Should children be left behind?

Bird Droppings August 3, 2018

Should children be left behind?

 

            “I believe that our own experience instructs us that the secret of education lies in         respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It     is chosen and foreordained, and he only holds the key to his own secret. By your           tampering and thwarting and too much governing he may be hindered from his end and kept out of his own. Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of nature.   Nature loves analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his         parent. Trespass not on his solitude. But I hear the outcry which replies to this             suggestion: – Would you verily throw up the reins of public and private discipline;         would you leave the young child to the mad career of his own passions and whimsies,         and call this anarchy a respect for the child’s nature? I answer, – Respect the child, and respect him to the end, but also respect yourself. Be the companion of his thought, the       friend of his friendship, the lover of his virtue, – but no kinsman of his sin. Let him find        you so true to yourself that you are the irreconcilable hater of his vice and the           imperturbable slighter of his trifling.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke about his idea of education and fortunately for me he wrote it down. Over the last thirteen years I have been directly involved in an educational program, Foxfire, which is based around John Dewey’s ideas on education. I was talking a few days back just before lunch with a fellow teacher and a local representative from PAGE, Professional Association of Georgia Educators, about education of all things. We discussed the idea of teaching top down as we so often are directed to do with national common core standards. Here is where we are going and now how do we get there? That is more of real questions than why did you not get where you are supposed to be? Interestingly enough this first statement is what Emerson and Dewey were talking about. As we talked I mentioned Foxfire and how it was in effect how good teachers teach without even knowing. Really it is not something new and outlandish it is just putting a name on good teaching habits and providing a frame work of ten core practices to work with. I just moved rooms for the fifth time and my Core practice poster has followed me.

 

Coincidently my friend who was involved in the discussion had retrieved from the discard book cart some old Foxfire books. Periodically our media center discards old and or tattered books for teachers to get first crack at before throwing out. It seems that I have built a library on discarded books. My friend had salvaged four old Foxfire books from the cart earlier in the day.

 

            “I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for       future living. I believe that the school must represent present life-life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the            playground. I believe that education which does not occur through forms of life, or that           are worth living for their own sake, is always a poor substitute for the genuine reality        and tends to cramp and to deaden. I believe that the school, as an institution, should            simplify existing social life; should reduce it, as it were, to an embryonic form. Existing           life is so complex that the child cannot be brought into contact with it without either             confusion or distraction; he is either overwhelmed by the multiplicity of activities         which are going on, so that he loses his own power of orderly reaction, or he is so stimulated by these various activities that his powers are prematurely called into play            and he becomes either unduly specialized or else disintegrated.” John Dewey

 

Learning is not a time limited, space limited, and or school building limited activity as many teachers think. It is not tied to a specific curriculum and text. Real learning is alive, ongoing, continuous, actively participatory and an integral part of societal involvement. As I looked at the Foxfire core practices it becomes apparent these are good teacher practices, these are good life practices, and this is where learning can truly occur.

 

1 • From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.

2 • The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.

3 • The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.

4 • The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.

5 • Active learning characterizes classroom activities.

6 • The learning process entails imagination and creativity.

7 • Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.

8 • 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.

9 • The work teachers and learners do together includes rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.

10 • Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.

Foxfire fund Inc.

 

 

What intrigued me from my first involvement with Foxfire was how even the approach to learning my old school system had been using is called Learning Focused Schools and is within these ten practices. This past summer in my research I found most good and great educational ideas actually incorporate or parallel these simple practices. Literally hundreds of good teachers in actual practice helped develop this concept over a long period of time. Emerson and Dewey were thinking along the same lines long before most of us were born. This is not a new fad it is simply good teaching. It is interesting, I recall long before I read Dewey or Emerson and or anything about Foxfire which was little more than a mountain word for a glowing fungus on a hillside. I have been in graduate education classes learning from teachers who taught in this manner, and have watched students learning as they were involved in this approach to education. So why is it so hard to get across to teachers of today? Could it be because it takes more work from the teachers to implement? You will see the word rigorous in Foxfire quite a bit and it is. But good teaching is rigorous. It is dynamic not static.

As I am working on my dissertation and researching about The Foxfire Approach to teaching I find teachers telling me they prefer to teach in this manner but often are criticized by peers and administration for not following curriculum maps and guides. An article in NEA’s weekly newsletter pointed to how so many new teachers are coming into the ranks with little or no true training in education and often a point and click mentality is all they have. They are bodies filling a space and pushing kids through. I have met several great teachers who have come through alternative approaches to teacher training, myself sort of although I did have a minor and major in education along the way I just never student taught. I switched my major to psychology along the way at the last minute to avoid taking a foreign language which was required for education majors at Mercer University in 1974.

 

I would suggest we need to instead of more new curriculums instill more adrenaline in teachers. Perhaps we could install a super energy drink machine outside of each teacher’s classroom and just prior to starting class require every teacher to get a caffeine jolt. Energy can be a very powerful thing in so many ways especially when it involves the passion for teaching. I have wandered and pondered enough for one day and will get off of my soap box for today but please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart 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

Do we teach or are we taught, a great question?

Bird Droppings August 2, 2018
Do we teach or are we taught, a great question?

 

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

 

Andrea Teader does Podcasts, I happened upon one while sitting in my doctor’s office looking up storytelling on the internet. She started her Podcast, The power of storytelling in Teaching, with this quote.

 

“Tell me a fact I will learn. Tell me a truth I will believe. Tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” Native American Proverb

 

There is significant power in the story as a teaching tool. Over the years I have used with my students in college, high school and with much younger children always with great success. My goal is to share storytelling as a means to engage students in the curriculum and to help teachers tell stories. Once upon a time in a land far away, lived a young man, this may not be the way a dissertation could start but that is how stories start and children learn better using imagination than simply providing traditional linear lessons. So there is a story behind it in more ways than one. So looking at a new school year and hearing the scuttle butt of more of the same or worse, we as teachers can chose to respond. I like the word catalyst. Many teachers think of themselves as a cure all for the ills of education. I know I do on occasions. I ran into a friend this morning and was set straight. I was informed it wasn’t what I taught but what they saw about me. The example I was setting in how I responded to the students. Catalyst, I like it I am a catalyst.

 

“We as teachers should be the catalyst not the solution.” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

How and why and what should be taught are always at the crux of curriculum and instructional administrators challenges. But one of the most difficult aspects of education is instilling a desire to learn as Einstein states wanting to seek the mysterious. Too few are the students who truly want to learn most and not just simply pass and get on. In fourteen years of high school teaching one of my greatest moments was being asked who wrote the poem when I read Dylan Thomas. I was asked by a kid who most thought could not read and then he read the entire book that weekend. The mysterious is a mysterious thing.

 

It was suggested that I use idea of teaching as improvisational art during one of my classes to get back up to speed, after a seven year hiatus and a couple of grand babies. As I looked at the rationale for my dissertation I realized my own teaching is often very improvisational, taking a student’s interest and or question and building into our lesson, that teachable moment. Literally building a story with the student and class. I have said often I generally write lesson plans after the fact. However next time I teach that topic in my plans I have included that event and reflections. My teaching often becomes a tapestry of stories woven into the lesson and with the students in the class. It pulls ideas and flows through the class using the student’s interactions and interests to build on. 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 is it hard to think about compassion?

Bird Dropping August 1, 2018
Why is it hard to think about compassion?

 

Almost six years ago I was quietly sitting in a hotel room in South Carolina it was still dark outside and it was odd not being at school. I so seldom missed a day of school. My middle son and his wife had moved from SC to NC and we were going to help them get settled in and unpack. This trip was the only time we went north and then south to get to their house but it was worth it the mountains were getting their color on and it was beautiful. I got thinking that in Georgia at least in our county we have not gone the route of year round school and have a few extra weeks of breaks scattered around. I actually think I came back to teaching from industry for the summers off. Really I missed teaching and I still enjoy it even with all the hassles. As I think about it does seem like we have vacations all the time, summer break, fall break, Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break, intercessions, National Holidays and even a few days of personal time if needed.

I need to be doing a lot of gardening around the house as well as my obsession with my herb garden which includes a lot of time sitting looking at and thinking about what I did that day, reflection to borrow from John Dewey. It is in reflection we find answers and often new questions. Sitting here this morning reading about the aftermath of hurricane Sandy the word compassion struck me. In various discussions in graduate school and with teacher friends at my old school recently the word compassion should be used in describing and even in defining a good teacher.

 

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Albert Einstein

 

Thinking to myself as I read again this quote by Albert Einstein and to a night or two ago as I walked about my back yard later in the evening there is a sense of being a part of all that is. A few nights back I was outside after dark and by chance had our Huskie with me and went into our front yard. My wife was due home and the dog wanted to run in circles as I had him on a lead when an owl started in calling. Within a second or two another was calling several hundred yards further down and at first I thought the bird had simply moved. Shortly thereafter a third bird joined in a sort of dueling owls as it was. I had not heard three at one time before each distinct and separate, as several times they were over lapping in their calls and each was several hundred yards apart calling in the darkness. It truly does give a sense of being a part of rather than the central focus of our world.

 

“Compassion is the basis of morality.” Albert Schopenhauer

 

I wonder as I am sitting here what is compassion. The great philosopher Schopenhauer who became the guide for many of later philosophers going into the twentieth century and he saw compassion as basis for morality. The doing or not doing, of what is right or wrong is compassion perhaps? The Dalai Lama who is the spiritual leader for Tibetan Buddhists, approaches compassion in a similar yet slightly different view, compassion is to be lived and practiced.

 

“If you want others to be happy, you practice compassion. If you want to be happy, you practice compassion.” Dalai Lama

 

In the world of today so often compassion is overlooked as an attribute. A person who is compassionate is considered soft and weak and not up to the toughness needed in today’s society of ruthlessness and profit. I go back a day or two to a thought from one of Ken Nerburn’s books on Native American spirituality and of handshakes being soft or hard. I was reviewing a curriculum format yesterday and what was amusing it was not a curriculum but a way or method of viewing education more so. The program was about looking at the wellbeing of the entire person or child. Dr. Comer a psychiatrist developed the idea in the late 1960’s, he was probably a hippie. The concept is that we need to address the entire child, psychologically, physically, emotionally and cognitively in education. A rather broad view of how we should be teaching and or educating children. I was thinking about Dr. Comer’s dream as I found this quote.

 

“I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream — a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man’s skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

It is through compassion that we see others as a part of the whole and not just separate people. It is through compassion we go beyond the curriculum maps and guides and paperwork. It is through compassion that we care and want to do more for others. Over the years I have always been impressed when reading from Thomas Aquinas and today I found a piece that is a defining piece of the idea of compassion.

 

“I would rather feel compassion than know the meaning of it.” Thomas Aquinas

 

Far too often we want to be simply on the receiving end of compassion but it is in the doing that compassion is found. As I think to my monastic moments in recent days as everyone else at the house has been working and I am home tending my garden and reading, writing, and pondering. I find solace in solitude almost as much as in talking with friends at the store which happens quite a bit as I wander about Quick Trip, Kroger, the hardware store and or Barnes and Noble, my favorite store.

 

“It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.” Thomas Merton

 

I have for many years enjoyed the writings of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who was against war and died in a Saigon Hotel protesting the Viet Nam war back in the late 1960’s when protesting the war was not a good thing according to most societal models. Merton was allowed a certain freedom in his views often not permitted within the Catholic Church. He believed and wrote what he believed and many today think he dies for those beliefs. According to local law enforcement he died of an accidental electrocution in his hotel room.

 

“No matter how you seem to fatten on a crime, there can never be good for the bee which is bad for the hive.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

To end today’s reflection a word or two from one of my favorites, Ralph Waldo Emerson. It took several readings to catch the meaning of this passage. We are social creatures and it is about the whole that compassion is truly about. Much like Emerson’s bee, if we are too good to ourselves the hive will suffer. As I look at teaching is this not true as well. Far too often a teacher becomes absorbed in their own little world of a classroom and their needs and their goals, and the students the children suffer. There is so much to think about and ponder on for today as I continue my journey in life and in teaching. Please 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

Doing is the best teacher

Bird Droppings July 18, 2018
Doing is the best teacher

 

It has been an interesting week already. Monday I had two of our grandkids over and we swam and played all day. Yesterday sat down and talked with my mother looking at old photos and just remembering. Today is work on paper day and I hope to rough out my pre-prospectus. I am looking forward to going to North Carolina this weekend to see our other grandbabies. I spent a good bit of the mornings and evenings taking advantage of weather and light and getting some rather interesting photographs. On a different thought it has been intriguing to me how so many people view education as failing. I wonder as I sit here this morning how many saying such things could pass a high school biology class of today. I was joking yesterday with my oldest son a science teacher in high school, how my 1968 college biology was nothing compared to most current text in high school. I jokingly mentioned something about how cells were not discovered yet in 1968 alluding to my age.

But it is folks my age who are complaining and it is not education that is to blame. We live in a culture of and society of having it now. There is little dreaming ahead thinking of the future we are so energized to have stuff now and if you cannot Google it doesn’t exist. I am bad about collecting books and the fifty or so boxes that I put in storage from my previous room will attest to that. In my collection is a 1931 copy of William Tompkins Universal sign language which was my fathers. It is fragile and I keep it at the house. I have thought it would make an interesting lead into a literature class and I found a copy of the book in a Barnes and Noble and honestly I have never seen this book previously.

It has been a few years since my son and I went to a reptile show here locally and always there are some strange characters about. I had the opportunity to listen to world renowned reptile and wildlife photographer, Bill Love talk about taking pictures of reptiles. Interestingly enough his comment that stuck was “doing is the best teacher”.

 

“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.” Madame Marie Curie

 

Somewhere along the line the concept of “do a good deed daily” came along and it always amazes me where and why I choose a particular direction to go in my daily writings. It could be a comment in an email about only living a good life, or a comment from a snake photographer both of which kind of sort of gave me a focus today.

 

“Keep doing good deeds long enough and you’ll probably turn out a good man in spite of yourself.” Louis Auchincloss

 

As I read this morning and look through ideas a simple matter comes to mind and that is that our living as an example, it is a model to go by for others. We are all predominately visual learners and seeing is believing has been said many times over.

 

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” Simon De Beauvoir

 

History is often the teacher and we can see how and why a particular person developed and in what ways that individual life has affected humanity. For example was there substance to their existence or did they merely take up space occupy air and land.

 

“The high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule…” Albert Einstein

 

When you look back and realize historically what piece of history this great mind came from and in his development where his philosophy of life evolved it is most interesting. Einstein came from a Jewish background; he grew up in a part of the world where his people were being eliminated from humanity by a single person’s ideology. He came from a country where warfare and weaponry abounded and as he grew older he even asked forgiveness for the small piece he helped to create ushering in the atomic age. He became one of the world’s leading anti-war figures and pacifists and more concerned about service than ruling.

 

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

Looking again at history Mother Theresa, a tiny waif of a woman lost herself in service to the poor of Calcutta India yet as I write is being recommended for Sainthood in the Catholic Church. Gandhi could have been a wealthy man yet choose otherwise and served his people of India. St. Francis of Assisi was born into a wealthy merchant family and left it to serve others. As I look at these people finding themselves is that what they were doing or is it just that service to them was the right thing to do. Far too often we consider success to be accumulation of wealth.

 

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Nelson Henderson

 

I have several friends who farm trees and planning is so often many years away even with nursery stock. Some rock and roll fans may know the name of a leading keyboardist Chuck Levall. He has played with many bands Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones and James Taylor to name a few but I first saw his name years ago as the keyboard player for The Allman Brothers Band in Macon Georgia, nearly 35 years ago. Chuck Levall grows trees in Middle Georgia in his spare time. While I have taken a literal twist with a symbolic quote there is a point when you plant a seed for a tree you plant it knowing the potential and know chances are you will never benefit from that potential, it is an act of service to others.

 

“The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.” Laurence Leamer

 

Sometimes there is a fine line between symbiotic and parasitic a twist of the wrist but who is to say who doesn’t receive help. Several years ago when I was daily involved in feeding families it was much easier to make a mistake and feed a family who may have food than to turn anyone away.

 

“Give what you have to somebody; it may be better than you think.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

I received an email from a good friend yesterday that is so often how we respond in life the fact it is a church is important to the story but it could be a school, a classroom, or an PTSO meeting many will say it is just human nature.

 

“One day, a man went to visit a church. He got there early, parked his car, and got out. Another car pulled up near and the driver got out and said, “I always park there! You took my place!” The visitor went inside for Sunday school, found an empty seat and sat down. A young lady from the church approached him and stated that’s my seat! You took my place!” The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome, but said nothing. After Sunday school, the visitor went into the sanctuary and sat down. Another member walked up to him and said that’s where I always sit! You took my place!” An email from a friend but many authors have used this or similar as original

 

Over the years I have seen many an article of a pastor or civic leader who dresses in rags to see how people think and react. Even local radio hosts, the regular guys, have sent Southside Steve one of their regulars out to get responses and you know what we always do so well. Seldom are the stories of a person offering to help park the car or offering a seat or offering a slice of bread, sadly ever so seldom.

 

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” Booker T. Washington

 

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” Albert Schweitzer

 

So often I find a quote or thought from this man who found his place in the darkest portion of Africa in the 1930’s to be a physician giving up a lucrative career in Europe as a musician and or doctor. As I end today so many of the people gave up all and that is not the issue it is simply the giving aspect because it is the example we set that is seen not what we say not what we bear witness to but what we as a person do each day. It is about each moment to set an example and in that way people will learn. 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

In a world of data can we still use intuition?

Bird Droppings July 9, 2018
In a world of data can we still use intuition?

 

I mentioned to a fellow teacher I can tell when a child has emotional issues most of the time after observing a few minutes and listening. Granted observations are part of most evaluations but I was referring to an intuitive aspect of observation. Something we learn perhaps as we experience and live life. Over the years several children I have worked with I have recommended additional involvement and unfortunately also got to say I told you so in future.

 

“Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” Edwin Hubbel Chapin

 

As I was discussing the final class debriefing as it is called. I recall a thought hit me as to why some teachers can do more than others. Why some teachers succeed where others flounder, intuition, a simple thought and a difficult concept to teach to another. This is an area most education classes forget. I have for many years considered teaching an art form. There is an aspect of teaching that separates great teachers from poor teachers.

 

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” John Steinbeck

“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” Michael Burke

 

Knowing what to do at a specific moment intuitively is not easily taught in a classroom it has to be experienced and understood at a deeper level.

 

 

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” Dr. Benjamin Spock

 

“Instinct is untaught ability.” Bain

 

In a teacher training session on grading one time, I listened to seasoned teachers discuss how they would do this or that. One teacher said do you have that written down, what is your starting point? How much planning time do you allow? I watched and heard in disbelief in this situation that was one of a teachable moment go by the way side. The person speaking turned around stunned as I was and said I really do not plan it takes ten minutes to jot down a daily note to my students and each day they experience new things and we build on that.

 

“Instinct is intelligence incapable of self-consciousness.” John Sterling

 

I began thinking of key words in teaching, intuition being a good starting point. Always when teaching anachronisms help and I found, IESP, Intuition, Empathy, Sympathy and Perception. These are all aspects of a good teacher and a good parent and a good person as well.

 

“Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” Dr. Joyce Brothers

 

In doing research on intuition in years gone by, many psychologists believe we have stored experiences and concepts that we do not even recall that are the basis for intuition.

 

“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.” Florence Scovel Shinn

 

There are other researchers who consider aspects yet undiscovered as a basis for intuitiveness and intuition.

 

“A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action.” Jawaharlal Nehru

 

So many years ago Nehru was the first Prime Minister of an independent India and as well a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

 

“Instinct is the nose of the mind.” Madame De Girardin

 

I saw this note and it intrigued me. Instinct being a door opener and perhaps starting point, a beginning it could be possibly even one of our senses.

 

“I would rather trust a woman’s instinct than a man’s reason.” Stanley Baldwin

 

I do not know exactly what this entity is we call intuition. I have observed many teachers and parents, workers and managers. Some know answers and others have to understand and solve the issues. As I was thinking and pondering the past few days I always seem to come back to a favorite quote.

 

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

 

One of my red neck buddies responded, “what the h— does that have to do with intuition”? Some of us have a goal a destination but the journey the getting there is as critical and crucial as the end result. Each aspect of the pathway is essential rather than simply the end of the trip. When you are looking as you go you see so much more. I recall a long trip as a child and we would play games looking for animals. If you choose to look only for red tailed hawks, it would be miles and even hours between birds. If you choose birds and how many different ones you can see we up the chances of every few seconds or minutes seeing something. Open that to all animals and now every few seconds and you are looking for details in the road side and trees and grass. Life is so similar some people are looking for specifics so minute they seldom find what they are looking for. Others see every nook and cranny. Intuition is in the crannies I think.

 

“The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.“ Anonymous

 

I wish I had said that. 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

Constructivism Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky, Dewey and others

Bird Droppings June 20, 2018
Constructivism Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky, Dewey and others

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 this focus away from children and their interests, and not trying to understand children simply seeing them as small adults. Traditional education was about efficiency and production which were carryovers from the Industrial revolution. It was time for progressive thought 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

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 eleven 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

 

Amazing how intertwined the strands of life really are

Bird Droppings June 17, 2018

Amazing how intertwined the strands of life really are

 

I was asked at dinner one time when did I start teaching and I responded at age twelve. The group I was with was thinking I was being my typical sarcastic self. Then I explained I started teaching swimming with my father to beginners at twelve. So my father got me into teaching. I have been thinking about him quite a bit lately. Dad passed away in 2007 but for some reason lately it amazes how much he influenced my philosophy and understanding of teaching.

 

So from my father’s start at teaching swimming lesson now nearly sixty years later it has taken many twists and turns in the journey for my own philosophical view of life and teaching to evolve. That journey has wound around many switchbacks, trails and pathways and now focuses on the interconnectedness of all that is.

 

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

 

I am sitting in my writing nook at home this afternoon on a quiet day and one of excitement as I think back on the excitement and power emanating in the room full of teachers at my last Foxfire course. I started thinking about what I was going to write today as a continuation of my reflective 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 of art and aesthetic based learning. I answered or should say started to answer 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

 

Back in the early 1900’s Carl Jung coined a word, the term synchronicity to describe meaningful intertwining’s in life that appear to be by chance yet have so much significance. My life has been a constant trail of coincidences and synchronous events. I attended a co-teaching seminar on Thursday at our School Board office and was immediately drawn into dialogue with one of the instructors. She had mentioned several points that intrigued me and I went up to talk with her at the first break. I found it amusing to be talking to someone born after I started working with special needs kids who is now teaching the class I am taking. I walked away revitalized over an idea that her thoughts emulated and was on Facebook when I sat down at my computer.

 

“Students, who are loved at home, come to school to learn, students who aren’t come to school to be loved.” Nicholas A. Ferroni

 

I found this simple statement by Nicholas Ferroni, who is an educator, mostly teaching lower-income students focusing on history and deep personal commitment, concern and care. I found it to be a profound thought and shared on my own Facebook page. In class when I had used this there was more follow up about what I consider to be at the heart and soul of teaching and that is building relationships and community.

 

This time of year I am traditionally back and forth to North Georgia or so it has been for the past eleven summers to a program taught by faculty from Piedmont College and housed on the Foxfire Property in Mountain City Georgia. The course was taught to teachers from literally around the world who show up to learn about this simple approach to teaching. Over the years of my own research I have met and discussed learning and education with hundreds if not thousands of students, teachers and trainers. One thought that has stuck with me is from Max Thompson of Learning Focus School fame. “It’s not about the teaching it’s about the learning”

 

“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

 

With all the hoopla about testing and evaluation of teachers it is truly difficult for teachers to see the real fruits of their labors their students twenty years from now. In my own research I have discussed and talked with many former students of the Foxfire approach to teaching who were taught in this manner some nearly forty six years ago. A few years back on an afternoon while at Foxfire a good friend joined us who had been a student of the Foxfire program in 1970 and staff member of Foxfire from 1971-76. Laurie Brunson Alteri. Laurie talked about many things in the two hours she kept the teachers and teachers to be entranced with her love of and enthusiasm for the program. But she warned it is not a template to follow it is far more and that is where so many teachers fall short. We all tend to be lazy and want to open the box of education and poof everything falls in place and that is not how it works. Laurie used an example that has stuck with me. “In biology when you dissect a frog and look at all the parts after you are done all you have is a dead frog”.

 

As I thought sadly far too many dissect and then miss the whole point of a way of teaching or way of life. As Laurie spoke she referenced the idea of an organism, a living organism and my small bit of Greek language from my seminary experiences in a bygone era I remembered the word Koininia, which literally is community. Laurie suggested a classroom should be like an organism alive and growing changing as it adapts. This is how she described her experiences in Foxfire.

 

Another student in the class during the following discussions pointed out how teacher personalities often create those great classrooms. But personalities of teachers cannot or is difficult to be replicated. Ron Clark’s school came out in the discussions and his success. However as I thought I began seeing parallels between various programs and approaches to teaching.  Over the past few days I have been exploring my own idea of pedagogy how do I see my teaching and instructional methods. I have borrowed extensively from Carl Rogers, Alfie Kohn, Robert Fried, Maxine Greene, Parker Palmer, Peter Drucker, Phillip Crosby, my father, Carl Jung, Ivan Illich, and numerous other authors, thinkers, teachers and philosophers.

 

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

 

I have borrowed as I developed my own thinking from Carl Rogers, William Ayers, Max Thompson, John Dewey, Elliot Wiggington, and of course the Foxfire Approach. Many of these thinkers were controversial in their own time, considered too progressive and their ideas are still considered perhaps utopian to borrow words from a friend. It is difficult to piece together I have found as so many aspects of how I view teaching that in and of themselves are controversial as well. So much of our world view also reflects through our ideas, perceptions and interactions each day and is directly influencing upon our pedagogical conceptualizations.

 

“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 like 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

 

For nearly eleven years every summer I have returned to the mountains of North Georgia to revitalize my teaching heart and soul. An approach to teaching based on the philosophies of John Dewey. Technically it is simply a program of thought focused around ten core practices.

 

  1. From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.

 

  1. The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.

 

  1. The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.

 

  1. The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.

 

  1. Active learning characterizes classroom activities.

 

  1. The learning process entails imagination and creativity.

 

  1. Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. The work teachers and learners do together includes rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.

 

  1. Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.

 

I think attending this course in North Georgia revitalizes 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

 

On one of my ventures as I walked into the main conference lodge and sort of was introduced since it was in the middle of a presentation I sat down and listened to an excellent group of teachers.  The first one I heard and I am sorry I did not hear everyone presentation was already underway.

 

The first presenter I heard raised questions why does the concept of Foxfire not get going? Why not have every teacher required to attend Foxfire courses? What happens when teachers leave Foxfire that it is not continued? Questions I have raised more than once and come back to teacher personalities. Foxfire is not a template as Laurie Alteri said several years ago. Foxfire is more of simply what good teachers do. I have the Ten Core Practices posted on my wall in my room and daily review and would ask myself am I doing this or attempting that. I connected with this presenters questions. As I sat down thinking I began to more in detail realize how we are connected as teachers. I recalled a quote from a speech in 1854 by Chief Seattle.

 

“Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, 1854

 

The next presenter raised more questions in regards to her own teaching and use of what she had experienced at the program. Laura handed out puzzle pieces to each member of the group and asked them to what about an experience this past week on the back of the puzzle piece. She has only been teaching for a year and was excited about Foxfire and then had the group put the puzzle together. She talked about John Dewey and embracing what we each bring in terms of experiences and the pieces of my own web continued connecting. I shared my business card with her which is covered in puzzle pieces. I have long held education is about putting the puzzle of the child together.

 

“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

 

The next presenter continued to interact and connect with the group and I thought it was directly at me. The presenter explained how she had been diagnosed with ADD and was put on medications and as a teenager stopped and forced herself to cope as to not be different from other kids. I thought back to my own high school experience and my own interactions with kids on medications as a special education teacher. I thought back to my Thursday conference and an instructor throwing ideas out that many had never experienced. She brought up the idea of a safe place for kids. An idea I have for many years called a sanctuary. There needs to be a place where a kid who may have an issue can sit down and talk with someone. I tend to not a big fan of many guidance counselors who simply say come back at 2:18 and we will change your schedule. She offered more questions and more interconnections. Teaching is about relationships right up my alley.

 

“Learning is a search for meaning. Therefore, learning must start with the issues around which students are actively trying to construct meaning.” On Purpose Associates

 

A young lady came up to present and started crying she shared her life experience of being in an interracial marriage and the impact that this made on her. As she talked she said her life revolves around the love of her family. I knew immediately even before sarcastically asking if she was a cheerleader in high school and found she actually coached cheerleading now in high school. She had everyone pick up a paint chip sample card and write four important words to them on the card. She was going to make a booklet and send around so each member of the group could add thoughts to the project. Relationships continued to be a building block in the day. A key thought people only ask once when questioning about her interracial marriage. I thought at first how difficult for all of those once’s and then it hit me one times one is still only one.

 

“The gap is so great that the required subject matter, the methods of learning and of behaving are foreign to the existing capacities of the young.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

The young fellow who went next never thought he would be a teacher but an entire sequence of coincidences led him into the MAT program at Piedmont and into teaching. A component of the Foxfire approach that had significance to him was freedom, the ability to do whatever you want. Granted in education and in school there are norms and rules within which that freedom is imposed but still students have input. Motivation came up and a great illustration of a six pack of air in a bottle. Even Foxfire air could not be sold for any amount of money. We tend to try and motivate ids in school using things which they do not want. My Thursday conference went into this same area of thought. It is difficult to motivate if there is no desire for the consequence. The words

 

“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

 

My Friday flowed one presenter to the next each adding to my own amazement with how we were so connected. One of the presenters put tape on the floor and used a warm activity from the Freedom Writers. She emphasized that all kids are different and have to be met where they are. She was excited about her week at Foxfire and shared what she was taking home. We need to focus on kids. So many teachers forget they are teaching for the sake of kids and not simply to teach. She confessed it is not about what I want. I shared with her a Harry Chapin song “Flowers are red”. All teachers should listen to it.

 

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing it’s not the fish they are after.” W. Whitman

 

The last presenter of the afternoon that I was able to stay for took the group outside and did a simple game several items that were recyclable were placed on a poster board and each member of the group was to go towards and build a  group around an item With that what else could that item be used for. Everyone had a use for the many pieces of junk. After some discussion she asked, how are you feeling and everyone wrote a word on the poster board.

 

“Man is never alone. Acknowledged or unacknowledged, that which dreams through him is always there to support him from within.” Laurence Van der Post

 

Laurence Van der Post lived some might say in another time. Growing up at the edge of the wilderness along the Kalahari Desert he was raised by a Bushmen nanny and later named as the first non-royal Godfather, in history to Prince William of England. Von der Post often wrote of the bush and life among the Bushmen as well as numerous articles and books of his travels around the world. While a very solitary and reclusive people in part due to encroachment and government pressures the Bushmen were still devoted to their land, tribe and people and to them community was life itself. I started thinking back to my paper I was writing yesterday and the Foxfire Core Practices. Foxfire Core Practice eight: “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.”

 

“Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening…The average American should be content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role.” William Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889

 

Over the years my room at the high school had been the school field trip for the Early Childhood classes of four year olds and their high school student teachers. My collection of various snakes, lizards and turtles not discounting spiders and hissing cockroaches always amazes kids and questions can be almost infinite if allowed. On one occasion a four year little fellow asked me how do snakes go to the bathroom. Almost immediately his student teacher said that’s a silly question hush. I jumped in before another word was said not embarrassing the high school student but offering some advice that no question is silly and especially from a four year old. We proceeded to learn about the snakes cloacae. So often children are stifled by time and by constraints imposed with standards and a teachers understanding of what is to be accomplished in a given time.

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake” Henry David Thoreau

 

There were so many events through the past few days it is hard to pinpoint any one single event that stands out. There are people I have met and talked with and people who I barely had a word with. I was coming home after dropping off my mother’s dinner last night and stopped at a convenience store to get a drink. A young man came up to me and asked me about antifreeze. He was holding a jug of antifreeze and asked if it was the right kind for a 1993 Ford. On the label very clearly it read 1989 and newer. It hit me he could not read. As all of the events of the past few days made sense the presentations and conferences, discussions and conversations all came together. We are all connected please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird