Can teachers use learning as their pallet?

Bird Droppings December 31, 2013
Can teachers use learning as their pallet?

I wrote the basics of this article nearly ten years ago and at the time was thinking of an artist friend who was trying to define her art as well as searching for her own meaning in life. My friend often reflects her political views and emotions through her art. Just the other night my family that was in town had a family game night at the request of one of my nephews and his wife, inviting us all over to play various board games, computer games and eat of course. It seems in all family gatherings eating is an integral part and perhaps a socializing aspect that gets overlooked far too often. Perhaps one day I will write on the socializing aspects of a family get together and the intertwining of food. But a Trivial Pursuit question I did not know the answer to caught my attention. “What Impressionist painter started an art community just prior to committing suicide?”

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others” Vincent Van Gogh

By chance the answer was Van Gogh. When I first read this I started to think about an ear coming in a box, and how unromantic that is. Perhaps sending body parts while you are alive is an art form. But trying not to be sarcastic, many aspects of our lives could be construed as an art form, such as love, teaching, and caring. Each goes beyond a simple definition. Within each are pieces that you do not learn in class. I am sure if Vincent Van Gogh showed a picture he drew or painted during one of his manic spells, the art teacher would have told him to take art lessons. Today those same paintings are considered classics of impressionism. I am sure Picasso was laughed at, somewhere along the line for drawing women in cube form or simply as a splash of color upon his canvas.

What defines an art form versus simply reality? I would not pay millions to have a Picasso or Van Gogh even if I had the money lying around. Perhaps for me I would prefer to see and experience rather than to own. It seems those who pay millions are often more about the publicity than the art.

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.” William Faulkner

Defining the moment in words, paint or sculpture, perhaps even a bit of broken glass is art. I saw a in a tiny chapel outside Atlanta stained glass windows many years ago created by a renowned artist, an elderly Trappist monk from Conyers. This was his last work at the age of ninety two. The brilliant abstracts in the windows were in reds and purple depicting the Christian sacraments. The windows were literally alive as you sat in the chapel bathed in the brilliant light from the windows.
“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.” Henry James

I was thinking about Faulkner’s idea of art. How we can take a piece of life and preserve it. Artists are in many ways taxidermists each working within their own medium so to speak. Is love simply that special moment carried further as a reminder of what once was? Could teaching simply be a passing of pieces of reality to another who will have those pieces at some point in time? Even in the painting of Van Gogh is his art just the capturing of an image. Interesting how we do so easily now with digital cameras, scanners and computers. Even in my own photography playing with color and movement as I capture images.

“Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.” James Joyce

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” John F. Kennedy
“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” Henri Matisse

Nearly four years ago last night Mel Brooks was honored at the Kennedy Art Center for his contributions. I found myself drawn to these writers’ quotes today especially as I read this statement by Henry Matisse. There is a secret hidden within Matisse’s words, for all forms of art. We are so often limited by our history and previous experiences, be it love or an art form, for Matisse then each love, each new piece of art should be new. Each should be special. It is in trying to categorize and synthesize that we lose the true essence and aspect of love, and of art. When we try to define and label the box of love do we lose pieces as we can in art? Teaching is in a very similar situation. Far too often teachers try and teach each lesson as they taught the last. First you have to forget all the classes that were ever taught, a difficult task for any teacher.

“If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.” Grandma Moses

“Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colors.” Pablo Picasso

It has been nearly ten years ago that a student brought in several dozen photos she and her sister had taken of each other. One of the photos caught my eye. Neither of the girls saw any significance as do very few others when I see things in photos. But for me that one photo caught the personality of the student and I put it on my wall in my class room. That is art for me. Recently one of the sisters came by to visit and noticed the picture was still there and how much that meant to her. Where and how does it become art for everyone? How does teaching become energized to a point that it is art?

It has been some time since I wrote a rather long email to a dear friend who is a pastor in Pennsylvania. I used the word empathy several times. An artist in whatever medium they choose has to have empathy. A pastor is an artist dealing with the spirituality of parishioners and so much more. As I researched art many paradoxes seemed to crop up even within the definition.

“A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.” “A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer. “ Dictionaery.com

Art is nonscientific yet it is also very specific in other ways. I find art perhaps more scientific than science. It is interesting in art we attach theory to reality and in science we try to attach reality to theory. Teaching in and of itself is taking reality and attaching theory to it. We have a block of information that by various means we have to interpret to a student and hopefully they will come close to what we are actually trying to teach. For several days I have been discussing or mentioning symbols and recognition of symbols as how we understand our reality. It is through symbols we convey information about reality.

“To impart knowledge” Dictionary.com

“Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. An artist recreates those aspects of reality which represent his fundamental view of man’s nature.” Ayn Rand

I was thinking back several years to a teacher searching the closet for teacher’s manuals and transparencies to teach a subject they had taught for forty years. I was a bit taken back. How do you teach a subject for forty years and now get stressed over a manual and transparencies. You should know the material and it should not be the exact same for every class. The delivering of the material is the key issue here. I was curious as I watched and observed the mounting stress for this teacher as no teacher’s manual and transparencies could be found. Fortunately for the students their regular teacher made it back in time.

“There has to be one how did anyone teach this class before me.” A former teacher

That same week I watched a teacher take the same subject and walk into class dressed as a knight, maybe it was a goat herder, with literally a virtual reality game. This was in a history class and it came alive. The teacher divided the room and each team was given various attributes such as being near water, having fertile soil, possessing seeds or goats etc. One group was given a gold mine and nothing else. There was a bit of reflection and a bit of thinking for the students. Then the essential question was asked, how are you going to develop your civilization? I am curious which group learned more about the start of world civilization, from the forty year experienced teacher or the lowly goat herder. Art is an interpretation. In teaching we often interpret ideas and events. It is also providing the opportunity for the student to interpret and learn from that thinking process.

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Augusto Rodin

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about. He’s not interested in how things look different in moonlight.” Jahal-Uddin Rumi

“Not even the visionary or mystical experience ever lasts very long. It is for art to capture that experience, to offer it to, in the case of literature, its readers; to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.” Salman Rushdie

We each can be artists in our own field, and perhaps empathy is the key. It is being able to reach that inner spark in others so they can feel what you feel what you see and hear and understand what it was that inspired you.

“Great art is never produced for its own sake. It is too difficult to be worth the effort.” George Bernard Shaw

“What distinguishes a great artist from a weak one is first their sensibility and tenderness; second, their imagination, and third, their industry.” John Ruskin

Ruskin has perhaps defined what constitutes a great artist, be it in whatever medium used, or whatever pallet you choose. I wish we could as easily declare peace throughout the world. I wonder if we can bottle and sell empathy then maybe peace could be a reality. I worked a bit in my herb garden yesterday trimming dead branches and stems. I had been watching the sky and the afternoon sun setting. I was listening to the quiet of my back yard walking about this was very soothing. I wonder can growing herbs be considered an art form? 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

Setting an example is such a simple lesson plan

Bird Droppings December 30, 2013
Setting an example is such a simple lesson plan

“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans

I have over the years looked to the wisdom contained in Kent Nerburn’s writings many times. In a recently completed graduate school project I used a similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words “children learn what they live”. They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them.

”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 G Jung

I have been a Carl G. Jung fan for many years. As I was reading through several of his ideas earlier this morning I found that this thought stuck out. Perhaps it is being a grandpa and watching a little one absorb every element around her. Perhaps it is as a father watching my sons now all grown each choosing pathways in life and wondering at times if we at least gave decent directions along the way. I am finding as I grow older it is the example we set that is the most powerful educational tool available. Better than any curriculum or text series, better than the greatest speaker, and much better than anything that can be planned for. It is about the warmth of our souls and passing this to our children and grandchildren.

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear

“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan

As so often happens when several educators get together the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up and with me often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education the topic will become education and learning. Yesterday afternoon sitting in my mother in laws house we were talking about teaching and working with special needs children. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail sometimes we forget that simple things can aid in how to learn, how to study, and how to open our eyes to that which is around us.

“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller

There has been much research done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Developmentalists have written and been written about, numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.
“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

Sitting in a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Asking why is even more interesting.
“Whatever”
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”
These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

Several years ago in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention and as I read I realized I too have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries McJob has been described as a meaningless job, a job with no direction and very little in requirements and McDonald’s has sued to have it removed stating that jobs at McDonalds are meaningful and do have direction. I do know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in Business School now and owns his own Starbucks. Ray Kroc many years ago before he passed away got his start selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow in her will did leave, one and a half billion dollars to charity all based on working in McDonald’s.

Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with literally nothing but an idea and hard work. It was not apathy that built McDonalds and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self-empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.

“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was causal and commonplace. The Indian lived in every sense of the word from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some graduate schools and I had data showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat several who actually have difficulty reading the test I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However imagine the self-esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a master’s program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45.

I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people except some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.

SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East become more difficult with each moment it seems. With sunrise only hours away please always give thanks for what you have namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Where is the passion?

Bird Droppings December 27, 2013
Where is the passion?

I was sitting facing a rising sun thankful for a new day. It was ironic as I was sitting on an overturned five gallon plastic bucket next to a small circle of smooth river rocks facing east, listening to mockingbird chattering away in the dawn light thinking about the day ahead and offering thanks prior to the day starting. Behind me to the west was a the darkest night of the last five hundred years from what I have read on news the past few days. For my amazement and entertainment reds and oranges were streaking the gray lines of morning. The ambient temperature was too low and no crickets or tree frogs were chirping in the near freezing morning air. To my left a squirrel made its way through the hedge row of sumac, wild cherry trees and assorted brush always wary of our red-tailed hawk that hunts our backyard.

My medicine circle of river stones is almost covered with pine needles. The sycamore trees leaves have all fallen and the white bark peeling offers interesting images in the morning faint light. Beside me to the right a young live oak is still green always it seems foregoing winter’s loss. As I watched in almost a trance the bands of orange wander into the day widening and stretching across the horizon. I often wonder how many others sit and watch the day being born. If only, my father used the term often in his teachings and I in mine. So I am being thankful to witness the wonder of this sunrise and to praise the day yet to come and in Cherokee Wa de (Skee).

As I begin to think about my writing today so many ideas and thoughts sitting beside in books and on the internet waiting to use ad expound on. Every day during school hours I hear the simple phrase from at least one student of, “I hate school” and matter of fact I usually hear it numerous times across the day. What I find amusing is that very seldom do you hear this in kindergarten or elementary school which is interesting. When and where does the attitude towards school change? I mentioned an idea as I sit by a symbol of sorts, from a small book I picked up a few days ago.

“Indeed to live without symbols is to experience existence far sort of its full meaning.” The Sacred Tree

“How do preschool children, full of natural inquisitiveness and a passion for learning, turn into apathetic or angry teens with a profound dislike of school?” Robert L. Fried, The passionate Learner

I remember my own early grades although that is now nearly fifty six years ago. I remember a second grade teacher who inspired us. I recall a teacher who each day amazing and made it special and you wanted to be there tomorrow to see what was next. But I also recall teachers who presented an image of a different sort one where we did not want to be in school where it was more fun to stay home and be “sick”. Recent reading of Henry David Thoreau added to Dana’s statement as Henry David Thoreau quit teaching to be a learner and found he was a far better teacher then.

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana

For a number of years I had ended my emails with this thought from Einstein. Just the other day I mentioned to a fellow teacher Einstein was equally a philosopher as well a scientist and most never will take the time to see that side of him. So I come back to how can teachers bring the “passion” to their teaching as Robert Fried writes about? How can we make teaching so potent as Einstein states? I have come to find the past few weeks that teacher attitude is crucial to this process. It is not so much about approach as attitude. How a teacher interacts and responds to students in their class is far more important than the material taught. For if a teacher is not getting through to the students the material is inconsequential.

“The most important part of education,” once wrote William Ernest Hocking, the distinguished Harvard philosopher ‘is this instruction of a man in what he has inside of him.’” Sydney J. Harris

Artificially we draw out great schemes and plans and build a fabulous curriculum. In education classes teachers to be learn how to do lesson plans and study the ins and outs of lesson plans and learn various curriculum philosophical theories and rationales and get credits for this. This is a major portion of the structure of teaching teachers. State education departments have as an example in various Curriculum guidelines and standards which determines what content needs to be covered in this course or grade. Of course in Georgia we even have the notorious End of Course Tests. I have seen teachers agonize over not covering the standards in the time given daily to meet demands of the test.

“WHEN most people think of the word “education,” they think of a pupil as a sort of animate sausage casing. Into this empty casing, the teachers are supposed to stuff ‘education.’” Sydney J. Harris

It is the teacher that teaches by stuffing that adds to the dilemma we face when we encounter students who do not care and are disinterested in school. I would add it is the stuffing type of teaching that does not allow for learning symbols and understanding symbols. I remember a teacher a year or so ago so frustrated because they could not cover from page 1 through 546 in the time given. This teacher was near a nervous breakdown and really what if those students were not able to get through the material what if they were functionally having difficulty? How and why should we teach beyond what they already do not know?

“But genuine education, as Socrates knew more than two thousand years ago, is not inserting the stuffing’s of information into a person, but rather eliciting knowledge from him; it is the drawing out of what is in the mind” Sydney J, harries

How do we become the teacher who draws out rather than simply stuffs in?

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson –

“Those who know how to think need no teachers.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Teaching becomes more showing how to think and process than content.

Education, to have any meaning beyond the purpose of creating well-informed dunces, must elicit from the pupil what is latent in every human being – the rules of reason, the inner knowledge of what is proper for men to be and do, the ability to sift evidence and come to conclusions that can generally be assented to by all open minds and warm hearts.” Sydney J. Harris

Over the past few years that I have come back to teaching I have found a hierarchy in teachers. There are three types of teachers it seems. There are parasites this is those who use such great statements as “this is my class room” and “you will respect me”. As we evolve if we do as teachers we become symbiotic this is where both the teacher and student are independent of each other yet need each other to coexist and teachers now say things like “How can I help you”. In any progression there is always room for growth for several years I thought this was where teaching’s endpoint was in a symbiotic relationship. However I was sitting in a class and another idea, an epiphany hit me. Osmosis is taking down walls and then learning becomes as it should fluid, it moves and reacts in that fluid manner and both the teacher and student are learning and teaching in a reciprocating way. John Dewey talked about this over a hundred years ago and was considered progressive interestingly enough I should say sadly enough he still is considered progressive.

“Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and then seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence.” Sydney J. Harris

It is difficult to get to this point few colleges for teachers teach in this manner. Those that do are few and far between. In my educational travels I have met several University professors who believe this and teach this. Hopefully as the future rolls around more teachers will rise up and take notice how many students hate school and maybe try and do something. Sitting here on a beautiful cold morning in Georgia wondering about the day I am excited as questions flow in and new teachers ask for guidance. Please as the day rolls on keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Understanding the symbols of life

Bird Droppings December 27, 2013
Understanding the symbols of life

“Symbols express and represent meaning. Meaning helps provide purpose and understanding in the lives of human beings. Indeed to live without symbols is to experience existence far short of its full meaning. Ways of expressing and representing meaning include the symbol systems of mathematics, spoke and writing language and the arts.” The Sacred Tree
For several days I have been pondering this simple paragraph. It has bothered me in more than a spiritual way. What if a human being does not understand symbols sitting thinking in terms of education the inability to move through existence without understanding? I see this as a significant issue in education. We tend to facilitate achievement in a given subject not based on understanding but based on acknowledge of symbols not understood. I recall a comment from a math teacher as I questioned a certain problem. We do not need them to know why simply know this equation creates this graph. That was several years ago. Math curriculum and testing has become a joke in many parts of the country. Numbers of failures have increased. I started thinking especially in math if at an early age we simply want the correct answer and not why it is correct when the math becomes more difficult how will a student solve the problem without someone showing an answer. We are teaching math wrong was my corresponding thought. We need to go back and teach the symbols.
I More often than not find my discussion on a spiritual level more so than o an educational curriculum subject although the bulk of my education has been in curriculum and education. Understanding the symbols is a key component of understanding our existence and place in the world. This applies to reading to art, and to written language. Teach the symbols first when children can understand the symbols they can piece together the parts of the whole. Without the pieces the whole is insignificant. I watch students graduate frustrates because they know little of what has been taught. They have simply been doing the minimum to get to next level and the next and out of school. They are missing the pieces along the way and can never truly see the whole puzzle presented.
So today just a thought for more thought how do we really teach the symbols. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts as you proceed through this weed and weekend ahead and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

Bird Droppings December 23, 2013
Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

So often we take our technology for granted. It has been about six years since we moved into this house and a new dishwasher. About a year ago the drain pump went out and it decided to die on us. In thirty four years of marriage we have had only four dish washers not counting rental houses along the way you might say they become a part of the family. We waited on Frigidaire to send a repairman, we need our dishwasher currently and you now have to make appointments usually several weeks in advance. So far we are holding things together but I recall my trips to various supply and parts places and new numbers of more places to call they were always eventful even synchronistic so to say. I find interesting people every time I go anywhere for that matter. After a week or two we did go get a new dish washer and after six months it decided to breakdown which was covered by warranty. It too nearly six months of wrangling to get a repairman out to inform us there was water damage in switchboard. It seems in a dishwasher that uses steam heat as a component a vapor barrier was not initially installed. While we it was fixed and did no cost a penny you become quickly aware of how we depend on simple technology.

Thinking back to that first repair and the fellow after a brief computer check of circuits and such and a screen and using his manuals it seemed to be showing the culprit was a main drive motor. After calculating labor and parts we would have to spend nearly three hundred dollars to fix our dishwasher but if we choose to get a new one, we get this visit off our purchase. Essentially it cost sixty five dollars to tell us our washer is broke. Of course if we buy from Frigidaire essentially we would get a rebate. I need to get my mind off of spending money on dish washers and write.

“Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other.” Carl G. Jung

It is often easy for me to pull out Jung thoughts and ideas and get motivated for the writing ahead. As I went out to sit and think earlier, this all rolled through my mind. I am amazed at how carefully planned and developed our technology is. No matter how good you take care of or do not take care of machines last a certain amount of time regardless. The term planned obsolescence is often bantered about. We are a throwaway society.
In an issue of National Geographic a few months back they were on one of the far flung Hawaiian Islands cleaning up. Sadly literally tons of debris washes in ranging from fishing nets, trash, TV’s, all sorts of stuff and sadly tons of it. Animals get caught up in the muck and often perish. One photo was of the contents of a baby albatross that had starved to death with a full stomach. The baby’s parents fishing in the currents had picked up numerous bits of trash either mixed in with the tiny fish they catch or that had been eaten by the fish and the babies stomach was full of plastic pieces that did not pass through literally full of trash that kept its stomach full and it would not or could not eat enough to live.

It was nearly fifty years ago Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady at the time started a cleanup campaign on our roads and highways. There were signs against littering and signs posted showing the fines for littering which were imposed and slowly we started cleaning up. But still we trash our environment.

But as I thought about it there is another side, as I look at this in a spiritual manner. People who live off the land hold their lands sacred honoring and revering the world about them do not seem to have this issue. Often using each aspect of a given animal or plant harvested for use while we discard so much. I have seen dumpsters in Georgia with deer carcasses all but the head thrown in. A few months back a deer was dumped at the high school antlers sawn off. There is a scene in the beginning of the movie “Last of the Mohicans” where Uncus, Nathaniel (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook shoot a deer. They honor the deer with prayers and ask forgiveness for killing the deer and say it will sustain them in the days ahead; there were no reality cameras filming and no bragging about eating what they kill. (Granted it was in a movie)

I watch churches locally in a similar manner. A situation I am very familiar with goes like this. Years ago members of a particular church were major donors to the growth and support of that church and were visited often by the pastors. As the days went by and illness befell these members and new pastor came to be the money was not flowing as it was previously and the family was never even visited. Where the money was, not where the need was, became the calling card of the church. I look a few lines up to Jung’s words of how different love and power are. Who do we look to as great so often in society any more sadly it is those with wealth and power? Wisdom, love and honor seldom play a part any more.

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.”Dietrich Bonheoffer

As a people we have lost so much. We take as we need from each other and from others. So often we subsist only in that world immediately around us. WE ARE focusing only on that which we can see feel and touch, even in this world of instantaneous news and views. We have made ourselves disposable. How many times have you heard the phrase at work or in a workplace “no one is indispensable” essentially we are all disposable. As I ponder it used to be we learned a craft through apprenticeship and years of experience and you became a master craftsman.

Yesterday I was looking on the internet at Native American art. A plains survival kit made by Black Eagle an Osage medicine man eighty years old was selling for $2,200.00 it consisted of several pieces of bone and sinew. Essentially it was a primitive kit for a hunter in the prairies of ancient North America. The various pieces included several scrappers, needles and sinew and they were stored in a fringed elk skin bag. Back in the day Black Eagle would have given it to you if you needed it. Now it is a collector’s item being sold by an art store. I am wandering today perhaps caught still in the fifty percent off and buy one get one free and the throwaway society we live in. It is so sad we have become spiritually and physically disposable.

One of my favorite disposable sayings is “once saved always saved” regardless of what you do after that point you are ok. Searching for words and meaning in a world so intent on camouflage. I have kids who wear it to school daily and you can even get camo underwear. Although I haven’t quite figured that one out yet wearing camo underwear that is. When you go to the store is it oak tree or standard or tree bark and that depends on your quarry. We have grown so much in so many ways yet our capacity for others seems to lag behind.

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.” Mark Twain

Over the years I have read many quotes books and papers. There is a passage from a website on Native American quotes and stories I have thought about many times and it is so true.

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children. “Ancient Indian Proverb

I happened by a Barnes and Nobles bookstore yesterday and as I do often when there have certain shelves I check and found a small book in the Native American section. It was a book written in 1984 to work with rekindling the spiritual side of Native youth. I read the book as I sat in the bookstore and this one passage stuck with me. I was looking for a book to read to my grandchildren and this little red book was sort of sticking out. I did take it home with and so I share a passage from The Sacred Tree.

Respect:
Respect means “to feel or show esteem for someone or something; to consider the well-being of, or to treat someone or something with deference or courtesy”. Showing respect is a basic law of life.

• Treat every person, from the tiniest child to the oldest elder with respect at all times.
• Special respect should be given to elders, parents, teachers and community leader.
• No person should be made to feel “put down” by you; avoid hurting others hearts as you would avoid a deadly poison.
• Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially sacred objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.
• Respect the privacy of every person. Never intrude on a person’s quiet moments or personal space.
• Never walk between people who are conversing.
• Never interrupt people who are conversing.
• Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of elders, strangers or others whom special respect is due.
• Do not speak unless invited to do so at gathering where elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).
• Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.
• Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, plant world and animal world. Do nothing to pollute the air or soil. If others destroy our other, rise up with wisdom to defend her.
• Show deep respect for the beliefs and religions of others.
• Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they say is worthless. Listen with your heart.

The Sacred Tree
Produced by Judith Bopp, Michael Bopp, Lee Brown and Phil Lane Jr.
Four Worlds International Institute
1984

I wish we could live each of these honestly and openly and remember there will be leave a place for those after us why not leave the world and people better than we found them. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and peace my friends 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

Waiting for a miracle

Bird Droppings December 22, 2013
Waiting for a miracle

Miracle is a word used often by people of faith. It is an explanation for things that happen with no apparent cause and or rationale. It seems we all sit waiting for miracles perhaps waiting for that solution to pop up, to show its self and poof all will be better. So many times through history events have happened that provide for the concept of miracles and again so many provide based on a lack of proof. Perhaps it is simply a matter of semantics or within a language of need. Each of us has found the bottom of the well on occasion and for each many times a ladder has come. It has been for some a hand built one from within the well piece by piece. For some others they simply climbed out under their own strength.

I recall a story of a farmer and his donkey I have seen somewhere in my readings. It seems the farmer was so tired of the stubborn donkey he threw it in the well and invited neighbors over to bury this mean stubborn donkey. As the neighbors shoveled, shovel by shovel the well was filled in. Amazingly there towards the final few shovels a dirty donkey that had simply climbed a bit higher with each shovel of dirt jumped out and ran off. The farmer was left with a filled in well and no donkey. Was that a miracle for the donkey? Perhaps, yet we can also rationalize quick thinking and patience with the donkey and who knows maybe stubborn was the wrong word.

I recall a few months back when I spoke with several mothers some by chance or synchronicity as Jung calls it. Our washing machine died and the repairman could not come till after the holiday so I loaded a pile of teenage dirty laundry into my car and proceeded to wash or attempt to wash clothes at a launder mat. Since this was my second sojourn the first thing was finding my book from the other day and I asked the woman in charge and she immediately went to her office and pulled my book out with a note attached. “Someone left this book and I am sure will come back for it”. The book was “Teaching from the heart” by Sarah Day Hatton. Perhaps it was a small miracle that my book was still there may be so or was it more a Jungian sort of thing leading to another step another conversation.

It seems the woman who runs the Laundromat has an autistic son and when she found the book felt this was a book most people would not be reading and it must be special to someone. We talked for nearly an hour as my clothes washed and dried discussing how her seventeen year old son was progressing. As I sat another mother came in this time a former student’s mother her washer had died as well. We talked about how her daughter was doing and progressing. Then I received phone call on my cell phone from another mother who lost a son many years ago and is still looking and finding the pieces to her puzzle daily.
As she talked about a story of a rope, scripture, devotion and finding peace within her and in others for nearly thirty minutes we talked. I use James Redfield’s term coincidence quite often and was corrected, not coincidences I was told. I offered then synchronicity perhaps as Jung says and that word was more acceptable.

Timely meaningful happenings seemingly by chance all in a short span of hours amazing how my family does not like to take me any where I always end up meeting people and talking. I went looking this morning for one author and stumbled on another. It has been several years since I first read, Care of the soul, by Thomas Moore. Moore was a monk for thirteen years. He is an avid student and learner gaining a PhD in religion, and in psychology along with a master in music and philosophy. Moore is a teacher, psychotherapist and writer he has a unique introspection on faith and life.

What amazes me each morning as I start is so often I really am not sure where it is ending.
Not necessarily a good lesson for teaching creative writing but since I don’t do that I am okay. I started looking for a course in miracles and several lecturers who feature miracles in their writing. As I looked on a favorite site Thomas Moore is now a featured columnist and I looked at his site. Thinking over the past day and events another idea emerged and within miracles there is a sense of belonging of community for lack of better wording and pondering. I was caught in a paragraph from Moore’s site. I highly recommend a look at his website when time allows. Within the context of miracles and the world in general, so often teenagers get confused by all the horror and death. Moore was addressing this in previous paragraphs and lead into this thought.

“We could ask the same question about the thousands of children being killed and horribly wounded in wars across the globe. This horror exists because we have not matured enough to create a world community that genuinely serves the welfare of our children. Again, it’s a theological matter. We operate under an infantile illusion that the religions are in competition with each other, and we battle our anxious beliefs with literal weapons. We profess religions that are ninety percent ideology, full of ego, and, in the face of this pseudo religion, create a secularist society, which by definition is incapable of genuine community.” Thomas Moore

I was looking at Yahoo news today and three of ten articles or so were religious related granted it is a holiday season in several different religions. One that catches my attention is a court over turning intelligent design which some school systems and politicians are pushing. The Iranian President declares a ban on western music, clothing, ideas, morals, and who knows what else. In Bethlehem this time of year always conflict between various denominations and religions.

As I sit thinking the term genuine community is an interesting one. Could we even consider this, that might truly be construed a miracle considering wars have been fought over religion for thousands of years. When you get down and dirty however it is never ideology but actually more over money but religion was easier to accept. Can we become a community each step in its place. As I talked with my friend who had lost a son and for her the story unraveled over years not instantaneously there was not a blinding flash of light but pieces falling in place one by one leading to that day in the laundermat and our talk. It may be a long term miracle perhaps? My miracle would be to no longer have to ask my friends to keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts that would be the miracle I seek and perhaps if we can chip away piece by piece at building community at building relationships at climbing up each shovel full of dirt up one at a time what seemingly is getting hit in the face with a shovel full of dirt could in effect be freedom and maybe even peace someday and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

What of life?

Bird Droppings December 18, 2013
What of life?

Morning is a special time a beginning of sorts for each day. For me several aspects of taking the dog out, sitting down, writing and reading have in many ways become a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coldness of perhaps one of our coldest mornings this fall. As I looked out earlier standing on the concrete barefooted, far off across the trees the big dipper was just rising above the trees and the stars crystal clear in the morning darkness were breath taking. Now as I finish writing at school the day folds into the craziness of the last few days of a semester.

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

I was thinking back a few years to when I left my class room second period I usually would go through the guidance office and say hello to several people, one was missing. I noticed and never questioned as the day drew on I sensed an absence yet still had not questioned. I grabbed another counselor for a meeting that I had later than morning still unaware of anything amiss. As the day ended I heard from a friend that those missing counselors her mother in law had passed away and she had been at a funeral. We so often take moment and time for granted.

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

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words, so often anymore evenings are just a time to fall asleep. I was looking for pictures that may have significance as I pieced together my first book. I emailed several people last night just touching base and wishing happy holidays.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

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

As I moved through that previous day sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort. Most people as that day finished never missed a stride they never knew anything was different. There were a few tears from her friends and those that knew of the situation.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

I have used this quote many times over the years and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness after my curiosity was satisfied. I also remember a few years back watching our great American bison bull snort in the meadow and his breath floating across the pasture in the chilled air. As I left school yesterday a red tailed hawk swooped through the parking lot while I was emotionally upset the hawk eased the tension.

“It’s not how long life is but the quality of our life that is important.” Roger Dawson

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Charles Dickens

In 1996 my little brother passed away and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had literally built our lives around my brother. He was severely disabled and our being in Georgia was directly related to his schooling and my father’s company moving. As we celebrated his life reviewing the intricate webs that were laid each moment, the many people touched, and lives affected in what seemingly had been and was now an enormous out pouring of life.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

We each approach the morning in a different way. I embrace the day and begin with my writing and watching each moment unfold. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys and as I look back each has had meaning and direction and led me to here and now.

”Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler

I explained in detail how several years ago I received a call from my nephew that a friend had been in a car accident and as the day proceeded I spent the night in the Athens Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving, hoping that the numbers on the dials would change. When I arrived home on my computer was that quote from an old Aerosmith song. In 1968 as I left for Texas I received a book from my parents and on page 596 the following quote.

“To everything there is season, and a time, to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Many years ago Pete Seeger, a folk singer and environmentalist wrote music for these words and a song was born, “Turn Turn Turn”. “To every season turn turn turn there is a reason turn, turn, turn and a time for every purpose under heaven”, what powerful words and a few years after putting music to the words, the song became a hit sung by a group called the Byrd’s.

“Nothing is beneath you if it is in the direction of your life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Robert Frost

So often a poets words offer comfort or give direction back to a journey when we are set off course, it may be in one moment or a lifetime. There is no filling of a void yet when looking at life and all that has been and will be. When we are looking at the journey to now there truly has been no void. There has been a turn in the road a new direction and all that has led to this point. Our journey in life has not really changed and it is there behind us lifting us guiding us strengthening us as we continue along the way.

I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia already sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across, stone by stone crossing the stream. We all can cross in our time and there are times when a hand is welcome to aid in the journey. Years ago I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website, “Friends are never alone”. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand and always give thanks namaste

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

What do we really know?

Bird Droppings December 17, 2013
What do we really know?

“Teachers are one of the most important resources a nation has for providing the skills, values and knowledge that prepare young people for productive citizenship – but more than this, to give sanctuary to their dreams and aspirations for a future of hope, dignity and justice. It is indeed ironic, in the unfolding nightmare in Newtown, that only in the midst of such a shocking tragedy are teachers celebrated in ways that justly acknowledge – albeit briefly and inadequately – the vital role they play every day in both protecting and educating our children.” Henry Giroux, The War against teachers as public intellectuals in dark times, 12-17-12, Truthout

Over the past year I have read so many articles and blogs glorifying concealed weapons and toting how a single armed teacher could have saved the day in Newton Ct. I find it so very interesting that the largest lobby for guns and gun ownership is silent and only yesterday offered they will sit down and help come up with a solution. I read an article or post where someone compared making a bomb at home, that was done on a huge scale with easily purchased fertilizer and diesel fuel not enough years ago in Oklahoma City or have we forgotten the children who died there. A concealed weapon would not have mattered in that situation. As a psychology back grounded person and having spent several years working with severely disturbed students in years gone by I continue to look towards more support to mental health where funding has been stripped to the bone and many situations are in private corporations that while taking care of their needs for those who need help they do very little actual caring for. So many issues and so many answers flying about

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

Yesterday I received an email containing a letter from a well-known professor of education at the University of Georgia. The letter was about the emphasis on testing “what we know”, and how this is not a reflection of education, simply teaching students to take a test or borrowing from Sydney J. Harris “stuffing sausages.” The issue then becomes how we measure what a person does learn. One of the best methods of measuring learning is a portfolio system. Most elected officials want data in terms of their stay in office not a portfolio twenty years in the making which makes this method a hard sell.

“I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life. It conceives the school as a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be learned, or where certain habits are to be formed. The value of these is conceived as lying largely in the remote future; the child must do these things for the sake of something else he is to do; they are mere preparation. As a result they do not become a part of the life experience of the child and so are not truly educative.” John Dewey

I just went back and reread UGA professor Dr. Glickman’s letter and have formatted it and saved it on my computer. John Dewey knew cramming knowledge was not the answer. Modern educators argue as I mentioned several days ago we cannot simply fill a bottle with knowledge. In life not just in education we want to be able to determine our successes and failures. Over my years many of which have been in industry, indirectly in developing materials for training. Specifically in industry we developed and used a term, an acronym, ISMEC.

In industry there is a goal a rather simple one and that is profit. In order to increase profit you have to decrease losses. ISMEC was a tool to do this. There were underlying humanitarian issues in heavy industry, where loss also means loss of life as well. But loss time is amount of time without a loss and in some industries this is measured between deaths or injuries. For example in deep rock mining which is one of those industries where how many man hours between deaths is calculated. The equation becomes how many deaths per million man hours of work. ISMEC came to industry in the early 1960’s and revolutionized industry. A simple acronym, Identify, Set standards, Measure, Evaluate, Correct and or Commend.

In industry to find and identify you look at the maintenance department and find where issues are and build from there. In a community currently we use test scores what if we looked at the maintenance department, the jails, rehab facilities, counseling services, doctors and such to see where we needed support and modifications rather than standardized tests scores. It might cost too much or confidentiality could be an issue and we would have a difficult time accomplishing within elected officials time in office is a crucial one. What if we went a step closer to home and checked on in school and out of school suspensions and detentions as a marker for problems.

“Our students are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in American history and unparalleled anywhere in the world. Politicians and businesspeople, determined to get tough with students and teachers, have increased the pressure to raise standardized test scores. Unfortunately, the effort to do so typically comes at the expense of more meaningful forms of learning” Alfie Kohn

Today and the past few days we are involved in end of course tests in our high school. As I think about this four teachers had four distinctly differing percentages of pass rates. County, State, and Federal officials look at pass rates only. My first question is, are these classes the same in makeup? How many included special educations students since new state laws allow up to ten and more if approved. How many at risk students and remedial students that have not tested well in previous grades. After looking at specifics say in the biology test. The highest pass rate was in an advanced class of biology with a one hundred percent pass rate. As we went through the scoring the numbers of special education students and at risk increased to a teacher whose class had a seventy seven percent pass rate had sixty three percent either special ed and or at risk. What was also amazing was looking at top scores a higher percentage of non-special ed and non at risk students exceeded ninety percent than in advanced class.
So what do we do as parents, teachers, friends and families do? How do we change the directions and aspirations of those who set the precedent? We live in a democracy and we hold that power in voting. Many Presidents of our United States have argued the merits of removing or not removing various taxes, wars, health care reform, and our economy and yet I have heard little about education. I went into my room at school to write today thinking people are buying this dribble, yet whoever is elected seems to do whatever is needed to stay elected and not about what should or could truly turn our country and the world around. We have stabilized gas prices recently and panic from the general population is sedated versus running around just a few short months ago trying to save twenty cents a gallon at a cheaper store. We seem to forget that our children are the future and how they view the world will impact that future. How they understand their world will impact their future.

As I close this morning we gain knowledge and we learn and we try and through our voting during elections we can hopefully change society, borrowing from a recent election, yes we can. So many years ago a movie ended with an elderly man offering a bit of wisdom, “use it wisely” as the old knight in the Indiana Jones movie says. Today use it wisely and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Being patient

Bird Droppings December 16, 2013
Being patient

I find the end of a semester both exciting and sad at the same time. There are students who I will see every day coming by my room and others possibly never again as in a large high school it is easy to remain hidden away if you try. We are looking forward to family gatherings coming up next week. Now that we have three grandbabies Christmas is very special. We are not sure of who will be around for Christmas Eve so my wife suggested we get movies and do something fun. I was thinking about just being alone and reflecting which is hard to do with grandbabies in the house. Although I savor every minute they are there and that we interact. I am looking forward to taking pictures again as my time has been limited the past w=few months. I did manage to get out this morning and sit and think meditate a bit before everyone else was up and moving however. It has been a hectic few days and this week ahead as well for me finishing this semester.

Watching children this time of year and even adults allows you to see various degrees of patience running rampant and or in a total lacking thereof. A few days ago I was standing in line at a store where I knew the owner and she was helping a customer with a purchase without even thinking she asked me to help a customer, even though I was a customer as well. Trying to help a young man decide between a bearded dragon and a leopard gecko actually something I knew about as we have kept both species. Patience is a virtue many people say they lay claim too yet we seem in life to avoid it when at all possible. We gear our existence to being done now as soon as possible ASAP as we use in internet abbreviations.

So how do we learn to be patient? How do we learn to wait? How do we learn to know when is right and when it is time simply to listen or watch? Often I have a tendency when concerned with myself to want to get on with things yet in dealing with others I can often allow life to jell to come together as it is intended. Perhaps it is in my experiences with dealing with people throughout my life. Although my mother and father were patient people perhaps there is a genetic component to patience. That would definitely make a good topic for a Doctoral dissertation. But other times I see patience as an art form one that is perfected as we practice the art. I truly think it is one concept or behavior that is learned and literally acquired over time. I see a lack of patience as one of the causes of many of our societal ills.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I go out each morning and watch the moon change from full to a smile over the days and to see the stars and wonder at the millions of years of distance between us and billions of years to come to where we are patience is an aspect of nature. I have often used river pebbles in discussion with each pebble as it started as a chip of rock somehow ending in the stream, tumbled and turned until the edges are smoothed and rounded eventually finding its way to your hand. It took time, effort and much patience. On my shelf at school is a wooden bowl containing several pieces of rounded wood? In Africa and in other rain forest areas some of the trees wood is so dense it sinks in the water and chips of wood tumble much like river pebbles and eventually you will find river wood chips rounded and smooth almost polished much like river pebbles. They tend to be an interesting conversation piece and one that comes up daily as students find my bowl of round wood pebbles.

I mentioned a young man in my droppings a few years ago. I met him several years back. He is a high school student at a nearby school and is autistic. An aspect of autism often is the ability to obsess over an object or a task and he will sit and do puzzles for hours his mother said often through the night till the puzzle is completed. During his life he has never spoken as he communicates with an Etch a sketch and or hand signs. His mother speaks in code at times using certain words which have directions to them. Obsession however is not patience but almost on the opposite spectrum.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” St. Augustine

There is thought in patience while in obsessing literally no thought and yet how do we tell them apart?

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?” Paul Sweeney

These are questions to answer to ponder this wonderful day as the rain ceases to fall for a few days in Georgia. How do we learn patience and how do we teach patience?

“Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” Epictetus

I recall seeing a famous pear brandy with the pear in the bottle. You have to literally grow the fruit inside the bottle attaching to the flower as it grows and changes and the fruit itself grows in the bottle. Patience is a similar task starting as a bud and a flower and growing as we learn to accept more and understand more. There is a correlation to thinking and patience or wisdom as St. Augustine states and in that perhaps the difference between patience and obsession. A bright mark as the lead news headline states negotiations continue on the fiscal cliff perhaps there is some sort of common ground if we are patient. However for now on this holiday for so many people 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

Reading your own view sometimes offers a clue

Bird Droppings December 15 2013
Reading your own view sometimes offers a clue

After thirty five years of marriage tomorrow it seems almost like day one. Every day and each day keeps getting better. Periodically over the past years I would receive at some odd hour of the night and or morning a paper to review for my youngest son and or a student from the high school or college I am teaching in. It is always with a very narrow window of time between when I see it and it is due. Recently one caught my attention as the individual that was being referenced was one I have read about and had some interest in as well. I will borrow a few bits and pieces from my son’s paper.

“There was a prominent study conducted by psychologist and educator Dr. Albert Bandera involving environment and personality. His goal was to see in what ways people come up with their impressions of other people…. The idea behind the experiment was to gauge the ability of people to judge someone’s personality based upon their environment…. I found reciprocal determinism to be quite interesting in how it added free will to the idea in contradiction to most previous behaviorist theories, where people are completely determined by their environment. What opened up this concept to me the office study because it explained the concept on how people affect their environment?” Matt Bird

“People not only gain understanding through reflection, they evaluate and alter their own thinking.” Dr. Albert Bandera

As I read my sons words and recalled many readings of Bandera I found myself intrigued reading my sons view of me and my room at the high school. As I read I realized how much I impacted my environment through my room and my interactions with people who come within it. On Friday after school I ran into a student who only a few years ago came to my room daily and was never one of my students. She manages a pizza franchise now and is doing very well. Today while grocery shopping I ran into a former secret senior again never had her as a student but she would come by my room nearly daily to talk or discuss ideas.

“I often in my life have seen offices and bedrooms that truly embody peoples’ personalities. For instance my Dad’s school room at my high school back home a person could easily determine that he has a high level of extraversion, you could grade his level of agreeableness, his conscientiousness, his high level of emotional stability, and his openness to experience. My father’s school room has walls covered in various pictures of current and past students, various exploits and accomplishments, and there are animals all throughout the room in various aquariums. Naturally students clamor to my father’s room and love to be around the man. Throughout my life I have not seen experience affect my dad’s personality but I have seen my father’s personality drastically take control over his environment and the situations he has been placed into.” Matt Bird

As I do every day I sit down and write thinking and reflecting as I go. As I read my sons words so many thoughts came to me. Former students and teachers I have met along the way. Photos on my wall go back thirteen years to when I started back to teaching and today it seems so long ago. Thoughts ranged to recent papers I am working on dealing with community and learning. Always I somehow end up thinking of Foxfire, John Dewey and experiential learning methods.

“In this world, in order to enable society to develop, all its members have to assume responsibilities and make their contribution. If we do not make collective contributions then there will be no development. The Dalai Lama, speaking to the Tibetan National Assembly in Dharamsala, May 1989

Each of us lives in a society, a community, and we all share in that aspect and as much as we choose so often to be individuals we are members of and interact within that group. It is the vitality of that group the development and growth that is so intertwined with contributions physically mentally and spiritually of the members. Society exists because of those interactions and relationships.

“Compare society to a boat. Her progress through the water will not depend upon the exertion of her crew, but upon the exertion devoted to propelling her. This will be lessened by any expenditure of force in fighting among themselves, or in pulling in different directions.” Henry George

We have to be working together to be moving forward and as humans do so often much time is wasted fighting and arguing among ourselves and the motion and or growth is limited.

“The greatest difficulty with the world is not its ability to produce, but the unwillingness to share.” Roy L. Smith

“Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.” Dr. Albert Bandera, From Self-efficacy: The exercise of control, 1997

Watching high school student’s form clicks and groups and while adults have clubs, and social groups we tend to be a somewhat selfish animal. We look so to ourselves and what benefits us limiting friends and such to a degree we box ourselves in. Sharing a simple task is so often a distant thought if even a thought. TV humor even plays on this subject several times as in the old Seinfeld and Will and Grace sitcoms where giving is a chore, a burden, and the characters are literally parasitically instead of symbiotic. As I was reading and looking for quotes and thoughts this one seemed to pop out at me.

“Societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do.” Ronald Wright

Wright was speaking literally, yet interestingly enough we of modern society while we do not literally eat people we still do psychologically destroy them. As I look at how we respond to others so often it is how we see ourselves indirectly. I find sarcasm is often a reflection of how we see ourselves.

“The most difficult thing is we do not deal in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.” Mark Twain

“We are more heavily invested in the theories of failure than we are in the theories of success.” Dr. Albert Bandera, from APA address, 1998

In a recent project assignment, several students simply “completed it” they did not finish the task but answered what they thought was the question because they just wanted done. Whether it was right or wrong good or bad was not the issue it was over with. I am sitting here now working on reviewing a similar situation with a one hundred question test that most of my students just want done and the grade is of no significance.

“Until you value yourself you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck

“By sticking it out through tough times, people emerge from adversity with a stronger sense of efficacy.” Dr. Albert Bandera

“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.” John Holt

I read these quotes and saw an answer if you truly do not appreciate your self your time has little if any value even when you are self-absorbed in using it frivolously you simply are taking up time not using it. Guessing at answers to a test to simply get done or rushing through just to be over still you wait just as the rest do so is there benefit. A favorite catch phrase of high school students is “I don’t care” should read “I really do not care about myself” if we look back at Bandera’s thoughts and others. As we enter a new week especially after the latest school shooting and the horror of a year ago it saddens me how our world is troubled and sore, so 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