Teachers! We should always be near the edge.

Bird Droppings March 26, 2018
Teachers! We should always be near the edge.

 

I recall taking groups hiking in North Georgia and always there is that one person who has to be at the edge of a gorge or edge of the trail dropping two hundred feet down looking over and nearly falling. A few summers back my oldest and middle son went to the Grand Canyon and of course many images over the edge. Granted they were beautiful but. I Often wonder if maybe they were adrenaline rush junkies. It has been some time since I would edge my canoe off a rapids occasionally not knowing what lay ahead. I have gone off some pretty good size falls not paying attention. One of my favorite memories of canoeing is a good friend was with me and as we approached a ten foot drop he stood up to check it out. I was catapulted out of the canoe and he was pinned under it. We survived but a great life lesson for both of us. For him never stand in a canoe in rapids and me never go canoeing with him again.

 

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” Soren Kierkegaard

 

I often wonder if I had chosen differently at various times in my life what would be the outcome and where would I be. What if I had not left teaching so many years ago would one of my former students perhaps have changed directions and not be serving three life sentences currently. I was aware of issues back then over forty years ago but I was just a kid working with kids.

 

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

 

It is through experience that the highest form of learning occurs and it is learning that will stay with us as we move through life. I can describe how to tie a square knot and I can show pictures all day long of a square knot but until you physically tie a square knot with a piece of rope you will not recall the intricacies and methods.

 

“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap?” Cynthia Heimel, Lower Manhattan Survival Tactics

 

I recently did a timeline of my life showing what I call coincidence points where a slightly different twist, trail, or take would have altered my life. People I have met, things I have done or not done all altered by a moments choice somewhere along the line.

 

“I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I’m not afraid of falling into my inkpot.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have been a fan of Emerson for some time and as I read this line I recalled several comments from a friend who is an artist and very independent drawing a comparison to the former TV show and Dr. House. He was an arrogant extremely brilliant physician who offends everyone and seemingly solves unsolvable medical mysteries. My friend is a graphic artist and has learned the game of preparing art boards for clients; she will always do several and sort of over emphasize the one that she feels is best. You are giving your customer choice and options yet controlling the situation for the better. This is a Dr. James Sutton trick for working with Oppositional Deviant children. My friend has a customer who never picks the best one always the wrong one and now without just being obnoxious directs the customer to the best art work.

 

“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Frederick B. Wilcox

 

So often life presents us with challenges or with trails to follow do I go left or right do I take the steeper one or the easy pathway. Over the years hiking in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia and North Carolina you would come upon switch backs where the trail rather than going straight up would be a series of switches back and forth a bit more distance but an easier incline especially when encumbered with a heavy backpack. Some people want to charge forward and I had a few who would allways make a beeline for the top of Blood Mountain and avoid switch backs and about half way up the rest of us would catch up to them exhausted and bruised and bloodied from rocks and falls. Often there is wisdom in experience. Still those of us moving up the mountain maybe in a slower pace but would still finish ahead of them.

 

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” Frank Scully

 

I remember picking apples and crawling out a bit too far on a limb nearly falling going for the best ones. Learning the limits of your environment can be beneficial and help you get the best possible of what you seek.

 

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky

 

I first used this quote nearly seventeen years ago putting a copy on my then principal’s door. Interesting that sheet of copy paper made the move to a two new schools and is still hanging in his Regional over ten counties, RESA director’s office.

 

“I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.” G.K. Chesterton

 

I have never been one to back down from a challenge and Chesterton’s words are true so often people sit and languish sadly literally molding away.

 

“The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one’s self to destiny.” Napoleon Bonaparte

 

In Risk Management you terminate the risk, you tolerate the risk, and you treat the risk and or transfer the risk which equates to the four T’s of Risk Management, Terminate, Tolerate, Treat and Transfer.

 

“This nation was built by men who took risks – pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, business men who were not afraid of failure, scientists who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of progress, dreamers who were not afraid of action.” Brooks Atkinson
It was the vastness of the frontier that truly gave us the American Dream. I have been working on papers dealing with the development of education historically and it is interesting how the frontier paid such a significant role. Europe had reached a point where every corner and every nook was owned and possessed and a totally new atmosphere occurred when the colonists came across the ocean. It was a vast un-chartered frontier.

“Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.” Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, 1759

 

So many times in history because of various limitations imposed by religion and by rulers because objections hold the society in limbo.

 

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy

 

I recall the day Bobby Kennedy was killed and football Hall of Fame great Rosie Greer who had been helping with security knelt beside the still body a tear on his cheek. Greer was one of the great all time linemen, in pro football and was crying holding Kennedy’s head in his hands. As the news started a picture came across the media. The photo was the huge Rosie Greer bent over a fallen Bobbie Kennedy with tears in his eyes. Shortly thereafter news carried the words word that Kennedy had died. He knew the chances but believed in what he was trying to do. Two Kennedy brothers killed by gun violence before it was news worthy.

 

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” Seneca

 

Nearly 3000 years ago these words were uttered by the great Greek philosopher and today they hold as true as they did back then.

 

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” Robert H. Schuler
Pastor Schuler was never one to limit himself such as in building one of the largest church congregations in the country and the largest TV audience of all time.

 

“Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 

I am amazed as to how perception changes as conditions change.

 

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The old adage of getting back on the horse when you fall off still holds clout.

 

“Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” Ray Bradbury

 

Every day some of us live this way waiting till the last minute and thriving on the adrenalin but not everyone can function in this manner. I sit back and recall my father going over the four T’s of risk management in a conference so many years ago and how applicable that still is not just in industry but in school, education, families, and life in general. Some people need a moment or two to catch their breath to ponder and make the wisest and sometimes safe choice. So today 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

 

Can we find answers to our questions?

Bird Droppings March 25, 2018
Can we find answers to our questions?

 

Several years ago I would have said there were answers to almost any question that could be asked. Today sitting here I wonder granted first you have to ask what is the question or questions but I have a different attitude now sort of one that is allowing for an unanswerable question. I did not watch yesterday’s march speeches live but last evening and this morning I did watch several from each side. I listened to Dr. King’s granddaughter beg for action. Her grandfather a victim of gun violence. Sir Paul McCartney as well addressing how he lost his best friend near the site of the march to gun violence.  I saw videos of counter protesters exercising their right to bear arms parading with AR-15’s behind police picket lines.

 

When I was researching yesterday and reading about W. Edward Deming’s and his quality solutions which was a rather simple solution to most quality issues in life. Deming believed in quality first and as I ponder education is it too pie in the sky to try and do such a good job that there are no questions no need to check (assess) at the end of the line. Is it too high and mighty to offer that there is no need to inspect or challenge and or no need to test if the quality is built in? I got to thinking t gun issue and schools why are we answering questions with simply more of the same. More guns will stop guns. Current US gun ownership by any group’s information is the highest in the world. One article indicated two hundred million guns in US. Roughly 90 guns per 100 people. The same article pointed to twelve billion rounds of ammo.

 

I was once doing counseling work with a gentlemen who had fifteen guns and thousands of rounds of ammo. I found out after the fact of beginning working with him. He ended up receiving disability for psychiatric reasons. As I think back to this fellow. He lived in a resident motel and would sleep with his door open a crack. Several times I would go to check on him and he would be in diabetic shock unconscious. The owner had him put guns in a locked locker and or start locking his room door. He chose to put in locker.
While thinking about march I am sitting pondering, eating a ham, cauliflower and cheese omelet and sipping a real strong black tea with agave nectar over ice and waiting on the rain to slack off a bit to pose such a question. A bit disappointed no sunrise with the cloud cover. But Deming’s ideas keeping coming back to me and I will diverse a bit in my thoughts as I wander to a discussion that came up yesterday with a regular education teacher a good friend who has concerns as well on education.
I was working on an idea on using academic achievement to address issues with Learning Disabled students by using a rubric which in and of its self is a way to provide quality versus simply quantity to an evaluation. This sort of led into as I headed toward school a discussion. As I sat driving around yesterday after discussing with another teacher the subject of autism and dealing with where do these kids go after school is over? On a more critical note what is even available? I had a brainstorm which was in part due to the thoughts that came out in our discussion. Over and over again parents were concerned about how their child’s life was being directed by people who did not know their child. Often changes in staffing will occur and parents do not even know. For nearly seventeen years I have recommended teachers of some students track students more effectively perhaps including group meetings of staff up and down the line who will have or have had that student. More often than not we deal with a cold folder of someone else’s opinion. Knowing a kid can make the difference so many times between success and failure. This concept ties also into the current discussion of educational issues being decided by non-educational people with our state and federal legislators. I reflect to a recent IEP meeting I sat in on as an advocate.
I met several years back at a conference a care giver who provides daily living assistance for several Asperger’s syndrome and autistic young men in a group home sort of setting. One of the young men who lived in this facility was also involved in the discussion. (This fellow lives essentially on his own and not only has Asperger’s syndrome which is a high function form of autism but is legally blind as well. Sadly for years the visual impairment concealed the pervasive disorder). The care giver who works for an organization that is involved with disabled adults who need some assistance referred to knowing the person well, many times. He and this young man have a language many would not understand actually part of this young man’s disorder idiosyncrasies that the care giver has learned to understand.
So often in schools and workplaces we want all the ducks in a row and someone who is a bit different doesn’t fit in so push them aside. Charter schools the big reform answer in and of its nature limits what students can come to that particular school with its charter. I could not help but think of IEP’s and such and even further to Deming’s ideas. My day yesterday was pondering achievement, a rubric and Deming. It has been a while since I sat as a student in class but I can’t count the times education professors have said we need to think outside the box. Yesterday as we talked two teachers I had walked the hallways of knowledge discussed opening the box. So often we limit as I think Deming’s pointed out when we have “the inspection” we only really get what we ask for. This has actually been researched in industry numerous times if you want to find twenty percent defective parts you will get twenty percent defective parts. My mind jumped to those students for whom seventy percent is passing and we get seventy percent from many.
I have watched meetings in which the group set IEP goals of eighty percent compliance on a behavior in such areas as not swearing at authority figures. I would have liked that myself back in several of my high school and college classes. That translates into two out of ten times I could swear and it is ok since I am achieving my goals. This is literally exactly what Deming’s is saying, you get what you ask for. So how do we imply quality and success without setting limits and or parameters? How do we measure achievement without providing a box even within the confines of a rubric? How do we measure friendship without having parameters to measure from? Hopefully the last one perhaps is one of the easiest to escape from we measure friendship hopefully not in some testing situation and not in some box ready format but we measure friendship in love and in emotion which often is not a measurable and quantitative form it is in simply knowing. Why do we have a difficult time in education? Far too often teachers do not know students. A school identity number and seat on a floor chart and we are off to educate.

 

“Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.” Dr. W. Edward Deming

 

This can apply in so many different fields including education but it will take some effort to teach teachers how to know students. It will take a different mindset for teachers to look for quality rather than quantity. It will take using innovative ideas to evaluate learning rather than standardized tests that so often are not even valid in the context of what they are testing. How valid is a test that students can score about the same in the beginning as in the end? I have not proved this point but I would wager on most High School Graduation tests if given to ninth graders they would come close to passing in effect if they are capable of passing the test in eleventh grade. I have similar thoughts on End of Course Tests. Sadly the difficulty is in developing within students and workers another of Deming’s thoughts.

 

“Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service…” Dr. W. Edward Deming

 

Listening to parents over the years always makes me think. We seriously need to address perhaps differently children and even each other so often we come at life in general rather than looking for specifics in an individual. We approach each aspect as from past experiences which are still important and do not let that experience of the moment have its way for that person. We lose individuality in mass production even in our own view of things. I am always reminded of first impressions and first impressions are based on past experience and not on anything to do with this person far too often. We need to see and hear who this is before passing judgment and we need as those parents offered over and over to get to know the real person not just the symptomatology. I sit here trying to figure out how to create an open ended rubric some method of scoring that has no parameters and no limits and that is an interesting venture for the day ahead and week ahead planting, gardening, mowing and reading. 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 Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Seeking perfection in a world full of mud

Bird Droppings March 24, 2018
Seeking perfection in a world full of mud
“I have found there are those who can write and speak fluently and yet do not have anything to say and then there are those who have something to say who may not be so fluent. The big question is who do, you listen too?” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.
On Friday I overheard a conversation about grammar and how poorly students in school are at grammar. The consensus was we need to drill them in grammar, correct sentence structure, syntax, complex compound sentences, covalent bonds, distorted warped lines, rational equations and retroactive participles. Oh brother and the list continue on. The word hablar, translated from Spanish means to work. In Spanish classes we also learned to conjugate that verb in thousands of ways and I can’t remember any of them. So I guess I can’t say to work in Spanish in masculine past tense future. So what is my point maybe an illustration a story of sorts before I go on?
Once there was a young man who went to a great educational institution far away he was a smart child and knew much of life, he too was an athlete and a very fast runner strong and powerful was he, as he came to the school he saw an opportunity to became a member of an elite group of athletes that were participating in a sport he knew well. The throwing of a disc and scoring points which goes by the name in laymen’s terms of ultimate Frisbee. He proceeded to try out but the team was skilled beyond his knowledge in the ways of technique and plays, precision ruled as the players each knew where to be for play 234 and executed exactly time and again. He was not allowed to play with them. He searched for a team and soon found himself with a group who at first did not want him because he was young and unproven, however soon in his strength he prevailed and was the leading scorer, and soon the team he joined was numero uno and the prefect team was not. They had not won a game. All of their plays were prefect and every player was where there were to be but the other teams were elsewhere scoring.
“If a man should happen to reach perfection in this world, he would have to die immediately to enjoy himself.” Josh Billings
I am not against learning how to do something correctly even perfectly but if that consumes you in your endeavor and you fail to move forward then you are lost. When crossing a stream and you finally start and after much preparation your shoes are exactly right and water proof shirt and pants just in case. As you step to the first rock carefully measuring and gauging your steps for the next and so forth soon you attain rock two. Maybe you will cross the stream and maybe being so intent on the destination and your effort to get there you miss the journey and all around you is so much more.
“You can spend a lifetime, and, if you’re honest with yourself, never once was your work perfect.” Charleston Hesston
“The only nice thing about being imperfect is the joy it brings to others.” Doug Larson

Perhaps I have gone slightly over board, would I want to be on a surgical table with a surgeon who was not perfect or really in any field would it matter. The issue becomes what is perfect? Was it the poor guys whose plays are flawless but cannot respond to another team’s changes, they will never succeed? Could it be the writer who has errorless form but not a single thought, that person will never write a story. Perhaps it is the surgeon who is perfect and yet can’t talk to a patient to explain what is going on and then what. Life is filled with paradox.
“I have always suspected that correctness is the last refuge of those who have nothing to say.” Friedrich Wasiman
“The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life, or of the work, and if it takes the second must refuse a heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.” William Butler Yeats
As I sit here this morning spinning ideas out, we should truly seek to learn to know to understand, how to try and be perfect in what we do yet always be able to see past and never look down on those who may not know what you know. As I sit reading back over my sentences interspersed with thoughts ideas and ramblings, punctuated with dashes and words and many time no capitals I wonder. Recently I questioned a friend about her emails where she leaves the word I always I, a small i and what is funny it spell checks it large so I assumed it was a deliberate effort on her part to do, an artsy sort of poetic thing turns out she just was lazy and didn’t push cap key.
“It is only imperfection that complains of what is imperfect. The more perfect we are the more gentle and quiet we become towards the defects of others.” Joseph Addison
“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” Angelique Arnauld
“Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable.” Lord Chesterfield
I guess my issue my point is we can be perfect and still make sense and you can make perfect sense and still not be perfect but it is how you go at it if you have done your best and continue to try and improve your direction is good, or as Lord Chesterfield said many give up because perfection is so unattainable they think. I recall one of my favorite lines, “CHOOSE WISELY” said the old knight in Indiana Jones and the search for the Holy Grail, and now I will continue my day here on an Easter Sunday seeking perfection in the mud of an imperfect world, I shall go onward and forward. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and please have a glorious week as we march into April tomorrow and spring has sprung and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Inability of surmounting learning difficulties

Bird Droppings March 23, 2018
Inability of surmounting learning difficulties

 

It has been a few days since my last post. I have been extremely occupied with surgery Tuesday and recovering past few days. Last week I had several doctor appointments, ultrasounds, blood work, and more doctors made it a crazy week. It seems my bladder has got the best of me. Now I am electrified and can no longer go through a metal detector.  Hopefully I will get a bit more back on track in my writings.  In what theoretically was one of my last IEP meetings the student was reaffirmed, yes you do have a deficit in math. However choosing to not do the work and or even try is choice. As a Junior wanting to graduate next year you have to choose do you want to get out of school or not. There is nothing I can pull out of my bag of magic tricks I explained.

 

Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites.” John Dewey, Experience and Education

 

“There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them.” Phyllis Bottome

 

An interesting start to a morning thought process after a wonderful experience last night. I was trying to get some sleep my first night with no pain meds, and had an epiphany sitting thinking of columns of numbers and manipulating data. This can be whatever I want depending on wording and what variables I apply. I have often come to this conclusion when looking at research. Ever since I was told a reading program was data based and I called asking for the demographics of the research. The sample was so small and biased the data was in no way viable. But schools were buying the program in leaps and bounds. As for my thoughts and opening quotes, one from John Dewey and the other a British novelist with over thirty four books to her credit. Working with at risk kids so often in life I find in general we tend to avoid difficulties, we walk away, we steer clear, and we postpone and or we argue.

 

“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.” Isak Dinesen

 

Many years back I was watching a student working on what for some was a quick assignment merging several different graphics and or creating graphics into a calendar during a project. Each student went in totally different directions. One in a matter of minutes had created a Mario brothers calendar based on old Mario Brothers clips each significant to him. One was on deer hunting there was even a Care Bears focus. However one fellow was taking each frame and altering photos in a photo program eliminating back grounds and only using specific aspects of each image. Each day he would accomplish only a small portion of what others were doing yet he was totally immersed in his task. In the end he will have a really nice artistic piece but many hours are involved.

 

“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.” John Holt

 

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill

 

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

 

There are times when a student procrastinates and I have had several who are world class procrastinators but watching this student work at his project meticulously detailing each image is not procrastination.

 

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

 

What intrigued me with this project was that this student was normally lazy but this project became of interest to him. Each photo that he had taken in that past semester was being edited and formatted in minute detail and had literally become an obsession. He got in trouble in another class and asked if I would get him out of ISS so he could work on his project. As I looked at the Dan Rather quote I wondered if when he started that he knew he would lose two days’ work when he tried to download to a floppy more than it would hold and crashed. Or that editing a photo pixel by pixel takes time.

 

“It is surmounting difficulties that make heroes.” Louis Kossuth

 

“Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.” Carl Gustav Jung

 

What amazes me is that this student has begun to grow. In many ways he still is very lazy and often will start an assignment in great zeal only to stop before it is completed and be content with a 70%. His attitude is one of I am passing and so what.

 

“You can’t fly a kite unless you go against the wind and have a weight to keep it from turning a somersault. The same with man. No man will succeed unless he is ready to face and overcome difficulties and is prepared to assume responsibilities.” William J. H. Boetcker

 

“For every difficulty that supposedly stops a person from succeeding there are thousands who have had it a lot worse and have succeeded anyway. So can you.” Brian Tracy

 

As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark, that trick, that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an n email story the other day that was a tear jerker. Granted it probably does not pass the fact check and such but still a good story. Let me share this story with you whether you are a teacher, parent, student and or just a friend.

 

“There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her fifth grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.” His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’ laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. And she paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class, and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.” A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you for much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” A boy named Teddy, Author Unknown

 

I would like to hope I can be like Mrs. Thompson and sometimes all it takes is a teacher or a friend that cares.

 

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

 

I am sitting here finalizing my thoughts to teach an existential lesson, as I joke about so often being an existentialist. Yesterday as I walked down my hall with another teacher we were commenting on how many teachers had been here six or more years and it was more than half. Last night I ran into a teacher who no longer teaches at our school from our hall. The teachers who are gone had learned those that remain are learners interesting as I think back and forward reading Hoffer’s thought. Hoffer was a self-educated man, a philosopher coming from the docks of New York City his first book True Believer was written in the early 1950’s in his middle age and he never slowed down till his death in 1982.

 

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

 

So today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not be simply learned. 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 Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Religion is what you make of it

Bird Droppings March 21, 2018
Religion is what you make of it

 

“A poor devotee points to the sky and says, ‘God is up there.’ An average devotee says, ‘God dwells in the heart as the Inner Master.’ The best devotee says, ‘God alone is and everything I perceive is a form of God.’” Ramakrishna

 

Ramakrishna was a spiritual leader in India in the early and mid 1800’s. He had a belief in the unity of God, an oneness of existence, the divinity of all living things and a harmony of religions. He felt religion was simply a means to accomplish a goal. I receive numerous emails of an inspirational nature each morning and this quote from a Hindu email I receive struck me. How often do we want to place our faith somewhere away, up there, out there, anywhere but here? How often do we limit our faith to a Sunday morning worship service? How often is our religious experience simply mouthing the traditional words in a traditional ritual?

 

“We also have a religion which has been given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. It teaches us to be thankful, to be united, and to love one another! We never quarrel about religion.” Red Jacket, Seneca orator

 

“We know that the God of the educated and the God of the child, the God of the civilized and the God of the primitive, is after all the same God; and that this God does not measure our differences, but embraces all who live rightly and humbly on the earth.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, Santee Sioux

 

I have read extensively in Native American and Eastern philosophies and I have seen many similarities between the Eastern thought and Native American beliefs and philosophies. I am not trying to advertise but a good inspirational book “The Wisdom of the Native Americans” which is an edited volume of Native thought is edited by Kent Nerburn. The book is a collection of thoughts and ideas that can give wonderful insight into a new day.
I walked out and watched the moon and stars this morning sitting and listening as the light came into the world with a slow rising plume of smoke from a sage leave as a companion. I wish I were more awake I am still recovering from the pollen and a cold. Several mornings back around three in the morning a loud bird was singing off in the distance, a few doves were cooing and calling nearby. Around four that morning owls and whippoorwills joined in as well as a few tree frogs. By five that morning as I pulled into the school there was a chorus of crickets, frogs, birds, and who knows what else but nearly melodic. Always interesting as I pull into school with no one here it is quiet and peaceful for a few hours before the deluge of students and teachers arrive.
I went into school that day to sort and clean my room, feed critters and work on research for various projects for graduate school and for my classes that I am working on. I have been developing for several years my own collection of writings and spend a few moments in-between as a break working on those as well. Mornings are a good time for me to think and write as my thought processes seem more keen and sharp. One of my “friends” tells me it is old age, as by afternoon I tend to forget names.
It has been many years since I was youth director of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Macon Georgia. I had my 23rd birthday in that capacity so many years ago, forty five years now. Sitting on my shelf at the house is a Living Bible I received as a birthday gift, as I look back how appropriate in its name. This book is alive with notes, thoughts, and pictures from people along the way, even phone numbers and under lined verses with various kids’ autographs as they would select their favorites. Occasionally I will open this old bible and spill out the tidbits and reflect on days gone by, on philosophies changed and evolved. It had been many years since I called one of the numbers in the inside cover written nearly forty years ago. Back then Katharine was a high school student and a regular in our group. She is the one that gave me that bible for my birthday those many years ago. That call was a spur of the moment thought. I found she was in Europe at that time doing work in Bosnia for a mission board based out of Africa. As I opened up my emails a day or two later I read through and sorted deleting spam and junk messages and how this one caught my attention.

 

“I am in Dili, East Timor now still working with Catholic Relief Services. In this rather “gypsy” life I lead of moving in and out of remote and often isolated places, it is very nice to know that I still have links with people I have known for more than 30 years. However, as it happens, in this life we also face challenges with email communication … I love getting the Bird Droppings daily, but with the very limited access we have here to send, download and receive, I am afraid that I am going to have to ask you to take me off your list-serve. I can only get to email about once a week and downloading large documents that come daily really does slow down the whole system. I work and pray daily for peace and healing… please hold that thought for me. A note now and then would be fine and appreciated. Wishing you all the best and peace.” Katherine Pondo

 

We now keep in touch through a blog I write to. I speak often of the puzzle of our lives falling into place piece by piece each little intricate facet interconnecting to the next. Today as I sit writing and thinking of all the pieces over the years all the lives intertwined I offer this morning that when you get a chance to keep the Katherine Pondo’s of the world in your hearts and thoughts as often they are on the front lines of humanity trials and tribulations. Looking back over my wanderings today this is a small world and we so often try and segregate, delegate, and relegate belief. Over the past years religion has sparked political battles and upheavals. I honestly do not think Ramakrishna as he thought of harmony among religions would have foreseen the drama and often fighting that exists because of religion. So today please as always keep those in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.
“Aho Mitakuye Oyasin ” is a simple yet profound statement. It comes from the Lakota Nation and means all my relations. It is spoken during prayer and ceremony to invite and acknowledge all relatives to the moment. To most of us today, relative means a blood relation or another human in the family lineage. We have not been taught that an entity, other than human, could be a relative. Understanding this simple statement and contemplating it, could change your outlook on life forever. If you love and honor your relatives, you would be loving and honoring most of what is on this earth, if you lived by this meaning of “relative.” What a different world we would be living in!

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

docbird

 

 

Trying to find a window can be a chore if you do not know where to look

Bird Droppings February 26, 2018
Trying to find a window can be a chore if you do not know where to look

 

I woke up very early today as our dog was barking to go out. I walked out on my back porch only to catch a glimpse of the rain falling along the tree line; a light drizzle was slipping in below the trees. It was just a coincidence that my dog wanted out exactly as rain subsided a bit and dashed out of sight in the back yard. I tend to view life as a series of interactions each interdependent upon the next and each interwoven with the previous. A good friend and I often through discuss Carl Jung and synchronicity. Those interwoven pieces of life that intertwine all that is and seem to be so “connected” and keep us all in place.

 

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

As I meet people and try to understand where and why about each one I find so often many who are still seeking to understand themselves not clearly knowing who or where they are in relationship to all else about them. This is not to say I am searching for who I am daily.

 

“A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.” Albert Einstein

 

I was talking with a group of students working on projects for their class on learning how to teach a few months back. They worked with a preschool class, each high school student works with a four year old on words, colors and all sorts of fun things. We were talking and a former student of mine came to mind. It has been nearly forty five years since I took a picture of this child. He was about five years old and severely autistic. He was nonverbal and spent much of his time simply staring ahead. On a spring day much like yesterday he was looking out the window of the school which was in an old house in Paoli Pennsylvania in 1970. I went out the back door with my camera ran around the front to his window and took a picture. He had his nose pressed up to the window staring out. I often wondered what he was seeing as he stared straight ahead. Over the years as I look at that picture I find myself thinking he was trying to find a window. Even as he looked out the window he was still searching for a window that he could see through.

 

“I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I watched him as he approached the window, it was not the view he wanted but the temperature, the coolness of the pane of glass against his cheek. I was seeing a window and he was feeling a moist pane of cool glass. I was pulling out various books and ideas as I talked to this group of students who worked with little students a few days ago. I shared author Shel Silverstein and a copy of The Giving Tree with CD, and also William Stieg and CDB a whimsical word puzzle(CDB – see the bee), and as I looked and thought many memories flooded back. Of working with children who probably still do not speak. Of searching for my own windows through in my life and occasionally only feeling the cool glass pane

 

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

 

As I think back over my discussion a few days ago with these teachers to be we started talking about people we would like to meet. Somewhere in an internet profile or such I wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, I added Gandhi the other day as we spoke. Most of the students were choosing contemporaries and most were celebrities. I thought over the years how our views change. For youngsters trying to find a window can be a chore not knowing where to look or maybe not even being tall enough to see out once there. As we get older the rules change we know where to look but have we drawn the blinds. We are tall enough to look out but do we really want to? Or are we content to simply press our nose to the glass and feel the coolness, never even attempting to see what lies beyond. It is a clear morning finally, although it is cold as stars fill the sky and a slight wind is blowing through the pine needles. A new day 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 Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

What is a students desire for freedom?

Bird Droppings February 24, 2018
What is a students desire for freedom?

 

“Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom and dignity. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed, merely to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. Human nature needs to breathe the precious air of liberty.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 

In life as I look back humans also while seeking freedom also seem to have an urge to subjugate others as well. When I was riding down to Emory University’s Oxford campus a quite a few years back to drop my youngest son off for a summer workshop we were talking about people who need to feel in control, in power, to be in charge. So often people take teaching jobs subconsciously for that reason I have found over the years as I observe teachers. In talking with my wife about the same topic she was looking from a medical stand point and as I so often do, looking from a psychological view.
We each in our own way see the idea of freedom perhaps in differing lights and lenses. While attending a wedding shower recently in a subdivision in another part of the local community I was definitely not a free person. In my existence I tend to be somewhat monastic picking and choosing times to be social and spending much of my day by myself reading, writing, and pondering uninterrupted by the where and whys of social interaction.

 

However last night watching a rerun of House and a blogger who laid her life out in minute detail in her blog while living in somewhat isolation communicated and interacted on a level that was in many psychological terms very social. At this shower I was lost in a crowd of people that I did not know or really care to be among and eventually walked outside after sitting for nearly an hour and a half talking to my cousin who was the father of the groom to be. But as I look at my first paragraph I had no control of the situation.
Does this apply to learning and education most assuredly as we place children so often in places where they have no control and they have few if any liberties? Often the response is one of flight or of negative behavior as we define the norm and allow only what we as teachers deem appropriate. Freedom is just another word was the song from the early 1970’s and mid 1960’s written by Kris Kristofferson. Working with children who have Emotional problems and whose affect is impacted for whatever reason has me looking at the kids I work with differently than most teachers may even attempt.
But in my own research the past few months I found that in the early 1950’s a group of educational psychologists came up with several learning domains. One of these aspects or domains is the affective domain.

 

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

 

These are the five areas of that domain outlined above, so what does an affective domain have to do with freedom? What do bossy people have to do with either? Literally we set ourselves up for failure so often in life. Internally a desire for liberty confounded by structure in societal entities, school, work, social organizations and such where we are told what to do by a teacher, boss or president. So many years ago I recall listening to someone discussing business and management back in the day my son would say. I had dinner with my father and the great management guru Peter Drucker at a management meeting in Chicago.

 

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” Peter Drucker

 

As I read the great business author Peter Drucker’s thought and pondered how often is teaching much the same. I reworded the statement a bit with, could it be then that so much of what we call teaching consists in making it difficult for students to learn. But it was later when discussing that this thought I remembered another quote from a book my father wrote a number of years ago.

 

“It is not about telling workers (students) what to do, it is about asking them to do it and further if they believe it is their idea and they take ownership of that idea far more will be accomplished” Frank E. Bird Jr., Practical Loss Control Management

 

In educational research students having empowerment and ownership increases significantly the level to which they will achieve. I have seen this premise work in industry many times as workers take ownership of an idea and turn a company around in safety programs. I have seen students who have input in a classroom light up and move forward so much more so than when manacled by a dictator like teacher. In my own research and studies as I work on my dissertation in The Foxfire Approach to teaching the number one Core Practice states the following.

 

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice one

 

As I have been involved directly or indirectly now for nearly forty five years in training and teaching when a learner be it adult or child has ownership of the idea so much more is accomplished. Work goes from tedious to enjoyable. Success becomes the norm rather than failure. As teachers how do we give ownership to students of material such as Algebra or US History? How can we take student ideas and intertwine with mandated curriculum? These are not simple questions and there are not simple answers. It does take effort and work and often not being totally in control to allow this to happen and to flow.
As I thought a bit more I wonder if by accepting an inherent desire to be free as stated by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Vinson’s idea of an affective domain and building upon that we might just end up have successful students and workers. Imagine if we could build upon this in schools and improve schools because kids want to and not because of federal standards and demands. This concept is essentially the premise behind democracy in the classroom and much of John Dewey’s work on education and democracy in our own country. Every major politician is now for or against specific policies and each has a differing reason but I find it still necessary to end as I have now for nearly fifteen years. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. For so many years as I look back and each day find in harm’s way goes so far beyond the wars and tribulations of man. Several friends have battled cancer and won and as I look even at within my own family over the past few years the emotions and heart wrenching in harm’s way is a rather broad term. We need to be looking behind each corner and searching our hearts and keep as humans uplifting rather than tearing each other down. The potential for man is so great but we continually allow ourselves to be sucked into the vacuums of greed and denial. How do we rise up and offer a hand? How do we become a nation of people rather than of profit? It takes understanding and it takes as Dr. Vinson offers we need to be in the affective domain.

 

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

 

So another week ahead and I sit pondering what might I bring to the table today as a teacher. Hopefully something that will impact students in a positive way and I close as I have for nearly fifteen years 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