Why is seeking peace so difficult?

Bird Droppings June 13, 2018
Why is seeking peace so difficult?

 

Around the world armies are moving as I write. There are missiles are being aimed and tanks rolling. War is a profit driving machine for industry and sadly more so about money than ideology. I have always been against war and always have felt there are other ways to solve issues.

 

“In this week of great destruction, we must each choose what road we are to walk and live. The road of destruction is war, it has always been so. The road of creation is deeper and more complicated; it has always involved forgiveness, love, light, prayer, and spirit. In these new millennia we have a chance to change the way we see other beings to one of connectedness and unity. We have a chance to let go of the ancient ways of war and conflict, of who is right, of being better, of senseless killing. This week has thrown us back on the old model of the last millennia.” Michael Samuels M.D. and Mary Rockwood Lane, PhD, Path of the Feather

 

I miss being in the Foxfire class during the summer normally this time of year. Although in my current dissertation writing mode writing, research and reading is hours a day. However there is something about spending 24 hours a day with other teachers discussing education and learning that is significant. Thinking back during one moment of time between classes and meetings I happen to be sitting in at an Ingles Store in North Georgia which happened to have a Starbucks. A young gentlemen walked by with two peace symbols tattooed on his calf. It caught my attention and got me thinking back to several summers ago when I was driving up to this same spot to visit the Foxfire museum I watched seven people marching for peace in the small town of Clayton, Georgia. My writing today started with a few lines from a Navaho prophecy edited by Dr.’s Samuels and Rockwood. In my own searching reading and writing so often the contrast of peace versus war comes up, as does so many dualities in our world.

 

“The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, ‘I was wrong’.” Sydney J. Harris

 

For many Sydney J. Harris is simply an old forgotten columnist from by gone days when people happen to actually read hardcopy. I frequently use quotes from his essays and columns. His words are powerful and I thank a dear friend from nearly thirteen years ago for showing me his work. Often as I find articles he wrote from the sixties and seventies and I wonder why I missed them then. I am reminded often it was not the time, as I make reference to my Jungian philosophy and orientation. All of the pieces were not in place at that time for me to understand to recognize what it was he is saying. In my emails and communications often I see misunderstanding and ignorance, myself included. I recall a friend writing from his heart and others only could criticize and or turn away and not understand, so often not even reading the words.

 

“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” Sydney J. Harris

 

“An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.” Sydney J. Harris

 

Sitting here most mornings it is so easy to formulate solutions and fantasize a world free from strife and turmoil and I as I write this morning sitting at home in my writing area having read the current news, talk of new troop deployments in Yemen which are hinted from Saudi Arabia my heart sinks. But then I walk away from my computer and wonder what is it we are trying to do in the world. Tomorrow morning a big sale at one of the local department stores, with the early bird sale masses of humanity will line up to get the best deals and gasoline will still be artificially high so our wonderful gas company’s profits can recoup several years of cheap gas and to bolster or hinder the economy, depending on whose view you take.
I often wonder who came up with thinking like that in any other business sooner or later someone would see the ridiculous, it has been nearly ten years that Exxon just about each quarter has the highest profits ever in one headline and on another gasoline is at its highest ever, such an interesting parallel we seem to miss. A good point however at least someone is thinking with the high court decisions made this week and as our Supreme Court judges slowly age, a poll was taken as to what type of judge should replace any who should step down. Most now want a moderate there are still a few wanting conservatives and only about a quarter want a liberal. Somewhere there was an extra three percent I am assuming they were undecided.

 

“Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.” Sydney J. Harris

 

That simple reminder from Harris needs to come up every day. I am excited to be at home today with our son, his wife and our grandbaby visiting from North Carolina. It is always good to wake up to a new morning and be able to go watered my herb garden. We each need to look at our pathway and see which direction we are going. Looking back at the first quote are we choosing the path of destruction or of creation as the Navaho say. My dear friends 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)

bird

 

I wonder what my favorite store is; Then again is it even important?

Bird Droppings June 5, 2018
I wonder what my favorite store is;
Then again is it even important?

 

Interesting I had two thoughts earlier in the week as I started the day out. One I heard on the radio going to get some air in my wife’s tire in her car from a satellite radio announcer recalling an old Bush quote, and the other thought is from Harry Potter. Amazing what pops up before dawn as I ponder and wander and a trip to one of my favorite stores, Quick Trip. QT is still my favorite since they are open twenty four hours a day however it is only since our Super Kroger went to a shortened day closing around 1:00 AM through 6:00 AM. You just never know when you might need something. It had been rather hectic this week between exercise, cooking, writing, cutting grass, reading, doing laundry and catching up on emails and amazingly it has been relaxing. What a glorious week still ahead?

 

“It is not about the goods we accumulate but about the good we do” George W. Bush

 

“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” Professor Dumbledore to Harry in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by J.K. Rowling

 

I wish it would be possible to believe the first, but with trying to drill for oil in wilderness Alaska, off shore in Florida and other parts of the country and friends in high places reaping huge profits and a war costing trillions of dollars that was bogus from many people’s standpoint while he was in office and it makes it hard to grasp philosophically. Although perhaps as some people indicated in writing and articles he was simply a puppet of others. Still at the time war efforts and accumulation seemed more important than doing any sort of good. Of course, the philosophy of the ends justifies the means could possibly be applied.
That was sort of the approach when the last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati zoo and some people had the attitude well it’s only a pigeon. Sadly once there were billions flying over the forests of the east coast, and yes it is only a pigeon except we can never at this time replicate that one, it is gone. The Alaska wilderness even though a great expanse when it is gone it is gone and can never be replicated. But if the end justifies it many people see no problem. However as I sat this morning, perhaps a better brighter thought from J.K. Rowling thorough the character of Dumbledore “it is our choices that show who we really our”. I wonder how soon Harry Potter books will be classics and teachers will be analyzing the plots and developing theories as to why Rowling characterized Harry as a boy or teenager and why an owl as his companion versus a weasel.
I recall eleventh or twelfth grade English and my teacher Ms. Stern and the Melville novel classic, Moby Dick. According to her lessons and teachings, the ship represented the world and Ishmael the wanderer got stuck on that ship. What was Melville really telling us besides a great story and history of New England’s whaling industry? I really enjoyed the story but not the analysis, and when I wrote my opinion based on my own love of history, it was wrong according to Ms. Stern. Many years ago the choices we make not our abilities was the credo. I do think however had I been in a different teacher’s class my idea of a historical novel on the short lived whaling industry would have been applauded.

 

”Ability is of little account without opportunity.” Napoleon Bonaparte

 

“The first requisite for success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.” Thomas A. Edison

 

It is about being at the right place at the right time or is it a choice we make. It is also about applying and choosing when opportunity provides a window, and then plot thickens. In some of my more recent readings several differing views and yet again somewhat in a line of thought that is parallel the following quote.

 

“All things are made of energy. Thoughts and feelings, for example, are nothing more than energy. Through the choices, we make, our thoughts and feelings, and even our actions, take on a distinctive nature according to the direction in which they are moved.” Dr. Michael Garrett, Walking on the wind

 

“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.” Elbert Hubbard

 

Ability is an added aspect of today’s search and seeing in others that ability almost is an intuitive aspect of humanity.

 

“The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.” Booker T. Washington

 

This morning as I was being a bit energetic I walked a mile in the pool before breakfast. I did some weed eating and fixed breakfast. I did however go out and sit pondering on my back porch for some time. I was listening intently to nature and even sort of intermingled man’s interactions with an occasional car or truck sound in the distance. I have started walking daily in our pool. I am up to a mile and half each day. Amazing how much better I feel as I get through each day. I Am writing today the balance of my dissertation preprospectus.

 

I enjoy my time where I can read and answer emails and work on my photography often downloading a gazillion photos to Facebook and working in my gardens. One of my emails from a now senior in high school recently was about realizing school was nearing the end and graduation was only a year ahead. They would have to make a way in life. In that same email concern for a friend stationed in the Middle East was almost heart rending. Watching the news doesn’t give justice to friends and families with loved ones overseas still in harm’s way, as I think, choices we make. Yesterday as I went home I recalled seeing a flag our town had a memorial to a recent fallen local fellow who was killed in a suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan. In other emails with a suggestion of a book to read and out of 70 or so yesterday and this morning maybe those three really truly caught my attention.
I started with a Bush quote and maybe that applies to a job search that I am starting. So many of the following what we do with our lives is our choice how the world will see that choice is dependent upon the direction and choices we make. It is not the ability that you will be known for or how great an actor or musician or football player but what you do with your talent is what is seen. Aspects of family are so crucial and friends equally as well and always seek to learn to know more reading, writing, thinking and reflecting.

 

“If there were no writers there will be no readers” unknown source

 

“Choose wisely”, it has been said and in the end some do and some will not. So today take stock of where you are and look at the road ahead and pick that path way that will direct you where you need to be.

 

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

 

In today’s hectic world we all look for quick solutions, five minute abs, six minutes to wisdom, and one minute egg. Wisdom is not on the stock exchange; it is not a brokered commodity. It is there, and it is a journey. The journey is not an easy one and to even be involved in finding wisdom is difficult. It is only those who actually travel that road who truly become wise.

 

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

 

Several nights ago I was bored no American Idol, Netflix was acting up, no new NCIS, House is gone, and I put on a video of Star Trek of all things, “Star Trek Insurrection”. The plot revolves around a planet where all is at peace. The few residents, all 600 have forsaken technology for art, or literature, for the aesthetics in life and for all that they can make of themselves. Interestingly a weaver studies 40 years to become an apprentice and apprentice another 40 to become a master weaver of rugs and tapestries. These people live on a planet whose innate radiation prolongs life and rejuvenates them cellular, so they have time to accomplish what it is inside them. It sounds so easy when the time allows it.
Daniel Day Lewis, actor went and became a cobbler. He took a five year hiatus from movies to study cobbling, (shoe making) in Europe from the masters. As the Star Trek movie progressed a comment was made about a perfect moment, a special moment that stands out above all else. Captain Pickard mentioned seeing earth from space for the first time; many astronauts recall that moment. For me it was a sunrise over the Atlantic one morning on Cumberland Island with the waves splashing about and the most brilliant reds and oranges I have ever seen. A shrimp boat slowly moved through this picture yet in its awesomeness the boat was insignificant.
As Pickard spoke with this woman on this planet of a perfect moment, she then offered now to learn to make every moment prefect, and the movie continued and soon he was seeing a hummingbird flit to a flower or pollen blown from a flower.

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I am intrigued as I read various thoughts on wisdom and for some reason I am always drawn to Emerson. He was controversial to some in his time yet perhaps one of the greatest thinkers as well as poet of his lifetime. He was alluding to wisdom as a temporary entity in his statement. The next quote is an interesting statement from a President oft misunderstood

 

“Wisdom oft times consists of knowing what to do next.” Herbert Clark Hoover

 

“Wisdom begins at the end.” Daniel Webster

 

So often we spend time simply doing, not seeking, we spend time worrying about which path to travel or preparing our needs for the journey and worrying about the destination. We forget to go, and there we are no better and no worse, only we are where we were to start still. Somewhere in among all things is the destination but the destination is not necessarily the end but a point B of the line AB and still out there is C and D and E and much more. My procrastinating journey of my doctorate, wandering taking pictures which lead me flower to flower and occasionally to one I have never seen and actually a few years ago I photographed an Atlantic pigeon wings or butterfly pea, Clitoria marina. It was growing along a dirt road near an old homestead sadly now in some construction it is gone, and I have found it nowhere else in the area but did find a source for seeds today. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your thoughts and always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Teaching and or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

Bird Droppings June 4, 2018
Teaching and or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

 

I just finished my first year of teaching retirement from high school. Thinking back my last day was rough but not quite as bad, tense and hectic as my first on September 11, 2001. I began my last day of teaching thinking back to a song one of my students chose to write about several years ago, “Live like you were dying” by Tim McGraw. A dear friend passed away a few weeks back and it is difficult to think in terms of not seeing him again. As I write today thinking more about how many friends are still around, do I want to see and talk to each, one more time.

 

I have been sorting through books and files and found a small inspirational book based on Tim McGraw’s song. The song came up when I had given a writing assignment to pick a favorite song, find the lyrics then explain the song. There is something about country music and lyrics and emotions that hit you.

 

As various music genre came forth that one song stood out among all the rest that day. Here we can argue genres and such although I did use Beyoncé and Bob Dylan in a sarcastic graphic mainly pointed at our system of measuring schools. Bob Dylan if anyone is not aware has been chosen as the greatest song writer of all time and now a Nobel Prize winner for literature. Some can argue and I got into this the other day with a fellow teacher and friend as I was picking on his heavy metal blaring after hours. I used the rock and roll hall of fame as an example and Dylan has songs covered by the greats, “Knockin on Heaven’s door” and “All along the watchtower” to name a few.

 

“You have to do what you love to do, not get stuck in that comfort zone of a regular job. Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.” Lucinda Basset

 

“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

 

Searching for words midst a deluge of thought I got caught up in Tim McGraw’s words from that assignment so many years back.

 

“I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about” Tim McGraw

 

We take life so often for granted, wasting precious moments, missing bits and pieces as we go hurriedly to the next event of the day. My dear friend I had not seen since 1994 or so but we communicated regularly on Facebook. Sharing all of those years in photos and one line captions.

 

“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” Josh Billings

 

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

 

“I went Rocky Mountain climbing I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu and then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter and I watched an eagle as it was flying and he said someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.” Tim McGraw

 

Yesterday morning I walked out as I do so many mornings early in the day, to my right clearing the pines a great smile of a moon almost half a full moon but still a smile. The stars and always present clouds added to the effect and surrounding me that great chorus of crickets and tree frogs, it was literally over whelming. I have yet to figure how crickets in our neighborhood can harmonize. Perhaps they were singing for my friend.

 

“The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, and passion.” Nadia Boulanger

 

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

 

We each search and try to find the pathway that is best for us as we journey through life. How and why we go the direction we do is our choice and the attitude that we have again is our choice. As I am reading again the words from Tom McGraw’s song and listening to teenagers respond is interesting, living each day to the fullest is not just about riding a bull named Fu Manchu for 2.7 seconds or mountain climbing in the Rockies. It is more about loving deeper and speaking sweeter, it is the moments not the events, it is extracting as much as possible and giving as much as possible in each second of each day.

 

“I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t and I became a friend a friend would like to have” Tim McGraw

 

Again a flash back, to a phone call several years ago. It was again a few years back another incident struck me, my middle son called from college and sounded upset there was an un-easiness in his voice. A female student had killed herself in the dorm; several of his friends were peer leaders on that hall. In another situation I was informed two students I have been talking with for three years were both pregnant distant events each encompassing in its own, a life ended and lives starting. One of the girls sought me out by to tell me personally after I had heard rumors.

 

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

 

“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

 

It has been many years since I would walk out into the pastures at night and hear the snorting of our buffalo. It is so hard to explain seeing a bull buffalo’s breath blowing across the grass in the wee hours of the morning on a cool day, or watching fireflies skirt the kudzu and sumac of our back yard. A young lady takes her life, she had a plan with a stopping point I wonder if she lived as if she were dying or was she dying so she could live? What a paradox we set in motion as we journey each day.

 

“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

 

“I asked him when it sank in that this might really be the real end how’s it hit you when you get that kinda news man what’d you do…….live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about what’d you do with it what did you do with it” Tim McGraw

 

I won’t be riding bulls or skydiving but I will be smiling and I will love and I will be living each moment that I have got and hopefully set an example for the students I teach. I may make a few more day trips this summer to spend precious moments with friends. So my dear friends take a moment and truly think about it, live your moments to the fullest and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please be sure to give thanks for the moments namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Keeping the teacher energy flowing is crucial

Bird Droppings May 31, 2018
Keeping the teacher energy flowing is crucial

 

For nearly fourteen years I have been involved as a student, instructor, visiting, taking photos and offering my two cents at the Foxfire Approach to Teaching Course. The program has been put on by Piedmont College for graduate students and teachers already in the classroom in Mountain City Georgia at the Foxfire museum. This course is an elective graduate class of Piedmont College’s Education Department. While the course is still offered it is now in the class room at the college.

 

The experience with Foxfire for me has been almost addicting. One Monday afternoon a few years back as I made my way home in the pouring rain from Black Rock mountain I had been invigorated by the discussion and interactions of teachers and teachers to be. Within the course we had talked about the positive aspects and negative pieces as well as we look at the Foxfire Core Practices. I always feel good that the negative are mostly personality conflicts within various small groups and not something within the program. As always I would come away excited about teaching and education as well and couple that with the many new friends made during the day or two I would be involved and the potential networking group of teachers to bounce ideas off it is a great experience.

 

About four years ago as the students finished their final assessment of the program and turned them in, Dr. Hilton Smith handed each a piece of paper. My first thought was they are getting a Foxfire course completion certificate. Later as we were leaving Sara, Hilton’s wife and often co-teacher handed a sheet to me and said I might enjoy the thought.

 

Musings from the Mountain by Kaoru Yamamoto,
The Educational Forum, Vol. 53, No. 3, 1989
“I am told that everyone needs to feel the exhilaration of being the cause of things, of making a difference. No doubt such experience boosts one’s self esteem and confirms personal significance. To grow up healthy, children should certainly taste the nectar of the sense of control, power and accomplishment. However among most grownups engaged in ministering or teaching activities, the caring and guiding take on a far less direct form, given the fact they are interacting with other human beings who have their own minds and live their respective, intimate contexts. Teachers’ function is often likened to that of a catalyst and for many purposes the metaphor seems apt. Nevertheless certain aspects of the analogy need to be kept in mind lest these helpers should become much too self-important and or frustrated. Good catalysts are seldom precious metals or stones that call attention to themselves. Theirs is a not a life of acclaim, even as their presence at the critical time and place is making a difference. They will not be a visible part of the resultant changes they are left behind, unaltered and typically forgotten. It takes a person secure in one’s self to continue to serve in such an unsung capacity. The essence of this unique contribution was beautifully captured by the late Chief Dan George in yet another analogy. ‘The sunlight dies not leaving its marks on the grass. So we too should pass silently’”

 

I now have read through this paragraph many times and each time found a bit more. I was t I have had glancing through several books this morning one is an autobiography of the founder of Foxfire who came into this purely by chance. Over the past several years I have talked to several of his former students and all consider him to be a great teacher, some have said one of the best they have ever had. A thought on my mind for nearly forty years as I have watched enthusiastic young teachers start out and within five or six months they go from creative dynamos to doing as so many others do running worksheets and gong page by page through the text book. The founder of Foxfire was addressing this in his book and offered the following.

 

“As always there is a high ground in the middle. On this knoll gather those teachers who are determined to preserve their spirit and their love for the field. Most of these individuals   myself have a credo that goes something like this: The profession of teaching is exactly that – a profession, not an avocation or a hobby or a marriage of convenience. Because of its goals and its potential; to achieve those goals, I selected it. It did not come knocking on my door. I was searching for a way to be of real service, and I found and choose this field; I believed then as I do now, that this is a profession of honor and true merit, and though I may not remain in it for all of my working days, it will continue to deserve and receive my best.” Elliot Wigginton, Sometimes a shining moment, 1986

 

Keeping the energy flowing and rejuvenating the brain and soul are crucial to being a good if not great teacher. I find my trips to the Foxfire courses and interacting with current and new teachers to be offered me an ongoing window into what possibilities are out there. Thinking back to my seminary days so many years ago and the affiliated churches there was the use of evangelists going church to church to re-inspire the throngs to the church and its mission. Over the years the programs at mass teacher events that are designed to do this is far more often too similar to a tent service alongside the road and fish oil hucksters working from their peddlers wagon for most teachers to believe. In education as John Dewey over and over again points out.

 

“In what I have said I have taken for granted the soundness of the principle that education in order to accomplish its ends both for the individual learner and for society must be based on experience.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

I think attending this course in North Georgia revitalized me in so many ways as I ponder scenarios and interactions with other teachers. Being a course and for credit the students (mostly graduate course teachers or soon to be teachers) come from distinctly differing backgrounds and philosophical views of teaching. Almost immediately you can pick the ones out who are simply along for the ride. They do what is necessary because they feel this will never impact their teaching. Then there are a few who see beyond the forced upon us mandated state and federal standards, regulations and testing parameters and can see that there is a fire in the bathroom borrowing from Kathleen Cushman’s book.

 

“Wanted: One teacher. Must be able to listen even when mad; Must have a sense of humor; must not make students feel bad about themselves; must be fair and not treat some students better than others; must know how to make schoolwork interesting; must keep some students from picking on others; must take a break sometimes; must not jump to conclusions; must let students know them; must get to know students; must encourage students when they have a hard time; must tell students if they do a good job or try real hard; must not scream; must not call home unless it is real important; must smile; must help students with their problems if they ask; must not talk about students to other people; if it’s a lady must be good looking.” Eighth and ninth grade students, from the introduction to Kathleen Cushman’s, Fire in the bathroom, by Lisa Delpit

 

Over the years I have done this type of exercise and in several previous Foxfire courses we develop a good teacher/bad teacher listing which often would be very similar to the list above. Maybe this should be a rubric for teachers to follow. I actually sat here this morning developing a rubric based on Lisa Delpit’s introduction. I was thinking what if every teacher followed this list composed by students. The State of Georgia Department of Education could save over three quarters of a million dollars in contract fees to establish a teacher evaluation.
I should not joke about Dr. James Stronge who was awarded the contract to develop an evaluation tool for Georgia Teachers years ago but as I read the paragraph above it hit me we never ask students what they think. It is usually an administrator and only one administrator who will see a teacher in the classroom for twenty minutes and leaves checking off the required boxes in the State mandated checklist. I always like the one; does the teacher have a word wall posted? I recall being told my internet website of vocabulary was not a word wall in our learning focused school. By chance I had computers for each student and each had differing vocabulary needs which and that due to being a resource teacher in special education addressing differing earning styles and needs. Perhaps I ruffled some feathers when I got a note from the founder of Learning Focus Schools that this was a great word wall. Several months later my idea was posted on their website. Needless to say my word wall counted. Dr. Stronge in his book, Evaluating Teachers, uses a quote from an article by K. Peterson, research on school teacher evaluation, NASSP Bulletin, 88, pages 60-79.

 

“Studies of teacher evaluation by principal observation and report have been found to be under representative sampling, biased reporting, disruption caused by class room visit, and limitations of the principal imposed by misleading or truncated reporting systems such as checklists and narrow anecdotal systems.” K. Peterson

 

I find it interesting in this research based educational system we exist in that a proven non-reliable source is being used to evaluate teachers along with test scores that are used in Georgia which are basically tests of what a student knows at that moment not what they have learned, and sadly actually more of a reading score than subject matter. That is leaving out a crucial piece, for example with students that have a State End of Course Test in their class that test counts twenty percent of their final grade and we say try and not teach to the test.
Perhaps in my zeal from having been to and going back to Foxfire classes over the years I am back to my forty plus year suggestion to have an effective tool to evaluate teachers. I watch teachers who are borrowing from so many educators and authors just taking up space and biding time till retirement who get laudatory evaluations every year. I see teachers who are perhaps the best at what they do having difficulty because they disagree with an administrator on how children learn. Each day as my summer progresses I find myself seeking this question of how do we inspire teachers to engage students and most of all how do we inspire students to desire to learn? I have wandered around today but as I do each day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Cultivating the soul and or inner self

Bird Droppings May 25, 2018
Cultivating the soul and or inner self

 

I started my morning today with a swim. I should say a walk in water. Several years back I was directed by my orthopedic doctor to use water therapy for my back. The only place near was difficult to get an appointment. Long story short we put in an above ground twenty four foot pool. I walk in circles around pool and count laps. Today I started the day with a half mile of laps. While walking in the water I had R. Carlos Nakai flute music on sound system. As I walk I see nature around me. A hummingbird checking our feeders. First one I have seen this year. A squirrel running the fence line heading to nut trees. I was thinking as I walked how quiet the people sounds were all I heard was Nakai and nature. No road sounds or Air Conditioners humming. I was able to feel the water hear the wounds and see the green of life.

 

“If people find no room in their lives to pray or to meditate, to reflect deeply on why they have been created and what they must do with their lives, and to listen with all of their being to the guidance of the universe, then these people are like birds who have not yet learned to fly. All the parts of the bird are present, but something is still missing. To be a whole person is to be alive in a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual way.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

I started reading this short book several days ago, only absorbing a page or two a day not trying to force my read as I do so often and get through it in a matter of minutes. There is an under lying theme with the tree of life so often depicted in primitive traditions. In Native American thought the tree intertwines spiritually and physically with all. Many times in ceremonies a specific tree would be selected after much thought by a medicine man or woman for the occasion. It would be carefully taken down and then “replanted” at the site of the ritual.

 

Sundance ceremonies a very spiritual undertaking for many tribes, always would center round a tree as the main focal point of the entire ceremony. I could not help but think of the latest James Cameron movie Avatar and the depiction of the tree that is connected to all on the planet. In my own life my early mornings are to sit read and write for me a mediation of sorts. When I can if time allows although that does not sound good I will wander out into the darkness to think and reflect. Listening and watching as around me life unfolds. For many being alone in the dark is not a comfortable event but as I have now for some time embraced the solitude and quiet.

 

“A sign that much work is needed in the area of personal spiritual growth is when a person dislikes being alone, and especially dislikes being alone in silence. Many people use television and or recorded music to fill the silence so do not have to experience themselves as they are.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

Years ago I would walk out into the early morning’s darkness all about me wandering a blanket wrapped about me, thinking and reflecting on things at hand. I found as I was searching I found peace in the solitude and quiet of the early hours. As we moved over the years and my ability to walk around became hindered I started to write and read and reflect as I would sit and ponder. I started writing down my ideas and thoughts and sharing with others. I found in each of my mornings notes; an idea was there for someone. Today as we near a full moon and the night is bright with the moons reflection of the sun perhaps speaking of darkness at night is a bit odd but always I have found within darkness there is light when we seek it. So in effect in my solitude I have found community. It has been a few years since a dear friend shared with me and helped me remember a poet and philosopher of life that I had forgotten so many years ago.

 

“Walk easy on the earth each life has its own fragile rhythm, to be aware of it is to understand, to ignore is to abandon oneself to sadness. It is to search vainly for the wholeness that only comes in surrender to what is.” James Kavanaugh, Quiet Water, 1991

 

James Kavanaugh passed away a few years back and his works will continue to inspire and awaken emotions in people for many years ahead. There is a spiritual aspect to his writing as he reflects on his own former priesthood in many of his writings. But he also separates from religion that spiritual context that is within each of us. It is that individuality and uniqueness that gives us the essence of who we are and provides us with a desire to continue existence.

 

“Existing is one thing, but making a purpose for your existence is another.” Kendall Gomez, neighbor, former LHS student, former California University Student, friend, mother, Delta Stewardess, and often philosophy genius

 

Kendall is one of the few who is up when I get up each morning although she was a country away in California when she wrote this. Many the day Kendall would come by my room at school and talk and even visited a few times after she graduated. She moved into our neighborhood several years ago and it was interesting neither of us knew we were neighbors for nearly a year. Granted she is a half mile away from our house if that would still be a neighbor. As I read her post this morning and one of her responses, that her purpose was to come up with riddles for others to solve, it sort of hit me. Perhaps it is “more better” stated that we find our purpose through our existence and may even find ourselves in that effort.

 

“Another sign that warns the traveler that his heart is empty of the gifts of the west is when a person does not feel respect for the elders or for the spiritual activities and struggles of other people.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

We live in a world so interconnected to each other and yet so disjunctive as well. So many of our interactions that fail and go by the wayside are due to inadvertent differences of opinions, distrust and differences of beliefs than to any other rationales. I recall sitting down so many years ago with a man who was very much a man of faith. He was devout in his beliefs and staunch in his moral codes and ethics. We sat down in a small restaurant in town to discuss a program I had envisioned working with indigent families and people. As a prop knowing this fellow I had brought a bible along. Several verses were marked dealing with helping others and providing for those in need. I did not indicate to this man another religious connection of any sort and almost immediately as we talked he mentioned that Catholics were not Christian. My hand rested atop a Catholic bible. I found it interesting that within his desire to do good and help people was still this animosity for another person he had no idea of any connection to any church or religious affiliation for me other than a Methodist Church I was previously involved with working with high school students. He knew I attended a Methodist Seminary along the way. So already we in some ways were opposed semantically because he found one denomination was wrong and one was right yet both evolved from the same traditions and history. We started a program Shepherd Staff Ministries and up until I left that program over ten years ago we never disagreed on anything and he is still involved on the board of directors. People were served in our community with food lodging and counseling.
“Poverty is not merely a matter of not having ‘things’. It is an attitude which leads us to renounce some of the advantages which come from the use of things. A man can possess nothing, but attach great importance to the personal satisfaction and enjoyment he wants to get out of things which are common to all.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, 1956

 

As I was selecting passages today I was drawn to both Kavanaugh and Merton were Catholic clergy at one time or another in their lives. Kavanaugh had a falling out as he wrote about an outdated church and left the priesthood. Thomas Merton wrote out against war in a time when such things were not often politically correct and died suspiciously in Southeast Asia electrocuted in a bath tub protesting the War in Viet Nam. Merton was a Trappist monk till his death. When you read these two authors there ideas do flow and interconnect with those of the Native American concept of a world interconnected I started with. Merton often wrote about and was well versed in Eastern thought seeing a connection between all that was. Kavanaugh in his poetry wrote of the world almost as if he were a piece in a vast puzzle a part of the whole.

 

“Thus I am certain that somehow life will never end, because the assemblage of my friends and all the beauty of the world I have known, assures me that in some state, I must have a life of love to say what I feared to say on earth. To give what I tried to give and couldn’t and to thank you with all of me, when gratitude never seemed sufficient. I long to release all hurts and manipulations, any selfish expectation when pain and suffering got in the way of love and forgiveness, when age and self-pity interfered, or when my ignorance and arrogance prevented what I longed to reveal and share. When I realized I’d done the best I could with what I had from the past, when it was apparent that for one as good and fine and loving as you are: A lifetime isn’t long enough to love you.” James Kavanaugh, A lifetime isn’t long enough to love you, 1996

 

We of this modern era somehow get lost in all that is. We want to categorize and sanitize and package seemingly undefinable ideas and thoughts. We want to be able to research and develop vaccines to cure and control all that is around us. We lose our connections. I was talking with a fellow teacher yesterday a very good friend who has served for nearly twenty five years active and in the reserves with our military. He has been in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in most areas of conflict in the past twenty years. He has seen death and destruction at the hands and minds of men. We often talk about life in general and while he knows my own believes and perhaps his might differ we often find common ground. I bumped into him on my way to check on a student and we talked. I had an article I had been meaning to bring to him as he teachers history. It is a National Geographic article about a tribe in Africa that is one of the last known hunter gatherer societies left on the earth. What is amazing to anthropologists is that there is no strive, stress, animosity within these people. There are not items of desire or to covet. If you need a bow and arrows you make one. If you need meat you hunt and fruit you gather. As we talked I recalled another friend’s virtual game in history of having students develop society from nothing and how it is not until as humans we begin to own things that strive and turmoil appears.
“We live in a whirl of images and noises, sounds, lights, desires, frustrations, pleasures, sufferings. Our lives are a cacophony; insulated from wind and rain and sun, from heat and cold, we are ensphered in our own catacombs of concrete and plastic. Living in such a world is it any wonder we turn to drugs, to more sensational means of stimulation, to entertainment that renders us catatonic? Insulated from nature, ungrounded, why should we be surprised at our own brutality? Where in such a world is there room for gratitude and for what should we be grateful?” Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth, the spiritual landscape of Native America

 

I am getting carried away this morning but so often an idea starts and perhaps today I need to draw to a close and continue another day. My dog is barking calling to go out and now back in the moon has set and gone behind the pines and only the stars remain to light the sky. To my right as I walked out our drive way and cars and to the left pines and darkness a seemingly distant world untouched and real. I will use another line from Versluis as he discusses primitive people’s ideas and views.

 

“There is, however a mysterious unity between people and their landscape, between people and the creatures around them. This unity is of a subtle kind not easily explained. But understanding it is essential if we are to enter into a different awareness of our world” Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth, the spiritual landscape of Native America

 

Another day is near dawning and another day heading to school for finals and to finish up the school year. For all of my students and teacher friends may peace be with you and yours and may we as a nation find some point of reference to draw us together. For ten years now I have ended my morning sojourns with this line, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Why not just imagine?

Bird Droppings May 24, 2018
Why not just imagine?

 

Some days I wonder if adults I know have ever imagined even considered imagination. For example have you ever lain on your back watching clouds trying to determine if this one is a dragon or a whale? I was driving home from Georgia Tech with my son and his roommate many moons ago. They were planning on going to the premiere of the new Star Wars movie. As we drove my son mentioned an article he read about video games and creativity. It was probably the exact opposite of what many of us would say, evidently this particular report indicated video games and their realism and such increase brain capacity for imagination. I won’t vouch for that one however. But I do know I do not see creativity and imagination among youngsters perhaps as much as I would like.
So many adults have chosen a rigid world of exactness, self-centeredness and parameters tight around themselves sort of little boxes of comfort and calmness. They are often limiting themselves only to a few inches of space in this vast universe, stodgily staying within the lines and forcing others to do so as well. By dictionary terms creativity is “the ability to create”, that is a simple version of a complex idea.

 

“Some people will only love you as long as you fit in their box. Don’t be afraid to disappoint them” Lecrae Moore

 

“The creative process is the emergence in action of a novel relational product, growing out of the uniqueness of the individual on the one hand, and the materials, events, people, or circumstances of his life on the other.” Carl Rogers

 

A synthesis of things people have and hold on one hand and what the available materials might be on the other.

 

“One sees from this that genius: 1) is a talent to produce that to which no specific rules can be applied, not that to which learned and practiced skills can be applied; therefore, that originality is its primary characteristic. 2) Since there can also be original non-sense, its products are at the same time examples, i.e., that they must be exemplary; in fact, though themselves not products of imitation, they must serve as such for other products, that is, as measures or rules of judgment. 3) It cannot describe or scientifically establish how it brings its product about; rather, as an expression of nature simply provides the measure. Therefore, the creator of such a product does not know himself how the ideas come about, and does not have the ability to come up with these ideas at will or according to a plan, and cannot communicate a set of rules by which one could bring about similar products. (Presumably for this reason one uses the word “genius,” which also means a spirit who accompanies a human at birth, protects and guides him.) 4) Nature prescribes to art rather than science through genius; and this only insofar as art desires to be an art form.” W. Miller, Duke University

 

A long winded definition that actually raises more questions than it defines. Creativity is a most difficult word to clearly define. Years ago my youngest son was being tested for “the gifted class”; his second grade teacher saw glimpses of something a bit more than average children his age. His IQ test bolstered her thoughts and his achievement tests were ok nothing that would knock you down and his grades well in some areas one hundred percent plus in some areas and in others that he was not interested in well he was passing. However in Georgia at that time gifted labeling required a battery of tests and three out of four tests the child should exceed in to be considered gifted. This little kid had two out of four and indicator of grades was a loss so he had to ace creativity test. So on the given day the school psychologist took him aside and tested. The test was given and scored and given again several more times since the first one was obviously flawed and finally by the third time and similar results she decided it was a real score. It seems he was off the charts in creativity and the tester had never scored a second grade student so high.
I immediately pointed to genetics as a factor standing tall and puffing my chest out a bit. It was with that he ended up in gifted class. Since that time I have been impressed with teachers and parents who encourage their children to imagine, to ponder and think beyond the required tasks assigned. After the testing the teacher who tested my son asked if we did anything out of the ordinary. His spontaneous answers were what floored her in testing. Since he was four or so every day as I drove him to school we would make up stories taking turns adding to the plot or even to what we were making up a story about. My father’s grandpa Niper (my great grandfather) stories were embellished and expanded often for days.
Some days the stories would be of imaginary creatures and often it was a contest to stump me with a creature I could not make up a story about and only once was I stumped. I do not recall the request and or what monster he had come up. But my son initiated the process and would offer twists and turns as we built the story. My kids grew up in the middle of 183 acres of farm land and they would often find their way to Paradise a pile of rocks and stones sitting on a slab of granite in amongst several trees. They would build tiny villages and forts with pebbles and small stones and take match box cars along to add to their game. Even today the word Paradise conjures up vivid memories for my kids and imagination and every once in a while I will get asked to retell a Grandpa Niper story especially now that grandbabies are getting to storytelling age. We need to encourage each other teachers and parents not to hinder imagination. We need to stop infringing our limitations and our boxes and parameters on children’s minds and souls. We need to imagine as well and live each moment. So on my official first day of summer break I am sitting at school writing pondering and as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to give thanks always namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

I am just sitting, pondering and thinking wiping away a tear or two

Bird Droppings September 21, 2018

I am just sitting, pondering and thinking wiping away a tear or two

 

I was outside very early today as a great horned owl was irritating our dog keeping him up. It seems it was more than one as around me several were calling back and forth in an eerie chorus. The hooting had our dog going perhaps it was just the echoing of the owls through the trees which altered direction and location and crickets and tree frogs added in made quite a combination. Perhaps it was the shift in energy as my greater siren (a large slimy aquatic salamander) and class room buddy for seventeen years passed on this morning.

 

I often joke about my monastic ways. It seems I am alone more than in a group and enjoy that. Perhaps trying to mingle is not in my nature yet I do enjoy joking around and even at times trying to be the focus or center of attention. Perhaps we all do seek attention each in our own way. Last year about this time I was dreading the retirement gathering now it is over and I miss the teachers and students. I recall trying to get out of program last year, I am not a party person and especially if I am the focal point. It is hard to fake illness when your wife is a nurse practitioner and she is going to the gathering as well.

 

“Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast. Oh, but what a shame if all we’ve shared can’t last.  I can change, I swear, oh, oh, see what you can do.  I can make it through, you can make it too.” Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks

 

Every morning when I went into to school including Saturdays and many Sundays I religiously check my emails. As I sat down today reading emails a note I had received in Xanga, (is that even a word anymore) a good while back came to mind. My son had posted a note in which he related that he read the lyrics to a song by Joni Mitchell. Many youngsters will not even know the name Joni Mitchell, one of the great folk singers of the antiwar movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s back in my day, the Viet Nam era. Literally daily I receive emails from friends or readers of my blog and I am end up getting to the word synchronicity and how words may be for this person or that and they may be just what was needed for this person now. It has been a few days since I wrote about morality and an email came back about a ninth grade class where the discussion went into the morality of gene therapy and the students were unsure of the concept of morality. They had to discuss morality first.

 

So I am sitting in Georgia writing to friends around the country and a few overseas thinking about all that happened the past few days pondering on what will happen today and thinking about why my son was drawn to this song so many years ago. I use words from songs quite often in correspondence and in counseling and working with teenagers. The lyrics, words can be so powerful and so moving and conversely words can destroy and conquer. I share these words today a simple plea from a folk singer with a quiet powerful voice, Joni Mitchell.

 

The fiddle and the Drum

By Joni Mitchell

 

And so once again

My dear Johnny my dear friend

And so once again you are fightin’ us all

And when I ask you why

You raise your sticks and cry, and I fall

Oh, my friend

How did you come?

To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say I have turned

Like the enemies you’ve earned

But I can remember

All the good things you are

And so I ask you please

Can I help you find the peace and the star?

Oh, my friend

What time is this?

To trade the handshake for the fist

And so once again

Oh, America my friend

And so once again

You are fighting us all

And when we ask you why

You raise your sticks and cry and we fall

Oh, my friend

How did you come?

To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say we have turned

Like the enemies you’ve earned

But we can remember

All the good things you are

And so we ask you please

Can we help you find the peace and the star?

Oh my friend

We have all come

To fear the beating of your drum

© 1969 Siquomb Publishing Corp. (BMI)

 

As I listened to the words I was reminded of a dear friend in Pennsylvania that I have known for many years and with whom I correspond regularly through email, the words reminded of his writings.  He had been researching a drummer boy from West Chester Pa.  He was the youngest person killed in the Union forces during the Civil War. My friend in his own way was obsessed with the story and actually is writing a book about his findings. After many years of searching he found the grave of the drummer boy. He had been to that spot numerous times as the drummer boy’s parents were buried there. A poplar tree marked the grave between the parents. A tree planted as a living memorial to their son who died in war.

 

A few years back one of my student friends at school came by upset her brother had just joined the Marines. She comes from an extended family eleven kids in several marriages and step dads and moms. It is great at Christmas time and bad at times like this. How do you explain to a teenager war? The little drummer boy in Pa. was twelve when he died in battle. Recently I ran into a former teacher who had joined the National Guard he was rejected after going through training and suffering a stress fracture. When it came up he had been treated for depression he was upset he could not go and fight. Sadly this story went on and ended harshly several years later.

 

I recall a good friend in high school we would play ice hockey at the GO Carlson’s pond in the winter pick-up games. He and I would talk often as we waited for others to show up. He did not even live in our neighborhood but would come to play. He played the bassoon in the High School band and was on the soccer team. He and I both flunked out of the same college our freshmen year and were drafted within days of each other. I am epileptic and though I have not had a seizure since childhood I received a 4Y permanent deferment. He went to Viet Nam. Many years later thinking I would see him at a ten year reunion as I went up to Pennsylvania for the reunion I found out he had been killed in Viet Nam.

 

It took several moments to sink in and immediately I thought this wasn’t possible and I sat back and wondered while more names were read. Each moment as I sat another name was mentioned another life had passed away in a war soon to be not a war soon to be merely history. Only a few years ago I went with my son to Washington DC riding the bus along the way we are told how to find names of relatives and friends in the index books located at the ends of the Viet Nam memorial. I walked down the walkway reluctantly at best to find a name then two and three and four and I can no longer look up names as I write where on the wall they are located on my hand in black ink. A recent email from a friend who lost her husband he had come back from Viet Nam and so many thoughts. I walked down the line found the spot and the name emotions tears welled up I walked hurriedly away as far as I could get and sat on a bench looking down across the wall. A squirrel wandered through my field of vision. It was an hour or so and my son found p me “dad the bus is leaving we need to go”. I do not remember thinking just staring at that wall and that squirrel that wandered back and forth interrupting my thoughts.  There have been few moments in my life where I have been unable to control my emotions and sitting here thinking back tears wander across my cheek again perhaps for another reason time will tell.

 

So many thoughts as I think back as we continue to fight another war and another war I in all the talk of freedom and patriotism and macho soldier talk I still have a difficult time with the concept of war. In only the span of a few months’ two school shootings, domestic war. Joni Mitchell states so eloquently, “But we can remember all the good things you are and so we ask you please can we help you find the peace and the star oh my friend we have all come to fear the beating of your drum.”  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)

bird

 

Pondering and remembering a waterfalls listening to the ocean

Bird Droppings May 19, 2018
Pondering and remembering a waterfalls listening to the ocean

 

It has been six years since I was staying at the Sylvan Mills Bed and Breakfast in a room over a waterfalls. I went up to North Georgia to recharge perhaps another word might be to rekindle my passion for education and learning. For nearly twelve years I have been participating in and attending Foxfire training programs. I started writing before day break listening to natures sounds today although different then the whippoorwill chorus I am used to surrounding me. Six years back I stayed in a room overlooking a waterfall with my windows open wide taking in the sounds. Trying to write in the lulling sound of water running is difficult and I would doze off. With the sun up I would move my computer to the porch overlooking the falls fully intent on pulling out my Bose ear phones and listening to Crosby Still Nash and Young. The sounds and energy of the water mesmerized me. I walked about the area just before dark taking pictures.  This week while in South Carolina with my wife at her nursing conference I have been pondering John Dewey and the Foxfire program and the implications that can made in a teachers classroom. I am behind in my reading as of the moment, so I will try and get some additional reading and writing done today.
With the bulk of education in the early 1900’s following closely the Industrial Revolution and mass production, a few great thinkers took the concept of the individual child in psychology and education in new directions as to its relationship to children. How children were viewed became the basis for several educators to develop their theories and ideas. Child psychology and child centered educational ideas flowed from these thinkers. John Dewey reminded us that the goal of education is more education. To be well educated then is to have the desire as well as the means to make sure the learning never ends. Alfie Kohn educator and author refer to Dewey and to his idea of providing for a lifetime of learning. In his book What does it Mean to be well educated?, Kohn points out, “many classroom teachers asked to specify their long term goals for students, instantly responded with the phrase life-long learners.”
Dewey was not alone in his thinking which was in direct contrast to the traditional educational practices of his day. Dewey was frustrated with the rationale of educators when he wrote

 

“Why is it, in spite of the fact that teaching by pouring in, learning by a passive absorption, are universally condemned, that they are still so in trenched in practice. That education is not an affair of “telling” and being told, but an active and constructive process.” John Dewey

 

The traditional philosophy of education was a focus away from children and their interests, and not trying to understand children simply seeing them as small adults. Traditional education is about efficiency and production which were carryovers from the Industrial revolution. It was time for serious educators to get away from the assembly line processes of traditional education. One of these new educators a thinker, author, scholar, and advocate for children Alfie Kohn throughout his writing illustrates this point.

 

“Looking at the long-term impact of traditional teaching and the push for Tougher Standards, then we are finally left with Dewey’s timeless and troubling question: “What avail is it to win ability to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul.” Alfie Kohn

 

In a burst of educational energy just prior to the turn of the century numerous educators and scholars were developing ideas that often parallel John Dewey as they sought to come up with a better way to teach children. Howard Garner in his book The Unschooled Mind states discusses some of this basic history of progressivism.

 

“Progressivism is most frequently and most appropriately associated with the name of John Dewey. In fact, however the practices of progressive education had already begun to be implemented in the period before 1896…Leaders like Francis Parker, first superintendent of the Quincy Massachusetts Public Schools, later principal of the Cook county Normal School in Chicago, and finally a founding member of the Chicago Institute, which ultimately gave rise to Dewey’s educational facility at the University of Chicago.” Howard Garner

 

While Dewey was establishing himself in educational history in the United States across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe Dr. Jean Piaget was developing child centered education which would lead along with Dewey and Vsygotsky to the concept of constructivism. Piaget believed each aspect of child development followed clearly defined stages and this did not change child to child but could occur at differing speeds. Dewey saw the past experiences of children so often not even being recognized and yet at that point is the basis for their ability to learn.
In a similar fashion a medical doctor working with mentally disabled children in a residential setting in Europe was looking at the child centered aspect of education as she developed methodology with a developmental learning process in mind. Dr. Maria Montessori in her book The Advanced Montessori Method describes her philosophy and understanding of educating children.

 

“Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.” Dr. Maria Montessori

 

Another psychologist looking at children in a developmental approach was the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky whose work was not discovered by the western educators till the later part of the twentieth century. Vygotsky also saw experience as a significant factor in children’s development. Retention of previous experiences facilitates adaptation to the world around them and can give rise to habits when those experiences are repeated. Vygotsky differed with Piaget in that he said learning can precede developmental stages. We can acquire use of a given tool in order to attain a certain stage of development. Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development which is “the distance between actual development determined through independent problem solving and the level of potential development through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers”.
There are some similarities to Dewey with Vygotsky; much like Dewey he also felt there was a significant element of group interaction needed for education to be meaningful. The ideal school for Dewey was one that took the form of an “embryonic social community,” one in which students were encouraged to cooperate and work together and learn from each other as well as their teachers.
The originators of constructivism Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey all started with psychology and that the child is a unique individual as they developed their interpretations and understandings of learning and education. Even today the child is not the focus of education. One need only to leaf through the tables of contents in recent educational journals to discern that the individual child is not the focus of educational reform. Each of these great educators believed in the act of doing as a way to learn and as Ted Sizer points out that there is context. “What I have learned is context is everything….. The memorable learning was that you have to be very respectful and very sensitive to the values, to the attitudes that youngsters bring into class, that their parents have, which the community has”. Montessori and Piaget leaned towards the developmental stages in child development and Dewey and Vygotsky while accepting developmentally sound stages as real felt the community, peer group and teachers elevated learning past developmental points of reference. Maybe it is time to look back to Dewey.

 

“Curriculum has held our attention for generations because those who think seriously about education understand its inherent possibility. Maxine Greene’s call for a return to the search for John Dewey’s great community, her call to rise to the challenge of coming together without losing each person’s unique way of being in the world challenges our educational imagination.” Mary Aswell Doll

 

For Dewey an educational experience had to be connected to the prior personal experience of students and also to a widening or deepening of future experience. It was through reflection that Dewey saw the ability to go beyond where you were now. John Dewey reminded us that the value of what students do “resides in its connection with the stimulation of greater thoughtfulness, not in the greater strain it imposes”. The act of reflection is taking a given reference and moving ahead to a new possibility. Often it is the teacher who provides the window for reflection to occur.

 

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connectedness among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.” Parker Palmer

 

It was in this reflective, imaginative undertaking of Dewey’s that provided ideas and thoughts that led Elliot Eisner to Art Education. In his writings Eisner looks to the arts as a basis for education and his ideas and thoughts offer a new stream from Dewey. John Dewey once commented that the stamp of the aesthetic needed to be on any intellectual idea in order for that idea to be complete. It is this feel both imaginative and sensible that the so-called academic studies would foster if they were modeled after the arts. Dewey identified making things as one of four fundamental interests of children. Unhappily, because schools put so little value on making things, most of us grow up with contempt for work done with our hands. Eisner drew often from Dewey’s idea on needing context and relevance for learning to be genuine and to be lasting. Eisner places experience at the center of learning.

 

“It is through the content of our experiences that we are able to perform two very important cognitive operations: we are able to remember and we are able to imagine…. Imagination …works with the qualities we have experienced. What was not first in the hand cannot later be in the head.” Elliot Eisner

 

“One of the potential virtues of situated learning is that it increases the probability that students will be able to apply what they have learned. When the conditions of learning are remote from the situations or tasks in which what is learned can be applied, the likely hood of application or some would say transfer is diminished.” Elliot Eisner

 

The idea of imagination needing to have a basis in reality, in the context, is of significance. It is imagination that brings meaning, purpose, and application to what is learned.
“Imagination for Dewey, explores alternative possibilities for action within a selected context of ongoing activity. Imagination enables the search for ideas that can reconstruct the situation. It takes the context and its data, including emotional sympathetic data, as intuited and determined by selective interests and transforms them into a plan of action, an idea that if acted upon might allow the agent to achieve the desired ideal in reality.” Jim Garrison

 

Elliot Eisner believes in diversity, that this is the key to education and learning and through this provides richness for our culture as well. Continuing in that same line of thought, Maxine Greene educator, philosopher and pioneer sees reality after all as interpreted experience and that to limit learners to a single dominant mode of interpreting their experience may be to frustrate their individual pursuits of meaning and consequently, their desires to come to know, and to learn.
With much of her work is based on the concept of caring, Nel Noddings defines education “as a constellation of encounters, both planned and unplanned, that promote growth through the acquisition of knowledge, skills, understanding and appreciation”. Eisner and Barone understand that the aesthetics of experiences is what builds those in our minds and provides the means to imagine and be creative. The concept of Aesthetic Learning and Education is one of understanding, of perception and ultimately of creativity. Eisner looks at teaching as artistry, it is the ability to craft a performance and to provide the students with the mediums and means to perceive and understand their world.
For John Dewey, aesthetic experiences are not confined to high art, but arise from within the interaction of human organisms with their surroundings. Thomas Barone points to Dewey being the primary thinker that envisioned art and aesthetics having a central role in education and in learning. Thomas Barone is concerned as are many other progressive educators with the linear format of traditional education.

 

“If students are not given access to metaphoric learning activities, if the shape of their learning is always linear and closed, how will their capacity for creativity and invention be developed?” Thomas Barone

 

Perhaps in my research and reading I am getting a bit over board with Dewey and education but I see tie ins to daily living, to how we respond to others, to what the future holds for us and our grandchildren. If each of us took a bit more time to try and understand why so much of what is going on in society is going on maybe just maybe we could finally realize much of this does not need to be happening. So again after nearly thirteen years of daily writing I ask as I do every morning please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Children can learn

Bird Droppings May 18, 2018

Children can learn

So as I do on many mornings when I get the time I walked out to a quiet spot. Being in the Low Country of South Carolina and four stories up my balcony was serene as I walked out. I do miss my quiet spot at home nestled in a patch of weeds and brush I laid claim to and can look toward the east in the morning to watch the sunrise. It is still too dark here to glimpse the sunrise or the threads of life as I call them glisten in the early morning light. These are strands of spider webbing that are still hanging connecting everything. Even here in a conference center tiny spiders spin their silk along the byways of life. The scientist part of me knows that they are simply webs from wandering spiders the previous night out hunting but the mystic in me sees the connections. I do see the interconnections but many do not. I have not been lazy these past few days writing, reading and of course pondering as I walk along the beach.

As I see my grandchildren and interact I become concerned deeply with their education. I am concerned about learning even more so than education. That is a strange statement to make coming from a teacher by trade. We have institutions established called schools where learning is to occur. Sadly various interfering elements within state and federal polity contradict and make a concerted effort to destroy the ability to provide learning experiences for children. Yesterday several editorial cartoons were sent through the internet showing a group of students all connected with wires from their heads staring ahead and one trying to climb out a window to the outside and nature. The just of the image was education reform wants us all to be education zombies all learning the same thing at the same time. If we cannot reverse the decline in learning our children will be simply pawns of whoever is or whatever is in power at the time.

 

“The first object of any act of learning, over and beyond the pleasure it may give, is that it should serve us in the future. Learning should not only take us somewhere; it should allow us later to go further more easily.” Ted Sizer

 

I received an email yesterday or I should say a response to a Facebook post I shared from a friend. The video clip I shared many months back was directed at the Teach to the Test mentality that is sweeping education due to high stakes testing being mandated by states and federal law. A young man a recent college graduate stated he could not get a job because his method of teaching was more hands on than what administrators were looking for. Daily I see the frustration of my son who was trained to teach in experiential manner and is now limited by what is on the curriculum map today. I have co-taught with a teacher in physics who likes to provide context to the learning. In order to study the concepts of velocity and acceleration we did a slip and slide lab to take data in order to calculate acceleration and velocity. It was interesting to see physics come alive for those kids and still comply with the curriculum requirements. If I was wagering I would definitely say we did.

 

“A vision without a task is a dream – a task without a vision is drudgery- but a task with vision can change the world.” Black Elk

 

“Too much emphasis has been placed on reforming school from the outside through policies and mandates. Too little has been paid to how schools can be shaped from within.” Roland Barth

 

Just a few days ago I addressed the fact we are educating more diversified students in the United States than anywhere in the world. I borrowed from Black Elk a Lakota Sioux Holy Man who passed away nearly sixty years ago. Black Elk believed in the power of visions. Roland Barth was a professor at Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. His book Improving Schools from Within, was a best seller in 1991. His latest book Learning by heart, addresses the need for school reform and changes and that they need to come from changing the culture of schools. As I read both pieces and thought a Sioux holy man talking about making a vision real and a renowned educator saying we need to look within in order to elicit change maybe we should be listening to them and not politicians.

 

“Rarely do outside of school remedies work their way into the fabric of the schools or into the teacher’s lives, and more rarely into the classrooms. Therefore they only offer a modest hope of influencing the basic culture of the school.” Roland Barth

 

“Community building must become the heart of any school improvement effort.” Thomas Sergiovanni

           

“The best we educational planners can do is to create the conditions for teachers and students to flourish and get out of their way.” Theodore Sizer

 

As I ponder my various authors I am reviewing and borrowing from today Barth, Sergiovanni and Sizer in the quotes above I find continuity. These men are all innovators and have made significant and powerful suggestions about education across the nation. Many school systems use the concept of learning communities that Sergiovanni promotes in his writing. I know that Roland Barth’s ideas are taught and re-taught in graduate schools nationwide and teachers seldom leave college without hearing the name of Ted Sizer. What concerns me is why is it with the potential to change education we seem to be in a rut and really going nowhere different. Why do we continue to know what to do to better educate kids and then do not do it. I wish an answer were simple to place in writing but I see blame as being in the leadership of schools. I see blame in school boards and in state education boards and eventually at a federal level. As the ideology leaves the classroom it goes from being real and meaningful to being business and is it cost effective? Can we afford this? Should we spend dollars on this? Somewhere children get left out and learning gets sat by the roadside.

 

“To cope with a changing world, ant entity must develop the capacity of shifting and changing – of developing new skills and attitudes; in short, the capability of learning.” A. DeGues, The Living Company

 

“The challenge of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

 

“You cannot have a learning organization without a shared vision…A shared vision provides a compass to keep learning on course when stress develops. The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.” Peter Senge

 

Dr. Peter Senge is a professor at MIT and renowned scholar in the field of learning. His books and theories are used in management schools and education studies. The idea of a collaborative effort in learning falls back into many ideas that have been mentioned in previous droppings dealing with Foxfire and John Dewey and the democratic class room. Students learn more when it is relevant to them and they have some buy in. Proust provides that we need a new perception to see rather than using the same old mythology to view education and learning. We have to develop new skills not just use what is available. Although John Dewey’s ideas are still considered progressive at over a hundred years old always strikes me as interesting.

 

“We learn best from our experience, but we never directly experience the consequences of many of our most important decisions. In the absence of a great dream pettiness prevails. Shred visions foster risk taking, courage and innovation. Keeping the end in mind creates the confidence to make decisions even in moments of crisis.” Peter Senge

 

“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from non-conformity, the ability to turn your back on old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesteryear for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We mist dare to invent the future.”  Thomas Sankara African leader

 

“Schools are among the very few institutions that have remained almost entirely unchanged for most of this century.” Judith Aitken

 

“No other organization institution faces challenges as radical as those that will transform the school.”  Peter Drucker

 

“Today’s Schools are not Tomorrows Schools. That’s a fundamental misconception.” David Lange

 

Author, speakers, management consultants, professors, educational leaders and each of them a great teacher in their own right have been outspoken for years about our schools and learning. Why do we let politicians decide what our students should be learning or how we should be evaluating these students? Why do we put arbitrary numbers on children with disabilities as to who can and who cannot exempt or not exempt state mandated tests. One IQ point separates two students one who because they cannot pass the High School graduation tests is and receives a special education certificate of attendance and is counted as a drop out because they did not graduate and the other by submitting a portfolio of what learning occurred in high school graduates with a legitimate high school diploma and is a graduate. One IQ point separates the two and how they are assessed.

 

“The overwhelming number of teachers …are unable to name or describe a theory of learning that underlies what they do.” Alfie Kohn

 

“It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather… I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” Haim Ginott

 

“In teaching students to think the emphasis is not on how many answers they know. Rather, the focus is on how well they behave when they don’t know.” Art Costa

 

I recall reading Alfie Kohn for the first time in 2001 at the suggestion of my principal who had formed a book club. The title of the book is The Schools our Children Deserve. As I read through these authors and quotes last night as I researched for my morning wanderings I wonder can we ever really change the industrial complex that drives education? Can we unseat lobbyists and politicians who seek profits at the cost of our children’s learning? I wonder as I finish up today if we can overcome.

 

“In the absence of a great dream pettiness prevails. Shared visions foster risk taking, courage and innovation. Keeping the end in mind creates the confidence to make decisions even in moments of crisis.” Peter Senge

 

I started and end with a vision. “A vision without a task is a dream – a task without a vision is drudgery- but a task with vision can change the world.” Black Elk The great spiritual leader Black Elk spoke of his visions and Peter Senge offers a shared vision. I was once told it took leaders who had vision to truly lead and I wonder if we can find those people within education who care enough about children and about learning to pave the way to a new understanding and realization of our educational system. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Understanding is often getting over fears

Bird Droppings May 17, 2018

Understanding is often getting over fears

 

As I stepped outside into a warm moist morning, we were hoping the rain would hold off. The storm has passed off shore and is moving north. However the humidity still hangs in the air. The grass was like walking on a sponge soggy and wet but then again it could be from my lawn care crews out working. I was thinking back to one of my last classes actually what should be the easiest class was the hardest to teach. Kids that could do but do not are much harder to work with than kids who have real physiological or psychological problems. These kids choose to not learn and a group of them feeds each other and then you have acceptance of that do nothing norm. My premise is that this do nothing is based indirectly on fear. In education it could have started as a fear of failure or lack of self-esteem but relegates itself to doing nothing rather than risk ridicule.

 

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Carl Rogers

 

As my days go often in opening a book or researching a thought quote or statement I am curious about, I fine ideas and inspiration that leads me further in my own endeavors. It was last year about this time I was thinking as I was getting ready to go back to teaching after a long spring break since I always miss the clamor of the hallways and interactions with students I got to thinking, I actually find I draw energy from the communications and feedback. I found a statement that for many reasons drew me to it. I found more as usual. I am working on an idea that deals with a student’s depression and so often getting that student to open up and to talk about their issues aids in overcoming the withdrawal and educational barriers of depression.

 

Rogers’s statement is not a paradox as much as a truth. In 1967 Carl Rogers wrote The interpersonal relationship in the facilitation of learning, in which he emphasized three factors. The first factor is, realness in the facilitator of learning, secondly prizing which is acceptance and trust and third empathetic understanding. As I went through graduate school and came back to teaching I had been looking for explanations on how and why my teaching style worked. Amazingly I see this in Rodgers three points. Yesterday I was discussing why some teachers are so much better than others and it was these three issues.

 

“When the facilitator is a real person, being what she is, entering into a relationship with the learner without presenting a front or a façade, she is much more likely to be effective. This means that the feelings that she is experiencing are available to her, available to her awareness, that she is able to live these feelings, be them, and able to communicate if appropriate. It means coming into a direct personal encounter with the learner, meeting her on a person-to-person basis. It means that she is being herself, not denying herself.” Carl Rogers

 

Looking back nearly fifty years, pronouns for teachers were consistently she and her and I recall a dear professor at Eastern College telling me there should not be men in elementary or special education. As I look at Rogers words teaching and education could be set aside and life reinserted. We should enter into all relationships without facades and utilize ourselves as human beings not trying to be someone we think we should be instead. Our best visual aid is ourselves and we are the example for life and others.

 

“There is another attitude that stands out in those who are successful in facilitating learning… I think of it as prizing the learner, prizing her feelings, her opinions, her person. It is a caring for the learner, but a non-possessive caring. It is an acceptance of this other individual as a separate person, having worth in her own right. It is a basic trust – a belief that this other person is somehow fundamentally trustworthy… What we are describing is a prizing of the learner as an imperfect human being with many feelings, many potentialities. The facilitator’s prizing or acceptance of the learner is an operational expression of her essential confidence and trust in the capacity of the human organism.” Carl Rogers

 

I have written about trust so many times, it is in accepting people and trusting people inherently that we find difficulty. Almost ten years back for my professor in Human Development, Dr. Udhe at Piedmont College I did a paper on the development of Trust. I had researched the concept of faith and found faith and trust literally synonymous in definition and in development. Dr. James Fowler a professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology wrote a book on the development of faith borrowing from educational developmentalists including Piaget and Erickson. As I read Dr. Fowlers work and looked at others I found parallels in the development of trust and evolved over several months a chart.

 

Watching my grandkids as they grow up I am seeing this now as they are acquiring the ability to choose through their little responses to life. Only a few years ago they would cry when hungry or wet. Last weekend as I played with them I had been noticing how they will use words to describe and words to clarify what they wanted but still occasionally here and there and then little whimpers that escalate if they do not get their way. It may be they want to sit different, or want their momma, or a specific toy. They have learned this ability rather quickly. Last weekend on one occasion as one of them whimpered and turned towards her momma from my lap she pouted her lower lip and whimpered her mother said come to momma and picked her up and she looked over her shoulder right at me and smiled her impish little smile. That is acquired learned behavior at its best.

 

The Bird development stages of trust

Stage 1 – Unconditional Trust – a baby’s view of trust totally unconditional

Stage 2 – supportive Trust – a child begins to feel trust in the support of family and parents

Stage 3 – Learned Trust – venturing out the learn and acquire trust

Stage 4 – Experienced Trust – trying and experimenting they experience trust

Stage 5 – Questioned Trust – first love and friendship and questions arise

Stage 6 – Answered Trust – slowly we work through events and answer questions

Stage 7 – Universal Trust – As we mature we find trust is there

Stage 8 – Unconditional Trust – very few come back to unconditional trust

 

The graphic that I did is very colorful and I have put into comparison other devlopmentalists in various fields including Kohlberg and Gillian. We do move through these stages as we go in life, some fixate at one point and never move past. But in Rogers statement acceptance is paramount to trust. The third component of Rogers’s thoughts is empathy.

 

“A further element that establishes a climate for self-initiated experiential learning is emphatic understanding. When the teacher has the ability to understand the student’s reactions from the inside, has a sensitive awareness of the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, then again the likelihood of significant learning is increased…. [Students feel deeply appreciative] when they are simply understood – not evaluated, not judged, and simply understood from their own point of view, not the teacher’s.” Carl Rogers

 

Nearly a year ago I ended a paper that in my philosophy of teaching with the idea that empathy was a key element. There is an aspect to life that some people have and many do not. I have watched my wife with patients as a nurse practitioner understand where her patient is coming from and then able to better deal with that persons illness. Years back reading a sales book by Harvey McKay I recall a secret of his. When walking into an office of a customer take notice to what is there build a repertoire. Do you see University of Georgia signs, bulldogs and or logos? Where did they graduate from college and high school? Build a relationship was McKay’s secret and then he made notes for the next meeting. As I am sitting here remembering from way back when, I still keep notes on people. Today when I meet a new student and or anyone I try and find a common ground to start with. I try and not to prejudge and push aside but try and find where we are similar.  Sometimes in life this is hard but understanding goes far and empathy is also powerful tool in life. As usual looking for Harvey McKay’s book I found another aspect of Mr. McKay’s writing his daily moral or quote so for today coincidently.

 

“Teachers strive not to teach youth to make a living, but to make a life.” Harvey McKay

 

Far too often we get caught in the trying to make a living and lose the three elements of Rogers thoughts and that applies across the board not just to teachers but parents too and friends. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and as the great Sioux Chief and Medicine man Sitting Bull offered to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird