It is the small pieces that seriously matter

Bird Droppings December 25, 2013
It is the small pieces that seriously matter

“Until you can clearly see each piece of the puzzle you will never be able to understand the whole.” Frank Bird, grandfather, teacher and ponderer

I am sitting here on Christmas morning 2013 in Between Georgia a long way from my birth place and even where I spent my youth in Pennsylvania. I have traveled many pathways, spiritually, educationally, emotionally and physically as I journeyed. It has been many years since a vision of a jig saw puzzle woke me from my sleep. Over the years I have used that image of puzzle pieces and a while puzzle in explaining life and its intricacies. My son added to my collection of ideas along the way nearly ten years ago with a line from an Aerosmith song. “Life is about the journey not the destination.” Steven Tyler and Aerosmith I went outside to get a few shots of the sunrise and battling a sinus cold may have been moving slow and thinking slower but got at least one or two good images.

As I drove about for a few minutes several ideas kept hitting me in the head and with my sinus cold right now that hurts. Literally every day I hear from a person could be a former student, a total stranger who read something I have written, a friend I have not seen in fifty years, maybe a member of a group I am in on Facebook, a cohort member from graduate school offering a thank you for a thought I shared or idea given. It is not about major successes but the small one at a time pieces that often float by unnoticed.

I find as I listed my somewhat ambiguous titles with the quote above grandfather first and at first that seemed just the right thing to do. As I sat back and pondered as I tend to do often it became the not only right thing but job one. It is we elders who provide wisdom and understanding even if in small ways to those who come after. In today’s hectic and helter skelter world moments get lost just like pieces to the puzzle.

Today as I do every day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and all give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

Bird Droppings October 17-18, 2011
Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

I took a relaxing weekend with family and grand baby and sort of got my thoughts together as the days went by. Somewhere as the rain dissipated last week we had a few good days of sunshine even though the temperatures were below normal and a chill has set in. I was running around all day yesterday taking my granddaughter up to her new home in Demorest Georgia just off the Piedmont College Campus. I got home relatively early in the afternoon and fixed dinner sat to write and download photos and my laptop hibernated since I forgot my power cord at school so I was in limbo for the evening. But all in all there is much to ponder and consider as I go into this day. I went out into the darkness this morning and watched the smoke from the sage and cedar embers dissipate into the slight breeze just before a brilliant sun rose in the east. Around me were the stars and a partial moon and sounds of a chilly morning were disrupted with the alarm of a car in the distance.
Today I will be writing and catching up as well as doing some gardening and gathering in my plants that do not enjoy the cold. Hopefully these days off will be filled with writing, a grandbaby, photos and reading. In my research I read the weekly publication from the NEA. I am a member of the National Association of Educators and receive their weekly publication, The Educators Journal. An article caught my attention in a recent issue. In Georgia we have Standards that drive the curriculum throughout the state in line with federal and state mandates. Essentially the article addressed teaching to the test.

“Preferring concrete guidance, teachers make what is tested their de facto focus. The unfortunate result is that tests become the curriculum. And because tests are filled with multiply choice items that do not adequately reflect important higher levels of cognitive demand, instruction becomes less rich that it should be.” Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard, Standards are not enough

As I thought I recalled a quote I have used many times before and how it applies to education.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

It was last night as I was working on pulling some files together and books for my ideas just before my computer shut down that this Wayne Gretzky quote popped up again. Considering that I had played ice hockey in college and most my life it was sort of cool. Gretzky is a hero to hockey kids just like Michael Jordan is to basketball players. Gretzky’s records cover several pages of HHL record books he holds or shares 61 NHL records. As an example a recent ESPN top twenty five sports records that will never be broken had Gretzky’s feat of 2857 points (goals and assists) right near the top since number three player, Gordie Howe at 1850 holds the longevity record as well and number two is 1887 points. But what does this have to do with the price of beans or with education?

“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their own learning and in democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of Children. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College

Proactive is a good word. “Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty” is how Dictionary.com explains the word proactive. A good friend has the Gretzky quote up on his wall, I gave him a copy nearly nine years ago and it still is in use. I first used this quote over nine years ago when my friend was principal at our high school. He has moved on but Gretzky’s words ring true, be it in Ice Hockey, teaching or in life. I have expectation as a key element though in this quote, be where the puck is going to be not just where it is. Be thinking ahead rather than thinking in stagnation.

“For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much – if he lives and uses that in hand day by day — shall be full to running over.” Edgar Cayce

“Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” Richard M. DeVoe

Much of Cayce’s reading can be a bit much but these are good words and our daily outlook does mold where and how our day will be.

“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” Orison Swett Marden

Marden was the founder of Success magazine and is considered to be the founder of the modern Success movement.

“We lift ourselves by our thought we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere – your ideal of what you long to attain – the ideal of health, efficiency, success.” Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924)

I am always amazed at teachers who will have few expectations for students. Research has shown time and time again that students live up to the expectations of the teachers. Teachers literally set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little that is what you will get and conversely expect much and you will receive. I am taking a few liberties with a bit of a paraphrase of Gretsky’s famous line.

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is” Frank Bird

As I thought this morning teaching is much like any other activity you plan, you implement and you have expectations. If we only teach to where learning is soon you find you are truly going nowhere. For years I will at times use words far beyond operational vocabulary of students, my response is always “look it up and learn a new word”.

“By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible.” Giovanni Niccolini

“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” Ben Sweetland

I really liked this concept so often we teach the use of a teaspoon, I do it too, and thinking that this kid will never learn that or this kids reading level is too low. Sweetland writes about expectations and offers this.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” Ben Sweetland

When that difficult student succeeds you as a teacher succeed and your path is brighter. Years ago I worked with severely disabled students and a simple movement often would warrant a celebration. So often I use the quote from Aerosmith’s song, Amazing.

“Life is a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler

As I was reading this morning Ben Sweetland either listens to Aerosmith or Steven Tyler reds Ben Sweetland’s books.

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland

After looking up publishing dates Steven Tyler read Ben Sweetland’s book. Many of which were published in the 1960’s. If we as teachers impose parameters on learning, if we set goals far too low and or do not teach to lofty goals we set, we in effect are the issue not the student. Maybe every teacher needs to tack over there door as my dear friend, the now Georgia Principal of the year at Osborne High School has.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

Let us set some records now, records of learning of successful students and children in our communities. As I went out into the chill of the morning a bit earlier to walk my dog as I looked to the southeast the constellation Orion was clear as a bell over me. I could not help but notice that today was the first day in months it was silent in the morning. No tree frogs, crickets, cicada’s absolute silence. I have often wondered as to the ambient temperature for silence in the morning. I was reading in a small book written between 1953 and 1954 by a Trappist monk, Thoughts in solitude and a passage struck a chord in the silence.

“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.” Thomas Merton

Perhaps I was not listening close enough as I went out just a few minutes ago when I said it was silent. I stepped out again with my other dog and a great horned owl was calling there is always more always new if we constantly adjust thoughts and perceptions. Merton was a prolific writer and his works have stood the test of time he died in a small hotel in Southeast Asia in an electrical accident protesting the war in Vietnam back in the late 1960’s and as I ponder this morning please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Direction

Bird Droppings September 5, 2011
Direction

Over the past long weekend I worked on several papers, sat in the recliner and dabbled in my yard but I got thinking back to a party in Pennsylvania that was held nearly two years ago as I pondered and walked about. Two years ago on a Saturday night was our high school class of 1967, sixtieth birthday bash celebrating everyone’s coming of age. At that time numerous graduate school and high school projects kept me in town that were due or I had planned on completing. It has been nearly four years since I had the great thrill to revisit my home town and surrounding countryside. One of the side trips my wife and I made was to Amish country out towards Lancaster PA. We went to a favorite tourist spot, The Amish Farm and House. I went for the first time nearly fifty five years ago on a second grade field trip. Now the old homestead and farm sits midst malls and shopping. As we went on the tour and listened to our guides talks on various Amish customs one caught my attention. The Amish traditionally heat the kitchen only.
Within Amish tradition the family that is together more than apart stays together. The kitchen becomes the family room for meals, play and talks. Kids stay and play while adults work on various projects since during the winter most of the house is too cold. An interesting thought the Amish are growing in numbers and yet their lifestyle by our standards is a hard one. Very few leave the families according to statistics less than two percent. This is interesting in a world of divorce and child abandonment that we have today.

“I am always doing things I can’t do; that’s how I get to do them.” Pablo Picasso

I was sitting outside earlier and it was a bit chilly for this time of year but the cold snap is riding a hurricane front which brought needed rain and a break in ninety plus heat. I was listening to the sounds of morning in my back yard, crickets mainly although their songs are slower in the chill and damp. Many sounds were similar in the stillness and solitude of early morning coming into the fall in Georgia. Off in a distance a dog, maybe a coyote as he howls. At our last house we would be awakened occasionally by train whistles and it had been over twenty years since I had heard a train whistle from my door step. Although one night outside Macon while staying at a friend’s house who happened to live along a spur leading to one of Georgia Powers coal burning plants I was wide awakened by the coal train whistle and noise about four one morning. The old house was a rail tender’s house where the current occupant would work for railroad and check water and such on engines as they pulled in.
I have raised the question of our purpose numerous times over the years and yesterday an email sometime last night got me thinking. A dear friend said four people had raised the issue of their purpose in life recently and she is going through a time in her own life now of seeking purpose. Before I went out I wrote back to her.

“For me it is not what is my purpose, as much as I have purpose. It is knowing you are significant in each aspect of what you do. Over the years I always thought I would one day open my eyes and see, my purpose. Years ago a vision or was it a dream of a giant jig saw puzzle falling in place sorted that out for me. I could not see the front of the puzzle and every time I tried and look it would turn away revealing the gray backing. I had to be content to know it was falling in place piece by piece and each piece was more intricate than the last. You can seek direction in your journey. You have a powerful friend in your faith. Doors will open as they need to. I spent nearly two years sorting out where I was to go, some by working with indigent families and receiving enough barely to cover cell phone and mileage. A door opened in teaching and even then I was presented with tests. Five times my name was presented by a principal who wanted me teaching and four times I was turned down. On September 11, 2001 I was allowed to go back into teaching” Frank Bird in an email to a friend

I have used the illustration of a puzzle often in my writing and have thrown the word purpose about many times. There is an aspect of our journey in which we are directly involved and that is the direction in which way are we facing as we take that next step.

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy; a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lays disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” Rachel Carson

I was looking this morning for words dealing with direction and each time I tried mapping out my thoughts and the word direction came up. My oldest son finished his certification in GIS several years ago. He had been working with an Environmental Science class at the high school mapping trees and positioning using GPS devices. It is amazing as gadgets get smaller and more accurate, we can map a tree on our planet or a gopher tortoise nest. We are at a point in our technology where we can ascertain that Sumatra moved 20 centimeters in a huge earthquake. My son will take along his GPS just for fun as he travels although several trips to Florida it has proven its worth avoiding hurricane traffic. But so often we have a hard time determining where we are going today let alone in life.

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

John Dewey is not the easiest read in the world and often his thoughts are in details we are not used too. Could be why so many educators have a hard time with Dewey’s ideas. It is too easy to say he was a communist or socialist and not read that he was perhaps one of the greatest advocates for democracy within education and the nation in modern time. Most recently I have been opening up Dewey’s works again as I am working on my dissertation based around his ideas. Far too often teachers look for an easy fix to a complicated issue. In life far too many times we take the easy road.

“Instead of looking at life as a narrowing funnel, we can see it ever widening to choose the things we want to do, to take the wisdom we’ve learned and create something.” Liz Carpenter

“You don’t have to buy from anyone. You don’t have to work at any particular job. You don’t have to participate in any given relationship. You can choose” Harry Browne

For s many they see life as a funnel a narrowing down rather than a spreading out as they progress. It has been many years since I walked the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia and hopefully one day soon I will find time to climb the trail again. Often when walking up a mountain there are switch backs, a longer path but an easier incline and you would use them rather than a direct ascent. A switch back is a path that cuts back and forth up the mountain rather than straight up and makes the pathway a bit easier. With a heavy pack a direct route is often impossible let alone dangerous.

“The way to activate the seeds of your creation is by making choices about the results you want to create. When you make a choice, you activate vast human energies and resources, which otherwise go untapped. All too often people fail to focus their choices upon results and therefore their choices are ineffective. If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz

So often in life it is the first step, that door opening that is so difficult. When I did go back to teaching I could have stopped at my first rejection. I applied at five or six schools and at the time I was not certified and in order to get a provisional certification you have to be employed. That in its self is an interesting paradox. For some reason a principal thought I might work out and kept pushing and after four attempts at the school board meetings I was hired, then he called back, my sister had been hired a day before who I recommended and so I couldn’t work there now. Then my name did not make a meeting and another effort was defeated and a third and fourth again. Finally a teacher had a nervous breakdown and was out indefinitely and a long term sub was needed which eventually led to my teaching position. Allowances were made for my sister and I started on September 11, 2001. It was many months later when the principal was putting a list together that I was asked what day I started and I couldn’t remember I told him it was the week after labor day and a Tuesday because approval was needed on Monday. The first step is rough many times.

“You are the person who has to decide. Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; you are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind. Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar. Or just be contented to stay where you are.” Edgar A. Guest

“When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.” Dr. Scout Cloud Lee

Dr. Lee is a motivational speaker, author of twelve books, singer song writer, and a university professor and actually along the way a cast member of The Survivor series on CBS. She was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Oklahoma State University in 1980, and Oklahoma’s Outstanding Young Woman in American in 1980. In 2002, Lee was honored to carry the Olympic torch exemplifying the theme of “Light the Fire Within.” Perhaps this is a good place to stop today Guest states “you have to decide” and Dr. Lee offers “we participate in the creation of a new world”. I end up with a line from an Aerosmith song as it always seems to fit in.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler

Please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Translating and communicating

Bird droppings August 6, 2010
Translating and communicating

In about ten days I will have students in my class room again. I will be walking down hall ways and talking with students and teachers and I wonder will anything be different than when I left. I wonder if teachers have studied how to be more effective and if students read and became more scholarly over the weeks of summer. Some teachers have attended graduate school and many will have attended leadership training programs teaching them how to better manage teachers and students and move them through the processes of education so that required tests get passed. A few may have opted for philosophy, literature, psychology, social studies or numerous other more liberal arts courses.

“An effective teacher is one who is able to convince not half or three quarters but essentially all of his or her students to do quality work in school.” Dr. William Glasser MD.

Dr. William Glasser goes on in his book, The Quality School to explain his ideas. I found it interesting one of his first references is to Dr. W. Edwards Deming who revolutionized industry in Japan. A US quality expert who the US industry barely recognized was contacted and contracted by the Japanese to improve quality and in a few short years they over took and surpassed US industry in production as well as in quality. I can recall only a few years ago when a certain US car company used the slogan of “Quality is job 1”. A good view of quality is resale value of cars and trucks. Amazing how nearly all of top ten best resale vehicles were Japanese for the longest time but now maybe US car makers have finally after twenty years caught on as Ford has several in top ten.

“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.” Dale Carnegie

Carnegie provides a quick guide to life for teachers, parents, students, and children. I have always felt example is the key, in almost any aspect of life. I wish it were not so but how we look and or are perceived is often how we are judged first in life. What we say can affect those around us and how they determine whether or not to believe us or not and always how we say it. What do we mean, looking at Carnegie’s words I wonder if some where there is more to communication?

“A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered; about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals.” Robert M. Hutchins

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Anthony Robbins

Nearly opposite yet both hold elements needed but in order for people to communicate around the world even in another town a common language a common set of words and ideas is needed to initiate thoughts. A critical aspect of this is also knowing that each person may see the world different and be able to work around that and through that.

“The higher you go, the wider spreads the network of communication that will make or break you. It extends not only to more people below, but to new levels above. And it extends all around, to endless other departments and interests interacting with yours.” Donald Walton

I went by Wal-Mart a few days back looking for a very specific item a movie my son and I wanted to watch, no luck, but as we were walking out he and I had both been thinking the same thought. This store was a mini cosmos for this community; the very societal different people were not just shopping, but walking about looking, talking communicating every where. Wal-Mart had become a focal point for this town. I had been to a Wal-Mart Sam’s club recently talking with a manager and other staff. There is a network of communication.
Yesterday as I emailed back and forth with several teacher friends we discussed building a network of teachers and working with that network. As we communicated I could not help but think that wouldn’t this potentially build a powerful teaching tool. What about a parent network where issues could be in the open immediately and clarified and discussed rather than become a sore and fester. Communications such a crucial item in today’s fast paced world and so over looked. Today is a day where a week is nearly over please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird