Perhaps, within ourselves is the change we need

Bird Droppings November 14, 2018
Perhaps, within ourselves is the change we need

 

I have not been away from my computer for some time finally emailing a ninety nine percent complete pre-prospectus to my committee chair. I have a feeling of accomplishment and ended my procrastination. I am not complaining but I enjoy the morning pondering and thinking and of course writing about random educational, philosophical, spiritual and or other eclectic things. For me specific writing topics can have a way of blurring the brain. So today perhaps I am overthinking making up for some lost time.

 

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” Mary Engelbreit

 

I am very much a creature of routine of habit and when my daily path is altered I have occasion to be amiss. My days that go off in another direction or start late seem a bit out of kilter. Over the years I heard my father speak numerous times in his lectures and training sessions of W. Edwards Deming the man who changed Japan’s industry around. US industry knew of Deming but sort of turned a deaf ear. On the opposite end of the world Japan embraced Deming’s ideas.

 

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” W. Edwards Deming

 

Blunt and to the point Deming revolutionized industrial thinking and began the quality movement and in rebuilding Japanese industry as well as increasing production in the United States during World War II. It was the significant altering of industry in Japan that made the world pay heed to Deming and the quality movement.

 

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Victor Frankl

 

Philosophers and thinkers keep coming back to we may not be able to change the conditions but we can change ourselves. Often the indigenous medicine person would wander off into the wilderness to find him or herself through a vision. They would often forgo food and water for a period of time even submitting to a sweat lodge to assist in bringing about the vision. In today’s modern world such primitive endeavors are not always looked upon as acceptable and we seek other ways of finding one’s self. Some search within learning and understanding trying to delve deeper into the inner makings of mankind. Rationalizing, intellectualizing and forming theories and philosophical standards that stand the test of time.

 

“The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.” Henry Miller

 

In my observing and participating in the educational system I see this attitude daily. Functioning and attitudes are very much in line with Miller’s man who would literally cut off his own limbs for artificial ones to avoid the pain.

 

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.” Washington Irving

 

Coming back to my starting point of habit and routine we would rather than take another form of transportation and or for other reasons perhaps time and speed we as humans seem to put up with simply being bruised on the other cheek at least back in the day.

 

“When you are through changing, you are through.” Bruce Barton

 

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” John Kenneth Galbraith

 

I am as guilty as anyone on this point yet often I can prove my point. Many the times, I am often more so the one initiating the change or creating the dissidence that pushes for altering how a student does something. It is quite often a behavior that is deemed inappropriate for society and through modification or change might be made acceptable to others. Sometimes it is about conforming to what in a school setting falls into the rules and parameters that the majority allows for and desire. In some areas I am not quite the advocate of change and I try in general to keep any such endeavor limited to those that provide a means for a student to live within and get through graduation. I use my own credo of doing no harm to others as a basis for behaviors that might need some tweaking and or changing

 

“The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.” Ellen Glasgow

 

I have been a student and or teacher at eight possibly ten colleges and or universities and on numerous occasions I have worked with a team of instructors and professors in a course, now several times. I have found that each time it is new alive and viable and different. I can see the wrapping is the same and the course number and name but it changes with the group of students. Each course has pieces that will be exactly like the last yet each too is subtly different. I have found no two groups in teaching are the same so how can we teach the same material the same way every time. Sadly this is what text book manufactures want and school systems and school boards and parent groups push for and get. In Georgia we now have CCP’s Common Core Practices getting under way. Every little nuance is accounted for and every moment a student is in the class room.

 

“Life is its own journey, presupposes its own change and movement, and one tries to arrest them at one’s eternal peril.” Laurens Van der Post

 

I have over the years written about this several times. Van der Post writes about the last Bushmen painter, as he remembers the day that the last painter died. There was a series of caves and rocks on the edge of the Kalahari that each time he visited during his childhood new paintings of animals, birds and other aspects of nature would be appearing on the rock face. It was also during this time the South African Government much like our own had chosen the path of genocide for a people, the Bushmen. Van der post writes about hearing as a child the gun shots and upon a visit to the rocks and caves on a later day seeing the paintings that were now a series of red slashes and warriors dying and then no more paintings. The last painter had recorded the beginning of the end and there was not another to take his place.

 

“Growth is the only evidence of life.” John Henry Newman

 

“The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.” William Blake

 

As I look at the statements perhaps growth would have been looking at the Bushmen and seeing their views rather than destroying them. So many pathways in history have been of destruction rather than change, rather than seeing a different view.

 

“Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.” Marcel Proust

 

“We did not change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves.” Lynn Hall

 

I seriously wondered as I read and thought about this quote. Maybe we do not change but come to grips with and accept who we are rather than trying to be the image of what we think others want us to be. Watching students in high school so many simply trying to be what others want them to be.

 

“What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.” Mignon McLaughlin

 

As I sit and ponder how true this is, each event in our life has led us here to this moment and place.

 

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” Ellen Glasgow

 

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” Woodrow Wilson

 

I have a dear friend who constantly reminds me of this all movement is not forward and to that effect I once made an open ended rubric there were literally no parameters in any direction more of a shading as one event evolved into the next.

 

“Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.” Pauline R. Kezer

 

I really do like this illustration we find our grounding, our roots in the continuity of life but it is that new look that change that grows us and lifts us up.

 

“If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep       adding, keep talking, and keep advancing.” Saint Augustine

 

This is a profound statement and not to belittle who and what you are but to always be trying to be more than the point at which you are. Far too many people are content and stagnate repeating William Blake’s quote. “The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.”

 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.” Author Unknown

 

I generally like to attribute to someone a quote but this wording caught my attention a spin on Rhinehold Niebuhr’s words on his famous Serenity Prayer.

 

“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

“Things do not change; we change.” Henry David Thoreau

 

A general and a philosopher offer similar ideas but it is truly up to us to provide the catalyst and effort.

 

“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.” Francis Bacon

 

Inevitable that change will occur through evolution, migration, alteration, dissemination, ramification, ossification, delineation, degradation and even in our own country segregation. Change is evident always and certain how we adapt and survive this is the crucial point.

 

“Every possession and every happiness is but lent by chance for an uncertain time, and may therefore be demanded back the next hour.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Describing Schopenhauer many writers see his works as unlike many of his time he is easier to read often making sense on the first read. He was one of the first European philosophers to look at and utilize eastern thought. As I read this line life is much like a loan shark we borrow pieces only to have to eventually pay back with interest often at a higher rate. Sitting here this morning I wonder when our interest will be due for our current situations. 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 Oyasini (we are all related)

Bird

Mitakuye Oyasin(We are all related)

bird

Sometimes history is a teacher and others only a memory

Bird Droppings September 23, 2018

Sometimes history is a teacher and others only a memory

 

The anniversary of a day that will be a scar on our nation’s history has past. On September 15, 1963 an explosion tore through the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, it was on a Sunday. People had gathered for church four young girls were killed twenty two others injured. FBI investigations led to four members of the Ku Klux Klan who had planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the front steps of the church. The event in days after was described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.”

Over the next ten years one of the suspects was tried and convicted and after forty years two others were tried and convicted the fourth individual died before a conviction occurred. I was teaching a college class on US History a year or so ago and mentioned this in class. By chance my class was entirely nonwhite. We were discussing the end of World War Two and Harry Truman’s decision to drop the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sitting there discussing with my class an event that I could not justify in my own philosophy of life, the shear destruction of life in one single event knowing what has come from that bomb in future years. History has a way of leading to wisdom yet on so many issues we tend to simply push aside what we could learn.

Recently I had the mother of three former students tell me how much her sons and daughter thought of me while I was going into my current favorite store, Kroger. So here I am sitting at my computer pondering in the stillness of a Sunday morning, we all need ego stroking at one time or another. I recalled back to when I had those particular students in class and how difficult a time it was and yet so often when we pay attention to a student or a friend we do not realize how much we are truly affecting that person. Many times it is years later as is the case with this parent commenting to me a few nights ago as I walked in the store.

 

“I reach down and touch the delicate leaf of a plant. My friend’s words rise up in my heart. ‘Everything lives, everything dies, and everything leans to the light.’ If I only knew this it would be enough.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

 

When we show a bit of light to a student they turn just as the plant will slowly turn to face the light in many ways that person will as well. I recall a few years ago one of my students requested to be in my resource class all day, I really did not want them all day, but he responded how I did things made sense to him. Friendship so often is like sunlight. I started replacing my overhead lights a few years ago with grow lights. Actually the color is so much easier to deal with and colors of things are more real than the sickening yellow of standard fluorescent bulbs.

 

“Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.” St. Thomas Aquinas

 

How do we support friends and throw sunlight their way, maybe simple things, quiet things, a touch, a smile, an email.

 

“Friendship is one of the most tangible things in a world which offers fewer and fewer supports.” Kenneth Branagh

 

“I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar.” Robert Brault

 

Yesterday I printed out several pictures but two were of owls that were in effect clay turned jug owls made by a folk potter from north Georgia. I met Grace Nell Hewell who was the matriarch of a family of potters in Gillsville Georgia. She was a sixth generation potter from a family at that location turning pots for a living. I dropped them off in my friend’s room, no reason really just for being a friend, she teaches art and talks about potters in her sculpture class; sometimes we just do simple things.

 

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend — or a meaningful day.” Dalai Lama

 

“I do then with my friends as I do with my books. I would have them where I can find them, but I seldom use them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

When I am speaking of friends often I will say I really do not have that many friends one or two and usually a name or two will scroll through my head. I tend to be somewhat monastic. Yet when I am walking about in life there are few who I do not truly consider friends. I sit back in the in my chair at school typing away at my computer a row of books put together recently when a friend of my sons took interest in an area of thought I have been following for several years. Behind me shelves of books, theology, education, psychology, literature and poetry surround the walls and directly in front of me a quote.

 

“A very powerful axe in a master’s hand accomplishes much, that same in the hands of            a child nothing.” Edited by A.J. Russell, from Gods Calling

 

Emerson would have to be one of my heroes and I always seem to have something from him at my fingertips often paraphrased a bit; friends are like books, you have them there on a shelf sort of waiting for the need or specific instance that you will have. I ran into a friend from school as I went shopping at the grocery store, she said she hates to go grocery shopping and will try and go once a month. I go daily, to see my friends I never know who I might meet, coincidences. Yesterday I went for a few items and a student who was absent was there riding his skate board we talked, another inside,  a friend whom I have known for years was also shopping. So often my wife warns me as I walk in don’t stop and talk to all of your friends you will be all day.

 

“Give me work to do, Give me health, Give me joy in simple things, Give me an eye for beauty, A tongue for truth, A heart that loves, A mind that reasons, A sympathy that understands. Give me neither malice nor envy, But a true kindness and a noble common sense. At the close of each day give me a book and a friend with whom I can be silent.” S. M. Frazier

 

How do we as friends support each other midst the turmoil of life and tribulations of simply walking the face of the earth, how do we support  each other as we struggle to cross the stream with the rocks slippery and wet.

 

“Friendship needs no words…” Dag Hammarskjold

 

“But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life; and thanks          to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine.” Thomas            Jefferson

 

A seldom heard phrase, a seldom whispered thought, and a seldom thought idea is only seldom responded too, so then do it, as NIKE says and or be a friend.

 

“The real test of friendship is: Can you literally do nothing with the other person? Can             you enjoy together those moments of life that are utterly simple? They are the moment’s people look back on at the end of life and number as their most sacred experiences.” Eugene Kennedy

 

As I finish up this morning and in the course of the last hour or so thoughts of friends not just one or two that I would attest to but ever so many that I see and talk too every day each moment and email. Some are in college and I will see once a year or two maybe some I have not seen in several years and simple correspond daily in email. Still others share my home and some I see each day as I walk the halls at school or sit in the hall way observing and listening as folks go by. Friendship is a cement to build a life on as we travel from here to there, friends are everywhere. Sitting back that sort of sounds like Dr. Seuss, so today justice to all and 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

Can we find real learning in the Kalahari Desert?

Bird Droppings September 20, 2018
Can we find real learning in the Kalahari Desert?

 

Yesterday afternoon I was walking about the yard and along the side of our nearby dirt road taking pictures of wildflowers and grasshoppers among other things that I find as ponder. I spent several minutes trying to photograph a seed from a broom sage plant floating along in the afternoon breeze. A bit of down just going where the breeze would take it. It is very hard to focus on a moving piece of down and as I pondered it is much like walking into a class room and trying to teach kids who really do not want to be there.

 

Sadly their thoughts and ideas floating about wandering where ever the breeze of the day is blowing. I was listening as I drew near the back field and the sound of crickets and frogs was nearly deafening. An author I found in my later years Laurens Von der Post came to mind as I imagined the sounds and images before me. Most of Von der Post’s early learning years were spent on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa being raised by a Bushmen nanny.

 

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness. Both these processes are profoundly and mysteriously interdependent and doomed to failure without a continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation.” Laurens Van der Post

 

It was in the remembering of a very poignant childhood event Laurens Von der Post was witness to that he recalls the last days of man, at least to the Bushmen. It has been several months maybe even a year since I last picked up a Von der post book. Somehow in an email last evening I went looking for this author and prolific writer. As I researched last night and went to Amazon.com 61 pages of his books and variations and edited versions and translations are available. He died in 1996 at the age of 90 and, he had been everywhere and done everything. He was Prince William’s of Great Britain’s God father, the only non-royal ever to be so honored. He had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth many years ago. His writings while covering his adventures and travels worldwide, he is best known for his stories of the African bush. A Far Away Place, was made into a family movie of children and their trek in the African wilds. But as I read permeating all of his writing is a fascination and deep understanding of a nearly lost people, the African Bushman, or Sans as they call themselves.

 

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Von der Post

 

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us–and those around us — more effectively. Look for the learning.” Eric Allemburgh

 

Yesterday I was thinking in several directions, on one hand I was discussing education in the US with a fellow a high school friend of my youngest son and the pros and cons of public education somehow came into that discussion. I interjected a comment about indigenous peoples of South America and how Amazonian Native peoples will often want to experience civilization. I mentioned a unique program in Brazil as well, of protecting indigenous peoples from civilization where land is kept intact and rain forest left alone when a new tribe is found, literally keeping civilization out. Often armed guards patrol to prevent missionaries and civilizers from coming in contact with these primitive peoples. I started thinking in terms of learning environment and for the indigenous peoples of the jungle it is the jungle where the optimal learning environment is for them to survive. Far too often we interject our modern societal values and say they should learn this or that. This led me to a statement by John Holt from the other day and one that has been in my pondering now several days.

 

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

 

In that course of thought I went the direction of the Bushman and Von der Post. Last night I stood in the dark a bit longer than I usually do even with graduate studies and writing as well as my own college and high school lessons to prepare for when I took the dog out. The sky was streaked with clouds and a smiling moon was trying to peek through. I was standing on the porch listening to the night, almost silent. I went back out another time a bit later into the morning and by now all the clouds were nearly gone and stars permeating the entire sky. My shoulder has been bothering me and I laid back down putting my writing off till a bit later in the day. So often in my days a student who has an issue or a friend or teacher will find a Bird Dropping and then a series of events, I often use the term coincidence and it will have been just what they needed that day. For whatever reason I am compelled to build on a thought passing by as I am thinking never quite sure why.

 

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” Mary Kay Ash

 

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennet

 

Several days ago I received an email from a person to be added to my morning meanderings. I added this person to my list and yesterday received another email here in my rushing to get a Bird Droppings out I had written exactly what this person needed. When talking with my son yesterday he mentioned his former boss admitted she never read my meanderings and one day she had been searching and by chance opened my daily thought and again it was what she needed. I am wandering a bit from my learning idea but it is the contextual framework that we seem to build that provides us with those learning activities and experiences.

 

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Taylor Benson

 

“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.” Soren Kierkegaard

 

As I sit thinking about the drawing together of thoughts the past few days and ideas I come back to my involvement in Foxfire teaching techniques which is the basis for my one day to be finished dissertation. As I thought while reading several passages this morning, in a Von der Post’s book, The Lost world of the Kalahari. There is a comment about witnessing the last of the Bushmen painters. It seems there was a point in time when the Bushmen stopped their primitive art which was painted on the rocks in caves of the Kalahari. The last painter had been killed in an attack literally of genocide and no one knew how to take over the art. Laurens Von der Post writes how he heard those gunshots as a child.
As I looked at students walking the halls at my school and the discussions we have had over the past months on the internet it really dawned on me I was where I was to be, and doing what I was to do, offering at least a little piece of more than what is normally available. That could be hope, or it could be wisdom, It could be that talking about a bushmen ostrich egg with red neck kids in Georgia and interestingly enough preserving pieces of old Georgia in essays and photos and PowerPoint projects as we go. Von der Post in his book went in search of the last of the Bushman and found himself.

 

“Coincidences have never been idle for me, instinctively, but as meaningful as I was to find they were to Jung. I have always had a hunch that they are a manifestation of a law of life of which we are inadequately aware and which in terms of our short life are unfortunately incapable of total definition, and yet however partial the meaning we can extract from them, we ignore it, I believe, at our peril. For as well as promoting some cosmic law, coincidences, I suspect, are some sort of indication to what extent the evolution of our lives is obedient or not obedient to the symmetry of the universe.” Laurens van der Post reflecting on Carl Jung’s work

 

For many years now I have read and pondered Jung’s words and ideas. Back fourteen or so years ago an author James Redfield, wrote about coincidence in a fictional story of a lost manuscript The Celestine Prophecy. Redfield was trying to explain what he saw happening in his own life. Carl Jung in the early 1900’s coined the word synchronicity. I simplify and say I am at the right place at the right moment. What is amazing is when you look at life that way and you begin to see events unfold before you rather than just seeing through hindsight. I was reading a friends note earlier about how ever thing happens for a reason. I responded jokingly that it only gains reason if we learn from it. As I sit hear pondering this morning it is in looking that we truly see and in listening that we truly hear.

 

“A continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation” Laurens Von der Post

 

I went in the internet, to borrow from the Foxfire website the following:

“In the Foxfire Approach, learning environments are characterized by student involvement and action, by thoughtful reflection and rigorous assessment, by imagination and problem solving, by applications beyond the classroom for what is learned, and by meaningful connections to the community. In these classrooms, students build the ability to work collaboratively and assume responsibility for their own learning processes.” Foxfire Fund

Where and how does the Kalahari Desert and Bushmen and Learning and coincidence all tie in. An easy explanation can be seen borrowing from a core practice in the Foxfire teaching process

 

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to revisions and refinements.” Foxfire

 

We build through reflection and we grow through reflection.

 

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness.” Laurens Von der Post

 

I think reflection could be inserted just as easy into Von der Posts quote; we all need to take time to see where we are and then participate actively as we go in life. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind in 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

 

 

Should children be left behind?

Bird Droppings August 3, 2018

Should children be left behind?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

4 • The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.

5 • Active learning characterizes classroom activities.

6 • The learning process entails imagination and creativity.

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

8 • The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.

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

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

Foxfire fund Inc.

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Why is it hard to think about compassion?

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Compassion is the basis of morality.” Albert Schopenhauer

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Doing is the best teacher

Bird Droppings July 18, 2018
Doing is the best teacher

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird