Trying to understand

Bird Droppings March 19, 2011
Trying to understand

It has been interesting this spring weather wise. I have been battling allergies and sinus issues daily between freezes and rain and then not enough rain and the pollen. When I headed to school today I had been thinking about the many years of daily writing and journaling of my ideas and thoughts. Many times as I have written over the past years the word perception has come up. I was thinking back one night as we were finishing up a semester I was sitting and posting on our discussion post on the internet as friends and fellow graduate students we were discussing critical race feminism which ties in sex, race, culture, and ethics and to some extent then education. The idea of perception was brought up numerous times as in this course of study for many it has been an opening of eyes that had been closed.
I am an observer by nature and many the times as I walk into someone else’s office or study I immediately peruse the books and items on shelves and desks. I see the papers, the order of items, or lack of order and the amazingly you can quickly make assumptions about that individual. In my own case if someone walked into my writing hovel they would see animal books and magazines as my oldest son also stacks various reading material among my own. There are many years of theology and spiritual matters along with numerous translations of religious texts, and bibles. In stacks many informational texts, child craft, notes from graduate school, and psychology texts scattered among the piles and shelves.
An individual’s personality exists within the piles and various items or at least a perception of who they are. In my case in a quick look you would see several books, Spirit Dance by William Edelen, Red Pedagogy by Sandy Grande, The Passionate Teacher by Robert Fried, Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, a book on Great quotes, The purpose for your life by Carol Adrienne, The Handicapped child in the classroom, Ten Stupid things men do to mess up their life’s by Dr. Laura, A passion for excellence by Tom Peters, Control of Human Behavior, Safety and the Bottom line by Frank E. Bird Jr. It is these books that are on top of piles on my table and desk. Always wondered could a psychological analysis be made of me from those texts sitting out perhaps recent readings or reference sources? Something could be said; perhaps a perception, an opinion, or an assumption could be made about the person.

“Except for the still point there would be no dance ……. And there is only the dance.” William Edelen starts his book Spirit Dance with that line from T.S. Elliot

I sit thinking about that line do we have a still point? Last night as I was reading comments as fellow teachers and future teachers discussed their views and realities in a discussion board on line and as we are trying to finish out the year working with students who are waiting for the last few minutes of the last day before summer break. We are using the word senioritis as we address the seniors here in high schools that seem lost in oblivion as their last year winds down. It can be a teenager in the last thirty seconds of school or a graduate student in the last thirty seconds posting before break. “And there is only the dance”
I looked through my book of quotes a little collection of quotes from my first year back teaching containing poems from myself and others and photos of students school etc. sort of a mini yearbook, always coincidences. I found a Garth Brooks song lyric. The song is The Dance written by Tony Arata, my brother in laws room mate in college at Georgia Southern many years ago.

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end the way it all would go.
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance.” Tony Arata

Thinking about the dance in reference to Elliot’s line and Arata’s line it is about who we are inside and how we see the world. So often in life we want to avoid problems. I am finding as I grow older it is the problems and tribulations that give us the pieces of who we are. It is all of this history that gives us our out look on life, our perception as we view the world. Wandering to back to my graduate school posting discussion as we learned over the semester everyone has a history and it is within that history we can only get a true understanding of who they are. Not really knowing a person history can alter your perception of them.
As I paged through my little book I had copied nearly ten years ago I found a note I had written evidently this book was one of my students. The student had wanted me to write a personal note so I kept the book and then school was over and she never picked up her book and I wrote a second note. As I look back it brings a tear. It seems she quit school with graduation test difficulty found a new boyfriend fiancée and got married and pregnant, sort of all in one fell swoop. Was this a success or failure from a teaching standpoint, did we reach that child. I am sure some would say no.
It has been nearly forty years since I first started teaching. A few years back I had a professor who was ten years old in public school in Macon Georgia when I moved to that town in 1971 or so. Back in the day special needs kids were not all being served in public school IDEA legislation went into effect in 1974. One of my first jobs in education in Macon was a child find. Thirty eight years ago there were not IEP’s or mandatory education for all children. Many disabled students often just stayed home since there really was no place for them in the schools at that time. We found 278 children and adults in less than 90 days who were not being served and we were looking for 50 to start our program.
In those days 1970 – 1973 it wasn’t about curriculum or text books or even lesson plans it was simply students who had never been served. In and among those students was a young black Down’s syndrome fellow, Sammy Jones age 24. He was friendly clean cut and always fixing his hair, checking his shirt to be sure it was tucked and adjusting his belt always making sure every thing was just right. He would be a poster child for correct dress code, always immaculate. Sammy would always somehow bring up “big momma”, seems he called his mother “big momma”.
I remember one day after we started up our daily program and Sammy was in “school” his excuse to not do work would be “big momma said I don’t have to do that” when he didn’t want to do something. I recall Sammy’s favorite class was nap time. As I think back to my first days teaching in Georgia it has been some time since I really thought about Ms. Rawl’s and Lucky Duck nursery where my late brother John attended school when we first moved to Macon. A matter of perception perhaps it seems the promised school to get my father to move his business to Macon never materialized and my brother became the token white boy in an all black school. My brother John was “bussed” in.
The funny thing was Ms. Rawls, my mother and I ended up writing federal grant that got initial funding in Macon for disabled children. There was a significant clause, the schools had to integrate. A coincidence perhaps, but as I think back and remember driving across town to that old school to pick up John at Lucky Duck he wasn’t a token child he was a child at a school and for him every day he would be smiling not one time did John get upset about his school I never remember my mother complaining about where he was going to school I do remember Ms. Rawls and how much concern she had for John. Maybe our perception was different back then. As I think back my mothers and my own I do not think changed significantly but many others did.

“No one would have ever crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off in the storm” Charles Kettering

It takes getting across the sea to arrive at the other side when the storms get rough quitting is not an option. So many people when times are rough choose getting off in the storm but far too often the waves and turmoil do them in. It is about in life how we perceive and how we see the world around us. A few minutes ago several of us were talking in the hall and a student mentioned she paid eighty dollars for a pair of jeans that was a mass of holes. Our discussion went to how people are paid to make holes in jeans which are then sold. Perception, I have jeans with significant holes in them each earned and remembered. A wonderful day a quiet day but in the turmoil and strife please keep all in harms way on my mind and in your hearts today as the bombings and such continue in the middle east let us strive for peace
namaste
bird

Into the depth of our souls

Bird Droppings January 26, 2011
Into the depth of our souls

I watched most of the State of the Union Address last night but being as I normally fall asleep about nine o’clock it was rough. I felt good listening to what was said in the first half hour. Part of my problem with staying up late is I like morning and by three thirty this morning I was reading responses to the SOTUA. I almost wonder how some people think on both sides of the political arena. Repeal health care comes out loud and clear but in the next breath when my government frees health care start as one freshman congressman was heard asking. All of this provides fodder for the satirists be it cartoonists who for me are where the deepest cuts can be seen in the editorial pages of the newspapers that are left. Drawing political cartoons is almost a dying art form. Then the political satirist of comedy central lay waste to all that is left and for years I have always been amazed at how Steven Colbert has milked the conservative image for more than it is worth.
However I have an issue with humor that plays to our dark sides. Perhaps even primitive aspects of who we are. We see it in movies like Jack Ass and the humor that is portrayed narrowing in on human frailties and often disabilities. John Stewart and Steven Colbert are mild compared to South Park for example. Stewart and Colbert are on a higher intellectual plane than South Park but audiences thrive on it sadly enough. I think it is this aspect of humanity that allows the atrocities of man to happen as well. I remember once in Sixth grade a girl in special education who lived in the worst part of the community not even public housing but in shacks along the river outside town. The joke was calling people names derived from that community and or specifically people that lived there. I look back and I know I probably did this as well yet maybe it is my karma to be making up for my part working with the kids I do now. I still cringe when I hear the word retard even more so than the n-word. I am reading the philosopher Foucault currently and much of his base in this book is focused on mental institutions and “normal” versus “abnormal” and I wonder as I read and see watching more so previous American Idol shows and how judges belittle people, some who are special needs, what a sad state our society is in.

“Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.” Aristotle

Often having been in the teaching of special needs kids when with other teachers who have been in similar situations we will joke about events of the past, not at a students expense as much as the moment and ourselves. It might be about being bitten or changing a really nasty diaper or having to chase a student across campus. This is often common place in some settings. One of my favorites over the years was an OCD student who once asked me fifty four times if he could hold our class room pet, Stevie the wonder snake, a ball python. I ignored him and was working at my computer this was before school and a general education student who did not have the capacity for patience and or ignoring that I do final blurted out to the young man, “I love you” and tapped him on the shoulder. He took off to farthest corner in the room, she then asked me “did you not hear him” and I said I use planned ignoring and really did not after three or four times. I still have contact with this OCD student and he is in his early twenties not in school and unable to work because of his disability. When our last principal took over eight years ago this former student was so terrified from middle school of this man he couldn’t be in the same building so he sat at home and watched TV.

“Humor is also a way of saying something serious.” T. S. Eliot

As I think and wonder maybe it is seeing the issues at hand and simply using as a medium for truth for opening eyes as I look at some of the dark humor of our time – but I do not see people viewing that way – I see people watching a movie or show and laughing – at often human frailty – human aspects – Over the past weeks I have written several papers dealing with the search for the human soul – An aspect that Jung, Hillman, and Moore all psychologists and authors write extensively on –

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed. Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block

We in public education get so caught up in testing, pretesting, predictor testing and testing of testing we lose sight of who children really are and or could be. I have used the term funneling in several articles I have written that is forcing as much as possible into a bottle through a funnel and seeing how much will over flow. It is often these aspects of individuality and context for example that get left behind when we funnel in teaching.

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” D. G. Smith

This is an ongoing issue that we have in finding who we are and why. The illusions, Smith, continues, “Obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”.
We live in a society where deception is part of life. We listen to politicians tell us what we want to hear and or think we want to hear and we follow blindly. Why do we have to win a war “divisively”? Why do we even want to be in a war? I was very frustrated listening and knowing how much was based on deception on lies and yet billed as we have to keep going what ever it takes in regards to our current armed conflicts. In all of this we slowly lose our humanity.

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the more noble one of laying down the outward things that enslave us.” D. G. Smith

This inner look is mentioned often as psychologists and theologians struggle with the concept of who we are.

“We need to know more of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself” Carl G. Jung

Uncovering our past and memories is part of looking at who we are. The idea that soul or spirit is just confined to religion can be seen in the understanding of what constitutes that inner search. A word used often as a search word is faith and is explained in Dr. James Fowler’s book The Development of Faith published in 1981.

“Faith is not always religious in its content or context. To ask these questions of oneself does not necessarily mean to elicit answers about religious commitment or belief. Faith is a persons or groups way of moving into the force field of life.”

The search and looking within trying to understand who we are trying to find soul is part of who we are. It is what makes us human and drives how we interact with the existing world and how we perceive that world. Spirit is then who we are subjectively?

“The subjective side of spirit is nature, matter and human life. But this subjective side that moves through us is unconscious” Dr. Marla Morris, Georgia Southern University, Department of Education

“Somewhere between reality and fantasy, between need and want, between the affect and the idea, and between dependency and autonomy, there can emerge the material from which the subject spins a life” Deborah Britzman

We end in metaphysical subjectivity as to what is this entity of spirit and or soul? Deciphering the concept of soul which too often is tied to a religious connotation is challenging. Thomas Moore a student of James Hillman, who was a student of Carl G. Jung, was a former priest and is now a psychologist and counselor defines soul in this way.

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality. When we say someone has soul we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

“Renaissance philosophers often said that it is the soul that makes us human. We can turn around and note that is when we are most human we have the greatest access to soul” Thomas Moore

Mary Aswell Doll in the introduction to her book Like letters in running Water, includes in her thoughts her interdisciplinary studies with religion and psychology that help probe the inner workings of soul. It is only through coming to terms with inner understanding that we can address outer concerns. It takes inner looks to stir and fire up the imagination and to build and develop ideas and expand learning.

“To talk about the “soul”, we might as well say inner life of children. My latest book Education and the soul talks about Soul in a moral sense, which is really taken out of a religious sense” Jack Miller

It is that inner being of who are that is our soul. Is it soul that we are leaving behind in our effort to be the ultimate consumer? Is it to produce children who can test and test well and take another test and do well? Is it to make children who will listen without questioning the deceit of politicians and advertising and buy products they do not need and support wars not needed and politicians who are not needed many times? Today I have so many thoughts to ponder but as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird