We can make learning successful

Bird Droppings May 11, 2018

We can make learning successful

So as I do on many mornings when I get the time I walked out to a quiet corner of my back yard. Nestled in a patch of weeds and brush I laid claim to my quiet spot and look toward the east in the morning. It is still too dark when I head to school 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. 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 but attending my niece’s graduation, a funeral of a dear friend and writing.

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 supposedly to occur. Sadly various interfering elements within state and federal politcs contradict and totally 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 escape outside to 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

 

Can we be about healing?

Bird Droppings May 8, 2018
Can we be about healing?

 

I came out earlier today into the darkness and the first thing I heard was a bullfrog off in the distance calling that’s the first one of the year. As I listened I heard more I heard many birds starting to chirp, whistle and call. Somewhere to the left of me was a whippoorwill going way back into the distance to the right great horned owl. My question for pondering today is, what is prayer? People define prayer in many different ways most I find tend  to confine to the parameters of religion. I recall reading Larry Dossey many years ago and now he defines prayer is more of a simply directing energy perhaps towards someone or something and even an idea perhaps. For me prayer is simply being able to sit and release myself from not necessarily the burdens of reality but the stranglehold that we allow ourselves to get into almost daily.

 

Prayer becomes those moments that are not necessarily quiet, not necessarily peaceful. As for me I am sitting here right now in my rocking chair on the front porch looking out, the sun will be up in the next 30 or 40 minutes and it is peaceful. Prayer could be simply thinking, pondering reflecting. I like the word reflecting, it’s like seeing a mirror image and yet it’s not really what you say or feel. Reflecting can have the ripples going through it like looking at an image on a lake. Life is maybe is like that image. It’s not the lake that’s rippling it could be our life.

 

I love how John Dewey would teach that through experience we learn. However it is through experience and reflecting on the experience where the real learning occurs. I try to spend a little time perhaps too much time pondering every day I can get caught up then simply sitting and listening. It would be very easy for me to go in my backyard sit on our swing and spend the day there just listening to the world around me.

 

As I’m getting older my hearing my sense of smell things are kind of dwindling. But I do surprise everyone occasionally when I do hear, see and smell minute things others miss. I’ve always been colorblind but my colors are more vivid than most peoples. I may be losing my hearing but I still hear more than most people. Smell I’m not going to go there I smell garlic since I really like garlic a lot and use in everything. The birds are starting to get serious in their calls and whispers and twerps. Prayer is a key in healing personal and in others.

 

“People cannot know how sacred power, or medicine truly works, but almost every Native American knows something of its ways. Often seen as a mysterious force that is fluid, transmissible and important malleable, sacred power can be manipulated by those who possess it – either for good or for worse” Larry Zimmerman, The Sacred Wisdom or the American Indians

 

It is so easy to get up knowing my children and grandchildren are safe and walk out into a morning unafraid, I have never been in the situation my parents were faced with my two younger brothers and me. Shortly after I was born they were unsure as young parents of the medical issues and why their new born was having seizures. I out grew that and moved on to polio at about three and a few small minor other health issues in my childhood. My youngest brother also started with seizures and almost immediately the intensity increased and I think back to how my parents must have felt at that time. My middle brother contracted a bone infection and was on antibiotics and bed rest for weeks.
Watching my own children grow up with so few problems has been easy. A good friend has two small children one diagnosed with diabetes the other with health issues of another sort. A few years past on a Monday a dear friend went in for brain surgery, not something that you volunteer to do, she knew that she may not walk away from it. But in this situation options were minimal, an aneurism on the main artery in her brain could rupture at any time and she would be gone. She had her surgery and survived and is doing fine. We have daily medical miracles unthought-of even when I was a child.
There was calm this morning as I went outside before even heading upstairs to get on my computer. It was an uneasy calm outside, as if a storm is coming or maybe just a weather change, yet so peaceful and still. I was absorbed in the quiet, and the stillness, perhaps the storm will come we can always use more rain (sarcasm there after two inches in the past few weeks). But perhaps the calm will stay and continue. I have a spot in the yard actually I call it my medicine circle where I often go to sit and to listen. As I sat birds were chattering about me and I was looking for answers and to what today would be for me. Sometimes I wander in thinking to defining infinite and nothing. Two simple words yet so much of philosophy and life revolve around attempts at defining those two words. Religions are based on and built on finding answers to the infinite and or understanding what is nothing.
Last evening I walked to my car to get my phone that I had left on the charger. At this time in the evening with little traffic in our neighborhood my front porch is a quiet resting spot as well. I sat down in the rocker and was listening. A buzzing or more humming sound caught my attention and I was face to face with a hummingbird. We stared at each other for some time till the tiny bird flew off into the expanse of pines alongside the road. Had I been a few minutes later or sooner I would have missed the hummingbird.

 

“Creative breakthroughs and prophetic knowing will become ordinary. Empathy and compassion will flower as a result of our deeper connection with one another. The awareness of immortality takes the pressure off living and dying. This will not happen automatically, however. We have to do our share and set our biases and prejudices aside. These are urgent matters.” Dr. Larry Dossey, Healing Words

 

It has been quite a few years since I read Dr. Larry Dossey’s first book. I coming from a seminarian background, my library is filled with books on prayer and the healing power of prayer. Every day in the local paper articles and advertising for various churches allude to the power of prayer. There have been times in my own life when prayer was a significant issue. I recall my father telling the story of my brother lying in a bed at The Philadelphia Children’s hospital this was in the mid 1960’s and the head doctor Dr. C. Everett Koop (The former U.S. Surgeon General circa 1981-1989) offering a prayer over John. I recall a comment my father said years ago that Dr. Koop offered in all of his years in medicine and dealing with terminally ill children had he ever met anyone who refused prayer. Dr. Larry Dossey in his work however is looking at prayer as a thought of healing intentions. Dossey even removes religious connotation from prayer as he looks at the power of prayer, in a California study where a group focused on the individuals in a critical care heart unit and healing occurred.

 

“This is actually been tested in certain studies, and has achieved positive results. For example, at the University of California San Francisco Medical School, they actually tested healing intentions, which were initiated at a great distance by several individuals, for people with advanced AIDS. This was a double blind study. The people who received the healing intentions statistically did much better than people who did not. So this is not just fantasy. This is a valid phenomenon, which has been tested.” Dr. Larry Dossey

 

I am rambling a bit, a dear friend emailed back a few months several incidents of healing and intuition recently, while she was a pastor in Delaware. A good friend would end his emails to me sending energy south. For a number of years now I have ended Bird Droppings with a simple line, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart, each day. A very simple statement, as I sit and think imagine if we each would do this daily how profound an impact would that make on the world.

 

“We are made of prayers. With prayer we listen to what is important inside of us and all around us.” Navajo healer

 

“We are not alone. The spirits of those gone before guide our steps, our traditions, our beliefs. We are not alone. The care of those around us leads us to healing and wholeness and comfort. We are not alone.” Mohawk/Onondaga healer

 

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.” Chief Seattle

 

A good friend from the mountains of North Georgia introduced herself to me slightly over a year ago as a healer and soothsayer. I have many hours talked with her about medicinal plants and other healing topics. I was reflecting how as I learned more about certain plants I seemed drawn to specific ones. Her response, she has been healing and working with folks for nearly fifty years, they will let you know when they (the plants) are needed. So I close today someone needs a soothing tea I have included a recipe and taking a spare book and a plant to a friend tomorrow. If we focus on those in harm’s way if we try and alleviate suffering and harm being done to others within our own realm of being, that will spread that will encompass soon all of mankind and the world will be touched. Today make it a point to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and a special thought for a little girl in North Georgia and a local woman in Athens who just came out of surgery and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin ve

(We are all related)

bird

 
A soothing tea:
From Listening with your heart by Dr. Wayne Peate M.D. An Iroquois healer as well as a medical doctor

8 fresh peppermint leaves
4 fresh strawberry leaves
2 cups of water
Crush leaves, place in a tea pot. Add boiling water and cover for ten minutes. Strain and serve. I am making some right now although my strawberry leaves are minimal I did have a lot of peppermint.

 

PS: This is a wonderful tea I use it at home when strawberry and peppermint plants are about.

 

Why do children do what they do?

Bird Droppings May 4, 2018

Why do children do what they do?

 

“Our task is to make our children into disciples of the good life, by our own actions toward them and toward other people. This is the only effective discipline in the long run. But it is more arduous, and takes longer, than simply “laying down the law.” Before a child (or a nation) can accept the law, it has to learn why the law has been created for its own welfare.” Sydney J. Harris

 

Over the years I have been faced with dealing with students who have continually found their way into trouble. Often in education we use the term manifestation as in is it a manifestation of their disability or often times the question is are they choosing to do whatever it is they are doing. It has generally been a hit or misses in some cases. How do we know for sure with any kid was this a manifestation of a given disability or not. Recently in a neighboring county a teacher punished a child, a five year old child by hanging him on the board by his belt loops. I have worked with children for nearly fifty years. I have never physically hurt a child for any reason. I will admit I proposed euthanizing eighth graders. I have worked with institutionalized combative psychotic adolescent females. That was interesting and never an issue. So how does a five year old little boy warrant being hung by his belt loops? There is no way and losing your teaching certificate and or being fired seems a light sentence.

 

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle

 

“Self-command is the main discipline.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Back to my fun group many years ago I spent six months involved in pastoral counseling in a combative psychiatric unit in a state mental facility. There was never a question about why something happened since combative adolescents, was the term used to describe the unit. When someone got upset they simply went to solitary confinement and were administered large doses of drugs combined with numerous orderlies and even the great standby a strait jackets was often employed. Little was occurring to change the behavior and or rationalize those behaviors. All was simply putting a bandage on the moment.

 

“Anybody who gets away with something will come back to get away with a little bit more.” Harold Schoenberg

 

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” John Trapp

 

Often as I find a quote the person behind those words has more to offer. Schoenberg is a scholar of music, a prolific writer about great musicians and music. Trapp is a bible scholar with several biblical commentaries to his credit. These great writers who themselves were very self-disciplined. Harris a columnist for over three hundred newspaper writing about daily life though his essays on education and morality are what drew me to his words.

 

“THE STUDY OF WORDS is useless unless it leads to the study of the ideas that the words stand for. When I am concerned about the proper use of words it is not because of snobbism or superiority, but because their improper use leads to poor ways of thinking. Take the word ‘discipline’ that we hear so much about nowadays in connection with the rearing of children. If know something about word derivations, you know that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same Latin root discipulus, which means ‘to learn, to follow.’” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly speaking

 

Sitting here looking up references and quotes related to discipline and ending up with example, to learn, and or to follow, just semantics as we go. In order to operate a public school we have to have standards this week we use the term “givens” to operate by and in effect rules. Looking at this from a behaviorist standpoint it is easy to say ABC, Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. First you have an antecedent which is that stimulus that causes the behavior. You then have the behavior that which is the event or action that we see, feel or hear about. Following we have the consequence which can be what we do in response or what the student or person issuing the behavior receives for eliciting that behavior.

 

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

 

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” George W. Crane

 

“To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

 

It is always about what we do. Over the past few days I have with several teachers and friends been discussing many of these ideas in a teacher training program in the mountains of North Georgia and often it comes back to perception. Perception being the how we see and understand events and happenings. One of the categories in writing a behavioral plan for a student is planned ignoring simply tuning out a behavior. Often with no stimulus to keep it going a behavior will disappear. Many times it is getting attention that is the desired consequence.

 

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

 

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” B. F. Skinner

 

How often do you find a football quarterback’s quote and one from the father of behaviorism all in the same paragraph? These two men from distinctly different arenas yet are so very obviously similar in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It has to make a difference to the person for them to change. Skinner sees we can manipulate the subject matters, we can offer alternative consequences to hopefully change the behaviors we can except. A Harris line caught my attention this morning as I started on discipline as I thought back to preparing for two IEP’s when I was teaching all related to behavior, “by our own actions toward them and toward other people.” SJH. So often it is not the consequences that deter or change a behavior but our actions towards the person and those around them, it is the example we set and not what we say that matters. Please as we venture out today keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Driving up a mountain takes considerable effort

Bird Droppings April 29, 2018
Driving up a mountain takes considerable effort

 

I am looking forward to another trip to Black Rock Mountain in North Georgia, the site of the Foxfire Museum property. In the past it was the site of the Piedmont College’s teacher’s class in The Foxfire Approach to teaching. My oldest son took the course as a piece of his master’s degree program at Piedmont College. But interestingly enough several folks from Loganville Georgia were in attendance at his course. One of the teachers as we went around the room doing introductions made a comment about an interesting point for her was the first time she had ever held a snake was in my old class room at Loganville High School, holding Stevie my ball python. Sadly Stevie has moved home with my room change a few years back and now retirement. Sitting here thinking actually there is a picture of her 2003 State Champion Softball team on the wall as well. Another thought Stevie and I are visiting on Tuesday this week to discuss genetics and reptiles.
As I recall my past sessions sitting and listening to teachers and teachers to be in the discussions that went around the room with the lead facilitators providing a frame work. I was always amazed at how quickly others began to expound or expand the conversation which was a starting point of a weeklong session. Depending on the facilitators the initial start could take a few minutes for those gathered to realize it was a joint venture of teacher and students searching for answers.

 

Just prior to leaving our house to drive up last year I had hit on an idea for my dissertation topic which has been eluding me for some time. I had been sitting in a discussion with a former student and he offered the idea of that I had shown him or helped him find, the Art of Learning. As I pondered deeper into that morning this idea stuck with me and from it a topic. The Art of Learning using the Foxfire Core Practices as a palette and it was only a few days ago my idea evolved again and now is, Crossing the stream of education: Using the Foxfire Core Practices as stepping stones. I have added the word improvisational to my title as that combination of student and teacher thinking is just that improvisational.

When I left Mountain City on my past trip and drove back to the lower lands of Walton County I felt excited about the possibilities and my own epiphany that morning with the idea of learning is an art form. John Dewey’s book, Experience and Education sits to my left as I write and the past few days I have borrowed from it several times as I jotted ideas down. But it is within the community of fellow learners and teachers we find answers and again more questions to ask. I thrive on the idea of learning even though I am sure many of my high school teachers and some college professors would argue. When students want to learn and desire to learn amazing things can be accomplished. Core practice one sums it up.

 

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Core Practice One from The Foxfire Core Practices

 

John Dewey and his thoughts run through the Foxfire Approach to Teaching with an emphasis on a democratic classroom, experience as a means of learning and student input into the process of learning. I find that this is a rather simple statement this initial core practice which along with the other nine have evolved over the past nearly fifty years of teacher interactions and discussions from literally around the world. But so often a key attribute is missed and that is that students and teachers do this undertaking together. At my last course attended listening to sixteen nearly teachers and active teachers respond to why they were involved in this class provided me with a sense of maybe there are a few who get it in the world.
In education we talk about test scores which are also what is used to measure in most schools to federal and state guidelines. Standardized tests given to all students at the end or near end of a school term on specific subjects that are to measure what students have learned. Sadly many students could take the same test at the beginning of the term and score the same so is that really a valid measure of what is learned probably not. Far too many teachers avoid discussing the concept of learning; they are engrossed in standards, curriculum, forms and teacher manuals on the subject. So I sit here offering learning is a stream to cross and or an art form. Both of these ideas are fluid, moving and ever changing.

 

“Measuring tools lead to quantification; the tools in the arts lead to qualification.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

Do we ever truly measure learning? I have been wondering this since I started back into teaching although in various different words and meanings. A simple measure would be giving a pre-test and post-test which would show where a student started and where they ended. On a far more involved scenario would be that of using portfolios gathering the evidence as the student progresses through material. They are effectively used in some schools to measure learning and students growth. These would consist of gathering artifacts along the way from the student. Essays, reports, assignments, any piece of material that is involved in the student’s educational life could be considered an artifact.

 

“With respect to art and its meaning I share Dewey’s view that art is a mode of human experience that in principle can be secured whenever an individual interacts with any aspect of the world.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

So I am wandering as I sit here this summer morning pondering an article to write on critical pedagogy after a weekend trip to see one granddaughter and a day of playing with my other granddaughter. I sat down yesterday after Charlie left trying to write but my energy level has deteriorated even after two five hour energy shots and I did little more than ponder a moment. I am excited thinking about the group next week future teachers who will be experiencing some interesting and enlightening ideas and concepts across their course. 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

 

Why not just imagine?

Bird Droppings April 28, 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 several years 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 the creativity and imagination perhaps as much as I would like.
So many adults have chosen a rigid world of exactness and parameters tight 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

Is it passion or just obsession?

Bird Droppings April 27, 2018
Is it passion or just obsession?

“All games have an important and probably decisive influence on the destinies of the players under ordinary social conditions; but some offer more opportunities than others for life long careers and are more likely to involve innocent bystanders.” Dr. Eric Berne, The games people play

In a recent bit of pondering I had a thought. Why are we passionate about our jobs, friends, families and perhaps life in general? I started thinking and yes perhaps I think and even obsess too much. I use the word ponder as I call it, often over trivial thoughts for some meaningless dribble, little shadows that many simple never see. Can we be passionate about something any other way? Twelve nearly thirteen years ago today I filled in a form for a young man who was very obsessive in so much of his life. He was and still is obsessive to a point of distraction from reality many times. If you would mention Jeff Gordon’s number or name and his eyes would light up and immediately, in a torrent of language almost as fast as most people can understand there would be statistics, information on this NASCAR race or that and this sponsor or that and soon you would wish you never mentioned Jeff Gordon. I bumped into his mother a few days ago at her job.
With Obsessive compulsive individuals changing the subject often will solve the immediate symptoms. I used Jeff Gordon to pull him back from another subject or thought that he would have obsessing on that was less reality focused while in my class fifteen plus years ago. Obsessive compulsive Disorder, OCD, can be manifested so many different ways often crippling a person with routines and rituals that have to be fulfilled. As I sit here I see passion in that obsession. Perhaps there is obsession in passion.

 

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, recorded by Dr. Henry Smith, 1854

 

So often in life we do or say things that seemingly are independent thoughts random utterances that mean only a bit to us as we pass in that moment. Yet the ripples, the effects and flow of direction from that utterance can carry and evolve far beyond that moment and place. As in a game where one person manipulates a piece and often the other parties involved are unaware of strategy and plan and soon there is nothing left. I think back to that obsession and what may be said in meaningless thought and or pursuing a thought or an idea that is driven from some physiological mechanism we do not control. Is passion mistaken for that an errant whisper and dream? Could passion be an obsession on a simple concept that is mistaken as true passion for that concept?

 

“Passion and prejudice govern the world, only under the name of reason.” John Wesley

 

“Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, when some mightier touch than their own may have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the calm content, the marble image of happiness, which they will have imposed upon her as the warm reality.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

It was perhaps John Wesley’s obsession that leads to his passion. Wesley was one of the founders of the United Methodist Church. Wesley was an Anglican Priest who was methodical in his thinking often having communion 30 times in one day. He would be often on his knees in prayer for hours on end or composing hymns and music as did his brother Charles. The web of life has so many strands, woven in and about. Was John Wesley a man obsessed or was he passionate about his calling?
Hawthorne sees a different picture of man. He sees one of seemingly change of personality, differences and varying capabilities. Emerson’s ideas I find often in my thinking as I do and in his ideas there is a close kinship between obsession and passion. Passion is very much a powerful spring but it is so difficult to regulate.

 

“Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” Amiel, Journal, 17 December 1856

 

“Passion is universal humanity. Without it religion, history, romance and art would be useless.” Honoré de Balzac

 

“Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work.” Aldous Huxley

 

I look at how we see passion and conversely obsession and wonder if often the two are not synonymous baring attributes of each other and offering similarities within the differences. It is easier to offer you are passionate about your job than obsessed with it when discussing with others. It is far easier to except a passionate person than an obsessive one. Religion needed obsession to succeed as I look at Wesley and so many of the Saints yet passion for their beliefs is a more powerful and believable offering. Within the world of art I see Vincent Van Gogh who without his obsession would have never painted with the feverish pitch and effort that he did and his paintings today would not be selling for tens of millions of dollars. Yet to many in his time he was crazy and his painting barely kept him alive. Some will see passion as he sent his ear to a girl he loved, while the poor girl saw obsession.
Can we turn that obsession into useful and meaningful work? Often in the game of life as I started this morning passion is turned not against the passionate but for the person holding the winning hand.

 

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.” Elbert Hubbard

 

I have known many who even take medication for OCD and some of us can tell when and how much they took based on their interactions. I wonder how we deal with passion. Do we manipulate and propagate as needed or do we simply medicate when not needed, or push under the rug when the deed is completed and game won. Passion actually is a difficult course in life to ponder. Do we possess it or is it simply obsession. Please keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

My pedagogy is evolving as I learn, see and listen more

Bird Droppings April 25, 2018
My pedagogy is evolving as I learn, see and listen more

 

“We would do away with examinations. They measure the inconsequential type of learning. We would do away with grades and credits for the same reason. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks the end or a conclusion of something, and the learner is only interested in continuing the process of learning.” Carl Rogers

 

Sitting at home reading several essays by Carl Rogers made for an interesting start to my morning just prior to a driving to doctor this morning. In our world of No child Left Behind and for me teaching Special Education I see the ones that tend to get left behind. As I read this thought from Rodgers I enjoyed the thought of no tests and no grades. Over the years in one graduate class after another the idea of a portfolio following the student through their school career has always intrigued me and in my own room I have done such while in a resource setting. As I thought this morning would not some sort of portfolio or culminating, or I should say ongoing project indicate mastery or development of learning better than a multiple choice test done with a number two pencil on a scantron answer sheet. Of course in chemistry we might have a few explosions if learners were not listening along the way. In my understanding of the Dewey based Foxfire program what is now Core Practice eight developed into the Foxfire magazine for Elliot Wiggington’s students at Rabun Nantahochee School in 1966. I find it fascinating how often great teachers follow parallel routes albeit different wording and yet seem to find the same ideas. Going back to John Dewey and his premise that experience is the best teacher.

 

“The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.” Foxfire Core Practice eight

 

“Learning doesn’t stop at 3:15. You can help the teacher do a better job by encouraging your child to show you something he’s working on at school, suggests Ron Martucci, who teaches fourth grade in Pelham, New York. It doesn’t have to be a big deal: ‘Ask him to demonstrate how he does long division or to read his book report out loud,’ says Martucci. ‘Every time your child gets a chance to show off what he knows, it builds confidence.’” Good Housekeeping, Hearst Publications

 

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

 

Pulling together my first thoughts this morning as I unravel the essential Bird Pedagogy, previous or past experiences of the learners is a key starting point as I discussed yesterday to a degree. Building on that as the learner progresses trying to find ways that truly show how the learner is developing rather than static limited tests and grades. I like the idea of Rogers about how grades and tests are end points and should be simply points along the line rephrasing a bit as I go. Education is more of a continuum than a finished product. It is sad that so many want to have education be a period at some point. Even as I accumulate degrees I find I am learning constantly not focusing on that end point but where do I go from there.

 

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” John Dewey

 

I am sitting in my writing nook at home this morning a quiet day and one of excitement as I think ahead of driving back up to a to visit with Foxfire. I started thinking about what I was going to write today as a continuation of my effort yesterday. My thoughts took me back to a question on my Doctorate Comprehensive exams offered to me by one of my professors and then how I responded. Out of John Dewey came two streams of thought although intertwined, that of experiential constructivist thinking and or art and aesthetic based learning. I answered or should say started to answer yesterday using Aldus Huxley who had published a book in 1932, Content and Pretexts.

 

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley, Content and Pretexts

 

As I read this simple line by Huxley I could not help but go back to my readings on John Dewey and his direct influence on educators and education past, present and future. Dewey saw education as the basis for society.

 

“I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race. This process begins unconsciously almost at birth and is continuing shaping the individuals powers saturating his consciousness forming his habits training his ideas, and arousing his feelings and emotions.” John Dewey Pedagogic Creed

 

In my classroom I try and tie to contextual aspects of where we are in the content oriented material that students are being taught. An example would be the word taxonomy that came up a last semester in our biology class. Most students had no clue what this word meant and by some prompting we made a comparison of sheep and goats, one of the student’s families raises goats and we learned about taxonomy. We could show differences and similarities which is how we classify living organisms, or do taxonomy in terms of biology. One of my favorite examples of context and content is going back many years to listening to my father explain tying a square knot you learn best when you actually do it rather than simply hear it explained.
As I explore my own pedagogy I am drawn back to my earliest college and work in psychology. Dr. Abram Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs that I have used over the years many times showing an idea of how people relate and understand in this world of ours. Maslow started with five needs and over the years added some additional clarification.

 

“Maslow’s five needs:
Physiological needs are to do with the maintenance of the human body. If we are unwell, then little else matters until we recover. Safety needs are about putting a roof over our heads and keeping us from harm. If we are rich, strong and powerful, or have good friends, we can make ourselves safe. Belonging needs introduce our tribal nature. If we are helpful and kind to others they will want us as friends. Esteem needs are for a higher position within a group. If people respect us, we have greater power. Self-actualization needs are to ‘become what we are capable of becoming’, which would our greatest achievement. Maslow added over the years three more needs. These are the needs that are most commonly discussed and used. In fact Maslow later added three more needs by splitting two of the above five needs. Between esteem and self-actualization two needs were added. Need to know and understand, which explains the cognitive need of the academic. Also added was the need for aesthetic beauty, which is the emotional need of the artist. Self-actualization was divided into, self-actualization, which is realizing one’s own potential, as above and transcendence, which is helping others to achieve their potential.” Maslow and Lowery, 1998

 

As I move towards a defining point in my essential Bird Pedagogy bits and pieces of Rogers and Dewey along with Foxfire are intertwined with Maslow’s ideas. We need and seek socialization we are a social animal. We seek recognition and want to be secure in our lives. Maslow in adding cognitive which Rogers uses and aesthetic which Rogers alludes to and Dewey as well as Elliot Eisner build on this. Each day as I sit pondering reflecting on what is my pedagogy my ideas seem to flow a little more freely. I do believe pedagogy is an individual entity and has fluidity to it. There is not an end point or limit or rather there should not be since we need to be ongoing learners and thinkers. Perhaps I will as the week progresses resolve my own ideas and be a bit more definitive in what my personal pedagogy truly is but for today please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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

Reading a friend’s book a sixth time

Bird Droppings April 24, 2018

Reading a friend’s book a sixth time

 

I was so tired when I laid down last night after staying awake to watch American Idol, running errands, working around the house, fixing supper and attempting to get into my reading and writing. My youngest son in now a nurse at Athens Regional hospital in Athens, my son’s wife a nursing assistant and in the nursing program at Piedmont College. My niece is a nurse in savannah and my wife is a nurse practitioner. There is a community among nurses.

 

It has been some time since the morning five student nurses at Georgia Southern were killed in a severe car accident on their way to a final clinical. As a graduate student from Georgia Southern it impacted me. One of girls injured in the accident is from our high school.  She has now completed her program and is a nurse. I recall an evening my son called trying to find his wife she was late from work. About four years ago my son fell asleep on his way home from a long day at work and was involved in a serious accident. All of these made for an intense evening and troubled sleep. Past events do impact us and at surprising points pop up again.

 

My oldest and I have been working on some outdoor ponds for a couple years, summer homes for his many turtles and to various water plants. Hopefully if the rain lets up we will  get some serious work done this weekend. Physical labor and getting old seem to not be compatible. Our dog did not wake me up to see the moon due to cloud cover and the whippoorwills were hushed but are nice even though I was so tired. I thought back to a young man who has been in five schools in four years a few years back getting his IEP in order. So as I prepared to finish that IEP I got thinking about Dr. Sutton’s book. I recall usig it in that IEP and sharing with his parents.

 

Dr. James Sutton sent me a copy of one of his books nearly ten years ago, What parents need to know about ODD. Dr. Sutton is one of the leading writers and authorities on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the country. One of these days when, Bird Droppings a teacher journal, comes out the forward is by Dr. James Sutton. I have been reading academic books lately with numerous big words, long words, often times useless in normal setting words like post-structuralism, phenomenology; semiotics and hermeneutics are a few good ones. It seems many academics want to use words and pages to bolster their endeavors and then question why common folk don’t understand.

 

I responded to Dr. Sutton with the following sentence or two in response to his book. My first experience with Dr. James Sutton was going to a conference in 2003 in Macon Ga. and listening to his ideas on working with some of the hardest kids to deal with in education in Emotional Behavior Disorders. His ideas hit the nail on the head and this latest book, What Parents need to Know About ODD, is an easy to read, understand and to use tool for parents and teachers who daily have to deal with the trials and tribulations of kids who are ODD. I recommend this book to my student’s parents and educational associates almost daily. This was not a sales pitch but when combined with another issue our federally mandated NCLB, the law requires teachers to use evidence based practice, EBP when dealing with exceptional children. This becomes a problem in special education because there is not that much to work with and as I thought today a good teacher with a good idea could be hindered by a packaged program that is an EBP and not as effective and there have been many cases where teachers have been criticized for not using a recommended program.

 

Every year we lose good teachers who are hindered by administration and packaged programs of which many were researched by the company publishing the program. I had a situation myself a few years back and was told this program was what I was to teach to a specific group of teenagers and it was research based. I called the publisher to verify what research was done. It was never done with a population anywhere near what it was being recommended for and the one study that was done was with kids ten years younger and 20 IQ points higher but it did work with them.

 

A Harvard study posted June 14, 2006 states “…the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over academic competitiveness.” from the  The New York Times referring to NCLB. Funny how we keep trying to make schools better or I should say politicians keep trying. I often wonder when teachers will be asked.

 

“I will stake my reputation and over thirty years of experience on this: Real change occurs when relationships improve.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

 

I have watched wheels spun, testing kids at the end of semesters and courses and at the end of high school and all because laws say we have too, all established by politicians. Yet all you are truly testing is what someone knows at that moment and not what they learned in any given time frame or how well a teacher taught. My son now a science teacher, graduated as biology major. He could take have taken the end of course biology test without the course in high school and pass it. Does that measure how much he learned or simply what he knows? Sadly teachers and administrators are losing jobs and schools are being threatened by these tests.

 

Recently in a discussion in an online class I raised a question about NCLB and how kids were being left behind and a teacher an advanced degree teacher offered “well some children want to be left behind”

 

“The power paradox is a simple concept. It suggests that the more force we put into controlling an ODD child, the less effective those efforts become. Golf pros will tell you that, when you try to muscle that ball down the fairway, looking for distance alone, there’s no telling where it’s going to go. When you focus on form rather than force, however, the distance takes care of itself. It’s much the same idea in managing an ODD child.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

 

So often when I read Dr. Sutton’s ideas they apply elsewhere in life. The power paradox is in education all the time it is in relationships between people, in government and definitely in the working of a school.

 

Far too often we go for power not form as I recall many years ago the TV show Kung Fu in which David Carridine was a Shaolin priest who had escaped to America for killing someone in self-defense with his martial arts. It was not about power but form the swan or deer almost ballet movements yet lethal as well. It is so easy to get caught up in just words. I read numerous writers words each day in blogs, books and articles and a thought I have been having keeps coming up the reader has to be able to understand the writer for communication to occur.

 

The experiences and perceptions have to be there so what is written is understood?  One excellent writer I read daily uses riddles and word puzzles and play on words and many have not a clue what is being said and or why. That is part of her mystic and then all of a sudden it hits you.

 

“Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centered society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.” Nelson Mandela, speech at the opening of the South African Congress

 

It has been nearly thirty years since South Africa truly became democratic and how long will it be till we here in the United States can say democracy is back and not rule of the dollar and lobbyist. Much of what I have been reading lately addresses the issue of education and how it is that today’s education is to make good consumers. Customer’s, one author calls college students and on many campuses that is the word used by the administration very much a corporate world. Historians have said over and over wars are always fought for money and if we look back at any war in history always money was a key factor. I questioned Viet Nam and Johnson wanted the war effort to continue as industry was getting a shot in the arm and the economy turned around. The power paradox in Iraq and most of the Middle East is a very interesting thought. I wonder have we ever focused on the form, for example the individual in Iraq. Maybe we need to ask for Nelson Mandela’s help in Iraq. 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

Wondering about the song lyrics of an old friend

Bird Droppings April 23, 2018
Wondering about the song lyrics of an old friend

 

I first started listening to Neil Young’s music in 1967 or so possibly even earlier if you count Buffalo Springfield, a short lived band and of course 1968 with Crosby Stills, Nash and Young at Woodstock and Deja vu, their first album which I am sitting here listening too. While I did not make it to Woodstock I can say my old sleeping bag was there, a good friend at the time borrowed it. When I made my way south into the land of The Allman Brothers band, in the fall of 1971, on my way to Florida, the flower petals were still in the streets from Dwayne Allman’s funeral a month past, music and lyrics had become a part of who I was.
I was reading on line last night and I recalled a friend on line lists the songs of Neil Young on her website. I responded to her with a note that I did not think anyone under fifty had ever heard of Neil Young. I should say outside of my house, my kids grew up with Neil Young. Several years ago Neil Young had a medical crisis and a sort of mid-life crisis all about the same time. After finding he had an aneurysm in his brain, he decided that he needed to record immediately. As life goes he was afraid might this might be his last CD. He took it upon himself from being warned he needed surgery and postponing the actual surgery for a week to write and produce an entire CD, Prairie Wind. A few days after leaving the hospital from successful surgery on the brain aneurism, the spot on his leg where the catheter had been inserted broke open and he collapsed outside his hotel, nearly dying from blood loss.
The words to this song caught my attention this morning, a questioning of who and why we are. Several of my friends and I have been discussing free choice, student choice and other great philosophical topics in our blogs and on line discussions which perhaps led me to this today. The title of the song is, When God made me, by Neil Young.

 

“Was he thinkin’ about my country or the color of my skin? Was he thinkin’ ’bout my religion and the way I worshipped him? Did he create just me in his image or every living thing? Was he planning only for believers or for those who just have faith? Did he envision all the wars that were fought in his name? Did he say there was only one way to be close to him? Did he give me the gift of love to say who I could choose? Did he give me the gift of voice so some could silence me? Did he give me the gift of vision not knowing what I might see? Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil young, When God made me, Prairie Wind

 

I walked out into the stillness of the morning earlier today. It has been raining all night so the pollen has been washed away. There was a lone bird I think one that was mixed up on its timing and weather (I wonder does anyone give the daylight savings time to nature). Maybe the bird was still adjusting or maybe migrating in from another time zone, might have been a Yankee bird as a friend would have told me. But here nearby singing all alone deep in the woods is a single bird. I like days a hint of green and the lace work of twigs and opening buds provide a great background for thought, everything smells so good with rain and sounds so new in spring.
Thinking back a year or two to coming back to school after a spring break it always amazed me. More than half the students will have T-shirts from Panama City Florida air brushed with a boyfriend’s name and or girlfriend’s name and various partying information and or connotations maybe parents should not know about, and of course tan. There will be a lot of shell jewelry and then there is the other half still asleep from staying in bed till one or two and having a hard time readjusting to school hours, with their puffy eyes and dozing off during the day. It is so difficult to get started the week or so day after spring. I offered to an administrator why not start back on a Tuesday instead of Monday and we both agreed we could all use that one extra day. On a sour note all this leads into mandatory testing in some systems starting this week.

 

“Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil Young

 

Funny, how a line sticks with you in a song or poem or book. I keep thinking about this line yesterday. Between oil spills, getting tough on North Korea and as always the breaking news today IRS broke down, a leak from a Washington reporter in 2009 all seem insignificant now, over 2346 lie’s since starting presidency, a smiling first lady and controversy over renaming Mar Go Largo the Southern White House. Some want to attack Iran after we try diplomacy again. I wonder if the word compassion ever made it into Washington.

 

I was walking through a Wal-Mart a few days back, sort of the entire world at a glance; everyone ends up in Wal-Mart. One of my former students came in he was all excited he had just gotten a job there. But as I walked through the Wal-Mart an employee near the pharmacy was explaining the new Medicare drug plan to an elderly person. They actually had a booth set up with a fulltime staff person. They are to be helping elderly folks and they need to have people telling them what is going on since most people including myself haven’t a clue. Ironic and they wonder why so many people haven’t joined up yet the line is too long at the explanation booth.
Compassion is such a simple word. It has been several years since I did work with indigents finding housing and food for families. I recall several bits of wisdom coming from Washington, for example cutting off welfare if a person was not looking for a job. A favorite is if you fail a drug test no more welfare. If you are homeless by choice you are off of welfare, that one sort of floored me. It had to do with issues of not paying taxes by one person somewhere in Texas who found he could save money being homeless. Another was if income was too high cut out Medicaid.
Cutting health care was always one that intrigued me. I worked with a fellow who had worked all his life till a massive heart attack disabled him and he was limited to drawing disability. His wife due to illnesses all of her life had never worked enough combined quarters to draw anything more than a minimum disability check. I find it so interesting that anyone can even consider we do not need health care reform. Unfortunately between them their medical bills exceeded their monthly government disability checks and because their income exceeded federal standards they did not get Medicaid. In a compromise they took turns each month on which medicines to not get. They were getting help from one agency but doctors had to fill in paper work literally volumes each month for them to receive free medicines. Sadly eventually the doctor’s office stopped filling in the paperwork for them. Compassion is such a powerful word.

What of a disabled man I worked with for several years who lived on about 350.00 per week. He is a severe diabetic and has numerous other health and psychological related issues and virtually spends a week in the hospital a month. However his monthly disability income keeps him from Medicaid and so he moves periodically to avoid harassment and bill collectors from hospitals. Having a quality of life is that compassion? Are we helping our fellow man? As I watch what we do worldwide as a nation I seriously wonder sometimes. 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

Going to school again for the first time

Bird Droppings April 20, 2018

Going to school again for the first time

 

So often as I start my writings each morning there has been an experience recently to build upon. It is utilizing these previous experiences that provide windows and doors into future experiences. I was driving through our town and a shop I had seen numerous times caught my eye. It is a store that caters to cooks, selling fancy cheese, wines and utensils. I actually stopped in I needed a good knife to cut and chop herbs as I cook. As I walked in a wonderful lady greeted me and we talked for nearly an hour about education and cooking. It turns out she was also prior to retirement a teacher of Emotional and Behavior Disorders. A small world or is it synchronicity, I think I know what Dr. Carl G. Jung would say. My major in graduate school always causes confusion as most teacher graduate students go for that Leadership degree required for administrative positions and mine was in Emotional Behavior Disorders.

 

It has been nearly eleven years since I started my doctoral studies at Georgia Southern University. My major for some may be a bit obscure that being in curriculum theory with an emphasis on Teaching and instruction, it is a relatively new endeavor actually entitled in the course catalog as Curriculum Studies. One of the first pieces that caught my attention in my early readings was, “the autobiographical method of currere, a method focused on self-understanding” by William Pinar in his book What is Curriculum Theory.  As I discussed with this retired teacher and now shop owner and purveyor of fine cheese, wines and meats we talked of education, along with various cuts of meats and where my livestock background came out.

 

I have been listening as I read, write and study for a number of years now to R. Carlos Nakai, a Navaho-Ute from Arizona. Nakai is a classically trained coronet and trumpet player who thirty years ago took up the Native American seven note flute. He actually carves his own flutes from cedar and his haunting melodies stir the soul and calm the wild beast. I play his music in my room at school. As I was thinking of Pinar’s thought on the autobiographical method I recalled a note in one of Carlos Nakai’s CD’s.

 

“A lot of what I’ve been taught culturally comes from an awareness of the environment. …How I feel is based on my impressions of being in certain spaces at certain times. Thinking back…on personal tribal stories and the history of my culture figures into how I organize my music.” R. Carlos Nakai

 

One of the founders of pragmatism in philosophy is John Dewey who is also well known for his contributions to education and progressivism. Many of his ideas are from the early 1900’s. Dewey based his thinking on our experience.

 

“Every experience lives on in further experiences. Hence the central problem of an education based on experience is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and create subsequent experiences.” John Dewey
Dewey is a hard read and since I was only looking for a quote he is back to the shelf for now but only a minute or two as I am using several Dewey books in papers I am currently working on. As I switched CD’s to a Hawaiian themed CD where Nakai and Keola Beamer, a Hawaiian slap guitar master combine for “Our Beloved Land” another jacket note caught my eye.

 

“We were put on the earth to experience life in its totality. And if you’re not doing that, you’re essentially wasting your time.” R. Carlos Nakai

 

I thought of my professor in that first doctorial class as I read and a comment she made about how many of the courses are on line and the evaluations that follow online of professors. She said she always gets better reviews with the online courses then in person. On one of the first days in class she wore a black suit and starched white shirt long sleeves with dark shoes and argyle socks. She had one pirate type earring in one ear and after removing her jacket and rolling up her sleeves tattoos to her wrists covering her arms granted it was interesting especially to one such as I who is constantly observing human nature. When she offered she is in counseling and on meds for psychosis things made better sense.

 

As I watched my class watch her as she came in who being mostly relatively conservative southern teachers the reactions were interesting but as I thought to my professors comment about why she did not understand why she always gets better reviews online I thought as I listened to her lecture being a recognized scholar in the area of curriculum theory. Maybe the biases of the masses of people in the world really are insignificant you need to live life and if you are not doing that you are wasting time.

 

I got the impression within a few minutes my professor is not wasting anyone’s time she is who she is and comfortable with that as maybe we all should try and be who knows what might happen with self-understanding and experiences. It comes down to all of the pieces to our life’s puzzle falling into place one by one. As I close as always please keep all who are in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and most of all too always give thanks.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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