Inability of surmounting learning difficulties

Bird Droppings March 23, 2018
Inability of surmounting learning difficulties


It has been a few days since my last post. I have been extremely occupied with surgery Tuesday and recovering past few days. Last week I had several doctor appointments, ultrasounds, blood work, and more doctors made it a crazy week. It seems my bladder has got the best of me. Now I am electrified and can no longer go through a metal detector.  Hopefully I will get a bit more back on track in my writings.  In what theoretically was one of my last IEP meetings the student was reaffirmed, yes you do have a deficit in math. However choosing to not do the work and or even try is choice. As a Junior wanting to graduate next year you have to choose do you want to get out of school or not. There is nothing I can pull out of my bag of magic tricks I explained.


Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites.” John Dewey, Experience and Education


“There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them.” Phyllis Bottome


An interesting start to a morning thought process after a wonderful experience last night. I was trying to get some sleep my first night with no pain meds, and had an epiphany sitting thinking of columns of numbers and manipulating data. This can be whatever I want depending on wording and what variables I apply. I have often come to this conclusion when looking at research. Ever since I was told a reading program was data based and I called asking for the demographics of the research. The sample was so small and biased the data was in no way viable. But schools were buying the program in leaps and bounds. As for my thoughts and opening quotes, one from John Dewey and the other a British novelist with over thirty four books to her credit. Working with at risk kids so often in life I find in general we tend to avoid difficulties, we walk away, we steer clear, and we postpone and or we argue.


“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.” Isak Dinesen


Many years back I was watching a student working on what for some was a quick assignment merging several different graphics and or creating graphics into a calendar during a project. Each student went in totally different directions. One in a matter of minutes had created a Mario brothers calendar based on old Mario Brothers clips each significant to him. One was on deer hunting there was even a Care Bears focus. However one fellow was taking each frame and altering photos in a photo program eliminating back grounds and only using specific aspects of each image. Each day he would accomplish only a small portion of what others were doing yet he was totally immersed in his task. In the end he will have a really nice artistic piece but many hours are involved.


“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.” John Holt


“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill


“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather


There are times when a student procrastinates and I have had several who are world class procrastinators but watching this student work at his project meticulously detailing each image is not procrastination.


“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather


What intrigued me with this project was that this student was normally lazy but this project became of interest to him. Each photo that he had taken in that past semester was being edited and formatted in minute detail and had literally become an obsession. He got in trouble in another class and asked if I would get him out of ISS so he could work on his project. As I looked at the Dan Rather quote I wondered if when he started that he knew he would lose two days’ work when he tried to download to a floppy more than it would hold and crashed. Or that editing a photo pixel by pixel takes time.


“It is surmounting difficulties that make heroes.” Louis Kossuth


“Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.” Carl Gustav Jung


What amazes me is that this student has begun to grow. In many ways he still is very lazy and often will start an assignment in great zeal only to stop before it is completed and be content with a 70%. His attitude is one of I am passing and so what.


“You can’t fly a kite unless you go against the wind and have a weight to keep it from turning a somersault. The same with man. No man will succeed unless he is ready to face and overcome difficulties and is prepared to assume responsibilities.” William J. H. Boetcker


“For every difficulty that supposedly stops a person from succeeding there are thousands who have had it a lot worse and have succeeded anyway. So can you.” Brian Tracy


As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark, that trick, that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an n email story the other day that was a tear jerker. Granted it probably does not pass the fact check and such but still a good story. Let me share this story with you whether you are a teacher, parent, student and or just a friend.


“There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her fifth grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.” His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’ laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. And she paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class, and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.” A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you for much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” A boy named Teddy, Author Unknown


I would like to hope I can be like Mrs. Thompson and sometimes all it takes is a teacher or a friend that cares.


“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer


I am sitting here finalizing my thoughts to teach an existential lesson, as I joke about so often being an existentialist. Yesterday as I walked down my hall with another teacher we were commenting on how many teachers had been here six or more years and it was more than half. Last night I ran into a teacher who no longer teaches at our school from our hall. The teachers who are gone had learned those that remain are learners interesting as I think back and forward reading Hoffer’s thought. Hoffer was a self-educated man, a philosopher coming from the docks of New York City his first book True Believer was written in the early 1950’s in his middle age and he never slowed down till his death in 1982.


“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward


So today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not be simply learned. 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)


Religion is what you make of it

Bird Droppings March 21, 2018
Religion is what you make of it


“A poor devotee points to the sky and says, ‘God is up there.’ An average devotee says, ‘God dwells in the heart as the Inner Master.’ The best devotee says, ‘God alone is and everything I perceive is a form of God.’” Ramakrishna


Ramakrishna was a spiritual leader in India in the early and mid 1800’s. He had a belief in the unity of God, an oneness of existence, the divinity of all living things and a harmony of religions. He felt religion was simply a means to accomplish a goal. I receive numerous emails of an inspirational nature each morning and this quote from a Hindu email I receive struck me. How often do we want to place our faith somewhere away, up there, out there, anywhere but here? How often do we limit our faith to a Sunday morning worship service? How often is our religious experience simply mouthing the traditional words in a traditional ritual?


“We also have a religion which has been given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. It teaches us to be thankful, to be united, and to love one another! We never quarrel about religion.” Red Jacket, Seneca orator


“We know that the God of the educated and the God of the child, the God of the civilized and the God of the primitive, is after all the same God; and that this God does not measure our differences, but embraces all who live rightly and humbly on the earth.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, Santee Sioux


I have read extensively in Native American and Eastern philosophies and I have seen many similarities between the Eastern thought and Native American beliefs and philosophies. I am not trying to advertise but a good inspirational book “The Wisdom of the Native Americans” which is an edited volume of Native thought is edited by Kent Nerburn. The book is a collection of thoughts and ideas that can give wonderful insight into a new day.
I walked out and watched the moon and stars this morning sitting and listening as the light came into the world with a slow rising plume of smoke from a sage leave as a companion. I wish I were more awake I am still recovering from the pollen and a cold. Several mornings back around three in the morning a loud bird was singing off in the distance, a few doves were cooing and calling nearby. Around four that morning owls and whippoorwills joined in as well as a few tree frogs. By five that morning as I pulled into the school there was a chorus of crickets, frogs, birds, and who knows what else but nearly melodic. Always interesting as I pull into school with no one here it is quiet and peaceful for a few hours before the deluge of students and teachers arrive.
I went into school that day to sort and clean my room, feed critters and work on research for various projects for graduate school and for my classes that I am working on. I have been developing for several years my own collection of writings and spend a few moments in-between as a break working on those as well. Mornings are a good time for me to think and write as my thought processes seem more keen and sharp. One of my “friends” tells me it is old age, as by afternoon I tend to forget names.
It has been many years since I was youth director of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Macon Georgia. I had my 23rd birthday in that capacity so many years ago, forty five years now. Sitting on my shelf at the house is a Living Bible I received as a birthday gift, as I look back how appropriate in its name. This book is alive with notes, thoughts, and pictures from people along the way, even phone numbers and under lined verses with various kids’ autographs as they would select their favorites. Occasionally I will open this old bible and spill out the tidbits and reflect on days gone by, on philosophies changed and evolved. It had been many years since I called one of the numbers in the inside cover written nearly forty years ago. Back then Katharine was a high school student and a regular in our group. She is the one that gave me that bible for my birthday those many years ago. That call was a spur of the moment thought. I found she was in Europe at that time doing work in Bosnia for a mission board based out of Africa. As I opened up my emails a day or two later I read through and sorted deleting spam and junk messages and how this one caught my attention.


“I am in Dili, East Timor now still working with Catholic Relief Services. In this rather “gypsy” life I lead of moving in and out of remote and often isolated places, it is very nice to know that I still have links with people I have known for more than 30 years. However, as it happens, in this life we also face challenges with email communication … I love getting the Bird Droppings daily, but with the very limited access we have here to send, download and receive, I am afraid that I am going to have to ask you to take me off your list-serve. I can only get to email about once a week and downloading large documents that come daily really does slow down the whole system. I work and pray daily for peace and healing… please hold that thought for me. A note now and then would be fine and appreciated. Wishing you all the best and peace.” Katherine Pondo


We now keep in touch through a blog I write to. I speak often of the puzzle of our lives falling into place piece by piece each little intricate facet interconnecting to the next. Today as I sit writing and thinking of all the pieces over the years all the lives intertwined I offer this morning that when you get a chance to keep the Katherine Pondo’s of the world in your hearts and thoughts as often they are on the front lines of humanity trials and tribulations. Looking back over my wanderings today this is a small world and we so often try and segregate, delegate, and relegate belief. Over the past years religion has sparked political battles and upheavals. I honestly do not think Ramakrishna as he thought of harmony among religions would have foreseen the drama and often fighting that exists because of religion. So today please as always keep those in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.
“Aho Mitakuye Oyasin ” is a simple yet profound statement. It comes from the Lakota Nation and means all my relations. It is spoken during prayer and ceremony to invite and acknowledge all relatives to the moment. To most of us today, relative means a blood relation or another human in the family lineage. We have not been taught that an entity, other than human, could be a relative. Understanding this simple statement and contemplating it, could change your outlook on life forever. If you love and honor your relatives, you would be loving and honoring most of what is on this earth, if you lived by this meaning of “relative.” What a different world we would be living in!


My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin




Trying to find a window can be a chore if you do not know where to look

Bird Droppings February 26, 2018
Trying to find a window can be a chore if you do not know where to look


I woke up very early today as our dog was barking to go out. I walked out on my back porch only to catch a glimpse of the rain falling along the tree line; a light drizzle was slipping in below the trees. It was just a coincidence that my dog wanted out exactly as rain subsided a bit and dashed out of sight in the back yard. I tend to view life as a series of interactions each interdependent upon the next and each interwoven with the previous. A good friend and I often through discuss Carl Jung and synchronicity. Those interwoven pieces of life that intertwine all that is and seem to be so “connected” and keep us all in place.


“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


As I meet people and try to understand where and why about each one I find so often many who are still seeking to understand themselves not clearly knowing who or where they are in relationship to all else about them. This is not to say I am searching for who I am daily.


“A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.” Albert Einstein


I was talking with a group of students working on projects for their class on learning how to teach a few months back. They worked with a preschool class, each high school student works with a four year old on words, colors and all sorts of fun things. We were talking and a former student of mine came to mind. It has been nearly forty five years since I took a picture of this child. He was about five years old and severely autistic. He was nonverbal and spent much of his time simply staring ahead. On a spring day much like yesterday he was looking out the window of the school which was in an old house in Paoli Pennsylvania in 1970. I went out the back door with my camera ran around the front to his window and took a picture. He had his nose pressed up to the window staring out. I often wondered what he was seeing as he stared straight ahead. Over the years as I look at that picture I find myself thinking he was trying to find a window. Even as he looked out the window he was still searching for a window that he could see through.


“I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.” Henry David Thoreau


I watched him as he approached the window, it was not the view he wanted but the temperature, the coolness of the pane of glass against his cheek. I was seeing a window and he was feeling a moist pane of cool glass. I was pulling out various books and ideas as I talked to this group of students who worked with little students a few days ago. I shared author Shel Silverstein and a copy of The Giving Tree with CD, and also William Stieg and CDB a whimsical word puzzle(CDB – see the bee), and as I looked and thought many memories flooded back. Of working with children who probably still do not speak. Of searching for my own windows through in my life and occasionally only feeling the cool glass pane


“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau


As I think back over my discussion a few days ago with these teachers to be we started talking about people we would like to meet. Somewhere in an internet profile or such I wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, I added Gandhi the other day as we spoke. Most of the students were choosing contemporaries and most were celebrities. I thought over the years how our views change. For youngsters trying to find a window can be a chore not knowing where to look or maybe not even being tall enough to see out once there. As we get older the rules change we know where to look but have we drawn the blinds. We are tall enough to look out but do we really want to? Or are we content to simply press our nose to the glass and feel the coolness, never even attempting to see what lies beyond. It is a clear morning finally, although it is cold as stars fill the sky and a slight wind is blowing through the pine needles. A new day 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)



What is a students desire for freedom?

Bird Droppings February 24, 2018
What is a students desire for freedom?


“Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom and dignity. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed, merely to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. Human nature needs to breathe the precious air of liberty.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama


In life as I look back humans also while seeking freedom also seem to have an urge to subjugate others as well. When I was riding down to Emory University’s Oxford campus a quite a few years back to drop my youngest son off for a summer workshop we were talking about people who need to feel in control, in power, to be in charge. So often people take teaching jobs subconsciously for that reason I have found over the years as I observe teachers. In talking with my wife about the same topic she was looking from a medical stand point and as I so often do, looking from a psychological view.
We each in our own way see the idea of freedom perhaps in differing lights and lenses. While attending a wedding shower recently in a subdivision in another part of the local community I was definitely not a free person. In my existence I tend to be somewhat monastic picking and choosing times to be social and spending much of my day by myself reading, writing, and pondering uninterrupted by the where and whys of social interaction.


However last night watching a rerun of House and a blogger who laid her life out in minute detail in her blog while living in somewhat isolation communicated and interacted on a level that was in many psychological terms very social. At this shower I was lost in a crowd of people that I did not know or really care to be among and eventually walked outside after sitting for nearly an hour and a half talking to my cousin who was the father of the groom to be. But as I look at my first paragraph I had no control of the situation.
Does this apply to learning and education most assuredly as we place children so often in places where they have no control and they have few if any liberties? Often the response is one of flight or of negative behavior as we define the norm and allow only what we as teachers deem appropriate. Freedom is just another word was the song from the early 1970’s and mid 1960’s written by Kris Kristofferson. Working with children who have Emotional problems and whose affect is impacted for whatever reason has me looking at the kids I work with differently than most teachers may even attempt.
But in my own research the past few months I found that in the early 1950’s a group of educational psychologists came up with several learning domains. One of these aspects or domains is the affective domain.


“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.


These are the five areas of that domain outlined above, so what does an affective domain have to do with freedom? What do bossy people have to do with either? Literally we set ourselves up for failure so often in life. Internally a desire for liberty confounded by structure in societal entities, school, work, social organizations and such where we are told what to do by a teacher, boss or president. So many years ago I recall listening to someone discussing business and management back in the day my son would say. I had dinner with my father and the great management guru Peter Drucker at a management meeting in Chicago.


“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” Peter Drucker


As I read the great business author Peter Drucker’s thought and pondered how often is teaching much the same. I reworded the statement a bit with, could it be then that so much of what we call teaching consists in making it difficult for students to learn. But it was later when discussing that this thought I remembered another quote from a book my father wrote a number of years ago.


“It is not about telling workers (students) what to do, it is about asking them to do it and further if they believe it is their idea and they take ownership of that idea far more will be accomplished” Frank E. Bird Jr., Practical Loss Control Management


In educational research students having empowerment and ownership increases significantly the level to which they will achieve. I have seen this premise work in industry many times as workers take ownership of an idea and turn a company around in safety programs. I have seen students who have input in a classroom light up and move forward so much more so than when manacled by a dictator like teacher. In my own research and studies as I work on my dissertation in The Foxfire Approach to teaching the number one Core Practice states the following.


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


As I have been involved directly or indirectly now for nearly forty five years in training and teaching when a learner be it adult or child has ownership of the idea so much more is accomplished. Work goes from tedious to enjoyable. Success becomes the norm rather than failure. As teachers how do we give ownership to students of material such as Algebra or US History? How can we take student ideas and intertwine with mandated curriculum? These are not simple questions and there are not simple answers. It does take effort and work and often not being totally in control to allow this to happen and to flow.
As I thought a bit more I wonder if by accepting an inherent desire to be free as stated by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Vinson’s idea of an affective domain and building upon that we might just end up have successful students and workers. Imagine if we could build upon this in schools and improve schools because kids want to and not because of federal standards and demands. This concept is essentially the premise behind democracy in the classroom and much of John Dewey’s work on education and democracy in our own country. Every major politician is now for or against specific policies and each has a differing reason but I find it still necessary to end as I have now for nearly fifteen years. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. For so many years as I look back and each day find in harm’s way goes so far beyond the wars and tribulations of man. Several friends have battled cancer and won and as I look even at within my own family over the past few years the emotions and heart wrenching in harm’s way is a rather broad term. We need to be looking behind each corner and searching our hearts and keep as humans uplifting rather than tearing each other down. The potential for man is so great but we continually allow ourselves to be sucked into the vacuums of greed and denial. How do we rise up and offer a hand? How do we become a nation of people rather than of profit? It takes understanding and it takes as Dr. Vinson offers we need to be in the affective domain.


“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.


So another week ahead and I sit pondering what might I bring to the table today as a teacher. Hopefully something that will impact students in a positive way and I close as I have for nearly fifteen years please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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)



A series of paradoxes and bewilderment

Bird Droppings February 21, 2018
A series of paradoxes and bewilderment


I received the following in an email several months ago. A friend of mine sent it out and as I read the first time it was humorous. However as I pondered then as a teacher I read deeper into what was being said. I listened by coincidence to a few words from a former Georgia Congressman and former Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. I recalled about eleven years ago early in the morning as I by chance I hit the AM button in my car. It was obviously a very conservative talk show and on the extreme conservative side. But the comment was “If a Democratic Congress gets in they will spend the first two years investigating the last two years of the current administration and then raise taxes and…”, and he went on. It interested me that is he saying something has been done wrong that needs investigating and then we go right back investigating now in a reverse situation. The news stories daily seem to imply that or are they just trying to stir up conservatives to get out and protect their money. Anyhow my email forward from a friend:


“Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s: Teaching Math in 1950’s – a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit? Teaching Math in 1960’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit? Teaching Math in 1970’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit? Teaching Math in 1980’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20. Teaching Math In 1990’s a logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.) Teaching Math in 2005-6 un hachero vende una carretada de madera para $100. El costo de la producción es $80”


As I read this I wondered if this is really what the general public thinks. Of course most of my conservative friends are against illegal immigrants yet still eat vegetables and buy cheap chicken. There are numerous books out on the dummying down of America. No one ever mentions we are one of the few countries with free public education to all children regardless of race, sex, disability and or income and in turn the only one trying to hold accountable educational systems for getting everyone to the same level. Each of the eras above has issues in its systems. However let me add I took a general biology course in my second year of college and the current general biology text for ninth graders at our high school is significantly more in depth and has numerous subjects and information not even conceived of in 1968.


So I look at the above email and see 1950 all was well, 1960 we are concerned about fractions, 1970 we are concerned about semantics, 1980 we are now worried about correct underlining too much Christmas treeing of answers on standardized tests and in the 1990’s we are concerned about environment and each other and asking why and how come questioning and wanting to perceive how this as wrong. I was amused at math in 2000’s and how it was touchy feely sort of kind of thing. They left out math in 2010 where a forester pays poachers in the rain forest of South America to strip a piece of land unregulated by an laws and sell to him at a dirt cheap price and then wander off so literally we have a near 100% profit.
In 1919 John Dewey was using reflection as a teaching tool very successfully he was considerably ahead of his time. Sadly reflection and discussion take time away from memorizing and with teaching to the test as we are now. Our students have to memorize volumes of material in every subject and many teachers do not have the time or they at least think they do not to offer context. Then looking back at 2005-2006 math comments and inferences to diversification it was not too many years ago women could not go to school and or hold positions in many companies and such. Even today woman are stereotyped into certain positions.
A friend who recently passed away was writing her dissertation on gender biases in administration in public schools. Sadly all the public hoopla in one arena is about immigration. I still recall a parent conference ten years ago when a good old boy wearing scruffy shorts no socks, boots untied, and a dirty white T-Shirt explained it so eloquently to me. It seems he was out of work as he was a construction worker and at that essentially a gofer. He would be the one toting boards and bricks whatever. I was filling in forms since he did not read or write and his son was about to end up in the alternative school. I asked what he did for a living and he informed me he couldn’t get work. Obviously I was aware of the construction situation in our area of very few houses being built. However his answer took me by surprise. He commented with a few expletives “The @#$% Mexicans work too #$@% hard.” For him it could have been Afro Americans, Native Americans, Eastern Europeans, and or Hispanics, it was anyone who was actually willing to work and different than or not like him. Did I mention he did not smell very good sort of like a few old beers and cigarette stale smoke a paradox of sorts?
And so why am I bewildered we so often complain and whine and criticize and often only because we do not understand or lack of information. Simply put it is ignorance among the so many wonderful reasons. Parents expect wonders from teachers and many times we do deliver but years ago I wrote about the sixteen hour syndrome. Teachers have kids for eight hours and are expected to work miracles only to go home to parents, TV, video, friends, drugs, and many other misc. other distraction and they have sixteen hours to undo all they learned in those eight. It is sort of a losing battle in many situations.


“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.” Black Elk


As I read this thought from Black Elk a Lakota Sioux holy man written some years ago I was intrigued how we adults take these innocents and make them adults today losing all of their innocence. I watch the four year olds around school from our demo school they are inquisitive and wondering and yet in a few years they will be blank eyed and listless stripped of all of their joy and purity by our cultural efforts to make automatons and provide vehicles for the productivity of our manufacturing and corporate greed. This could be why I am bewildered that we have come to this in a free society and in reality are more imprisoned than many so called third world countries. We are imprisoned by our self-serving, self-centeredness and greed and watching calmly as monopolies are forming again and the big three oil companies are the only oil companies and ma bell is soon to be in charge again. I am paraphrasing and borrowing from an old folk song, where have all the steel mills gone or where have all the textile jobs gone. It is very simple they have gone to countries ever where. Then the chorus, oh when will we ever learn, oh when will we ever learn.
Paradoxes and complexities bewilderment and wonderment, I look at Black Elks words and wonder why can we not learn from children and maybe get back some of our lost innocence. 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)


Wandering about while I am waiting

Bird Droppings February 19, 2018
Wandering about while I am waiting


Sitting listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash and Young album Four Way Street from live recording of their tour in 1970. I have been saving my pennies to get a new camera body to be ready for spring. There are so many possibilities with various flowers blooming all about and baby ducks and geese soon at local lakes and ponds. I have been making do with my old camera with off and on focusing issues for about a year now and actually do get some good shots now and again.


Back to my writing I recall a paper I had been working on that frustrated me and yet was very interesting; how did the denominalization in the antebellum period in the history of the United States effect higher education? After writing about faith and religion a few weeks back this thought came back to me. I had been pouring through books for nearly a week and knew what I wanted to say but it was a research paper and I had to site sources and use others views not my own. With the new cabinet members pushing religion and a new word, deconstruction being s thrown out about in terms of our national education department  Jefferson’s quote might fit.


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” First amendment to the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson


It has been some time since a student was using this amendment to justify mandatory school lead prayer in public school. As is for me a violation, as are so many of the efforts to teach Christianity or any religion in public school. Last week in a blog the discussion was various views on afterlife and or no afterlife which of course went in numerous directions and even a challenge as to George Washington’s faith that I had mentioned in a previous writing. As I read and thought back in the day actually the first six presidents were college graduates then a trend towards doers and not education starting with Andrew Jackson. As higher education progressed in the United States there was a period just prior to the Civil war where churches were splitting and forming new denominations literally daily and in doing so to justify existence formed colleges for educating their clergy and members.
This is not a history lesson but as I read and looked through the hell blog it really became apparent how many different believers and in how many different things they believe. All going back to our First amendment we can believe what we want. What is so interesting is when belief is based on traditions and innuendos and less on fact not to push science versus faith but not that long ago people were burned at the stake for saying the world is round and not flat as advocated by the church. I wonder sometimes and well it has been said that ignorance is bliss and maybe that is why people are so gosh darn happy. A very scary thought in the news a few months back. A powerful political figure stepped down for possible improprieties and is publicly saying he will be more powerful out of the White House than in that is a scary thought in other words he will be doing what he is being punished for. Lobbying votes for various entities. Interesting one of his friends has just been found guilty of various illegal issues dealing with lobbying and we still elect and or support the people who put these guys in power.
It is so amazing how we do find these people electable. It started back in 1820’s or so when intelligent people were not as important as what you could do for me became the trend. A major effort of Andrew Jackson was displacing eastern Native Americans to Oklahoma and giving their lands to his friends. Isn’t it wonderful how this system works? But quickly back to faith and belief, it should be a personal thing something in your heart and soul if you consider soul an entity.


“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun. Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices no more easily made. And give, give in any way you can, of whatever you possess. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than for how it is shared and your life will have meaning and your heart will have peace.” Kent Nerburn


I highly recommend going t Kent Nerburn’s blog and reading his thoughts on recent events. I have been under the influence of medication having surgery recently and avoided being too political, my wife warned me. But the past weekend and reading and watching has concerned me deeply. I came back to teaching on September 11, 2001. My job was primarily working with Emotionally Disturbed, EBD, students. I had a group of twenty eight students that first year not all were EBD. The majority however were. In my group twenty six had been arrested, were either on or had been on probation for many differing crimes. The only two who had not actually lived with biological parents. The other students all had multiple family relationships, step fathers, mothers, boyfriends, and girlfriends etc. as guardians. One kid lived with his dad’s third wife.


I enjoyed that year and actually that was not my worst group of kids. In 1974 for six months I worked in a unit at Central State Hospital before it closed. I was counseling on a unit of adolescent psychotic females. Two of the girls had killed one had killed two people. I will never forget coming in and one of the girls in my counseling group was in solitary confinement in a straight jacket. I asked about incident and was told she had a episode and it took six orderlies and ten cc’s of thorazine, a maximum adult dose to get the straight jacket on. The jacket would stay on till she would start talking to doctor. I learned about crazy first hand. I finished undergraduate at Mercer with a degree in psychology, followed up with a masters in Emotional Behavior Disorders and continued my graduate work in curriculum.


So I have worked with some crazy kids. I have had kids removed in restraints from my class room. I have said to myself this kid or that is on my list for trouble in the future. I have been fortunate to say few have gone bad and most are now great parents. One sticks out a kid I had in 1976. He is currently serving three life sentences for murder and attempted murder. I suggested psychological counseling for two years while I taught him. He worked for me the summer I moved to Walton County on the family farm. However similar to recent events his mother died. He went off the deep end his father  put him out, and his sister tried her best even though she herself had a serious issue happen around this same time with a boyfriend who killed her baby. My former student finally got help at Central State, being institutionalized for six months. He begged and his sister begged for him to stay and even in late 1970’s mental health was money oriented. He was transferred to a half-way house. After a few weeks he had befriended a young mother with two kids nearby. One day he killed the mother and almost killed the two kids. The police followed the blood trail to his room where the knife was sitting in the sink and he raised his hands for cuffs. Sadly it took destroying three lives for the state to lock him up. So easy to rationalize mental health and solutions.

“I still don’t understand why I am expected to teach my children how to survive in a violent world, but my country isn’t expected to make the world less violent.“ Teacher in Florida

I tried to avoid discussions of weapons, guns, ammo and such all weekend. But one caught my attention dealing with taking away our liberties and protecting our security. I checked a few definitions quickly on my phone.

Liberty – the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.

Security – the quality or state of being: such protecting our security, freedom from danger, freedom from fear or anxiety

(Webster’s online dictionary)

So does being secure supersede a liberty or does liberty supersede security? My next few thoughts I dictated on my phone as I was driving Saturday. “I’m not looking to keep anybody from having freedom’s reduced but what I’m trying to say is that instead of trying to curb violence in our country we are actually trying to support violence. We’re looking at doing things like adding guns to schools, be at through teachers armed, more resource officers and metal detectors. We are assuming there’s going to be more violence. Why are we not trying to curb violence that’s the part I don’t understand? So many posts are in support of more violence. Get your child a Kevlar backpack, clear backpack, of course metal detectors, and boost security systems and whatever. It is kids who just went through this horrible event in Florida who are offering thoughts and of course ridiculed for them. We should be trying to curb violence not increase violence.


I think back sadly five years ago I was sitting at a three year olds birthday party in rural Georgia. The conversation was around me and I listened to three young men, all fathers, all in early to mid-20s discussing the priority at hand. There was a big sale at a local gun store on AR-15’s and or similar knock offs. What was so funny about the conversation was that all three of these guys were hourly employees at a factory nearby making about $10 an hour and yet they were willing to go out and spend their savings and buy 3-5 AR15‘s because the price was so good. For them it was an investment. For me just sitting here as a parent and a grandparent it was absurd that anyone in this country needs 3, 4, and or 5 AR15’s.


Years ago I had a .223 back in my sheep and cattle days. I kept the rifle locked in my barn office.  Several blogs and facebook posts have mentioned that’s the same thing as an AR15 and yes in many ways it was. I had a banana clip 30 shot and it had a scope and was extremely accurate. We used it for dogs killing lambs and calves. Nowadays it would be coyotes. When I left farming I got rid of my rifle I no longer had a use for it. Even the bible states there’s a time and a place for everything but like I said there’s no reason, no reason on god’s green earth that anyone needs to have multiple assault type weapons.


I know you can say they are the same weapon AR15 and .223 to a point. However there are features about the AR15 that in talking with some military people make it a big difference.  One of the big differences in there’s very little recoil and you can fire and you can fire the AR15 faster than you can fire a .223. That is a significant factor in why they are dangerous. The same gentleman that was discussing the .223 versus the A.R. 15 also pointed out that after his eight years in the military he shot a M-4 the military AR15. He pointed out his targets were always human targets never circles. One of the things he commented on was he went for not just kill shots he went for the shot that would do the most collateral damage in other words gut shots that would take wounded to the hospital that would require people to take care of them. This would require more time from other people rather than simply kill the person out right. There are many aftermarket features available for the A.R. 15 that are not available for the .223. Folding stocks, additional sites, even the bump stock used in Las Vegas shootings. By no means am I against the second amendment and ownership of guns. BUT and that a big but. Even in home defense the weapon you choose was bought to kill another human.


As I close I thought of something this morning reading a note from a single mother. Children who are from broken homes, we always tend to think divorce equals a broken home but in reality a broken home is one “needin fixin” that could be many reasons other than divorce and can often be kids with both parents. Sometimes I wish Elmer’s glue made an adhesive for broken homes a simple fix for a complex problem so as always 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)


An owl calling

Bird Droppings February 16, 2018

An owl calling


Last night I woke for a few minutes as it turns out I forgot to turn on the ceiling fan. While up I stuck my nose out the door perhaps intuition who knows when wandering about the house half asleep. Deep in the pines an owl called and of all memories to unlock an instance three years ago flashed before my mind’s eye. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon a little over seven years ago I was made aware of a situation that at first caught me by surprise. A former student from years gone by had been arrested in another county and was being held for immigration to be deported. She had been in the US since she was three years old and was raising her three kids here. As it turns out she had never received a green card and her boyfriend of seven years as well was illegal. Both had worked and she had graduated from high school where I knew her as a student. I was asked to go see her as along with all of this she has a specific learning disability in reading. Maybe all the news about deportations was on my mind.


I seldom bring up being ordained but being ordained has certain privileges and after all scheduled visitors are permitted into the jail pastors can go in. So I went in and I visited for nearly forty five minutes with one of my favorite students of all time at the county detention center. We talked about how seven years ago she had come to me with a big what if. She proceeded to tell me a friend of hers is pregnant and what could she do and who should she go to. It only took a few minutes till I realized the friend was actually herself. I recalled how she sat on the sofas in my room propping her feet up as she completed school while pregnant and would come in my room to rest.


She nearly came to tears as started talking about her babies who I have pictures of hanging on my door at school and have held and laughed with several times. I said no crying since I did not want to cry in front of a former student. We talked about jail food and how as soon as she was out she wanted a homemade tortilla and eggs and all the trimmings. It was nearly nine when I walked the almost half mile from the visiting room to my car which in my haste had locked my car keys in and had to have a police officer help me get into. As I drove home I recalled all of the publicity of illegal aliens and immigration laws and how business men provide jobs at a cheaper rate. A recent article on banks in bailout of applying for nearly twenty one thousand visas for white collar positions since they can get foreigners for less money in attorney and accounting positions over US citizens.


I thought of a young girl who had worked and had finished school and raised three kids and was being held because of where she had been born not where she was raised and grew up and gone to school and yet we have people receiving huge bonuses who created and caused one of the worst financial crisis’s in history walking around free and going on vacation. I was mad when I got home thinking of how greed had driven our society to where it was.


I wrote some of this a little over six years ago however last night early in the morning a great horned owl called several times waking me up and brought back many memories and thoughts beyond the memories of a wonderful person who had been sitting in a jail cell away from her kids.


I sat listening even though half asleep as I do every morning and today the pine needles have made a lace pattern in the spaces between the twigs against the clarity of the sky. The sky is cold and clear and stars are everywhere as I wandered out. When I first went out a faint chorus of crickets greeted me or so I thought but it was the cold ringing in my ears, but off in the distance a great horned owl called. It has been several days since a student at school asked if I knew what an owl meant. It is funny how bits and pieces of memory come back.


It was not all that long ago that several times a student reminded me to call her mother about the pow-wow coming up in the spring. Her mother coordinates the local Native American gatherings and dances. Perhaps this is what got me thinking as many southeastern tribes consider the owl to be a harbinger of evil or dread. For some eastern tribes an owl calling was considered a sign of death, as you move across the Mississippi the various tribes attitude about owl’s changes. Owls become symbols of power, of wisdom, of a fine line between here and the spirit world.


Owls calling in the dark, it is a haunting sound for one person and darkness yet a few days ride away the same haunting sounds bring light. As the weather warms up I will hear owls nearly every morning often several will be calling to each other. It has been sometime since I was up in the North Georgia Mountains with my middle son on an environmental field trip. We stayed at a spot I consider very special, Camp Mikel, a summer camp owned and operated by the Episcopal Arch Diocese of Atlanta.


The camp lies in a valley along two ridges. The cabins are on one ridge and across the fields and marsh another ridge and the camps famous cross on top of the mountain. The camp has an ongoing program with a group that provides for school educational experiences in the mountains on habitat ecology and environmental workshops. It was about nine o’clock and our group went out onto the playing fields with a tape recorder. We started calling owls. In a matter of a few minutes several were calling back. Owls in our area range from a tiny screech owl to the great horned owl.


One of our other exercises during the day was dissecting owl pellets. It seems owls eat various creatures and the parts which are not digested are literally barfed up in a ball and dropped usually at their roosting spot. Scientists can study diet and health of the owl population through the pellets. One of the students in our group as they opened up the brown mass of their pellet uncovered a skull. Soon several of us had found skulls of shrews and mice rats and squirrels. Our instructor was interested in this first one it was different and carefully cleaned it off. It was a screech owl skull. The great horned owl had devoured the smaller owl.


As I thought of my morning, pondering what the day would bring and listening to the Great horned owls calling all around me the sense of oneness with nature was over whelming. Back at my environmental retreat I did learn each owl has a very distinctive call.  I was also intrigued at how we all surmise differences in the same stimuli, not only the owls and owls calling but it could be in words used in a hallway at school. One person hears humor another slander.


“The Lenape Indians believed that if they dreamt of an Owl it would become their guardian. To the Mojave Indians of Arizona, one would become an Owl after death, this being and interim stage before becoming a water beetle, and ultimately pure air. According to Navajo legend, the creator, Nayenezgani, told the Owl after creating it “…in days to come, men will listen to your voice to know what will be their future” California Newuks believed that after death, the brave and virtuous became Great Horned Owls. The wicked, however, were doomed to become Barn Owls. In the Sierras, native peoples believed the Great Horned Owl captured the souls of the dead and carried them to the underworld.” Deane P. Lewis, Owls in mythology


I was listening several years ago to several students, for one what appeared to be just a comment became words to fight for and I had to intercede. I listened as one of my students in a group exercise about the classic novel The Time Machine by H.G. Wells said if she could go back in time she would go back to the civil war and tell the south how to win the war. If she had been telling me that I would have expected it knowing her and her family but her group consisted of two Afro-Americans and the comment offended them.


My student probably was not even aware of her comment being offensive; she has serious issues with social skills. But the same words in another group of students here in rural Georgia may have been accepted and applauded. It could have been the exact same words and yet a significantly different reaction. I heard the owl and sought to listen deeper.


How do I respond to a person who hears only the dark side and believes only darkness? How do we listen and try and rationalize words with so many meanings so many interpretations. A college student from South Georgia was writing about how we change society. I offered by example but that is so difficult only one person at a time. In life we interact each day. If we maintain our example and interact in genuine trust and honesty that connection will be seen and understood and eventually copied.


Not everyone will make the connection but some will and those will continue the call. I heard the owl today and I will listen tomorrow and I will tell others and maybe one day who knows. Take each moment and each second live as you whole heartedly believe and live with trust and set the example. Others will see and hear and soon two people and soon three and maybe before the end of times we can all hear an owl in the same way. Maybe peace will be a word spoken and understood in the same manner tribe to tribe family to family person to person. Maybe the puzzle pieces will fall in place and the final picture will be one we all can be proud to have been a part of. So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.


My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)