LIfe is raw material

Bird Droppings November 20, 2011
Life is raw material

Morning is a special time a beginning I am always questioned why I get up so early. My response is to get a great start to the day. Several aspects make it special first one of taking the dog out and talking with her as she sniffs the ground hunting bear and other prey and of course doing her thing in the yard. Then I go to my writing and reading which has become my meditation for the day. This has become in many ways a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coldness and drizzle of perhaps not our coldest morning this fall but the over cast and air so humid made it seem colder. I miss today seeing far off across the field the big dipper rising above the trees and stars crystal clear in the morning darkness.

“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

A few years back as I left my room after second period I usually always go through the guidance office and say hello to several people and on that day one person was missing I noticed and never questioned as the day drew on I sensed an absence yet still had not questioned. As the day ended I heard from over the announcements she had suffered a heart attack during a stress test and was having surgery. My thoughts raced to how fragile is this thing we call life.

“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 and pictures that may have significance to a project I am working on for my graduate work. It was hard getting to work after eating through most of the day. I emailed several people last night just touching base and downloaded a wrestling tournament photos from the high school.

“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 day a from a few years back a sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort. Most people as the day finished never missed a stride there were a few tears from friends and those that knew but all in all the day went on.

“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 several times 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.

“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 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 him. As we celebrated his life reviewing the intricate webs that were laid each moment and people touched and lives affected what seemingly had been 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 seeing each moment then unfold. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys and as I look back each has had meaning and direction and lead me to the now.

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

It has been several years now since I received a call from my nephew that a friend had been in a car accident and as the time proceeded I spent the night in the Athens Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving. I was hoping that the numbers on the dials would change but that was not to be. When I arrived home on my computer was the above quote from an Aerosmith song. Seems I come back to that note often in my writings.
In 1968 as I left for Texas for college I received a book from my parents, it was a bible which still sits in my bedroom and on page 596 a verse that has stuck with me.

“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 legend and environmentalist wrote music for the 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. The song became a hit sung by a group called the Byrd’s coincidently.

“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 set off course in but one moment’s time. There is no filling of a void yet when looking at life and all that has been, when looking at the journey to now there truly is no void. There is a turn in the road a new direction all that has lead to this point has not changed and is there behind us, lifting us, guiding us, and strengthening us as we continue. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia all ready sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across stone by stone, crossing the stream on the rocks as he jumped.
We all can cross in our time and there are times when a hand is welcome. 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.
namaste
bird

Every day is a good day

Bird Droppings November 19, 2011
Every day is a good day

Recently I had the great privilege of spending some time with three friends. These are people I have known for many years. Over this the next holiday week I will be driving nearly 800 miles on various assundery excursions. There will be a trip to Mercer University to pick up transcripts, possibly a trip to Georgia Southern University for graduate work, a side trip while going to Mercer to the Indian mounds in Macon Georgia, Warner Robins Georgia for Thanksgiving, and to Piedmont College to visit my granddaughter son and daughter in law and drop off papers from Mercer. I am not counting my side trips to Talawegee nursery and Thyme after thyme nurseries. Much of this time I will be alone driving and most of that time in my CD player I will be listening to either Carlos Nakai on Native American flute or an old new Neil Young CD, Live at Massey Hall, recorded in 1971.
In my travels many things pass through my mind, ideas for a paper I am beginning today for a graduate class, thoughts back to my meetings with my dear friends. But in the midst of this all was a passing thought my wife mentioned as I was sitting reading an email from one of my friends. She told me we all have kind hearts. I thought back to conversations we were having as friends a few days back that would have provided her with this insight.
An idea crossed my mind many times the past weeks. It is that of the medicine circle which is composed of four points of the compass. The points are as on most manmade compasses yet far more in meaning. For example in the North which is symbolizing earth and wisdom, in the South symbolized by fire and passion, in the West symbolized by water and emotions, and in the East symbolized by air and flight. I thought of four friends drawn together yet apart. Each knows of the other and by chance I had words with each recently. Each of my friends had passion in their lives. There was a passion I could see and feel for their work, family and those around them. I even at one point was sitting jotting notes to myself as to who fit each of the points. Who was the north or south, east or west of this medicine wheel?
So often my train of thought then wanders off and I find myself postulating over other ideas and pondering this or that. I found my way to Barnes and Nobles s yesterday to get a few books for my granddaughter, it seems Eric Carl has a new one out. Somehow I can do that probably in my sleep. Someday I might like to have my ashes sprinkled through a Barnes and Noble, even though they will get swept up by the nightly cleaning crew or maybe haunt a Barnes in Noble in the possible afterlife. I went looking as I do to my favorite sections only to find they were all shifted about. I finally found the Education rows of books and a bit later the Native American shelves.
As I looked always seemingly drawn to know authors I found a title that intrigued me. The book was Every day is a good day, by Wilma Mankiller. I had not seen this book in all of my travels and searching’s at Borders, Barnes and Noble and many other stores. It consists of dialogue between nineteen indigenous women on various topics. The book has many powerful words from these women. I borrowed today from the foreword written by Native American author Vine Deloria.

“The old Indian war cry, it’s a good day to die, bespoke of the courage and fearlessness of men in battle and indicated that life was not worth living if one approached it with too much caution. Freedom demanded the willingness to sacrifice everything to ensure personal integrity. But what of the long periods between wars and crises? What about the daily lives we seek to fill with substance?” Vine Deloria

The late Wilma Mankiller in her book proceeds to explore this through the thoughts and understandings of nineteen indigenous women from all walks of life. In a recent class we discussed the concept of multitasking and how women have been multitasking for thousands of years while men focus on generally one thing at a time. I look at a woman running for president and as Secretary of state in our own country. Wilma Mankiller was chief of the Cherokee nation for ten years until her health took the best of her.

“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors or strong its weapons.” Cheyenne proverb

My thinking has wandered today from four friends and an observation by my wife to the multitasking ability of women. Yet intertwined is a common thread a piece of the tapestry of our lives. My wife saw a common element in each of us as we talked and joked and retold old tales of childhood. Perhaps we are each part of the medicine wheel of life. A thought about each of us in different places each leading separate yet connected lives. I thought back to Wilma’s book title and how I was drawn to that Every day is a good day. I thought to multitasking and how so often we take for granted those who truly do keep the world in line and in order. I thought of my wife who so often is the guiding force in our family and always ready to hug one needing hugging.
Every day is a good day when we accept the premise that we are integral to that day and we each are only a portion of the day and so many more too are there interconnected and interwoven. I do think it is when we get focused to into our own that we lose sight of the good day. I do wish we each could hold all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts.
namaste
bird

Small is often BIG

Bird Droppings May 23, 2011
Small is many times BIG

Yesterday I took care of my grand daughter so my son and his wife could spend the day with some friends at Six Flags over Georgia. I find it amazing how a conversation with a five month old can be so enlightening. Her eyes sort of watched as I spoke about the various sounds we heard as we walked around the yard. A morning dove was cooing and I called back. A mockingbird called in one of its many voices. A woodpecker hammered away in our old black walnut tree and I pointed out the holes almost out of view. We sat down at my special place in the back of the yard where I sit and meditate and still early in the day the spider webs were glistening in the rising sun. I explained how the threads of life are woven through all things. After our walk we went in and had breakfast and read, The grumpy caterpillar by Children’s book artist and author Eric Carl. My grand daughter is barely an arm full and yet the wisdom of youth shows in her eyes.

“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

Last week a student asked about a plaque hanging on my wall. It is rather simple one, just a slip of wrinkled paper with the word pass written on it. Why you have a piece of paper hanging up, I was asked. It got me thinking about a day many years back when I was finishing my masters degree. I was looking at some power point slides as we waited between committee meetings at Piedmont College. This process was the culmination of two years work and studies and at Piedmont College entitled the capstone. As I think back and relate to what a capstone is within an arch it is that which hold all together. Our project was a summary of all we learned in two years.
As I thought back nearly nine years now, one set of slides was of my son’s old ten gallon aquarium, a nano reef or mini reef for those less verbally aware. The object is you can have a beautiful salt water aquarium in a small space with very small creatures. The up keep is actually significantly more than a larger tank because there is no margin of error in a small tank, but when you start looking at these tiny almost insignificant creatures they become breathtaking. In the space of ten milk cartons an entire world exists. A two and a half inch pistol shrimp lives in a burrow with a three inch blenny a small fish. The blenny is very wary and the shrimp is blind when trouble seems to be coming the blenny pulls the shrimp back in the hole. When a tasty morsel is coming the fish encourages the powerful shrimp to grab it. In that small space two tiny creatures working together in a symbiotic relationship.
A few days ago one of the teachers brought in a tiny green tree frog they had caught we arranged a little cage for observation. Over the years I have found the world close up can be more fascinating than great big world we live in. There are pieces revealed that may other wise go unseen and life takes on a different aspect. Often I enjoy my macro lenses more than the telephoto. Seeing up close often reveals bits and pieces we might never see otherwise.

“Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it “creative observation.” Creative viewing.” William S. Burroughs

So often we miss the small pieces always intent on the big and little bits of life will pass us by. As we used to watch my sons nano reef explode when he dropped in a feeding solution of microscopic particles of plankton, algae and such. I do not even see what the tiny corals anemones and polyps can sense in the water, closed animals open into beautiful living things seeking their prey. Soon after glimpsing the power points I was handed a small piece of paper with my name on it written in blue ink and the word in capital letters PASS on it as well. That was the closure to two years of study and a door to another journey. I took my note and placed in a frame on my wall at school a reminder of how so often small things can be so important. Amazing how a small piece of white copy paper can be so significant. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

A beginning to an end

Bird Droppings May 17, 2011
A beginning to the end

“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Albert Einstein

A few days ago I was discussing the idea of teaching as an art form. I have on several occasions seen things others have not in terms of a student or even a class. So often in life we tend to view daily happenings as mundane yet in that moment of the mundane, miracles are happening. I recall several years back on our porch we had several Boston ferns in hanging baskets along with alternating spider plants. In one of the ferns a pair of purple finches had nested and three little finches were growing rapidly midst the daily checks. Most would have only seen the ferns and spider plants the adult birds had so carefully hidden the nest in the fern fronds.
When I sit each morning and write for example yesterday about fireflies dancing across the edge of my world in my back yard during the summer months it is only my perception. My own view is limited by darkness and my own ability to see what is in front of my based on my life experiences. For someone a thousand miles away it is only words yet I see it and experience it and yet for someone here near by unless they are willing to rise at 3:00 AM they too will not see what I see.
So as a writer I offer just glimpses of another experience and another world. In order to see more then it is about renewing our perception, sharpening our senses and opening our soul to see and hear and feel more than we do today.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

Many considered Einstein to be an atheist for his very often blunt statements about religion. Yet if you read any of his nonscientific statements there is a spiritual aspect to them. In and of it all he was an artist, a philosopher, often scientist and very much a humanist. Today is a day unlike most other Tuesdays I have experienced yet it is an end and a beginning of phases of my own life’s journey. I am near the end of a semester and hopefully beginning to work on finishing my doctorate degree as school lets out. Yet I continue on that educational venture as I am looking past that to another learning experience and who knows maybe another degree. Perhaps one day I can sit idle but for now I crave that thought process.
Whenever I drive through Kentucky I can not help but think of Daniel Boone finding his way in for him what was a wilderness back then and yet for Indians of that place it was home and not a wilderness. For even in that day trails and pathways were worn from passage.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” Albert Einstein

In a recent paper for graduate school I referenced my recent experience as a clearing of a haze from things I had forgotten a clarifying and specifying what was cloudy and unsure.
Often what is learned is not just from books but from experiencing living seeing and believing. Each day I travel a road many others have journeyed on and many others have succeeded in and have gone beyond, yet it is new to me. For me it is wilderness yet civilization. For me it is fresh and vibrant even though many see mundane and stale. It might be in the flight and blinking of a firefly or the snort of breath as a buffalo crosses the pasture years ago. It may be in the feather left for me as a hawk soared through the sky.
I recall a movie where the start and end was nothing more than a piece of fluff blowing about until it gained import with Forest Gump and was placed in a special place. We do not know from moment to moment how someone will react to anything we do or say or write. That is the art of our existence. It is in the perception that seeing, feeling and hearing of our own heart beat. I by chance was where a student was yesterday. She is moving and came by sort of by accident as I was at the school. It seems she now lives near where we do and will not be attending our school next year as it across the line and another high school. She just wanted to say hi and in the conversation asked what do I teach. She continued everyone wants to know. I tried to clarify by saying, on my door it states Block one is planning. During Block two and three I teach the philosophy of learning about how and why we learn what we do. Block four is learning strategies. She said that it sounds interesting. For three years she wondered what I taught and wanted to be in my class. I would always respond you haven’t been in enough trouble yet. As she left after I explained Emotional and behavioral Disorders, she said even though I wasn’t in your class except for Biology in summer school I learned a lot. How is that for an ego boost? Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

Always try and see through new eyes

Bird Droppings May 5, 2011
Always try and see through new eyes

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” Dolly Parton

It has been nearly five years since we last moved and seems we might stay here a while. I recall seven or eight years back when we made several quick moves and one time as I removed the last bits and pieces from our then house and bagged up the trash putting it on the pile sort of like saying goodbye. As I drove over to our new house I was wondering about where and when and why. I remember several emails had been about our move, they were sorry we had to move or sorry since moving is so hard.
Moving is hard, always hard I am finding as I get older. We had raised our kids in a house for nearly 23 years that I built in the middle of several hundred acres. Since that time we have moved four times, but in our moves there was a temporary sense hard to explain and then we moved here there is something a bit different as I plant my herb garden a sense of permanency. I was thinking of expanding my garden spring, maybe planting tomatoes, squash, and a few beans, actually have some Anazai bean seeds from heritage heirloom seeds. First time in four or five years I had even considered that. I am still stiff in my old age from the little yard work I currently do but the thought of a garden somehow made the day brighter.

“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.” R. I. Fitzhenry

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” Hal Borland

So often during the day I will check the weather just pull up the weather on the internet and check radar pictures from the southeast and see what projections are to be had. Will it be rain or cold or combinations of both I check the predictions about tomorrow’s weather just so I can plan my gardening. Yesterday on channel 2 a weather person made a comment about the cold front pushing from the Midwest and how this mass of artic air high pressure was the highest at 30.99 inches he had ever seen. As I came home yesterday a small bird flew into the open screen door of the back porch and puzzled by the space that she was confined within flitting about clinging to a wire back to a closed door thud, back to the wire.
I carefully walked to where the bird continually went to an opened the door. I talked for several minutes to the little bird calmly reassuring it all was fine several times during our conversation as it looked constantly for an out reminded me of my students eyeing the door to escape and freedom. The bird flew to the window sill and out the door. I apologized to the bird for leaving the door open and said comeback any time. I will need bird seed today to fill feeders just in case my new friend understands English.
But as I wander aimlessly we have forgotten an aspect of our world that we once knew. In a disaster in Asia several years ago the stories tell of a tribe of fisherman who listened to their elders and safely moved to the mountains. The elders had read the sea and knew what was coming. Today we count on radar and air pressure but in days gone by a small birds antics may have been enough. Does a squirrel gathering more food mean a hard winter? Why did so many animals move away from the impending disaster?

“Man shapes himself through decisions that shape his environment.” Rene Dubes

“You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success — or are they holding you back?” W. Clement Stone

Within certain parameters we alter and manipulate that around us yet we find ourselves at the mercy of our environment as well. Snow storms paralyze cities and rainfall creates devastation in other areas. Yet we think we control our environment. I keep thinking back to the first quote today and the simplicity so often of Dolly Pardons words. It has been several years since Matthew my youngest son and I were driving back to the college when the sky lit up after a rain the entire landscape was gold from the brilliant rainbow and soon a second joined it and the road and countryside were bathed in light literally I understood the search for gold at the ends of rainbows it was so brilliant. But we drove through rain to get there.
I have wandered through so much today it is how we look at what we see that is so important and seeing what we see. We have lost so much in our ability to see and to understand. Many years ago my wife and I attended several concerts presented by Harry Chapin, a very active and avid environmentalist and out spoken in that regards. But he was a songwriter extraordinaire. A song came to mind today as I wandered about in my thinking and finishing of my graduate papers. It is a song of rainbows, of seeing the world with different eyes, and of understanding. The song is entitled “Flowers are red” the words and music are by Harry Chapin.

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin’ young man
I’m paintin’ flowers he said
She said… It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There’s a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one

And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

Well the teacher said.. You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me…..

And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

The teacher put him in a corner
She said.. It’s for your own good..
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And are responding like you should
Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have bee
Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found
The teacher there was smilin’
She said…Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one
But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said.. and he said
Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen.

What a powerful voice we have as teachers. It has been teachers that taught children not to listen to the elders, and instead to listen to the news and weather stations because science knows all. It has been teachers who stopped watching squirrels gather nuts and it has been teachers who altered our environment with new ideas and changed all the flowers to red and leaves to green. The sad part is some will say that is what we are to do as teachers. So I write each morning for the teachers who like rain because rainbows follow and watch for leaves changing colors and who see flowers in many colors and can share that enthusiasm with students and inspire and change our world. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

“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

Can we offer another ear?

Bird Droppings May 2, 2011
Can we offer another ear?

“Hearing is one of the body’s five senses. But listening is an art.” Frank Tyger

After trying to find out who is Frank Tyger I have to resolve that I still do not know for sure, there are no Wikipedia pages to reference a sure sign no high school student ever did a biography of him. However as I mulled through numerous articles I found he was a on the staff of the Trenton Times for thirty five years till his retirement in 1992. Many of his political cartoons made it through the national media in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. However it was his humorist style to his editorials that left a mark and when looking for quotes his are numerous.

“Learn to listen. Opportunity could be knocking at your door very softly.” Frank Tyger

“Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.” Frank Tyger

Many years ago I went to hear Harry Chapin in concert actually I went several times to be honest. For some of you who live near Atlanta you will be familiar with the Fox theatre on Peachtree Street. Our high school just had their Prom there and all loved it. This grand building is considerably over ninety years old and the acoustics are unbelievable. Harry came out with his band and played and as always he had the audience eating out of his hand. Like many shows after a point there would be a short break and of course then they would be back. Some folks went to get drinks etc. a few us stayed seated just mellow from the music. The curtain parted and Harry walked on stage with a harmonica.
He sat down on the edge of the stage with no microphones and started playing. The notes filled the room and soon not a sound was to be heard by the melancholy melodic playing and singing of Harry Chapin. He proceeded to sing and in that theatre that night you could hear tears trickling down cheeks of the audience. As I think back today I do not remember the words or the song he was singing but the emotions were overwhelming. I read this quote from Frank Tyger earlier and remembered that night listening to Harry Chapin as he totally enthralled an audience. It is definitely true that listening as an art form.

“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich

Years ago sitting in a dark class room and sitting through lectures on New Testament theology at the Candler School of Theology I recall how we were to compare and contrast Paul Tillich and Carl Barth, two great theologians of the twentieth century. It was many years till I could get myself to actually read Tillich’s words without thinking about the tedium of that classroom. I wonder how many students we have who think the same way about us as we stand before them trying to teach whatever subject it is we teach.

“Teachers report their overriding classroom concern is that students do not listen. The author of this book believes that listening attitudes, skills and behaviors need to be given renewed emphasis in today’s classrooms. However, without the proper tools, clear goals and ready examples, busy teachers find it difficult to teach, practice, and model listening. This text provides the practicing teacher and future educators with user-friendly rationale valuing listening, as well as examples and practical strategies to teach appreciative listening through a variety of curricular areas. Appreciative Listening: the Forgotten Art is ready for immediate classroom implementation.” Appreciative Listening: The Forgotten Art, by Constance Hoag, Ed. D.

I was envisioning a class room of students and their teacher standing in front of the room yelling you are not listening to me. Will you listen to me now? “Teach, practice and model listening,” is what the author Dr. Hoag states so clearly. Why do students not listen? The easy answer may be the teacher has nothing to say of interest to them. Maybe they do not know how to listen is another easy answer. Maybe they do not want to be there in that room at that moment. I started thinking back to Harry Chapin singing at the Fox no microphone all alone on the stage and every ear attuned to each note and each syllable. As I thought that could have been just as easily that classroom at Candler and the professor with a monotone voice dryly lecturing on Tillich and Barth or it could be my class room in Loganville High School. Why did I listen to Harry Chapin and not to Professor Monotone? Why does a typical student want to sleep or do make up or write notes to their boyfriend or girlfriend when the teacher is teaching or as I did in high school draw cartons for the school newspaper?

“A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.” Kenneth A. Wells

“Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.” Plutarch 46 AD – 120 AD

Teaching and or life skills number one the victim, student, or listener has to want to be there. They have to actively want to be listening and that sounds redundant. If a student does not want to be in that room or lecture how much more difficult is it to get their attention. Harry Chapin had no microphone and was addressing several thousand people in a large five thousand seat auditorium and we wanted to hear every word he sang. For parents, teachers and friends, be an active listener set the example first. In coming back to Dr. Hoag’s advertisement for her book above in the quote, model listening. Set the example and want to hear what your children and or students are saying. Who knows they may return the favor.
In a class room getting the interest sparked can be difficult but not insurmountable. Erich Fromm the great psychologist has written about “The Art of Listening” and maybe teachers and parents need to pay attention. Let us assume it is an art form and therefore open to interpretation to perception to different views and likes and dislikes. We need to be aware not all what we hear but to what we say the same way and in turn plan to respond accordingly. Start by being an avid listener and hear what and why then work on students listening to you. Practice listening and even have listening exercises. I often will play different types of music and get responses during the day just to check listening. I have used Hopi rain dance music which is not really popular yet when the “Lonesome Dove” or “Last of the Mohicans” sound track or Carlos Nakai are playing students never miss a beat and to date have never complained. Listening we do not do enough so please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

Small is many times BIG

Bird Droppings August 4, 2010
Small is many times BIG

“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

It seems like yesterday that I was looking at some power point slides as we waited between committee meetings at Piedmont College. It was my Capstone presentation for my Masters Degree that was the culmination of nearly two years of studies. As I looked at the slides one set of slides is of my son’s old ten gallon aquarium, a nano reef, a mini reef for those less verbally aware. The object is you can have a beautiful salt water aquarium in a small space with smaller creatures. The up keep is actually significantly more than a larger tank because there is no margin of error in a small tank, but when you start looking at these tiny almost insignificant creatures they become breathtaking. In the space of ten milk cartons an entire world exists from a two and a half inch pistol shrimp that lives in a burrow with a three inch blenny a small fish to numerous corals and anemones. Interesting the blenny is very wary and the shrimp is blind, when trouble is coming the blenny pulls the shrimp back in the hole and when a tasty morsel is coming the fish encourages the powerful shrimp to grab it. Life in that tiny burrow is about two tiny creatures working together.
Last year a few days before school was out one of the teachers brought in a tiny green tree frog they had caught we arranged a little cage for observation. Over the years I have found the world close up can be more fascinating the great big world we live in. So often pieces are revealed that may other wise go unseen and life takes on a different aspect and perspective. This morning as I walked about the house the dew was so heavy from the humidity that all of the spider webs were very visible. I ended up taking photos of several with tiny dew drops hanging on each nearly invisible thread.

“Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it creative observation or creative viewing.” William S. Burroughs

So often we miss the small pieces always intent on seeing the big and little bits of life will pass us by. I recall watching my sons nano reef explode when he would drop in a feeding solution of microscopic particles of plankton and algae it was amazing. I do not even see what the tiny corals anemones and polyps can sense in the water. When they are closed up and appearing dead the animals open into beautiful living things seeking their prey when a food source is available. Nearly eight years ago I was handed a small piece of paper with my name on it written in blue ink and the word in capital letters PASS, written on it as well. That tiny note was the closure to two years of study and a door to another journey as my graduate school continued to unfold. So amazing a small piece of white copy paper can be so significant, for eight years now it has been in a frame in my classroom as a reminder. Please keep all in harms way on you mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird