Teaching is a journey it is not copy, paste or bubble.

Bird Droppings February 6, 2018

Teaching is a journey it is not copy, paste or bubble.

 

“To project an image of what Public Education in the US might become in the 21st Century is more to move back and forth between the predictable and the possible.” Maxine Greene, Colombia University, res: Imagining futures: the public school and possibility, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 2000

 

I read an article by the late Maxine Greene written nearly twenty years ago. As I read her words they ring true as much at this moment and a vote in the Senate as they did when John Dewey wrote over a hundred years ago. Children learn more in the first few years of life, how to walk, talk, read, write communicate and even aspire to religious beliefs than in any period to come later. Maxine in her article addresses the missing piece in today’s so structure driven educational process. Communication, real communication is where learning occurs in the fullest. Technology doesn’t kill off communication but how we use technology can. Standardized tests don’t kill communication but how we use those does.

 

It has been several days well over a week since I had a chance to go out early and ponder as I say. But to start my day a thought from a young lady caught my attention. She had posted a status to Facebook that made me think actually think quite a bit. We are all familiar with the Chinese proverb used by many as a poster or card on their walls.

 

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Ancient Chinese Proverb

 

The post that caught my attention was altered a bit. I had a felt banner on my class room and office walls for many years to that effect. Sadly a converse statement was posted which really hit me as I think about politics and education today.

 

“Teach a man to fish, and he will still vote for the man who gave him a fish.” Goldman Sachs Elevator

 

I had to search for an author and while I am sure there is a person attached the fact that Goldman Sachs Elevator had posted made my day. This statement is coming from a company that nearly destroyed America and received a paltry slap on the wrist. But I responded to the post. “I would question the teaching and was it simply a matter of test scores.” My comment was removed or did not make to posting. Education is the point here for me not the political implications that others jokingly remarked about. As I traveled around this morning I thought more about this and how we educate kids. I have been talking with several other educators over the past few days and continually the idea of context comes up. We are removing context from our educational system. Think in terms of money being put into computer programs virtual schools so to say. Efficient and cheaper than having a teacher in front of class let alone a laboratory for experiments and context. Goldman Sachs loves it. As I arrived home my son sent me a note that may have been intended for me that came to him. Interesting research is showing tests taken on computers tend to have lower scores than paper tests.

 

 “Good Morning my friend. I have been wrestling with a topic, and I was wondering if you would give it some thought and comment. It might even be a good topic for Bird Droppings. Lately, we have been blasted for kids earning low grades and for not motivating students. The problem, as I have come to see it, is that motivation, specifically self-motivation, emanates from a perception of a desire or perceived “need.” If a student never develops or sees a need for education or never develops a desire to better himself, then all the great teaching in the world falls on deaf ears. I am so frustrated that education has been so standardized, homogenized, and reduced to 4 choices on a page. It has no real value to kids any longer. I am rambling a little, but I know you understand what I’m trying to say. It’s almost like the story of the Lotus Eaters. No needs, no desires, equals no motivation. Getting an A or passing a test, at least to me, is not motivation. Just wondering about your thoughts. Here is a ridiculous thing our county does. Kids take benchmark tests every nine weeks over nothing but the standards. There will be one question such as, “How is the word “superfluous” spelled?” And that measures a kids spelling ability. It’s all a bunch of hooey.” A good friend and teacher in South Georgia  

 

In response another point of interest in my morning travels. I was checking my Facebook and email while sitting in IHOP several days ago. Every once in a while folks are out of town and I get a morning to wander early and feed myself. So I had crepes with fruit and a couple eggs at one of my favorite restaurants. Another friend posted a selfie, one of those photos taken with a smart phone of our selves taken in front of a mirror or window as appeared to be the case here. My profile picture has been a selfie a time or two and I am sure many on Facebook and other sites are as well. I responded to the photo not picking on my friend by any means but my initial thought. My friend is a professor at a Georgia University.

 

“A runner selfie maybe a paper or book out there, in our own self-image as we now instantly see ourselves as others do no longer do we see the reversed image of a mirror. A crazy thought sitting in an IHOP eating breakfast have we taken an omnipotent view of ourselves in this instantaneous world view we have. Are we removing the need for God and prayer for individuality since we now have instant news images at our disposal? There is literally no time for praying and self is then focus of attention.” Frank Bird teacher, photographer, grandfather and ponderer

 

Are we losing that interest as my good friend and music teacher proposed? I am starting to think so as each group of ninth graders comes to high school more self-centered than the last. Are we in our technology leaving out a piece? In this mad rush to standardize and test everything and everybody are we forgetting the self. Are we simply trying to quickly mold each person into a desired person to be and transform society to a copy and paste world? I watch kids copy and paste all day long and even in college classes I teach; I had a paper submitted that registered 99% plagiarized and was still in format of Encyclopedia Britannica on line. Student got a zero I cannot even give partial credit for turning it in that way. Funny thing is kids have a hard time copy and pasting to learn anything only desiring to finish assignment.

 

So where do I go from here today I borrowed a thought for my own Facebook status and photo quote I post from Chief Dan George.

 

“Where no one intrudes many can live in harmony” Chief Dan George

 

I can be quickly monastic and enjoy just like my morning wanderings time by myself. But it is not just about being alone it is about intruding and we as a society intrude constantly on everyone and much is self-imposed intrusion. We post statements about our love lives, partners in crime; some people even post publically their crimes. That is self-intrusion. I enjoy my communications with so many through social media. But I tend to avoid the self-deprecation so many get into. So today I end with my daily rant please keep all in your heart and on your mind that are in harm’s way and please give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Being an example is such a simple lesson plan

Bird Droppings January 31, 2018
Being an example is s
uch a simple lesson plan

Early this morning a video was posted on several educators’ social media pages. It was of a seven year old child who had been violent in the class room. It was a general education class room and the child had a history of violence. In a few hours there were hundreds of comments. Blaming the parents, the father wanted the child evaluated the mother did not. The police of course for handcuffing a seven year old and man handling him out of the school. The administration for knowingly allowing a violent child to be in the room in the first place. So where did I land in the conversation? I have been there and done that being a former teacher of Emotional Behavior Disordered students. I have worked in residential treatment facilities. I have had to restrain students and had students removed in restraints.

 

But I came back to my first experience in Georgia as a teacher subbing long term in Macon middles school. First class in Georgia was middle school “special education” 1973 or so. Average age 15 and I went home swearing I would not go back. Reflected on the day and why teacher was out for nervous breakdown long term. I did go back carrying a duffle bag. (No guns and or baseball bats) I have been an active herpetologist for many years. Baby was a seven foot red tailed Colombian boa. Several kids were threatening me to take my bag I said fine. When the bag moved the room went quiet and when I showed what I brought they were glued to walls. I used as teachable moment not a threat. We talked about reptiles particularly snakes by end of day I was self-contained every kid had held snake. Next day friends came and I brought snake and reptile books. After two weeks principal offered me a full time job said in that semester only time he was not called to room daily, I was subbing. Granted I did not ask permission but continued my animal passion in high school Job 2001. I could not continue teaching, spring semester was starting at Mercer University I was enrolled and I really wanted to finish college.

 

How was I setting an example I showed interest in the kids instead of trying to escape as they thought I would. I asked questions of them and learned from them. I left principal with some suggestions for next substitute since teacher never came back.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

There has been much research done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Developmentalists have written and been written about, numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.

“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

 

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

 

We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.
“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

 

Sitting in a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Asking why is even more interesting.

“Whatever”
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”

These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some graduate schools and I had data showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat several who actually have difficulty reading the test I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However imagine the self-esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a master’s program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45.
I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people except some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.
SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East become more difficult with each moment it seems. With sunrise only hours away please always give thanks for what you have namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

LIFE

Bird Droppings January 30, 2018
LIFE

Morning is a special time a beginning. Several aspects make it special first one of taking the dog out and talking with them as he sniffs and does his thing in the yard. Then I go to my writing and reading which has become my meditation for the day and has become in many ways a significant part of each of my days. I walked out this morning and felt the chill but the clouds had diminished and the nearly full moon was setting in the west. I looked out across the meadow and the big dipper was rising above the trees and the stars were crystal clear in the morning darkness through the pines and oaks.

“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

It has been sometime since as I left my room after classes and go through the guidance office saying hello to several people, checking up on files and paperwork that I saw a person was missing I noticed and never questioned as the day went on. I sensed an absence yet still had not questioned. As the day ended I heard from over the announcements one of the staff had suffered a heart attack during a stress test and was having surgery.

“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 research. It was hard getting to work after eating dinner and lounging for a few minutes. I emailed several people last night just touching base although my iPhone was ready to call it a day.

“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 few weeks back 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 as normal. It seems we all are creatures of habit and our routines kick in and sort of lead us through the day.

“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 so many times and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a mason jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness. That time seem an eternity ago on a hill in Pennsylvania.

“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

Often as my week progresses and days roll by I wander back thinking of reasons why and always end up thinking of my younger brother. In 1996 my brother passed away and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had literally built our lives around my little 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

Sitting here among my books and artifacts I know 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 led me to the moment of now.

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

It has been several years since I received an urgent call from my nephew. We had gone to an away football game up in North Georgia and actually were out of cellular range for some time. The call was about a friend that had been in a car accident and as that day unfolded I spent the night in the Athens Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving. I sat watching banks of meters, gauges and dials. I was hoping that the numbers on the dials would change. Throughout the night nothing indicated brain wave activity and by morning our dear friend was pronounced dead. When I arrived home on my computer was this quote from an Aerosmith song. Seems I come back to that note ever so often in my writings. In 1968 as I left for Texas for college I received a book from my parents that I still have on my shelf, it was a Bible 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 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, and was 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 poet’s words offer comfort or give direction back to the journey set off course in but one moment time. There is no filling of a void. Yet when looking at life and all that has been and when looking at the journey to now there truly was never a void. There is a turn in the road, a new direction, all that has led to this point has not changed and it 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 already 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 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 and keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand Namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

The fragility of life

Bird Droppings January 28, 2018

The fragility of life

 

Early this morning I was awakened a bit early with the pouring down of rain. I also getting old and needed to take a potty break. Hearing what I the rain and a teenager I assume tearing out of our subdivision about two in the morning did not help my sleep as well. It was around four I went back to sleep and having nothing special to do slept late. Actually some of what I thought was rain was the bathroom water still running I forgot to jiggle the handle. When I finally got to my computer I decided to catch up on emails and do some reading.

 

A dear friend sends out numerous emails much like I do and I opened up an old one with the subject line of A letter to the Editor. Over the years I had seen this several times when he would address local or national issues and I was pretty much ready for anything but what he wrote. After reading his comments which were about arming teachers and more gun talk focusing on the political pressuring from NRA and other groups, more recently than in previous years. I did get thinking and most of the effort is profit not constitution oriented. Just think about it of major industrialized countries we have nearly ten times as many legal guns and twenty times more homicides per hundred thousand residents and with every gun control scare ammo and gun sales sky rocket. I often wonder about capitalism and sarcastically think is it not a great entity?

 

“Respect for the fragility and importance of an individual life is still the mark of an educated man.” Norman Cousins

 

I got thinking back and in another situation just a several years back a neighbor in our subdivision not the one tearing out at two earlier, was called while in Tennessee to hurry home his daughter had come down with a high fever and was rushed to the hospital. Before he could get to Atlanta she had passed away. Several different issues, a malfunctioning spleen and severe infection had caused her death.

 

“…when we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all being.” Sogyal Rinpoche

 

As I heard the story from my son who knows our neighbor better than I do. I was taken back and recalled raising three children through all of those years and illnesses and trials and tribulations. My wife made a comment several times over the holidays about how it is a miracle that any child gets to be an adult as she played with our grandchildren almost holding them every second she had available.

 

It was nearly ten years ago my wife and I both lost our fathers within a few months of each other. I recall leaving my own fathers bedside where he lay still not talking anymore as I drove to hear my son at a choir camp he had attended for a number of years in a talent show presentation. He had become locally famous for his blues harmonica and his rendition and cover of two great singers. Maybe I should say a great songwriter and a singer; some folks will never like Bob Dylan’s singing, He combines Bob Dylan and Axl Rose’s in a duet version of Knockin on Heavens Door. This morning a photo of two hawks together in a tree posted on Facebook by a fellow teacher reminded me of that day.

 

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

 

Knockin on Heavens Door by Bob Dylan, 1973

 

As I drove to hear my son sing I passed a nearly pure white dead pine tree alongside the road. Sitting guarding the way were a pair of red tailed hawks. Seldom have I seen two together sitting. When I received a call the following morning I knew my father had passed away. I have this song still daily on my mind as I use it as my sons ring tone on my cell phone. My father had lived a full life and we celebrated his life in his passing. Throughout his life my father shared an affinity for Native American culture and understanding with me. It was late in life he had found his great grandmother my great great grandmother was Leni-Lenape (Delaware) who were part of the Algonquin nation. It was later I learned she had been a medicine women. In many societies women hold equal if not more power than men and among the native peoples from tribe to tribe you find some differences. As I was reading I found this thought. Within the Sioux Nation many legends exist of The White Buffalo Calf Woman. She was the first of the Sioux and all came from her. Along with that legend and story is this simple lesson for life.

 

Lakota Instructions for Living

Friend do it this way – that is,
whatever you do in life,
do the very best you can
with both your heart and mind.

And if you do it that way,
the Power Of The Universe
will come to your assistance,
if your heart and mind are in Unity.

When one sits in the Hoop Of The People,
one must be responsible because
All of Creation is related.
And the hurt of one is the hurt of all.
And the honor of one is the honor of all.
And whatever we do affects everything in the universe.

If you do it that way – that is,
if you truly join your heart and mind
as One – whatever you ask for,
that’s the Way It’s Going To Be.

Words passed down from White Buffalo Calf Woman

 

I recommend for those who have an interest in Native peoples to read Black Elk Speaks. I recall a dear friend offering his copy for me to read nearly forty years ago at Mercer University. Since that time I have given away several copies. The lesson from Black Elk is one of, we are all interconnected and all of life is a circle from beginning to end and back.

 

“Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our teepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.” Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

 

My days and evening often end or start with a swirl of smoke. I will place a bit of white sage, sweet grass, several ursa leaves and a few other bits and pieces in a bowl and watch the smoke curl skyward as I ponder the day. The burning of sage and sweet grass is a cleansing act and sacred to many people. Last night I walked out to silence as a light breeze took away the smell of the rain and mist. As I fanned the embers with a hawk feather and watch the last few wisps of smoke rise a tiny single brilliant white cloud passed by me heading towards the stars and moon.

 

I opened an email unknowingly thinking this was another political gesture or comment on the financial crisis impacting each of us and found a letter from a father who had lost a son just a few days ago. It was a letter of words he needed to say and many were unspoken. As I went through the day yesterday thinking about how tomorrow I would be surrounded by teenagers and life my thoughts were with my friend and his wife who were grieving the passing of a vibrant and youthful son.

 

It has been several days since my mother handed me a note entitled, What if I had never been born”. As I read her thoughts addressing myself and sisters and our children she told me the story of her grandfather who should have died in a coal mining accident so many years ago. We talked about how we each have purpose even the smallest amongst us. I often draw reference to my vision I had many years ago of life as a puzzle, a magnificent and grand puzzle. Each piece is multifaceted and minute, yet each unique and interconnected to the next. I try to understand when it seems that nothing makes sense. Each piece of the puzzle is hard to see when alone. It is within the pieces falling in place that the picture is made whole. What if I had died when I stopped breathing numerous times in seizures as a baby? What if I had not come home from the West Chester Hospital when I was three years old and sick with polio? What if I had not awakened from surgery when I again stopped breathing as a teenager? But these pieces of the puzzle those aspects of who I am have made me and it is each piece that provides us with strength and courage to see other pieces fall into place.

 

It has been nearly seventeen years since my oldest son left me a post-it note with a quote on it when I got home from sitting through the night with a young man who had been in a car accident. I watched monitors bleep and blip and never did they go the direction I really wanted. When morning came he was declared gone. I sat listening to discussions and comments and wondered till I got home and found my note.

 

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

 

As I read that letter again from my friend I knew my friends son had loved life, he had made a mark on each of his family members, wife and all who knew him. I thought back to that small cloud passing over my head as I went out last night in my meditations. My friends please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

A chill in the air but not in the heart, thank you Maya Angelou

Bird Droppings January 26, 2018

A chill in the air but not in the heart, thank you Maya Angelou

 

For several weeks now we have been balancing between warm and cold weather in the early mornings which still is too cold for the crickets and tree frogs who need an ambient temperature a bit more warm, maybe high fifties low sixties. So for today my orchestra was silent as a near freeze not only permeated but encompassed our back yard and today was one of quietest of this year at the house. I keep recalling why I like Georgia it is supposed to be warmer. Last night I watched a couple of minutes of news and I am concerned about things to come.  Walking through the house earlier today I could not get warm it seemed the cold was seeping in the house. Now as I am sitting here writing it dawned on me I may have left the dampener open from a fire the night before in the chimney. However over the years I have found warmth in reading and pondering as I call it. It seems I can always find the right words when I turn a page or two.

 

“A bizarre sensation pervades a relationship of pretense. No truth seems true. A simple morning’s greeting and response appear loaded with innuendo and fraught with implications. Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.” Maya Angelou

 

As I move my thinking to students and people in general we balance our lives in a series of trust and distrust often a teeter totter or see saw effect. Often we become jaded and calloused through constant distrusting and soon we respond as Angelou indicates in a sterile manner. About once or twice a year I will pull my old guitar out and play. My fingers at first feel each string and after a while pain will tear through my finger tips from the pressure of strings on flesh. Eventually after several days I will callous my fingertips back.

Rock legend has it perhaps even urban rock myth it should be called is that the late great guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn during a concert super glued his calluses back on when his fingers began to bleed. As I read this first quote, we can become callous we can become sterile but much more is involved. I also sense a similar relationship to my own use of the Hindustani word namaste, both a sterile hello or goodbye for some and for others one of reverence and humility. It is in the eyes and ears of the receiver and the giver. Today I learned a new phrase, sat shree akal that is Punjabi and means truth is the ultimate God and or truth is timeless.

 

“Achievement brings its own anticlimax.” Maya Angelou

 

 “All great achievements require time.” Maya Angelou

 

Maya Angelou writes of paradox of achievement and anticlimax. As I sit and think achievement is an attainment of a goal and with that attainment is a realization of a new goal a new mountain to climb perhaps it is that awareness of the anticlimax and yes most definitely time is always a factor.

 

“All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.” Maya Angelou

 

Maybe most men are prepared would be better. There are many who will still sit on their posteriors. Sitting today reading Angelou’s thoughts is a series of how to and why’s. I have listened many times to Dr. Angelo read her works or discuss topics on talk shows. Her words while calming are twice as meaningful listening to her speak them. There was a passion about her spirit and soul.

 

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Maya Angelou

 

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” Maya Angelou

 

“Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.” Maya Angelou

 

She was philosopher, poet, writer, activist, educator, humanitarian, civil rights leader, and the list goes on but always children are at the center of Angelou’s thinking and thoughts. Any book that can form a habit of reading is good. What a powerful statement in a society that would ban many books in schools and libraries? While not on the news now periodically we have this or as in a nearby county once upon a time, putting disclaimer labels in science books. I often wonder how when opening a book and a label states what you read in this science book may or may not be true is a good way to start a science lesson.

 

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” Maya Angelou

 

“Education helps one case cease being intimidated by strange situations.” Maya Angelou

 

Two words that seem to permeate Dr. Angelou’s writing are courage and education. These two words are constantly mentioned described and eluded to. Perhaps the explanation is in the first of the two statements above, “without courage you cannot practice any other virtue”. As I ponder, education requires courage it is that willingness to achieve to go beyond where you are it requires first courage to make that effort and then education to do it.

 

“I believe that every person is born with talent.” Maya Angelou

 

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.” Maya Angelou

 

As I saw this I thought of two individuals far apart historically and in many ways yet similar, George Washington Carver and Bill Gates. Both men through vision and fantasy transformed our realities possibly beyond the actual dreams they originally had.  My morning would be totally different if not for these two men many of the items used in the kitchen reflect ideas from Dr. Carver and my laptop computer and internet use are directly related to Mr. Gates.

 

“If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” Maya Angelou

 

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Maya Angelou

 

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” Maya Angelou

 

We are the beginning and the end of the circle. How we live and interact with others continues and perpetuates the circle. I have never been able to understand why this is so hard for people in general to understand. We seem to be having greed as a human trait. How sad that is to inherently assume man is greedy by nature. Animals only keep what they need for survival. Man is the only creature that hordes and amasses wealth.

 

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.” Maya Angelou

 

Caring and concern begins at home and then spreads out from there. It is not about the face you put on when you need to but that which you truly carry in your heart and live and breathe daily. I enjoy Dr. Maya Angelou’s words. The few times I have watched her on TV and in reading her books that are in my own library. She is a person of concern and of caring. She is trying to do her part in her corner of the world for all of humanity. It is for each of us to try and do likewise where we are in the world.

 

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” Maya Angelou

 

So I end another morning as I have now for some time till everyone listens to Dr. Angelou’s thoughts that ring in my heart today let me repeat this last quote one more time.

 

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” Maya Angelou

 

It brings tears to my eyes as I sit knowing I need to continue ending my daily meanderings as I have for so many years, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind  and in your hearts 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

 

 

 

Should we be examining the threads of life?

Bird Droppings January 25, 2018
Should we be examining the threads of life?

 

“Man did not weave the web of life he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, 1854

 

It has been a few years since I read a National Geographic article where the lead in photo was a superimposed image of goats hanging from spider webs. Genetic engineering was in the process of producing in goat milk the proteins from spider silk webbing. Spider web silk happens to be one of the strongest natural occurring fibers known to man. The biggest problem being there is not much of it. On some mornings as I go out to sit and think many issues are pressing it may be a busy day ahead, or a paper due later electronically, or papers to grade. I generally start my morning listening through the darkness I could hear my dog rustling as he does through the bushes trying to find the elusive chipmunks and whatever other great creatures he hunts in our back yard. A car alarm broke the semi silence and was quickly silenced more than likely someone rolled over and as I do often accidentally hit remote panic button.
Rain and cold will be returning to the area and although warm temperatures during the day my aching body can feel the weather change. I seem every morning to check for a sunrise to the east today I was alone and the center of my world. On some mornings, when temperatures allow, silken strands find their way from grass stem to weed stem literally covering hundreds of feet. It is an interconnecting web of life. Perhaps that is what drew me to this statement from Chief Seattle. So often we go about life as being the center of the universe only seeing that all revolves around us. In medieval times this was the cause for much debate being that to them man the center of all that is. I find it amazing that civilized people have a difficult time with this. In most indigenous cultures more primitive people see themselves as merely a cog a thread in a great machine or web of life.

 

“This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected” Chief Seattle, 1854

 

There is much controversy as to actual words spoken by Chief Seattle. Some say the translation written by a friend was not truly what was said and since recording devices were in their infancy and only transcribed translations are available we are left with the words as they are. It is said many were moved to tears as he spoke these words. So many times as I sit outside my room observing students and teachers pass by I see many view life from the center not as a part of all that is.

 

“That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. The end of living and the beginning of survival.” Chief Seattle, 1854, these lines are attributed to early 20th C. historian and ethnographic writer, A. C. Ballard added after many years

 

I was intrigued as different versions of Chief Seattle’s speech seem to be recorded. There is one version that has even been suggested as having been written for Hollywood and a movie. I read the end of the speech which is the line above and perhaps Mr. Ballard did add these lines many years later but the last line interested me. “The end of living and beginning of surviving”. How far have we come in civilization to go from living off the land to trying and surviving on it? Back in the day not that long ago a family could live and do well on a small farm raising what they needed how fast quickly things changed. I recall a scene from a recent movie “The Missing”. A farm family in the west raising horses and cattle the oldest daughter goes to town to see all the new-fangled contraptions to make life easier, at a fair. Perhaps it is here we changed from living to surviving. Was it when we stopped making what we needed and started buying things to make life easier?
Soon we needed things to do with time freed up and leisure become a major part of our day. Interesting how we now need to make more income to enjoy our leisure and surviving becomes more than just food and clothing but being able to afford having a “good” time. The film was about a clash between old and new in some ways in old faith and new science. There was the under lying clash of change from living to surviving and from freedom to dependency.

 

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Mother Teresa

 

It is hard to feel at times that what we do is of significance perhaps never noted in meetings or from friends but each step each whisper each smile is carefully noted down by someone and it is meaningful to that person as they go through life. How many thousands of times did Mother Theresa feel like that drop in the ocean as she held the hand of a leper in a back street of Calcutta. How much easier and safer is it for some of us to live our lives as we do not paying attention from one point to another.

 

“Oneness is all inclusive. Nothing nor no one is exempt; that is the way it always has been; that is the way it is; and that is the way it always will be.” Chief Seattle

 

We are all connected, intertwined and each a piece of the web, a thread, a drop and yet all meaningful pieces to this great puzzle of life. 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

Reconciliation of trust

Bird Droppings January 24, 2018
Reconciliation of trust

 

“It’s the examination of conscience. Unless you examine your conscience, you don’t know what you have to be sorry for and what to confess” Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., Ten Tips for Better Confessions, The Gift of Reconciliation

 

Sort of difficult beginning a dropping with a vocabulary word and one we seldom actually use. I do think we perform the process but somehow never understand what it is we are doing when we do. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has for its definition of the word reconciliations the following:

 

“The state of being reconciled which is based on reconcile or to restore to friendship or harmony” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

 

It has been a long time since I was called up to the principal’s office for supposedly writing a note for a student to go home, something I would not do and did not do. This student was someone I had trusted and now had seriously betrayed that trust. The following day I asked my own students to write about what would they do if someone betrayed their trust, not referring to the incident that had occurred? Many of my students often feel betrayed as a part of their own disability. They have a difficult time dealing with trusting anyone and betraying that bit of trust that they may have is so hard to even accept that it hits them very hard.
Some of the examples are; “I would never speak to them again”, “I would consider them no longer existing”, one student went so far as “I would kill them”. I was hoping that was a figurative term only. When I look back a few lines to Webster’s thought reconcile is a “restoring of harmony”. Not being able to trust, affects my own existence in how I perceived each person that I now came into contact with. Often being on guard, wary, not a sensation that I liked or even the effort of being cautious.

 

“Trust is a firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing. It is a reliance on something in the future; hope. The condition and resulting obligation of having confidence placed in one: One in which confidence is placed.” Dictionary.com

 

Trust is a simple word as I looked for definitions and a bit more understanding can be had in words such as reliance, confidence, hope, integrity, and character. These are all words used in defining trust. By going a bit deeper, trust is synonymous with belief and with the word faith. When we trust someone we have faith in them, belief in them. To tear this down is a serious issue and difficult to repair. This is perhaps why my students had such a difficult time with pondering what you do when someone betrays your trust. It was from that point I wondered if we can reconcile.
Within most of the world’s religions forgiveness is paramount to any attempt at moving forward. It is about being able to forgive and to reconcile. Within some religions as in my first quote that is based on reconciliation. Within the Catholic Church where reconciliation is a sacrament there is a restoration on the most part for many people. In religion that restoration is often with God or the church, but deeper when that reconciliation is between two people there is a “restoration to friendship and to harmony” as Webster’s so eloquently states.

 

“The man who trusts men will make fewer mistakes that he who distrusts them” Conte di Cavour, Camillo Benso

 

That state of distrust is uncomfortable for me. When I trust in life it flows and moves so easily from point A to B. In a state of distrust and looking back over my shoulder continually not only does my neck get tired but my soul as well? Perhaps this is why I find working with students who do not trust so easy. Many teachers prior to my room do not trust and I do till proven wrong.

 

“All our progress is an unfolding, like the vegetable bud, you have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

It is so much easier to function in life in a state of trust than in distrust, perhaps this is why reconciliation is such a powerful tool bringing back that harmony that smoothness in life, restoring faith in others in yourself. I came to school after that incident in a state of distrust and as the day went on really not sure which direction to go. Walking to my room the student who betrayed my trust came up to me and asked if we could talk, after school I said. There was desperation in the voice a need for reconciliation a need to restore harmony and friendship. School went by and the day ended, I was literally oblivious to my conversation earlier of talking after school. This student comes in and tries to explain, tears so close to welling up, “I am sorry”.
It is amazing how several days of pondering what to do is melted away so easily with three words. The days of should I do this or that or should I do that are wiped clean, reconciled and harmony is restored. My good friend Emerson compares to a bud. Nearly fourteen years ago I found a pin, one of those simple metal stick pins with a slogan on it. It was given to me on my twenty third birthday by a dear friend in a youth group I worked with, a 1970’s pin as it goes, “Bloom where you are planted” with a flower or two around it. I affixed it to my ID badge lanyard. What a simple message, from days gone by, that still carries impetuous. It is still so true and still for me is what teaching is about. It is helping students bloom where ever it is that they are and more so about life in general. We all should be trying to bloom where we are planted. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird