., Native author and activist. The title of the essay is, Out of Chaos.

 

“Whites acquire land through purchase and sale, and land is a quantifiable, measureable entity; their primary responsibility as landowners is simply to prevent loss of value; hence any responsibility the land owner may have is only to himself. Indian tribes acquire land as a gift from higher powers, and in turn they assume certain ceremonial duties which must be performed as long as they live on and use the land. Removing an Indian tribe from its aboriginal territory, therefore, results in the destruction of ceremonial life and much of the cultural structure.” Vine Deloria Jr.

 

To put into another perspective author Capitalist and Libertarian hero and favorite, Ayn Rand at the 1974 West Point address had this to say about Native Americans.

 

“They didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using… What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.” Ayn Rand, Address 1974 West Point

 

One might ask what does this have to do with learning at all. I would respond with that is a good question if I had not witnessed within the learning field a similar situation. If we can substitute learning for land perhaps it will be somewhat clearer.
Over the years my room at the high school has been the school field trip for the Early Childhood classes of four year olds and their high school student teachers. My collection of various snakes, lizards and turtles not discounting spiders and hissing cockroaches always amazes kids and questions can be almost infinite if allowed. On one occasion a four year little fellow asked me how do snakes go to the bathroom. Almost immediately his student teacher said that’s a silly question hush. I jumped in before another word was said not embarrassing the high school student but offering some advice that no question is silly and especially from a four year old. We proceeded to learn about the snakes cloacae. So often children are stifled by time and by constant constraints imposed with standards and a teachers understanding of what is to be accomplished in a given time.

 

“The gap is so great that the required subject matter, the methods of learning and of behaving are foreign to the existing capacities of the young.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

Children come to school as avid learners I often use the term just like sponges, having just recently learned to talk, walk, play and laugh at humor. Little children are truly sponges absorbing all about them. Far too often we approach these children with our adult understandings and views and miss the fact that perhaps while avid learners we have gone beyond their understanding and even instinctual capacities to learn. We want straight rows and hands on the desk and quiet and no questions. It takes only a short time till children become robots and those that do not conform are labeled as behavior problems. I cannot help but think of Geronimo when he petitioned Teddy Roosevelt to go to the White Mountains of New Mexico to die amongst his homeland and birth place, his ceremonial home and was refused. A child comes to school with few rules yet morals are established and understood but the conforming rules of the society and times deemed appropriate to eat, nap and or read. No more reading because you want to but now because you have to. John Dewey wrote about this in 1938 and was considered a progressive at that time.

 

“….all experience is an arch wherethro’ Gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades forever and forever when I move.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 

Hopefully in a few weeks I will be involved a day here and there with the Foxfire Approach to Teaching courses up in Mountain City Georgia on the Foxfire Property. I try and attend as many days as I can more for me to recharge and learn than to add to the class selfishly. One evening a few courses past I invited former Foxfire students to dinner with future and current teachers who were learning about Foxfire. Sitting around a table we were discussing the impact of this specific teaching approach on their lives. The former students had been in the Foxfire program going back to 1970 and as current as 1995. All saw their experiences as life changing. They carried a love of learning forward with them. What amazed me was the anonymous overwhelming praise for this style of teaching and not just one teacher but these former students have had several different teachers all using the same approach which allows me to say it was the approach and yes teachers do matter. We had a great evening as conversations drifted from today to the past and back. The teachers to be videoed taped as they asked questions of these former students and they gave their responses. I had the great privilege of meeting one of the former Foxfire instructors from the early days, Mr. George Reynolds. In only a few minutes of talking to the group his passion for learning and teaching was evident. He had been in Mountain City for a reunion of sorts visiting several former students who had made music their careers.

 

“The best reason to give a child a good school …. Is so that child will have a happy childhood, and not so that it will help IBM in the competing with Sony … There is something ethically embarrassing about resting a national agenda on the basis of greed.” Jonathan Kozol

 

Within our society education has become a business if you are watching the news on any given night school board budgets and teacher cuts are literally daily. Charter schools for profit are being formed and profit making corporations are trying to get their way into public education. With that in mind what is the result, when only profit is a goal and success of a given student is no longer an issue. We have been fortunate in our county to not loose teachers but have made adjustments in other areas. Class sizes, the number of students per class has been adjusted and our school day lengthened and school year shortened. We are actually slowly coming back and adding some teachers, reducing class sizes and shortening the day.

 

Money obviously is a driving force. Going a step further to a state level and a curriculum change for example the math curriculum in Georgia was radically changed almost on an annual basis. A few years ago and this offered hundreds of millions in text book purchases to someone in the publishing business. This year again the Math Curriculum is changing again and more books. Education is a big business when you get to this level and literally someone owns it being a bit sarcastic. So when looking at the monetary aspect of education it is very similar to land someone has possession of it. National education policy is driven by economic issues. Most progressive educators would say the industrial complex is educating consumers. Our “Native” culture has been stripped away and replaced with a planned and orchestrated day by day blueprint within education to make good consumers.

 

“Education implies teaching. Teaching implies knowledge. Knowledge is truth. The truth is everywhere the same. Hence education should be everywhere the same.” Robert Maynard Hutchins, The Higher Learning in America, 1936

 

Hutchins would be happy in today’s educational world where daily you hear such phrases from administrators “if I walk into a biology room in Georgia it should look like a biology room in New Jersey”. With common core standards and standardized testing the norm and curriculum maps and every moment choreographed Hutchins would love where education has gone. So perhaps I can blame Hutchins with the genocide of learning thought. The great educator Maxine Greene in her essay reflecting on John Dewey offers in referring to this passage by Hutchins.

 

“Emphasizing absoluteness and universality, he (Hutchins) insisted that the idea of progress was meaningless. Education had to be properly understood as the cultivation of the intellect. It could only be contaminated when windows were opened to the social, public, and political world outside.” Maxine Greene

 

John Dewey bases much of his thinking on experience be it current or past. We build on the past experiences and if done right these flow into future experiences building a learning for life scenario. Over the past few days I have been working on a simple formula along the lines of if we have an experience which combined with thoughtful reflection provides learning we can then build upon for future learning. Many hours can be hashed around deciding on what is learning and what is experience to that matter what is thoughtful reflection?

 

“Every experience is a moving force. Its value can be judged only on the ground of what it moves toward and into.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

As I think about Dewey and education and how we are increasing rigor I was reading in Alfie Kohn’s book, What does it mean to be well educated” and found an interesting thought.

 

“To judge schools by how demanding they are is rather like judging opera on the basis of how many notes it contains that are hard for singers to hit. In other words, it leaves out most of what matters.” Alfie Kohn

 

It has been nearly sixteen years since a good friend and former principal introduced me to Alfie Kohn’s books in a book club meeting. I miss that sort of philosophical endeavor it seems more standardized reading is the norm these days. I use the idea of increasing rigor is much like demanding everyone break the world record in high jump. In simple terms, it ain’t gonna happen.
We increase rigor to a point where a few students are lost and many struggle trying to be successful. I read a recent front page article on the numbers of students in college in remedial classes prior to getting into college math and literature. It was costing the state so much money. Colleges accept students based on test scores and GPA and some students may need a refresher course. I will admit I had remedial Literature my freshmen year in college and I think I failed it. Of course my rationale was the beach was an hour away and it was warm and listening to some old bat in a literature course was not very much fun. I did turn it around eventually and was on dean’s list my junior and senior years, although there were numerous colleges and many years past the normal four.
So is there a solution to this issue of improving of schools and the education of our children. What is it we need in teachers? What is it we as parents expect from the education our children are getting? I recall a friend who went to Korea to teach English and in her year in Korea several issues came to the front. First families would only accept the best from the kids. They expected their children to work hard in school and at home on homework, my friend emphasized that three hours of homework was considered light. So is it that in some countries more emphasis is put on education than in the US? You will find from data many Asian countries have very high test scores on international standardized achievement tests. But what are the side effects for this pressure? Some of the highest suicide rates in teenagers are in these countries. We need to address our system and we need to go beyond the test scores that literally are meaningless from a validity standpoint. On the front page of our local paper was an article on test scores in the county comparing our local system which generally does great.
We need good teachers and good teachers are not easy to find. I have titled a paper I am working on, Attitude is the secret to teaching: Active, Tangible, Total, Intuitive, Thinking and Understanding of Developing Experience. I do believe attitude is a key to successful teachers. We need a philosophy of education that is fluid and not static that one size fits all. We need to provide relevance and context and all research points to this being a key in learning and in the retention of learning. However one of the elements that for me that is critical is we need to have empathy as teachers. Sadly there are few with empathy and it can go a long way. Intuition and understanding can be of a great assistance in learning. I ended a short article the other day with the word conversations, there need to be conversations between students and teachers in both directions and there needs to be conversations between parents and teachers. As I head into more Foxfire my idea I have been pondering of Education as a stream and the Foxfire Core practices as stepping stones gains momentum. So solving quickly is a near impossibility but the idea is there and hopefully after three weeks of being embedded in the Foxfire Approach to teaching I will be ready for another school year. 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

The great teachers of America: Where do they come from?

Bird Droppings April 8, 2018
The great teachers of America: Where do they come from?

 

I started back to grad school after my twelve yearlong doctorate furlough. I am looking to teach several new college classes when I get back on track which had me started on a new syllabus and lesson plans and that got me thinking. Last night when I got home from spending some time with my mother I was sitting mesmerized by the night sounds when the kitchen door opened and our dog poked his head out I am sure he was wondering what I was doing. I was not in the mood for TV and the sounds of darkness seem to calm me after a seriously crazy week of Spring Break and too much involvement with the medical field the past two months.

 

Off in the distance a whippoorwill was calling to one near the house and an occasional owl chimed in. It was an exceptionally human free intrusion on a quiet night since few people influenced noises were present. I found myself thinking to the idea of; I wonder if this is what it sounded like hundreds of years ago just the various birds, crickets, frogs and owls. A heavy dew and rain were dripping from pine needles nearby adding to the ambiance. I gave thanks put up our dog and headed to bed.

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Our former federal education program NCLB, No Child Left behind was about lifting standards higher to make the United States number one in education. In the news literally daily the idea of raising the bar in our educational process was suggested over and over again. We need more students to succeed so we will raise the standards and graduation rates. So to say raise the bar educationally. The theory is that more students will succeed with higher standards for teachers and students. However changing of teaching methods, changing delivery, and even changing standards does not raise the ability or desire of a given student.
I can’t help but think of high jumping when the idea of raising the bar came up. Let us use as acceptable a height of currently thirty six inches and tomorrow we will raise the bar to sixty inches and you will succeed because we have a new way of telling you how to jump. We will use a megaphone now, and just as you jump we will yell “NOW JUMP”. As silly as this sounds this little exercise which is akin to many educational programs is more how not to succeed than before. Before raising the standard did we look at why the students could not clear thirty six inches. Was it the teaching method, or the physical ability of the student, was it the shoes they are wearing, perhaps the surface of the run way to the jump pit is too soft or slippery, is there a wind that knocks the bar off as they approach.

 

I am very sarcastic in saying this, in education time after time the mention of zip codes and test scores comes up. In today’s jargon that’s why we need charter schools run by businesses who know what to do. So in my naiveté, I wonder how does a real estate mogul or software genius know how to teach or seemingly increase knowledge and cognition over say a teacher? Even more interesting is many of so called experts have not succeeded in school and or did not go through college. But they know what it takes to help poor kids or failing kids how to raise the bar.
Basically in any type of medium if a person cannot jump thirty six inches moving to sixty inches will only assure failure. However with practice and time sixty inches is possible but several factors have to be in place and a key one is the desire and attitude of the person doing the jumping. The coach can be the greatest in the world but if the student is content with failure, for whatever reason they will fail. A few years back I watched the induction of John Madden into the NFL hall of fame. Madden has been one of my favorite commentators and coaches of all time.

 

“Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” John Madden

 

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” Ara Parasheghan

 

Coaching and teaching the terms are often synonymous in many ways. It was a number of years ago I raised and showed horses. I had a very good Appaloosa gelding we affectionately called “Spot” and with me riding Spot would be third or fourth but we would always place. Funny thing was with my trainer on board Spot would win. I once asked about this phenomenon and was told the following.

 

“You put a ten horse, and by ten I mean on a scale from 1-10 out with a 1 rider again on a scale of 1-10 and you have a 5 ride, however you put a 10 horse and 10 rider out and what are your odds” Earl Burchett, trainer and judge of Appaloosa and Quarter horses

 

As I thought of my horse days quote, teaching and coaching are similar. A good teacher can get more out of a poor functioning group of students and a poor teacher will get something out of great students. For forty five years I have asked how do we distinguish who are the good teachers and or coaches are from a mediocre ones.

 

“Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.” Don Shula

 

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Vince Lombardi

 

Commitment is a key word in selecting a great teacher and or coach and the ability of instilling that commitment in their students and players. Over the years few coaches have been compared to the great Vince Lombardi who is perhaps the greatest of all coaches.

 

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi

 

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.” Vince Lombardi

 

The ability to succeed is based on hard work desire and determination these are skills that great teachers and great coaches can instill in students and players.

 

“The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else” John Madden

 

Far too often we only see the champion and how many folks can remember who finished second or third in the national championship game. This may be a fault in our society that we settle for only the greatest only the best. We live on a bell shape curve and only a few will ever be the best but it is in the trying and it is motivating students into trying that as a teacher is to excel. It is so easy to succumb to the down side of that curve. Fifty percent will not succeed and that mentality is often so powerful that so why should I try harder.

 

“One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.” Knute Rockne

 

A slight paraphrase of this great quote from the great Notre Dame Coach, “One teacher teaching is better than fifty saying they do”. This is what it is about; it is about truly teaching, motivating, instilling determination, and desire. It is about coaching and succeeding rather than failure. I hear every day, but I have a seventy percent I am passing that really makes me upset that a child concedes to a seventy percent. Who gave out seventy percent passes but we do it all the time. Can a thirty six inch jumper clear sixty inches?

 

Many years ago a so-so high jumper changed his form. He was also a student of physics and as such and he noticed jumpers were leading with their foot and the body following. He changed his form and lead with his head and torso and high jumping changed forever. Shortly thereafter a world record and Olympic gold went to Dick Fossberry and the Fossberry flop, as it was called is now the jumping style of all record holding high jumpers. Funny thing is, today all high jumpers lead with their head a matter of physics getting the heaviest part over first and those muscles pushing it over last which takes less effort and the world record keeps going up. It is about ideas, determination and commitment and any goal can be accomplished.
Can this apply to teaching and learning? Most assuredly we can, but we have to make an effort and we have to look for the means of accomplishing our goal. Federal standards called for research based programs in educational settings yet there are only a few the field is narrow and the difficultly is doing new research which requires guinea pigs and too many teachers and programs do not want to fail. Teacher’s jobs are at stake as well as administrators and so we in trying to improve may actually have boxed ourselves in by limiting improvement to a narrow window of research proven programs, which in reality may or may not work. Are they researched n the same demographics as the students you teach or will be teaching is always a question? Has this program truly been tested on a large enough group? Is there room for improvement and progress within the program?
From personal experience I have watched administrators then limit programs due to their own limitations in imagination and creativity. One of my favorites is the notorious word wall. A teacher must have six inch letters of vocabulary words on the wall and that is it. So an electronic version that is available at home anywhere on computer is not a word wall or a well-designed graphic as a lead in for a students working notebook in class is not a word wall, a set of personal flash cards is not a word wall, t-shirts with vocabulary, sky writing vocabulary words these are not word walls it has to be six inch red letters not yellow or blue. Teaching gets defeated by limits, impositions and parameters imposed by lesser imaginative administrators and legislators.

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I went out walking to my quiet spot before posting today sitting at home. I sat in my quiet spot giving thanks for all that has transpired in the past week for each element good and bad makes all involved a better person. I shared with a dear friend yesterday how each person we interact with gives us a piece of our life’s puzzle and  shared my business card which is covered in puzzle pieces and they smiled and said it makes sense now. The pieces are all falling in place. So I end my writing for today and get back to the grind of educating the masses and getting phone calls made and computer forms filled in but still the hard part is keeping all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and always giving thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

 

 

 

We need both the Rock and the Smoke

Bird Droppings April 7, 2018
We need both the Rock and the Smoke

 

“If people find no room in their lives to pray or to meditate, to reflect deeply on why they have been created and what they must do with their lives, and to listen with all of their being to the guidance of the universe, then these people are like birds who have not yet learned to fly. All the parts of the bird are present, but something is still missing. To be a whole person is to be alive in a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual way.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

I first read this short book several years ago, only absorbing a page or two a day at a time not trying to force my read as I do so often and get through it in a matter of minutes. There is an under lying theme with the tree of life so often depicted in primitive traditions. In Native American thought the tree intertwines spiritually and physically with all. Many times in ceremonies a specific tree would be selected after much thought by a medicine man or woman for the occasion. It would be carefully taken down and then “replanted” at the site of the ritual. Sundance ceremonies always would center round a tree as the main focal point of the entire ceremony. I could not help but think of the latest James Cameron movie Avatar and the depiction of the tree that is connected to all on the planet. In my own life my early mornings are to sit read and write for me a mediation of sorts. When I can if time allows although that does not sound good I will wander out into the darkness to think and reflect. Listening and watching as around me life unfolds. For many being alone in the dark is not a comfortable event but as I have now for some time embraced the solitude and quiet.

 

“A sign that much work is needed in the area of personal spiritual growth is when a person dislikes being alone, and especially dislikes being alone in silence. Many people use television and or recorded music to fill the silence so do not have to experience themselves as they are.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

Years ago I would walk out into the early morning’s darkness all about me wandering a blanket wrapped about me, thinking and reflecting on things at hand. I found as I was searching I found peace in the solitude and quiet of the early hours. As we moved over the years and my ability to walk around became hindered I started to write and read and reflect as I would sit and ponder. I started writing down my ideas and thoughts and sharing with others. I found in each of my mornings notes; an idea was there for someone. Today as we near a full moon and the night is bright with the moons reflection of the sun perhaps speaking of darkness at night is a bit odd but always I have found within darkness there is light when we seek it. So in effect in my solitude I have found community. It has been a few years since a dear friend shared with me and helped me remember a poet and philosopher of life that I had forgotten so many years ago.

 

“Walk easy on the earth each life has its own fragile rhythm, to be aware of it is to understand, to ignore is to abandon oneself to sadness. It is to search vainly for the wholeness that only comes in surrender to what is.” James Kavanaugh, Quiet Water, 1991

James Kavanaugh passed away a few years back and his works will continue to inspire and awaken emotions in people for many years ahead. There is a spiritual aspect to his writing as he reflects on his own former priesthood in many of his writings. But he also separates from religion that spiritual context that is within each of us. It is that individuality and uniqueness that gives us the essence of who we are and provides us with a desire to continue existence.

 

“Existing is one thing, but making a purpose for your existence is another.” Kendall Gomez, neighbor, former LHS student, friend, Delta Stewardess, new mom and  philosophical genius

 

Kendall is one of the few who is up when I get up each morning when she wrote this. Many the day Kendall would come by my room at school and talk and even visited a few times after she graduated. She moved into our neighborhood several years ago and it was interesting neither of us knew we were neighbors for nearly a year. Granted she is a half mile away from our house if that would still be a neighbor. As I read her post this morning and one of her responses, that her purpose was to come up with riddles for others to solve, it sort of hit me. Perhaps it is “more better” stated that we find our purpose through our existence and may even find ourselves in that effort.

 

“Another sign that warns the traveler that his heart is empty of the gifts of the west is when a person does not feel respect for the elders or for the spiritual activities and struggles of other people.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

We live in a world so interconnected to each other and yet so disjunctive as well. So many of our interactions that fail and go by the wayside are due to inadvertent differences of opinions, distrust and differences of beliefs than to any other rationales. I recall sitting down so many years ago with a man who was very much a man of faith. He was devout in his beliefs and staunch in his moral codes and ethics. We sat down in a small restaurant in town to discuss a program I had envisioned working with indigent families and people. As a prop knowing this fellow I had brought a bible along. Several verses were marked dealing with helping others and providing for those in need. I did not indicate to this man another religious connection of any sort and almost immediately as we talked he mentioned that Catholics were not Christian. My hand rested atop a Catholic bible. I found it interesting that within his desire to do good and help people was still this animosity for another person he had no idea of any connection to any church or religious affiliation for me other than a Methodist Church I was previously involved with working with high school students. He knew I attended a Methodist Seminary along the way. So already we in some ways were opposed semantically because he found one denomination was wrong and one was right yet both evolved from the same traditions and history. We started a program Shepherd Staff Ministries and up until I left that program over ten years ago we never disagreed on anything and he is still involved on the board of directors. People were served in our community with food lodging and counseling.
“Poverty is not merely a matter of not having ‘things’. It is an attitude which leads us to renounce some of the advantages which come from the use of things. A man can possess nothing, but attach great importance to the personal satisfaction and enjoyment he wants to get out of things which are common to all.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, 1956

 

As I was selecting passages today I was drawn to both Kavanaugh and Merton were Catholic clergy at one time or another in their lives. Kavanaugh had a falling out as he wrote about an outdated church and left the priesthood. Thomas Merton wrote out against war in a time when such things were not often politically correct and died suspiciously in Southeast Asia electrocuted in a bath tub protesting the War in Viet Nam. Merton was a Trappist monk till his death. When you read these two authors there ideas do flow and interconnect with those of the Native American concept of a world interconnected I started with. Merton often wrote about and was well versed in Eastern thought seeing a connection between all that was. Kavanaugh in his poetry wrote of the world almost as if he were a piece in a vast puzzle a part of the whole.

 

“Thus I am certain that somehow life will never end, because the assemblage of my friends and all the beauty of the world I have known, assures me that in some state, I must have a life of love to say what I feared to say on earth. To give what I tried to give and couldn’t and to thank you with all of me, when gratitude never seemed sufficient. I long to release all hurts and manipulations, any selfish expectation when pain and suffering got in the way of love and forgiveness, when age and self-pity interfered, or when my ignorance and arrogance prevented what I longed to reveal and share. When I realized I’d done the best I could with what I had from the past, when it was apparent that for one as good and fine and loving as you are: A lifetime isn’t long enough to love you.” James Kavanaugh, A lifetime isn’t long enough to love you, 1996

 

We of this modern era somehow get lost in all that is. We want to categorize and sanitize and package seemingly undefinable ideas and thoughts. We want to be able to research and develop vaccines to cure and control all that is around us. We lose our connections. I was talking with a fellow teacher yesterday a very good friend who has served for nearly twenty five years active and in the reserves with our military. He has been in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in most areas of conflict in the past twenty years. He has seen death and destruction at the hands and minds of men. We often talk about life in general and while he knows my own believes and perhaps his might differ we often find common ground. I bumped into him on my way to check on a student and we talked. I had an article I had been meaning to bring to him as he teachers history. It is a National Geographic article about a tribe in Africa that is one of the last known hunter gatherer societies left on the earth. What is amazing to anthropologists is that there is no strive, stress, animosity within these people. There are not items of desire or to covet. If you need a bow and arrows you make one. If you need meat you hunt and fruit you gather. As we talked I recalled another friend’s virtual game in history of having students develop society from nothing and how it is not until as humans we begin to own things that strive and turmoil appears.
“We live in a whirl of images and noises, sounds, lights, desires, frustrations, pleasures, sufferings. Our lives are a cacophony; insulated from wind and rain and sun, from heat and cold, we are ensphered in our own catacombs of concrete and plastic. Living in such a world is it any wonder we turn to drugs, to more sensational means of stimulation, to entertainment that renders us catatonic? Insulated from nature, ungrounded, why should we be surprised at our own brutality? Where in such a world is there room for gratitude and for what should we be grateful?” Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth, the spiritual landscape of Native America

 

I am getting carried away this morning but so often an idea starts and perhaps today I need to draw to a close and continue another day. My dog is barking calling to go out and now back in the moon has set and gone behind the pines and only the stars remain to light the sky. To my right as I walked out our drive way and cars and to the left pines and darkness a seemingly distant world untouched and real. I will use another line from Versluis as he discusses primitive people’s ideas and views.

 

“There is, however a mysterious unity between people and their landscape, between people and the creatures around them. This unity is of a subtle kind not easily explained. But understanding it is essential if we are to enter into a different awareness of our world” Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth, the spiritual landscape of Native America

 

Another day is near dawning and another day heading to school for finals and to finish up the school year. For all of my students and teacher friends may peace be with you and yours and may we as a nation find some point of reference to draw us together. For ten years now I have ended my morning sojourns with this line, 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

 

 

 

PS: Many mornings while sitting in my quiet place among the trees in our backyard a wisp of smoke came from my bowl of white sage, cedar, red willow bark, ursa leaves, and sweet grass and I think. There is a time for the Rock and a time for the Smoke. Both are essential to the balance of life. The rock holds steady and firm while the smoke ethereal and flowing lifts upward. We need both in our lives.

 

Potential is only that, unless it is acted upon.

Bird Droppings April 4, 2018
Potential is only that, unless it is acted upon.

 

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Earlier in the day I watched a fellow argue with the pastor from the Texas church where a gunman killed 26 members including the pastor’s daughter. He argued that it was a hoax put on by Homeland security and the FBI. All of the mass shootings were not real but staged and carried out by actors. I literally had a hard time believing this man was traveling around trying to disprove mass shootings.  He offered a cash prize if you could prove them. The fact death certificates birth certificates are public domain only led to statements of forgeries. Since 1973 I have worked with people who have in many cases severe psychological issues. Watching this man I was witnessing a crazy person. Ignorance can be taught. Sitting here writing I believe potential is the antithesis of ignorance.

 

I got thinking back as I scrolled sanity another video of Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson remembering this day fifty years ago. Dr. King was shot while he stood looking off a balcony at his motel in Memphis. Andrew Young pointed to a spot where Dr. King’s foot was caught in railing of balcony as he fell. I was a freshmen in college at the time and my radical days were ahead. While some focused on race my energies went towards education and children not served at the time. Even today I have had discussion with “friends” who feel we do not need to provide education for children who cannot be a benefit to society. I watch the news and read articles about ignorance. Webster defines ignorance: a lack of knowledge, education, or awareness. I can see how in politics both sides could claim the other as ignorant. It all depends on who you listen to. Sadly few people look more broadly and try and see both sides.

 

“Love is a complex experience which seems to follow no rules but its own. Romantic love can have the power of a hurricane or the tenderness of a soft wet wind. I have known, too, a chance introduction which instantly and magically merged into a lifelong friendship. And I’ve known love that refused to blossom over decades despite close, frequent contact. Then suddenly, this same person I had not considered significant became a treasured friend.” James Kavanaugh, A Lifetime Isn’t Long Enough To Love you

 

It was nearly fifteen years ago I went for an interview to be accepted into a Master’s Degree program at Piedmont College. I failed my interview. I had already been in school for over a year in the program and somehow I had just failed the entrance interview.  Perhaps in my zeal for the program I had forgotten the interview process. I called my advisor and an appointment was made with the Dean. I was extremely fortunate to sit in with the Dean of the Education department and gain acceptance to the program officially. A few months later I faced the professor who failed me on the interview. Much like Kavanaugh’s thought we have become good friends and in effect he reintroduced me to a long forgotten bit of my past in the poet James Kavanaugh. I have now many of his books in my library and this particular one caught my attention. The above is the first paragraph of the introduction to this book.
As I was thinking of potential it is so much on how we perceive and see the world and those around us. It is the acceptance and caring we share and that we allow others to participate in. Potential a simple word yet so often robbed from students, or from friends as we impose our own priorities and limitations on relationships and on communication, on life itself.

 

“There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential.” Rusty Berkus

 

As parents, teachers and friends we need to be igniters for others and when needed be a self-igniter for ourselves. Each day I watch teachers and students limit the potential of others. Often indirectly and without thought we do this to them.

 

“Rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebbles.” Sir Thomas Browne

 

A number of years ago in 1905, a miner unearthed in South Africa a baseball size rock, pulled from the ground covered in mud. It may have been discarded but when an observant miner carefully washed and cleaned the stone it turned out to be the largest diamond ever found. The Cullian Diamond weighed in at over 3000 carats. When cut the diamond was made into several now famous cut stones most of which reside in the crown jewels of Great Britain including the golf ball size diamond in the scepter of the Queen.

 

“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential.” Liane Cardes

 

“The treacherous, unexplored areas of the world are not in continents or the seas; they are in the hearts and minds of men.” Allen E. Claxton

 

So often it is within us that we become limited. We ourselves become the stumbling blocks for our own potential. It takes perseverance and effort to many times over come our own fears and inadequacies. Often children are put down and carry that into later events and undertakings, a sense of inadequacy and potential is squashed.

 

“Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential. They experience synergy only in small, peripheral ways in their lives. But creative experiences can be produced regularly, consistently, almost daily in people’s lives. It requires enormous personal security and openness and a spirit of adventure.” Steven R. Covey

 

A virtual business empire has been built by Covey helping and inspiring people to become aware of their own potential unlocking what they hold inside. Great coaches in sports and life through understanding of people achieve success with teams that may not have the greatest athletes but have a concerted effort for achieving their potential. In a recent college football game, a seemingly invincible team was upset by a smaller college. It was that team’s effort to reach their true potential and another team thinking less of them because of who they thought they were.

 

“A pint can’t hold a quart — if it holds a pint it is doing all that can be expected of it.” Margaret Deland

 

“It’s the moment you think you can’t that you realize you can.” Celine Dion

 

“What you can become you are already.” Hebbel Friedrich

 

There are really no secrets to unlocking our own potential, it is there waiting. So many years ago I remember my father saying never say “I can’t”, “you can achieve anything you set your mind too”. .

 

“The cynic says, ‘One man can’t do anything.’ I say, ‘Only one man can do anything.’” John W. Garner

 

John Garner was the author of numerous books on a range of subjects including Leadership and motivation. Garner states it is there inside us “Only one man can do anything”.

 

“The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we could become.” Ben Herbster

 

“Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make very small use of their possible consciousness and of their soul’s resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.” William James

 

We so get into the habit of accepting limitations, of listening to those around us who keep us back. We should instead seek people and friends who uplift and raise the standards for us and those around us. Try and look for people who also want to reach their potential.

 

“It’s not what you’ve got; it’s what you use that makes a difference.” Zig Ziglar

 

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve obviously never been in bed with a mosquito.” Michelle Walker

 

We each can make a difference within ourselves and with others by not holding friends, family and or students back. Instead each of us should by helping them to reach their potential, by not having expectations that limit growth and achievement. We can accomplish anything by reaching for the sky. Today it is the near the end of the week let us all be more aware of those around us

 

“Normal day let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.” Mary Jean Iron

 

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