Sitting, pondering and grandbaby sitting

Bird Droppings June 25, 2011
Sitting, pondering and grandbaby sitting

I spent the better part of last week up on the side of Black Rock Mountain assisting in my own way the facilitating of a Foxfire Approach to teaching class for teachers and teachers to be. I am being somewhat sarcastic as I am doing research for my dissertation as I participate in these programs. I seem to find folks to talk to and discuss this approach to learning that had its origins in the late 1800’s with John Dewey. Somewhere along the line we always as teachers find the things that bug us as I wrote about in my journal and droppings two days ago in the essay entitled, The Genocide of Learning. As I was sitting with my granddaughter earlier rocking as she fell asleep I was wondering back to Piaget again and how he saw his kids developing. I wonder if ever he took away a chance for learning while they grew up.

“When test scores go up, we should worry, because of how poor a measure they are of what matters, and what you typically sacrifice in a desperate effort to raise scores.” Alfie Kohn

I recall mention of curving math scores a few years back to have more students passing at the state level in actuality they had designed a new curriculum and were just checking it out and students failed miserably. It did not look good and with the miracle of statistics and curving better scores were had and Georgia fell under the umbrella of a new math Curriculum, Math I, II, III, and IV. Modeled after European integrated math it is all math areas at the same time. Colleges however are still looking for Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus. Now our third State school superintendent in about five years decided to go back to old method of subject taught math. Georgia School superintendents are elected the one from three terms back is in prison for embezzling money from education funds. The last school superintendent had some issues and the current one is trying to undo the damage. Add to this for Georgia folks who can forget the scandal in Atlanta schools over falsifying test scores and the subsequent pressure on teachers and administration in current test situations all for what is truly an invalid measure of learning.

“I remember taking advantage of scores mattering maybe too much… I would skip classes but pay enough attention to when teachers would go out of their way to ‘suggest’ what would be on the tests… I’d memorize that stuff and score very well despite missing many classes (but not too many as to fail based on missed hours alone)… Maybe learning what to pay attention to, I the new way to learn/be smart?” Liz Fotopoulos, Graphic Artist, Blogger, Facebook Friend

As I think back to my own educational career it was SAT scores that got me into college not my grades in high school. My GPA was too low for graduate school and a very high Miller Analogies score got me in along with an interview with the Dean of the Education department at Piedmont College. I could take standardized tests and do well. But is that a measure of learning or is it simple what you know at that time. Without a baseline point of reference an End of Course Test is literally meaningless other than our students all know this right now and or do not. It does not measure teacher effectiveness, IQ of students, disabilities within student population, aptitude of students, effectiveness of curriculum, what type of desks should or should not be used, cafeteria lunch menus, class room temperatures, and or any combination of the above. Teachers carry the load and yet become responsible at the end of the journey for how it was packed in the beginning.

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. “ Lena Horne

Many years ago I met Leonard ring for the first time when he was taking a course in Safety Management at a school sponsored by my father’s company. It wasn’t too long till Len and my family were well acquainted. Len had a background and several degrees in ergonomics, however his specialty was lifting. “Bend your Knees”, became a famous catch word in a matter of years in industry, hospitals and around the world. With Len as the star of a video showing correct lifting and how a simple plan could save MILLIONS of dollars each year in lost time injuries related to back injury the video and Len traveled worldwide.
Len passed away nearly ten years ago but as I read this quote this morning I remembered meeting him for the first time in Macon nearly 35 years ago. Lena Horne makes a statement that is so true. How we deal with issues or problems those heavy loads can adversely affect us. Stress related illness is the major killer in the civilized world while water borne disease is in the third world countries. Perhaps we should make our choice now heart attack or dysentery as to how do I want to pass on and where. Seriously STRESS has become a big issue and for teachers and pressure of testing it is crucial.
Gary Zuchov in his books addresses our spiritual side with in his thinking that being at ease at peace with one self is crucial. Recent scientific studies have shown people who regularly meditate and coincidently a very high number of Buddhists have fewer incidences of stress related illness. People who address their fears and overcome them as in some eastern thought is also a significant issue they have less stress related issues. It is – how we carry the load and sadly it is far too easy to fear the unknown.

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Mohandas Gandhi

I may seem as if I am wandering from education and the testing issue but not hardly, for it is this issue that is a major stressor in education, with parents, children and teachers. Defining the aspects of life that can provide us with some ease relief from stress and burdens can be difficult Gandhi uses the word will.

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

Jung and Zuchov both refer to the soul as a key which is that aspect of our being we cannot see and in many ways know little of and yet so much is written. Author, psychologist and former monk, Thomas Moore has written numerous books based on his view of soul. One of his first was entitled, “The Care of the Soul”. I started this morning with a simple statement from Lena Horne “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it “. If we could only carry the load the correct way ever time wouldn’t the journey be far easier and the road so much smoother and maybe just maybe not break down. Maybe if we really wanted to measure what kids were learning using methods that have been proven over time the stress of teachers and children would be reduced. I had my chance at teaching because a person had a nervous breakdown of sorts. All of us have limitations physically, mentally and according to Jung and Zuchov spiritually. Would it not be wise to know those limitations if and where they are and by knowing your strengths and weaknesses it can only make you stronger. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

A firefly crossed my path

Bird Droppings May 16, 2011
A fire fly crossed my path

I wonder how many even notice when a firefly crosses our path. Most people will not even stop to look at such an insignificant moment in time. It has been a bit to cold for fireflies so far this year in our part of Georgia but thinking back to when we just moved to this house. As I sat in the darkness of a quiet morning fireflies for the first time graced my yard sort of an anointing one could say. As I sat waiting watching an occasional blip of light would appear among the shrubs. In the silence tree frogs and crickets would occasionally echo through the trees.
I wonder today as I sit here who saw the first fire fly? I recall long days of collecting as we would run around our yard in Pennsylvania as children placing the fireflies in a Mason jar and going back in our rooms with a special lantern. More lately I use my mason jar for sweet tea than chasing bugs or orange juice as I did today. I travel quite frequently to North Georgia and often will seek a new route to travel as I journey. On one of my last trips I drove out of the North Georgia mountains a totally different way. I was taking the scenic route and back roads it was a bit farther yet so enjoyable. We need too sometimes in our hectic lives take time to enjoy so often we forget to enjoy a moment or two.

“True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.” Gilbert K. Chesterton

When I started writing this morning contentment was not the word I was looking for but the ease with which it seemed to fit was appropriate right now. Issues at hand seemed not significant as I sat looking for fireflies on my porch even though I knew there would be none today. Finally my puppy wanted back in she had had enough of my pondering and wanted her bed. Contentment an interesting word I wonder do we ever really find it.

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” Buddha

For me what is contentment it easily could be sitting listening in the still of morning or is it feeling satisfied with a job well done and the adrenalin rush is over and that calm permeates your every being. Perhaps it is a sip of really wonderful hot chai tea, for some perhaps it could a sip of water on a hot summer day.

“Man falls from the pursuit of the ideal of plan living and high thinking the moment he wants to multiply his daily wants. Man’s happiness really lies in contentment.” Mohandas Gandhi

As I think sometimes a thank you is all that suffices and contentment is close at hand. For my puppy today just pressing against me and a scratch on the ears and contentment was there.

“We may pass violets looking for roses. We may pass contentment looking for victory.” Bern Williams

Watching others meld into the vastness searching for an ember as the fire died wondering if the words spoken made sense to anyone but you. I wonder as I sit and think, and ponder this morning. When I walk out the front door into the morning the smell of spring and flower blossoms fill the air it seems in our back yard each day a new flower is blooming as I listen and look around our garden. Walking down the sidewalk to the cars a red rose bush greets you even today blossoms are coming and I am sure more notes will be left. Once a wayward stranger passed leaving a note as to what kind of rose bush is that magnificent plant. Midst the flowers a thorn yet if not for the thorn the value of the flower would diminish.

“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

Emotions and oceans both powerful forces in their own right. I remember sitting on a beach so many years ago unsure as to how I arrived. A friend was still waiting for me back in our room the chill of the air made the morning seem distant, winter on the beach in New Jersey can be a bit chilly. But at that time for me to be alone to think to wonder that was where I was.

“As we become curators of our own contentment on the Simple Abundance path… we learn to savor the small with a grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

Today is a new morning a new chance to rise above and see perhaps new ideas new thoughts and ponderings; I will go out and see as should you. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.