Do more than belonging

Bird Droppings December 4, 2011

Do more than belonging

 

It has been quite a while since I was unable to walk out first thing in the morning whether weather or being lazy it was not a good morning to venture out and I think the dog knew it as well and slept in. A semester heads into its final week of classes than End of Course Tests and it will be hard with a few days off to try and finish so much unfinished business with graduate school and around the house in my herb gardens and flower beds. It has been a very dry year currently and any rain is welcome. It seems we have been having daily weather forecasts with scattered showers and a chance of sunshine and a chance of freeze. So much of my yard work has been put off due to wet conditions, grandbaby birthday, my mother in hospital and staying after school tutoring trying to help kids pass EOCT. It has been nearly five summers since I submitted a reflection of sorts for my doctorate work on a book I read based on looking at history in more than one color, more than one culture and or societal norm. Rereading that reflection led me to a powerful thought.

 

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

 

As I sit here this morning responding to emails from previous days I am slowly catching up. It is through our actions we are perceived, it was many many nights ago at a basketball game several fans were asked nicely to leave by administration and eventually sheriffs intervened in the altercation. You could be upset with a situation but when you vocalize using words that in reality do not really make sense, as so often swearing does not (sit and write literal meanings to most swearing) and add hand gestures and increase volume, you are being perceived as out of control. When asked nicely to cease such distracting behavior and you continue that too so only adds to the perception of perhaps out of control. When you on top of this you then speak to a sheriff in a derogatory manner, it again fuels the flames of perception, and you easily could be seen as a person who has ceased to utilize their own self-control and the result, being asked quite nicely to not be in the gym in public view might seem a bit understated.

It could be behavior modification time and coincidentally having a background in BM, that’s behavior modification by the way. Although today we use less harsh terms, Functional Behavior Analysis and Task Analyzes. BM is what it is about and there are times when I see some behavior that BM could mean more along the lines of potty training. For example, the first offense at a basketball game would end in the next game you can come but must wear a dog training collar. In control booth sits your modifier, preferably a spouse or child who probably will enjoy this, holding the button. If you get out of control they get to press the button sending a mild shock to your neck. However if you continue they also have on the side of the control the increase switch, raising the voltage. I think there are some spouses that may automatically go to max even for first jolt.

There is a chance of course that the child or spouse in the control booth has read Skinner’s books and articles and knows intermittent variable reinforcement works great too and shocks just to let their collared friend know who holds the button, and that might become the norm. Sporting events would never be the same. In the stands half the people sitting and twitching from shocks and the other half is sitting quietly smiling pressing the buttons. Kids could play their games and cheerleaders could cheer and what a wonderful time would be had by all. However had everyone read the first line of the first quote today none of this would be necessary.

 

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing” Uncheedah, grandfather of Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman

 

Is that something we now teach? In teaching biology I use a lesson and style of teaching that I had used myself in a graduate school class demonstration on existential teaching methods. I let the students find the answers and acted only as a facilitator. In one plastic container is a tiger salamander (Elmo) and in the other a leopard gecko (Emily) one is an amphibian and the other a reptile. The lesson is based on taxonomy and differentiating between amphibians and reptiles. Having done this numerous times in summer school in Biology and in my own classes during the school year those that work through the lesson will remember which is which far better than having read a book or heard in a lecture, they literally followed the trail. How often do we take away curiosity how often do we brush the trail clean of tracks?

 

“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity.” Edmund Burke

 

“It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellent.” Marcus T. Cicero

 

Far too often we do not have time for children’s questions; we do not want to follow a new trail as Uncheedah speaks of. We only want the status quo the peace and solitude of that lesson plan laid out months in advance and carefully formulated to cover each of the required curriculum needs of the subject in a given time span. Let us get from point A to point B and not venture off the track ever again.

 

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” Samuel Johnson

 

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt

 

So often I talk with students who are not curious. They seldom ask why and only accept what is taught to them and many do not even do that and simply shrug their shoulders and state they don’t care.

We should be teaching children to challenge, to question, never just accepting an answer. Back a few years one of my sons in high school had the highest regard for a teacher and on an occasion pointed out an error on a discussion transparency dealing with a specific type of animal. He pointed out that what was on the slide was in error and backed it up with the very biology book they were using, as well as other sources. A year later in he was in another Advanced Placement Biology class, and the same slide, same response. He again pointed out the error and the teacher was still teaching exactly the same, still in error and had never changed that slide. By chance three years later, speaking to a class, that slide again appeared, this time his respect for that teacher was gone, while a good teacher, a poor learner. It was difficult for a “teacher” to except a “students” understanding of a topic albeit that students brother had raised and bred that specific animal at home for many years so it was not simply a student spouting off, there was experiential knowledge involved.

 

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Edward Sagan

 

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

 

We got into a discussion of sorts on Friday about doing school work. So often teachers assign a certain number of problems in math regardless of whether the students know how to do that skill or not, homework for example you need to do these twenty problems. If the skill is known, why do the assignment other than practice, if not known, doing problems you do not know how to do, doesn’t help. This is not to pick on math teachers but so often this happens and students begin to look down on busy work. If that assignment had meaning, perhaps more care and effort would ensue.

 

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

 

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R. K. Bergethon

 

When you can apply a piece of knowledge it lasts far more than when it is simply an idea, a passing, thought something to forget. In some subjects it is difficult to make ideas applicable, at least this is what some teachers think and students soon grow weary and curiosity is gone. Several times I have mentioned a friend who in teaching history would occasionally dress as a knight or king and or a lowly goat herder to make a point drawing the class into the lesson. We got into a discussion at my nieces wedding on education of all things. Sitting talking between a new medical doctor, a nursing Ph.D. student, a recent college graduate, and myself a doctorate student in education and talking about Mercer Medical schools interesting concept of learning. Students are directly involved in learning which medical schools consider a new methodology and nursing students have known for a long time and well John Dewey explained nearly one hundred and twenty years ago as progressive education.

 

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

 

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

To instill curiosity a teacher must also be curious; a teacher must also be a learner. Recently I read several articles about schools where students and teachers make choices and decisions on the operation of the school, a truly democratic school. TheSudburyValleySchoolinMassachusettsis an example as I mentioned recently. Many years ago Socrates would simply ask a question and students would have to find the answers, not be told the answers and Socrates would assist through more questions. He must have upset his school board since he was required to drink poison.

 

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” Mark Twain

 

This is a good place to wind down today. I am sitting here, thinking, pondering, listening to R. Carlos Nakai on my Blackberry and wondering about where the day may go and what will be said and who will listen. I find solace in that thought. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Walking and Listening among the Cotton Woods

Bird Droppings August 4, 2011
Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

I walked outside earlier as I took our infamous dog Lil Girl out for her morning constitutional. The sky was overcast this morning with a mist of rain falling and wisps of fog scattered about on the warm earth were visible. Over the years I have spent many days in the mornings alone sitting observing in the wee hours sometimes even wrapped in a blanket for the cold. I would spend my time listening and watching as time went by. There were mornings when falling stars by the hundreds would pass by and I would feel as if I was the focus of their attention watching all in space aim towards me. I would sit and hours later write poetry and verses logging down emotions events and moments in my journal of sorts. Not too long ago my mother bestowed on me nearly twenty years of ramblings in old cardboard file boxes. I had forgotten she had been going through them. There are even a few rejection slips from publishers on poetry ideas.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

One day recently I was told I had a great vocabulary. I came home and asked my wife; “Do I have a great vocabulary?” I really wanted an answer to boost my ego and she said, “it really depends on who you are talking too.” You know at first I was hurt but then she said not that many people have seen or heard what you have in your life and sharing that expands their vocabulary as well. I instantly felt better.

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper

In days gone by and even today I will pick up an encyclopedia and read the volume much like a book, ok tonight’s light reading is H. I just put up an old set of Encyclopedia Britannica donated from the media center as they replace there set every so often and give teachers old ones.

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

We have all grown up with the statement about how curiosity killed the cat but a lack there of will also keep the world at a standstill and nothing will happen.

“Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” Peter F. Drucker

A great guru of business Peter Drucker has written many books helping people manage their businesses. If you look at our society and the pace of new information and technology we are living in a world where while you sleep things change. This statement is even truer today than when Drucker wrote it in the sixties.

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have come to enjoy Emerson and I use his sayings often. He was a rather grizzly looking old goat of a man. When I read this I realized several times recently this is how I described what a school should be like. It should be literally a teacher, as a door. With the teacher or door person simply opening the door at appropriate times allowing information to go in. As the student becomes more and more adept the doorman is needed less and less till soon only a receptionist is needed to assist in organizing thoughts.

“Knowledge, without common sense, says Lee, is folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, it is fanaticism; without religion, it is death. But with common sense, it is wisdom with method, it is power; with clarity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue, and life, and peace.” Austin Farrar

I sat and spoke at length over lunch several days ago and walking back to class with a good friend who had just returned from nearly a year in Afghanistan, we were talking of cultural differences to us sometimes these differences are ridiculous and yet to a people they are a part of life. I have been fascinated with a tiny group of people and have been reading several books lately dealing with the Sans or “Bushman” of the Kalahari in South Africa as well as several other indigenous peoples who have been stripped of their homes and culture for the sake of mankind we are told.
It seems diamonds have been found in the Kalahari and the Sans who have lived there for tens of thousands of years, hunting and gathering now must leave and go learn to farm to be civilized. Perception was left out of many of the verses today for a hunter in the Kalahari may not know of Quantum physics but he or she does know where to find and how to find water and juicy grubs for dinner. What if the antelope has escaped during the hunt as a Bushmen you know the signs to track and finish the job.
Knowledge is of when and where you are now going back to my wife’s comment to me this morning and my own vocabulary learned through so many experiences and books read.

“Gugama, the creator, made us. That was a long time ago – so long ago that I can’t know when it happened. That is the past, but our future comes from the lives of our children, our future is rooted in the hunt, and in the fruits which grow in this place. When we hunt, we are dancing. And when the rain comes it fills us with joy. This is our place, and here everything gives us life. “Mogetse Kaboikanyo

Mogetse Kabokikanyo was a Kgalagadi man who lived alongside the Gana and Gwi Bushmen in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In February 2002, he was forcibly relocated to a camp outside the reserve. He died just four months later. He was probably in his fifties; his friends said his heart stopped beating. After years of struggling to remain on his land, Mogetse was buried in the desolate relocation camp, far from his ancestors’ graves. We citizens of the United States talk of human rights and dignity but in a case closer to home, it is very similar.
In about 1909 or so Geronimo was told finally he could not be allowed to return to the White Mountains of New Mexico to die. He must remain at Fort Sill Oklahoma on the Apache reservation literally a prisoner of war where he died shortly thereafter. I have been to the grave site of Geronimo many times in my travels to Lawton Oklahoma. Driving out past military vehicles and such to a quiet spot along the river where no visible modern sights are even noticed only the rustling cotton wood trees and the flow of water over the stones in the river alongside the grave yard. A rolling landscape and meadow of grass go up from a small gravel parking area. Not many people come to this corner of Fort Sill.
Many times as I sat alone staring across the meadow listening to the stream and feeling a breeze brush lightly time rearranged and it was so easy to slip back to days when people buried here had names and not simply numbered markers. Knowledge is an elusive ethereal entity flitting about as a monarch travels many thousands of miles between hills in Mexico and Georgia. Knowledge is elusive in how it conveys power to some and solace to others. Knowledge is walking along the stream by a grave from a time long gone and knowing we can change mankind we can make a difference it is the Geronimo’s and Mogetse Kaboikanyo’s who are the real teachers.
It may be one step one small tiny speck at a time but one day others will be able to stand among the cotton woods in Oklahoma or beneath a bush in the Kalahari and know tomorrow is a far better day hopefully mankind has learned. One day maybe not today knowledge will truly be. But till then please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and try to offer a hand to any slipping as they cross the stream.
namaste
bird

Searching for knowledge

Bird Droppings March 9, 2011
Searching for knowledge

How do we as teachers and parents convey knowledge to our students and children? It could be said that by following the established curriculum guides and maps and doing what is expected of a high school student you will learn this material as indicated. I think my frustration comes when students do not want to learn at all. I get very frustrated when I hear statements such as I know enough to get along in this world already or know enough about this subject. I think my favorite is why do I need this anyhow?

“I do believe that with some students, if they are not ready, learning cannot occur. But I worry that some students aren’t ready because they are not aware of the full table that is set. There is rejection without knowledge. I think the challenge may be to try to get them to the full table and then let them decide.” Frances Friedman

I have been sitting here thinking about this email from a dear friend and mentor for several minutes, pondering and reflecting. What if we do not provide enough information to a student? I spend much of my day doing academic support with emotionally disturbed students. Many times I will hear from students the teacher never taught us that. Trying to keep both sides in perspective I will discuss with the parents, teacher and with the student and work out a compromise of sorts, often just buying a bit of time. However often there can be learning curves on both ends especially with special needs students.

“Rejection without knowledge” Frances Friedman

“Knowledge is that which, next to virtue, truly raises one person above another.” Joseph Addison

I have always been fascinated with information. It made my day when several years back the game Trivial Pursuit came out and became a big hit. On TV the show Jeopardy is still a popular game watched around the world where a few years back Ken Jennings won over two million dollars with bits and pieces of information. He defeated opponents by answering over 2700 questions correctly. It has been a few years now since the final episode of his wining streak aired and more recently Jennings went up against a super computer on the show.

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

We have to encourage active participation in students. We have to try and instill a curiosity and not set limits and parameters on learning. If students do not know something, provide the means, the pathway, so that they can learn. Knowing where to find an answer can be as meaningful in the life of a student as the knowledge of that answer.

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R.K. Bergethon

“Knowledge is like money: the more he gets, the more he craves.” Josh Billings

Trying to keep learners learning is the key to great teaching. Make learning something students want and need. I would borrow from a friend who teaches high school who teaches in Pennsylvania “make learning fun”.

“To me the charm of an encyclopedia is that it knows and I needn’t.” Francis Yeats Brown

“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” Sandra Carey

When I was in second grade we got our first set of World Book encyclopedias. I thought I was in heaven and literally began reading the books cover to cover. As I now sit and remember minute details of the ancient past and try to instill knowledge to young folks, it is not to go read the entire encyclopedia but it is, in which room and on what shelve they are located. With modern technology it is now about what and how to find information on the internet. Knowing where things are is really becomes more important than knowing every fact, although the facts help. We in education get into a content and context sort of disagreement. Some teachers want to teach only content and others context. However for information or knowledge to be useful and coherent, it has to have context.

“It is not the quantity but the quality of knowledge which determines the mind’s dignity.” William Ellery Channing

“Knowledge of the world can only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.” Lord Chesterfield

We have to provide the venues and pathways to information, to knowledge, Ms. Friedman stated in the first quote. Students have to have access to the table. If we set a wonderful feast before them and don’t allow access to the table, of what good is all that is there.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper

Can there ever be enough knowledge? Should we ever limit what knowledge is available? In 1956 the great theologian Reinhold Neibuhr wrote this simple prayer as part of one of his sermons.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Neibuhr

For many years that simple philosophy written on a card has been laying on my desk. I recall a scene from a movie, most will not remember, “Billy Jack” where this prayer is used. Imagine a school or society where we lived what Neibuhr thought in his prayer. What if we applied serenity, courage and wisdom to our lives daily? Today we are challenged by which way to go and why. Thinking back many years to an old movie “Indiana Jones and The last Crusade”, “choose wisely” the old knight told Indiana Jones and he did. May your day be filled with knowledge and peace and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird