Do we teach or are we taught

Bird Droppings November 23, 2011
Do we teach or are we taught

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Albert Einstein

So many times when discussing students who are having difficult times a individual teachers perspective is all that matters. Recently I was about to thump another teacher in the head listening to comments about how if this student had a better work ethic. I have heard work ethic a lot lately. This or that student needs a better work ethic. But what if you really do not like that teacher and or subject and better yet what if you have a disability that inhibits you. Every day I see square pegs hammered into round holes. It is the way our education system works. I am always amused that Mr. Einstein was one who did not have a great work ethic in school. Matter of fact he failed math a time or two and then he rewrote the books.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

We rely so much on prepackaged, prewritten, preformed, precooked, pretested, pre-read, and pre-understood everything that creativity, imagination and uniqueness get left on the shelf. We are giving make up Georgia High School Graduation tests and End of Course Tests over the next weeks in our school. In theory tests of content with a smattering of cognitive questions thrown in however several questions while multiply choice could be answered in numerous ways and here are high school students trying to analysis and answer questions for example science teacher’s question. What if you miss one of those questions and get a 499 and 500 is passing. A good friend who graduated nearly ten years ago had taken the science test four times and failed by a total of eight points and has not graduated. What if each time this person answered that one question the same way a question that is either incorrect or not answerable. This person was an A and B student and after four tries was to frustrated to try again.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein

How and why and what should be taught are always at the crux of curriculum and instructional administrators challenges. But one of the most difficult aspects of education is instilling a desire to learn as Einstein states wanting to seek the mysterious. Too few are the students who truly want to learn most and not just simply pass and get on. In eleven years one of my greatest moments was being asked who wrote the poem when I read Dylan Thomas. I was asked by a kid who most thought could not read and he read the entire book that weekend. The mysterious is a mysterious thing. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Trying to watch a smiling moon

Bird Droppings November 22, 2011
Trying to watch the smiling moon

“Most of us become parents long before we have stopped being children.” Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, 1966

Over the past few weeks I have been told about, read about and actually met with parents to be and new parents who are still in school. This is not still in college but in high school. As I walked outside this morning the moon was a brilliant smile hanging just over the trees peeking between the clouds. The air was warm enough that my favorite rock band of crickets and tree frogs were chirping away although slower than normal. I was thinking about these children having children.

“There comes a time when a woman needs to stop thinking about her looks and focus her energies on raising her children. This time comes at the moment of conception. A child needs a role model, not a supermodel.” Astrid Alauda, on the “hot mom” trend

When I listen to children who are about to be parents I hear all the congratulations and praises being sung but I haven’t heard about the extra burdens and nights walking the floor and holding their baby while you comfort them and wondering if everything is ok and why are they not home yet as they get older. The questions where’s the progress report, do you need lunch money, what his name or her name all seemed obscured as fancy jeans give way to maternity pants.

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” Abigail Van Buren

I think when this was written it was about giving an allowance and having a part time job and doing chores and learning those little things about growing up. I do not think Abigail Van Buren was thinking ok have a baby so you can learn responsibility. You can quit a job, you can leave you dirty laundry on the bedroom floor an extra day or two and things will be fine but a baby needs food and clothing from minute one and for years to come.

“The quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable.” Lane Olinghouse

When I first read this several weeks ago I was thinking humorously about it. Then this morning the reality of the statement hit when you become a parent there is no relaxing sitting down you are now on call 24/7. A parent is just like the emergency medical people and police and light house keepers and as a parent you are now all of these for your choices will be much akin to those that are made by such. Do I need to go to the emergency room, you have been bad and watch out you may have a wreck.
“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” C.G. Jung, Integration of the Personality, 1939

Jung too wrote so long ago yet it was not uncommon for 15-16 years old to be getting married and raising families in rural America back then. I went out to eat with my wife a few nights ago to Johnny’s New York Pizza for calzones and Stromboli. It was awesome by the way (an unpaid endorsement). My wife is in the medical field and she sees babies and young moms literally daily. I look at my own life still learning still growing emotionally and mentally and I wonder how can someone who is still a child sees the changes and issues in themselves when they have such a small tiny field of experience to pull from.

“Simply having children does not make mothers.” John A. Shedd

“Although there are many trial marriages… there is no such thing as a trial child.” Gail Sheehy

There is no money back guarantee, no refundable offer once that child is born. You have a child, a baby and each moment now takes on special meaning. I stop each morning on the way to school at a pharmacy open 24 hours and generally pick up an energy drink and digital photos from a CD that they process for me. Often I will get skittles or M&M’s for school. BF Skinner would be proud, it is amazing how well M&M’s work with high school students. Several of the girls working there have one or more children many are single moms and surviving.

“Children have more need of models than of critics.” Carolyn Coats, Things Your Dad Always Told You But You Didn’t Want to Hear

I was reading a eulogy written about a recently deceased coach and teacher it was written by a former student who is now in college. Trying is not good enough in raising and teaching children granted we cannot not try. But we need to be so wary of the fact we are being watched literally every second of the day as parents and as teachers. I went to AT&T the other to pay my cell phone bill and ran into a former student he had been out of school for three years and another student who was getting married I had five years ago. In the eulogy words such as father, so many students and children today do not have father figure at home, the word mentor was used as was guide, friend, advisor and coach. As I read this heartfelt tribute I could not but think of another issue. It was one of those children to be, who would be their mentors and fathers and guides and coaches and friends and moms? It is so easy to be critical and to write about all the mistakes and all of the troubles ahead. But for now we also need to be models, friends, teachers, coaches, fathers and mothers as well as guides and mentors so these children’s children will be able to succeed. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

Teaching is far more than wanting to

Bird Droppings November 21, 2011
Teaching is far more than just wanting to

“I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

When I saw this quote earlier today it reminded me that wanting to in any endeavor is a powerful force. Yesterday a friend asked about the idea of wanting to teach and maybe I should write about that. As I am working on a paper while not on that subject it is about the art of learning and how we take away from kids that drive, that wanting to. Having taught in public school eleven years now and as a parent being involved for nearly twenty years or more in public schools I have seen many teachers who do not want to be teaching. For whatever reason they are there and how they impact kids is directly related to their lack of motivation for being a teacher far too many times. I just had to bold the following quote.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

I was subbing during my planning period a few days back and ran into a paradox. On the wall a sign stating you earn respect and yet the teacher I was subbing for demanded respect from students. Several students had mentioned to me that fact about this teacher. Granted third party conversation, especially from students is not always the best. However I know many teachers who walk in a room and demand respect that think in being a teacher students should bow down and worship the ground they stand on. Granted in some cultures teachers are revered. However a teacher in that particular culture also has a different view of their teaching. When respect is demanded many students take offense and immediately back away. Some students as in the situation with one of my students become antagonistic and fight back and argue against demand. So how do we then inspire daily and weekly and monthly and for a lifetime as Ward states.

“Teacher’s Prayer: I want to teach my students how to live this life on Earth, to face its struggles and its strife and to improve their worth. Not just the lesson in a book or how the rivers flow, But how to choose the proper path wherever they may go. To understand eternal truth and know the right from wrong, and gather all the beauty of a flower and a song. For if I help the world to grow in wisdom and in grace, and then I shall feel that I have won and I have filled my place. . That I may do my part. For character and confidence and happiness of heart.” James J. Metcalf

I want to teach, a simple statement but a basis for all that then transpires in a classroom. Over the years I have read many books on education, learning and on teaching. One that has always been a good read and reread is The Passionate teacher by Robert Fried. There is a need for passion in teaching.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl Jung

“Compassionate teachers fill a void left by working parents who aren’t able to devote enough attention to their children. Teachers don’t just teach; they can be vital personalities who help young people to mature, to understand the world and to understand themselves. A good education consists of much more than useful facts and marketable skills.” Charles Platt

Many disagree with my philosophy of teaching and walk by on the other side of the hallway so as to not be infected. I recall many years ago one teacher who would go an extra hall over to avoid coming by my room. Granted there are snakes and spiders and loud kids, maybe they are afraid of snakes. I often wonder what some people become teachers. Obviously it is a paying job, with relatively good benefits. Some teachers will say they were called it is almost a sacred mission for them. But those few who simple could not find anything else or thought they wanted to teach maybe should wander away to another field. I know of several teachers simply waiting to retire and collect their teacher retirement. I wonder is it a sacred mission?

“The future of the world is in my classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad… Several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next decades, and so are all the so-called ordinary people who will make the decisions in a democracy. I must never forget these same young people could be the thieves and murderers of the future. Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must be vigilant every day, lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve tomorrow.” Ivan Welton Fitzwater

“There’s no word in the language I revere more than ‘teacher.’ My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I’ve honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher.” Pat Conroy, Prince of Tides

“If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for ten years, plant a tree. If for a hundred years, teach the people. When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest. When you teach the people, you will reap a hundred harvests.” Kuan Chung

Such a powerful tool is teaching for the betterment and or the fall of mankind. As I look at how we decide who teaches and who does not, and how we train teachers I wonder. Are we training for a hundred years or next year? Looking at government’s involvement it is short term. I find it interesting how in eastern thought so often it is beyond the now. Nearby in a community is the Church of the Now sort of paradoxical. We focus so much on short term goals and efforts. Reach this score now and or suffer the consequences. When independent data is finally compiled I think we will find NCLB, No Child Left Behind has left significant numbers behind. A great teacher here and there might change some of this. We need to change legislation, views about education, and views about learning.

“There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race.” John F. Kennedy

Right now education is falling behind as we spend billions fighting several wars. I often find it interesting that John Kennedy wanted to pull out of Viet Nam, and Lyndon Johnson wanted to stay and continue. After Kennedy’s assassination Johnson did continue the war for a number of years and many deaths of Americans. Several of whom would have made great teachers I knew them personally.
In wanting to be a teacher, wanting to end a war, wanting to be a good parent, or wanting to be a friend, each requires of us to put in an effort. It takes an effort to be a great teacher, end a war, be a good parent, and be a good friend. It is how much beyond is where the wanting to fits in. You will know when you get there. It is a new day and I have many more pages to write and a much to do before heading to Macon Georgia tomorrow. I hope each of you as you prepare for the holiday coming has a joyous and glorious day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

LIfe is raw material

Bird Droppings November 20, 2011
Life is raw material

Morning is a special time a beginning I am always questioned why I get up so early. My response is to get a great start to the day. Several aspects make it special first one of taking the dog out and talking with her as she sniffs the ground hunting bear and other prey and of course doing her thing in the yard. Then I go to my writing and reading which has become my meditation for the day. This has become in many ways a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coldness and drizzle of perhaps not our coldest morning this fall but the over cast and air so humid made it seem colder. I miss today seeing far off across the field the big dipper rising above the trees and stars crystal clear in the morning darkness.

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

A few years back as I left my room after second period I usually always go through the guidance office and say hello to several people and on that day one person was missing I noticed and never questioned as the day drew on I sensed an absence yet still had not questioned. As the day ended I heard from over the announcements she had suffered a heart attack during a stress test and was having surgery. My thoughts raced to how fragile is this thing we call life.

“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words and pictures that may have significance to a project I am working on for my graduate work. It was hard getting to work after eating through most of the day. I emailed several people last night just touching base and downloaded a wrestling tournament photos from the high school.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

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

As I moved through that day a from a few years back a sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort. Most people as the day finished never missed a stride there were a few tears from friends and those that knew but all in all the day went on.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

I have used this quote several times and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness.

“It’s not how long life is but the quality of our life that is important.” Roger Dawson

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Charles Dickens

In 1996 my brother passed away and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had literally built our lives around my brother. He was severely disabled and our being in Georgia was directly related to him. As we celebrated his life reviewing the intricate webs that were laid each moment and people touched and lives affected what seemingly had been was now an enormous out pouring of life.

“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

We each approach the morning in a different way. I embrace the day and begin with my writing seeing each moment then unfold. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys and as I look back each has had meaning and direction and lead me to the now.

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

It has been several years now since I received a call from my nephew that a friend had been in a car accident and as the time proceeded I spent the night in the Athens Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving. I was hoping that the numbers on the dials would change but that was not to be. When I arrived home on my computer was the above quote from an Aerosmith song. Seems I come back to that note often in my writings.
In 1968 as I left for Texas for college I received a book from my parents, it was a bible which still sits in my bedroom and on page 596 a verse that has stuck with me.

“To everything there is season, and a time, To every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Many years ago Pete Seeger a folk singer legend and environmentalist wrote music for the words and a song was born “Turn, Turn, Turn”. To every season turn, turn, turn there is a reason turn, turn, turn and a time for every purpose under heaven. The song became a hit sung by a group called the Byrd’s coincidently.

“Nothing is beneath you if it is in the direction of your life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Robert Frost

So often a poets words offer comfort or give direction back to a journey set off course in but one moment’s time. There is no filling of a void yet when looking at life and all that has been, when looking at the journey to now there truly is no void. There is a turn in the road a new direction all that has lead to this point has not changed and is there behind us, lifting us, guiding us, and strengthening us as we continue. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia all ready sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across stone by stone, crossing the stream on the rocks as he jumped.
We all can cross in our time and there are times when a hand is welcome. Years ago I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website “Friends are never alone”. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand.
namaste
bird

Every day is a good day

Bird Droppings November 19, 2011
Every day is a good day

Recently I had the great privilege of spending some time with three friends. These are people I have known for many years. Over this the next holiday week I will be driving nearly 800 miles on various assundery excursions. There will be a trip to Mercer University to pick up transcripts, possibly a trip to Georgia Southern University for graduate work, a side trip while going to Mercer to the Indian mounds in Macon Georgia, Warner Robins Georgia for Thanksgiving, and to Piedmont College to visit my granddaughter son and daughter in law and drop off papers from Mercer. I am not counting my side trips to Talawegee nursery and Thyme after thyme nurseries. Much of this time I will be alone driving and most of that time in my CD player I will be listening to either Carlos Nakai on Native American flute or an old new Neil Young CD, Live at Massey Hall, recorded in 1971.
In my travels many things pass through my mind, ideas for a paper I am beginning today for a graduate class, thoughts back to my meetings with my dear friends. But in the midst of this all was a passing thought my wife mentioned as I was sitting reading an email from one of my friends. She told me we all have kind hearts. I thought back to conversations we were having as friends a few days back that would have provided her with this insight.
An idea crossed my mind many times the past weeks. It is that of the medicine circle which is composed of four points of the compass. The points are as on most manmade compasses yet far more in meaning. For example in the North which is symbolizing earth and wisdom, in the South symbolized by fire and passion, in the West symbolized by water and emotions, and in the East symbolized by air and flight. I thought of four friends drawn together yet apart. Each knows of the other and by chance I had words with each recently. Each of my friends had passion in their lives. There was a passion I could see and feel for their work, family and those around them. I even at one point was sitting jotting notes to myself as to who fit each of the points. Who was the north or south, east or west of this medicine wheel?
So often my train of thought then wanders off and I find myself postulating over other ideas and pondering this or that. I found my way to Barnes and Nobles s yesterday to get a few books for my granddaughter, it seems Eric Carl has a new one out. Somehow I can do that probably in my sleep. Someday I might like to have my ashes sprinkled through a Barnes and Noble, even though they will get swept up by the nightly cleaning crew or maybe haunt a Barnes in Noble in the possible afterlife. I went looking as I do to my favorite sections only to find they were all shifted about. I finally found the Education rows of books and a bit later the Native American shelves.
As I looked always seemingly drawn to know authors I found a title that intrigued me. The book was Every day is a good day, by Wilma Mankiller. I had not seen this book in all of my travels and searching’s at Borders, Barnes and Noble and many other stores. It consists of dialogue between nineteen indigenous women on various topics. The book has many powerful words from these women. I borrowed today from the foreword written by Native American author Vine Deloria.

“The old Indian war cry, it’s a good day to die, bespoke of the courage and fearlessness of men in battle and indicated that life was not worth living if one approached it with too much caution. Freedom demanded the willingness to sacrifice everything to ensure personal integrity. But what of the long periods between wars and crises? What about the daily lives we seek to fill with substance?” Vine Deloria

The late Wilma Mankiller in her book proceeds to explore this through the thoughts and understandings of nineteen indigenous women from all walks of life. In a recent class we discussed the concept of multitasking and how women have been multitasking for thousands of years while men focus on generally one thing at a time. I look at a woman running for president and as Secretary of state in our own country. Wilma Mankiller was chief of the Cherokee nation for ten years until her health took the best of her.

“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors or strong its weapons.” Cheyenne proverb

My thinking has wandered today from four friends and an observation by my wife to the multitasking ability of women. Yet intertwined is a common thread a piece of the tapestry of our lives. My wife saw a common element in each of us as we talked and joked and retold old tales of childhood. Perhaps we are each part of the medicine wheel of life. A thought about each of us in different places each leading separate yet connected lives. I thought back to Wilma’s book title and how I was drawn to that Every day is a good day. I thought to multitasking and how so often we take for granted those who truly do keep the world in line and in order. I thought of my wife who so often is the guiding force in our family and always ready to hug one needing hugging.
Every day is a good day when we accept the premise that we are integral to that day and we each are only a portion of the day and so many more too are there interconnected and interwoven. I do think it is when we get focused to into our own that we lose sight of the good day. I do wish we each could hold all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts.
namaste
bird