Only a crazy thought or two

Bird Droppings November 18, 2011
Only a crazy thought or two

Occasionally I will get a crazy thought; my students will say occasionally I have a normal thought that would be more like it. They would be insinuating most of my thoughts are crazy. However Today I was driving to school being lazy I slept in till about four I did go out much earlier to see the stars and half moon or what was left of it as it snuck behind the pines. But I sat down in my chair and thought what if when we were born the hospital tattooed on your left foot made in whatever country and a hospital code for example and then underneath an expiration date. The expiration date being the exact moment and day and year you will die or expire. If I knew this information I started thinking at what point would I change how I lived.
My students were arguing with me about living it up since a few weeks back it was my birthday and I was getting old sixty two to them is a lifetime away which is true. They wanted me to have a, you only live once and rock and roll party etc. So I was wondering knowing exactly how many days you have to do whatever it is you will do would you change anything. I am sure back in years gone by there have been people I have hurt and things perhaps I regret as I distance myself but would I be who I am without those moments and pieces to my puzzle.

“There is not any present moment that is unconnected with some future one. The life of every man is a continued chain of incidents, each link of which hangs upon the former. The transition from cause to effect, from event to event, is often carried on by secret steps, which our foresight cannot divine, and our sagacity is unable to trace. Evil may at some future period bring forth good; and good may bring forth evil, both equally unexpected.” Joseph Addison

It has been some time since I first used the concept of a puzzle to explain my own life. A constant display of pieces falling into place each interconnected to the next. As I speak with people I use this comparison, often showing how each aspect of our lives ties to the next. I look at how a consequence comes from even the smallest of things. Knowing we have a limited amount of time to finish our puzzle I find amazing as I think of what if we still had no directions and were floundering in trying to get done.

“There are no rewards or punishments — only consequences.” Dean William R. Inge

“Whatever our creed, we feel that no good deed can by any possibility go unrewarded, no evil deed unpunished.” Orison Swett Marden

We have to take each piece as it comes and try and build upon it. Each element leads to the next, a building block of sorts, as we travel through life, a deed leads to a consequence and then to another and another, each beyond the next.

“Men must try and try again. They must suffer the consequences of their own mistakes and learn by their own failures and their own successes.” Lawson Purdy

“It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.” Sir Joseph Stamp

As I wonder about my words and events that yet will play out today, I daily use the term ABC, Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence. In life, everything we do involves these three elements. Each aspect of our existence is preceded by an event, a happening that causes the behavior, no matter how subtle that event is. The behavior in turn leads to a consequence this is so simple, so clean and it can be cold. Perhaps why I enjoy Carl Jung over Sigmund Freud. We respond and soon cover up, ABC. What if we could analyze all events so simply and plan our day. I do this, then that, this, then that all day long however, conversely we tend to do this with students as well, if we see an event about to happen we can change the antecedent and alter behavior and of course the consequence. Managers in business do this. Retailers are doing it as we sit and read, altering our buying for this holiday season sales, specials and Black Friday etc. In reality through consequence the world is controlled. How do we keep our heads up and still be unique, independent?

“Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue; and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath.” Mary Wollstonecraft

It was a many months back I was introduced to Mary Wollstonecraft, a person who was ahead of her time, the ultimate feminist. Mary was writing about issues under her name and pen names, often a man’s name to get her point out. Her fire and zeal were passed on to her daughter Mary Shelly who penned the novel Frankenstein. How do we maintain within the struggle, to be who we are.

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank

“Ideals are like the stars: we never reach them, but like the mariners of the sea, we chart our course by them.” Carl Schurz

How do we? I was thinking yesterday about my own direction in life one day going here and there and a slight bump and left turn and heading elsewhere. Do we have focal points to guide us stars as Schurz states? Can we find our way home when we get lost in life? I wonder at times even as pieces of the great puzzle fall into place maybe the pieces are wrong, maybe this is not where I am to be. But as events slow down and the fog clears we can see even the most confusing of life’s events seems to work out. I was reading yesterday a new book, Spirits of The Earth by Bobby Lake Thom. He starts the book with a prayer that I would like to end with today especially going into the Thanksgiving season.

“I ask that you bless our elders and children, families and friends, and the brothers and sisters that are in prison. I pray for the ones sick on drugs and alcohol, and for those who are homeless and forlorn. I pray for peace among the four races of mankind. May there be good healing for this earth. May there be beauty above me. May there be beauty below me. May there be beauty in me. May there be beauty all around me. I ask that our world be filled with peace, love and beauty.” Medicine Grizzly Bear, 1990

So easy to sit and write, yet around us, so much going on would we change anything if we knew our expiration date, I wonder? Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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