What do we miss?

Bird Droppings August 3, 2011
What do we miss?

All Along the Watchtower

There must be some way out of here,
Said the joker to the thief,
There’s too much confusion,
I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine,
Plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth.

No reason to get excited,
The thief, he kindly spoke,
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that,
And this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now,
The hour is getting late.

All along the watchtower,
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went,
Barefoot servants, too.
Outside in the distance
A wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching,
The wind began to howl.”

All along the Watch Tower the words and Music are by Bob Dylan and have been covered by almost every major rock star from Jimmy Hendricks, Eric Clapton, Guns and Roses and Bruce Springsteen just to throw some names around. I read the words from the song and thought how easily this could apply to the political fiasco we just went through. Every day I talk with strangers, students, friends, family and a few maybe that are hard to define. Within my family I have a reputation of whenever I leave the house allow an extra hour or so because I will find people to talk with. I use the reference of a circle often as far back as 1971 I wrote about the circle of life and defined myself within a circle. It was my understanding of the circle that has changed over the years. Perhaps it is wisdom and reading and discussing with all of the above. I reference often the passage from Black Elk, Lakota Sioux medicine man.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours….”Black Elk

It was back a few years I was writing still learning about the circle of life and received on August 6, 2003 an email from a dear friend.

“Dear Bird, The circle may have more to do with the philosophy of letting the river flow. I think our culture is more involved with the spiral in the up direction. We have a hard time revisiting, editing, honing, or learning from experience – all involve the circle.” Frances Friedman

Frances and I have a dialogue of sorts ongoing now almost ten years with thoughts words and ideas and as I read this I recalled a bowl of objects in my room, and a Shel Silverstein book, The Missing Piece meets the Big O.
Most of us are familiar with river stones, pebbles or rocks worn smooth with the flow of the river or stream. In Africa some of the hardwood trees have wood so dense it sinks and as a result pieces of trees will fall into the river or stream and much like river stone tumble and spin and soon have a round look like a river stone. I have a bowl of river stone wooden rocks in my room.
The story of Shel Silverstein’s is that pie shape piece missing from the whole (or so they think) and is sitting waiting for the right piece whom is missing a piece to come by. The piece sits and sits and finally after many seasons and many pieces a BIG O tells him your are your own you can do what you want and the piece begins to flip flop and such and soon as the edges wear down begins to roll. It is its own piece a simple child’s story maybe in a world where we all search for identity.

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

So often we wait wanting only to be that which we are not willing to learn to change to grow. A piece of wood lying on the bottom of a stream in many parts of the world would float away and simply be gone. However as my pieces attest to some will roll and tumble smooth the edges rounding off and soon be as the river stones. Just as the missing piece learned sometimes you have to move adjust begin to roll and sometimes even change or simply sit and wait. As Carlyle states what will you miss.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Frances Friedman mentioned how so often we forget to learn from experience so often in our hurries we are not watching looking seeing. As I prepare for my classes I have been working on the concept of SUCCESS. Many of the people I know can relate to failure but not success it is a new concept. It is a new experience but hopefully they will learn through and of experience and move beyond failure.

“When I hear somebody sigh that ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” Sidney J. Harris

Contrast and compare, Harris is a thinker that many may not know, he was a writer in the 1960’s through his death in 1980’s. A teacher friend nearly eleven years ago shared several of his articles with me and Harris’ columns are intriguing reading. Strictly Personal is the name of his old column and in archives on the internet you can find many of his articles and they are all good reading.
As I look back in my own life and times and see where and when corners were rounded and I learned and succeeded and failed many times. I also see other people who were affected by that moment and hopefully they have affected positively and grown as well. Yesterday I was in the guidance office and a little boy was sitting on the floor his dad is still overseas and I was forced to think a moment please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Searching for knowledge

Bird Droppings March 9, 2011
Searching for knowledge

How do we as teachers and parents convey knowledge to our students and children? It could be said that by following the established curriculum guides and maps and doing what is expected of a high school student you will learn this material as indicated. I think my frustration comes when students do not want to learn at all. I get very frustrated when I hear statements such as I know enough to get along in this world already or know enough about this subject. I think my favorite is why do I need this anyhow?

“I do believe that with some students, if they are not ready, learning cannot occur. But I worry that some students aren’t ready because they are not aware of the full table that is set. There is rejection without knowledge. I think the challenge may be to try to get them to the full table and then let them decide.” Frances Friedman

I have been sitting here thinking about this email from a dear friend and mentor for several minutes, pondering and reflecting. What if we do not provide enough information to a student? I spend much of my day doing academic support with emotionally disturbed students. Many times I will hear from students the teacher never taught us that. Trying to keep both sides in perspective I will discuss with the parents, teacher and with the student and work out a compromise of sorts, often just buying a bit of time. However often there can be learning curves on both ends especially with special needs students.

“Rejection without knowledge” Frances Friedman

“Knowledge is that which, next to virtue, truly raises one person above another.” Joseph Addison

I have always been fascinated with information. It made my day when several years back the game Trivial Pursuit came out and became a big hit. On TV the show Jeopardy is still a popular game watched around the world where a few years back Ken Jennings won over two million dollars with bits and pieces of information. He defeated opponents by answering over 2700 questions correctly. It has been a few years now since the final episode of his wining streak aired and more recently Jennings went up against a super computer on the show.

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

We have to encourage active participation in students. We have to try and instill a curiosity and not set limits and parameters on learning. If students do not know something, provide the means, the pathway, so that they can learn. Knowing where to find an answer can be as meaningful in the life of a student as the knowledge of that answer.

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R.K. Bergethon

“Knowledge is like money: the more he gets, the more he craves.” Josh Billings

Trying to keep learners learning is the key to great teaching. Make learning something students want and need. I would borrow from a friend who teaches high school who teaches in Pennsylvania “make learning fun”.

“To me the charm of an encyclopedia is that it knows and I needn’t.” Francis Yeats Brown

“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” Sandra Carey

When I was in second grade we got our first set of World Book encyclopedias. I thought I was in heaven and literally began reading the books cover to cover. As I now sit and remember minute details of the ancient past and try to instill knowledge to young folks, it is not to go read the entire encyclopedia but it is, in which room and on what shelve they are located. With modern technology it is now about what and how to find information on the internet. Knowing where things are is really becomes more important than knowing every fact, although the facts help. We in education get into a content and context sort of disagreement. Some teachers want to teach only content and others context. However for information or knowledge to be useful and coherent, it has to have context.

“It is not the quantity but the quality of knowledge which determines the mind’s dignity.” William Ellery Channing

“Knowledge of the world can only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.” Lord Chesterfield

We have to provide the venues and pathways to information, to knowledge, Ms. Friedman stated in the first quote. Students have to have access to the table. If we set a wonderful feast before them and don’t allow access to the table, of what good is all that is there.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper

Can there ever be enough knowledge? Should we ever limit what knowledge is available? In 1956 the great theologian Reinhold Neibuhr wrote this simple prayer as part of one of his sermons.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Neibuhr

For many years that simple philosophy written on a card has been laying on my desk. I recall a scene from a movie, most will not remember, “Billy Jack” where this prayer is used. Imagine a school or society where we lived what Neibuhr thought in his prayer. What if we applied serenity, courage and wisdom to our lives daily? Today we are challenged by which way to go and why. Thinking back many years to an old movie “Indiana Jones and The last Crusade”, “choose wisely” the old knight told Indiana Jones and he did. May your day be filled with knowledge and peace and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird