Finding at what point we exist

Bird Droppings May 28, 2012

Finding at what point we exist

 

            Today is an ordinary day for many people round the world however other than being one extra day on a long holiday weekend it is a time for those of us in this country to remember those military members who have passed on be it in conflicts or from old age. These men and women served in our armed services. Today we celebrate Memorial Day honoring our veterans and military friends and family members that have fallen in service to our country. Over the years thinking back to high school, I did not know very many who had died in the military other than listening to my father and his stories of World War II and to us children they were stories only. As we got closer to graduation from high school several brothers of friends had been killed in Viet Nam and this special day had significantly more meaning. Now with my father, father in law and many dear friends, former students and so many more family members the significance is very powerful.

As I graduated and went to college on a student deferment from the draft I was very aware of the draft in that I did not want to get drafted and go to Viet Nam. The news kept us up to date well almost, as often Viet Nam breaking news would be several days or even weeks old when we heard it. After my freshmen year and being asked not to return to college since my grades were not that great, I was drafted in the first draft lottery along with many of my fellow class mates who did not go to class perhaps enough times to satisfy professors and somehow in college passing and attendance is important. It was at this point in my life Memorial Day hit me.

I failed my draft physical which allowed me to continue searching for a school that would let me in. I moved to Texas for school a small college in Plano Texas the University of Plano which was at that time the only school that would take me. Across several states and colleges I eventually landed in Macon Georgia. I finally finished my undergraduate education and graduated from Mercer University. Along the way I lost touch on the most part of my former classmates in high school and without the internet and cell phones I infrequently had word from my hometown on events and people. Over the year’s piece by piece word got to me of the death of this friend or that friend in Viet Nam and when all of the numbers were tallied nearly ten fellows from our graduating class or classes around us died in Viet Nam. Memorial Day was very significant now.

It was at this point in my life that Memorial Day hit home. It was several years till I was able to visit Washington DC and go to the Viet Nam memorial. I walked down so unsure of why and where I was at the time. Yes I was in Washington DC on a High School Band trip with my son but here I was looking at a black ominous wall that seemed to stretch endlessly along the pathway. I went to the registry book and found the names I recalled and the locations on the panels and wrote these on my hand with a marker. After several minutes I composed myself and walked along finding names amidst the tens of thousands on the wall.

I watched sisters, brothers, fathers and mothers touching names, dropping flowers, and standing with tears streaming down their cheeks staring at the cold black stone slab winding along a pathway. I often speak of sacred being a spot where many come to honor, pray, ponder or worship and here in Washington DC and this has become a sacred place. It was nearly a half an hour later my son was calling to me and I found myself sitting on a bench looking down on the wall. Our bus was ready to leave and they could not find me. So does Memorial Day hold meaning as I think back? I do not believe in war and have not for most of my life, this is a personal belief that for me is not about fearing death or dying for a cause but that it is not what is to be.

However I honor those who in their efforts and belief and have given their lives for me so I can believe in what I do and for those who have provided the opportunity for others world-wide. Today is not about political or religious ideology but about people who believed in what they were doing and in that effort died for that belief. As we honor now young men and women who have died in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it is bringing home this idea of Memorial Day to recent graduates of high schools across the nation. I wish one day the concept of war would be out dated but until that time please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

To die a happy death:

Bird Droppings May 27, 2012

To die a happy death:

 

I have been teaching high school now for nearly eleven years and after summer break another year ahead. I am starting my writing day a bit later than normal since we had the grandbaby for the night last night and drove her home this afternoon. Over the past few years I have been searching for my older thoughts editing, cleaning up and often finding a dropping that ties in with my thoughts today or even somewhere I went yesterday. Only a few days ago I got in a discussion on fearing death which led me on a search for an email and some thoughts I jotted down many years ago. Since that note nearly seven years back my friend has lost several loved ones and I have lost loved both my father in law and father and many around us have as well. So digging in my archives yesterday I started reading a thought from a friend who was trying to generate answers for his niece based on how do we die a happy death?

I was a bit taken back, sitting here only a few days ago not truly giving death much of a thought having the attitude when it happens it happens and for some number of years now I have lost any fear of death. It has been some time since I realized we need to live each day it isn’t about death and what is next it is about what is now and where are we on our own journey. It is not about anyone else’s, though we constantly interact and intertwine in my own cosmic sort of jig saw puzzle of explaining life. I had several answers to share and from a mixed bag of intellectuals across the country when I responded to my friends note. I used to sit in Geometry in tenth grade with the first responder and her thought was this.  

 

“A contented life. One that has (at least partially) fulfilled personal dreams. “ 5/28/06 – A child psychologist From California

 

As I thought about it dreams and aspirations are at the center of many of our hearts and souls. I have always wanted to go to Tahiti however I probably never will for one reason or another. It all goes back to my first reading of a Michener book “Hawaii” and how the original settlers sailed from Tahiti. In my romanticism I know it is not the tropical paradise I dream of and I will probably settle for South Florida and Sanibel Island which today would be fine. My next responder is a mom and teacher from Texas that I have met and known for eight or ten years from correspondence.  

 

“I, personally, have always told myself that there is a difference between three powerful things: 1) mistakes learned from, 2) regret, and 3) a higher God that leaves certain things out of my control (thank goodness)…but anyway, ideally, I want to die having learned from my mistakes, having passed control over in areas of my life in which I have no control, and to die without regret. These are the three potentially negative “things” that will, even during my life, make me lose sleep. All in all…if we could live surrounded by love, and die surrounded by love (which will happen, of course, if we give just as much)…that would be a happy death.”  5/28/06 – A teacher in Texas

 

I have read and reread this one several times and always her comments are deep and heart felt, “Having learned from my mistakes” this is a life lesson many should heed. Often even within the past few days I have addressed this with several students take and learn from your mistakes and move forward and or backward as a good friend would say direction is not the key but movement and in our world of multiple dimensions it could be anywhere. My mother responded next to the question and this was a year before my father passed away. It is sort of interesting when your mom is an avid reader of your essays and thoughts as I am of her poetry and writing.

 

“Living a life that is fruitful and true makes for a happy death.  Like your father has said many times, there is nothing in this world that he still wants to do.  He has been there, done it and seen it and he always did it with love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as his companions.” 5/28/06, My mom Esther S. Bird, author, poet and great grandmother from Loganville, Georgia

 

My father at that time was eighty four and had been all over the world teaching about Loss Control and Safety Management. In South Africa a headline once proclaimed he had saved millions of lives in the South African mines. Great Britain proclaimed him the Billy Graham of Safety in news headlines. My dad started out to be a medical missionary and I was the culprit that sent him to the steel mills for work. As a baby I was very ill and hospitalized numerous times with seizures and a stoppage of breathing. My dad had to go to work instead of school. By chance he found good paying work in the open hearth of Lukens Steel Mill and until they needed a Safety guy with a college diploma he was a brick layer in the open hearth. He was offered a job as a Safety man which being nonunion was less pay but it was better hours he thought and an office no more twenty eight hundred degree furnaces to contend with.

Shortly thereafter his first book changed modern Safety Management, in the early 1960’s. In 1965 he coined and then registered the trademark statement of “Total Loss Control” and the rest is history. So instead of saving souls in Africa in a mission hospital he was saving lives worldwide through his programs and insights. I began reading the next responders poems several months ago and now several hundred later find them exhilarating.

 

“For me, the idea of a happy death is one where I’ve given my best effort, stayed current with conflict resolution and being in the right place in my God’s eyes.”  5/29/06 Poet from Puget Sound, Washington

 

I have come to read daily numerous blogs and poems posted by this wonderful person she herself has many life hindering illnesses and still features a giant smiley face as her calling card. She is such a powerful human spirit. I will end today with another responder on a regular basis one who thinks far deeper than most teenagers and surprises me with responses that go far beyond her few years of experience. Today she is a karate instructor in Georgia and I would never have guessed that five years ago.  

 

“I also enjoyed your droppings earlier about a happy death. I like to think of it this way, ‘Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you will be criticized either way.’ Eleanor Roosevelt”  5/29/06, A former student at Loganville High School,  Loganville, Georgia

 

I was wondering with all the death in the news here and abroad is death ever happy. Yesterday I read a blog from a young fellow in the army and the remembrance of a buddy killed a few days earlier in Iraq. Someone posted a series of crosses on a back country road where three teenagers a few years back hit a tree at a hundred miles an hour. I have attended many funerals over the years and often will do my best to avoid them if I can. I have in recent years been to my fathers, father in laws, several students, friends and other family member’s memorials. When I listen to the comments of joy and the celebrating a life rather than mourning death it is so different. It is so difficult to lose someone but what if they have done what is it they were intended to do and know that. What if they were happy and knew there was meaning to their life? I recall a death some twelve years ago where a young man came to me the last time I saw him unaware of his surroundings, for I did hold his hand through the night watching monitors blink showing his brain functioning was going and irreversible. I sat and did last rights in my own way as I was holding his hand though there was no movement from him or acknowledgement only monitors blinking and the respirators movement in his lungs.

At my last meeting with this young man he shook my hand and said not this time Mr. Bird. Normally he would extend his hand and pull it away laughing a joke on me. This time was different as he extended his hand smiling grasping with his other hand mine and saying thank you for everything and we parted ways he was riding in another car going home from a day of tubing in North Georgia. I never spoke with him again. I know to the marrow of my bones he was happy in death. He was always happy go lucky always joking always the life of the party he was the group clown. When we gathered after the funeral each of said something similar he had said goodbye to us each in a different way. That night my son left a yellow sticky note for me on my computer that I shall never forget.

 

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

 

I have thought about that note daily every day since, I have listened to the Aerosmith CD version of Awesome many hundreds of times for that line. Somewhere in a box I still have that yellow sticky note over twelve years old now folded away as a reminder about how precious each second is. We honor our veterans who died to provide us with ideas and thoughts about freedom and liberty over the years. I would like to end with, what if we could have world peace? What if, always a what if it seems. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Reading a friends book for the fourth time

Bird Droppings May 26, 2012

Reading a friend’s book a fourth time

 

I was so tired when I laid down last night after driving around doing errands, working in the yard, working in my gardens, and attempting to get into my reading and writing. My youngest son starts his nursing program next week at Piedmont College and he and his wife and our grandbaby live up just off campus in Demorest Georgia. My road trip later today is picking up our grandbaby for the weekend. My oldest and I have been working on some outdoor ponds summer homes for several turtles and to various water plants. Physical labor and getting to bed late I did not think I would be awake this early this morning. My dog did not wake me up a few times to see the moon and hear the whippoorwills which were nice even though I was so tired. I had an IEP just before school closed that got me thinking about Dr. Sutton’s book today.

Dr. James Suttonsent me a copy of one of his books nearly six years ago, What parents need to know about ODD. Dr. Sutton is one of the leading writers and authorities on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the country. One of these days when, Bird Droppings a teacher journal, comes out the forward is by Dr. James Sutton. I have been reading academic books lately with numerous big words, long words, often times useless in normal setting words like post-structuralism, phenomenology; semiotics and hermeneutics are a few good ones. It seems many academics want to use words and pages to bolster their endeavors and then question why common folk don’t understand.

I responded to Dr. Sutton with the following sentence or two in response to his book. My first experience with Dr. James Suttonwas going to a conference in 2003 in MaconGa.and listening to his ideas on working with some of the hardest kids to deal with in education in Emotional Behavior Disorders. His ideas hit the nail on the head and this latest book, What Parents need to Know About ODD, is an easy to read, understand and to use tool for parents and teachers who daily have to deal with the trials and tribulations of kids who are ODD. I recommend this book to my student’s parents and educational associates almost daily. This was not a sales pitch but when combined with another issue our federally mandated NCLB, the law requires teachers to use evidence based practice, EBP when dealing with exceptional children. This becomes a problem in special education because there is not that much to work with and as I thought today a good teacher with a good idea could be hindered by a packaged program that is an EBP and not as effective and there have been many cases where teachers have been criticized for not using a recommended program.

Every year we lose good teachers who are hindered by administration and packaged programs of which many were researched by the company publishing the program. I had a situation myself a few years back and was told this program was what I was to teach to a specific group of teenagers and it was research based. I called the publisher to verify what research was done. It was never done with a population anywhere near what it was being recommended for and the one study that was done was with kids ten years younger and 20 IQ points higher but it did work with them.

A Harvard study posted June 14, 2006 states “…the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over academic competitiveness.” from the  The New York Times referring to NCLB. Funny how we keep trying to make schools better or I should say politicians keep trying. I often wonder when teachers will be asked.

 

“I will stake my reputation and over thirty years of experience on this: Real change occurs when relationships improve.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

 

I have watched wheels spun testing kids at the end of semesters and courses and at the end of high school and all because laws say we have to that are established by politicians. Yet all you are truly testing is what someone knows at that moment and not what they learned in any given time frame or how well a teacher taught. My son who recently graduated as biology major could take an end of course biology test without the course and pass it does that measure how much he learned or simply what he knows. Sadly teachers and administrators are losing jobs and schools are being threatened by these tests.

Recently in a discussion in an online class I raised a question about NCLB and how kids were being left behind and a teacher an advanced degree teacher offered “well some children want to be left behind”

 

“The power paradox is a simple concept. It suggests that the more force we put into controlling an ODD child, the less effective those efforts become. Golf pros will tell you that, when you try to muscle that ball down the fairway, looking for distance alone, there’s no telling where it’s going to go. When you focus on form rather than force, however, the distance takes care of itself. It’s much the same idea in managing an ODD child.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

 

So often when I read Dr. Sutton’s ideas they apply elsewhere in life. The power paradox is in education all the time it is in relationships between people, in government and definitely in the working of a school.

Far too often we go for power not form as I recall many years ago the TV show Kung Fu in which David Carridine was a Sau-lin priest who had escaped to America for killing someone in self-defense with his martial arts. It was not about power but form the swan or deer almost ballet movements yet lethal as well. It is so easy to get caught up in just words. I read numerous writers words each day in blogs, books and articles and a thought I have been having keeps coming up the reader has to be able to understand the writer for communication to occur.

The experiences and perceptions have to be there so what is written is understood?  One excellent writer I read daily uses riddles and word puzzles and play on words and many have not a clue what is being said and or why. That is part of her mystic and then all of a sudden it hits you.

 

“Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centered society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.” Nelson Mandela, speech at the opening of the South African Congress

 

It has been nearly twenty years since South Africa truly became democratic and how long will it be till we here in the United States can say democracy is back and not rule of the dollar and lobbyist. Much of what I have been reading lately addresses the issue of education and how it is that today’s education is to make good consumers. Customer’s, one author calls college students and on many campuses that is the word used by the administration very much a corporate world. Historians have said over and over wars are always fought for money and if we look back at any war in history always money was a key factor. I questionedViet Namand Johnson wanted the war effort to continue as industry was getting a shot in the arm and the economy turned around. The power paradox inIraqand most of theMiddle Eastis a very interesting thought. I wonder have we ever focused on the form, for example the individual inIraq. Maybe we need to ask for Nelson Mandela’s help inIraq. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

 

 

Seeking balance while walking on a see saw

Bird Droppings May 25, 2012

Seeking balance while walking on a see saw

 

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I walked in my room at school yesterday and decided my stuffed eland on the wall; the largest African antelope needed a scarf. I had used a piece of rope around its neck to balance it better against the wall. (Clarification I do not hunt and actually raised this huge animal for nearly eight years. One winter he got sick and would not let us near him when he died a friend said to get him mounted. I did and for many years this huge eland sat in my garage. When I started back teaching he has become quite a conversation piece.) It was trying to balance the eland that got me thinking today sometime soon I will be putting him in storage since there will be no room in my new room next hall over.

 

“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I generally start my morning pondering a walk outside often in the dark listening thinking and wondering about all that is around us. So an exercise of sorts first find the image of a see saw, I remember back in my earlier days on our playground at Caln Elementary School in Thorndale Pennsylvania,  heavy wooden boards attached to sturdy pipe frames, a simple machine, a balance beam of sorts. As long as both sides were of equal weight you could push off and go up and down giggle a bit and go all through recess. Now put a larger weight on one side and let that one push off and the smaller person sooner or later may land on the moon. We go from see saw and balance to catapult and imbalance.

 

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” Helen Keller

 

We tend to seek balance in our lives. Many biology books will state the natural order of nature is homeostasis, a balance. In nature we have food chains and various balancing factors such as larger eat smaller and plants are eaten by animals and a constant balancing effect. A more modern thought is the Chaos theory which throws a monkey wrench into the whole nice natural thing. Homeostasis is where nature strives for but it always is just a little further down the road, volcanoes occur, earthquakes, El Niño’s and  yet on a larger scale universally are we still not reaching for homeostasis. A balancing of internal pressures and external pressures, even when an asteroid hits from deep in space still in some larger scheme balance is being achieved.

 

“Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your mind, upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside, from others. All of your happiness and all of your suffering are created by you, by your own mind.“  Lama Zopa Rinpoche

 

There is a word used in educational settings disequilibrium, out of balance and it is true on a small scale we do this constantly. It is this imbalance that provides us with potential for growth. It is that imbalance that gives us direction and goals to attain. A few minutes ago I was thinking of many of my friends looking for retirement and settling down reaching homeostasis. What do we do when we attain that state?

 

“Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” Erich Fromm

 

It could be that is why we have rocking chairs to aid balancing and that comforting state. Maybe that’s why we put in ramps as we get older to reduce the challenge. Maybe that is why we tend to have diseases that try and throw us off balance and slow us down. Maybe it is because we have been brought up wanting to get to homeostasis or I should say that this is the ideal state.

 

“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

 

Utopia is where you can worry no more sit quietly and vegetate. Time for an energy drink and someone to jump on the other end of your see saw is my theory. We need the imbalance to provide fodder for seeking the balance.

 

Hearing is one of the body’s five senses. But listening is an art.” Frank Tyger

 

The trick is always to keep pushing that goal a bit further on a bit more a bit deeper. It is in the seeking of homeostasis that we grow we learn we become more than who we are. Yes we all do age but it is never closing the lid to the box. It is never having a box to begin with. Living is about the trials and tribulations it is about the disequilibrium and imbalance and yet to it is also about hope and seeking homeostasis. My dear friends let us all please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

namaste

bird

Looking at lyrics from an old friend

Bird Droppings May 24, 2012

Looking at lyrics from an old friend

 

I first started  listening to Neil Young’s music in 1967 or so possibly even earlier  if you count Buffalo Springfield, a short lived band and of course 1968 with Crosby Stills and Nash at Woodstock. While I did not make it to Woodstock I can say my old sleeping bag was there, a good friend at the time borrowed it. When I made my way south into the land of The Allman Brothers band, in the fall of 1971, the flower petals were still in the streets from Dwayne Allman’s funeral a month past, music and lyrics had become a part of who I was.

I was reading on line last night, a friend on line lists the songs of Neil Young on her website. I responded to her with a note that I did not think anyone under forty had ever heard of Neil Young. Several years ago Neil Young had a medical crisis and a sort of mid-life crisis all about the same time. After finding he had an aneurysm in his brain Neil Young in a few days turned out what he was afraid might be his last CD. He took it upon himself from being warned he needed surgery and postponing the actual surgery for a week to write and produce an entire CD, Prairie Wind. A few days after leaving the hospital from successful surgery on the brain aneurism, the spot on his leg where the catheter had been inserted broke open and he collapsed outside his hotel, nearly dying from blood loss.

The words to this song caught my attention this morning, a questioning of who and why we are. Several of my friends and I have been discussing free choice and feel will in our blogs and on line discussions which perhaps led me to this today. The title of the song is, When God made me, by Neil Young.

 

“Was he thinkin’ about my country or the color of my skin? Was he thinkin’ ’bout my religion and the way I worshipped him? Did he create just me in his image or every living thing? Was he planning only for believers or for those who just have faith? Did he envision all the wars that were fought in his name? Did he say there was only one way to be close to him? Did he give me the gift of love to say who I could choose? Did he give me the gift of voice so some could silence me? Did he give me the gift of vision not knowing what I might see? Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil young, When God made me, Prairie Wind

 

 I walked out into the stillness of the morning earlier today. There was a lone bird I think had gotten mixed up on its timing (I wonder does anyone give the daylight savings time to nature). Maybe the bird was still adjusting or maybe migrating in from another time zone, but here nearby singing all alone deep in the woods. I like days when the moon casts light through the spring trees, a hint of green and the lace work of twigs and opening buds provide a background for thought, everything smells and sounds so new in spring especially while the heavy dew is on the ground.

Thinking back to spring break to coming back to school after a break it always amazes me. More than half the students will have T-shirts from Panama City Florida that are air brushed with boyfriend names and or girlfriend names and various partying information and or connotations maybe parents should not know about, and of course tan. There will be a lot of shell jewelry and then there is the other half still asleep from staying in bed till one or two and having a hard time readjusting to school hours, with their puffy eyes and dozing off during the day.

It is so difficult to get started the first day of summer school two days after summer break starts. I offered to an administrator why not start back a week later or two instead of right away we both agreed we could have slept in as well.

 

“Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?”

 

Funny, how a line sticks with you in a song or poem or book.  I keep thinking about this line yesterday. Between oil spills, getting tough on North Korea and as always the breaking news was a leak from Washington; we were going to attack Iran after we try diplomacy again. I wonder if the word compassion ever made it intoWashington. I was walking through a Wal-Mart sort of the entire world at a glance; everyone ends up in Wal-Mart. One of students came in he was all excited he had just gotten a job there. But as I walked through a Wal-Mart employee near the pharmacy was explaining the new Medicare drug plan to an elderly person. They actually had a booth set up with a fulltime staff person. They are to be helping elderly folks and they need to have people telling them what is going on since most people including myself haven’t a clue. Ironic and they wonder why so many people haven’t joined up yet the line is too long at the explanation booth.

Compassion is such a simple word. It has been several years since I did work with indigents work finding housing and food for families. I recall several bits of wisdom coming fromWashington, for example cutting off welfare if a person was not looking for a job. A favorite is if you fail a drug test no more welfare. If you are homeless by choice you are off of welfare, that one sort of floored me. It had to do with issues of not paying taxes by one person somewhere in Texas who found he could save money being homeless. Another was if income was too high cut out Medicaid.

Cutting health care was always one that intrigued me. I worked with a fellow who had worked all his life till a massive heart attack disabled him and he was limited to drawing disability. His wife due to illnesses all of her life had never worked enough quarters to draw anything more than a minimum disability check. I find it so interesting that anyone can even consider we do not need health care reform. Unfortunately between them their medical bills exceeded their monthly government disability checks and because their income exceeded federal standards they did not get Medicaid. In a compromise they took turns each month on which medicines to not get. They were getting help from one agency but doctors had to fill in paper work literally volumes each month for them to receive free medicines. Sadly eventually the doctor’s office stopped filling in the paperwork for them. Compassion is such a powerful word.

What of a disabled man I worked with for several years who lived on about 350.00 per week. He is a severe diabetic and has numerous other health related issues and virtually spends a week in the hospital a month. However his monthly disability income keeps him from Medicaid and so he moves periodically to avoid harassment and bill collectors from hospitals. Having a quality of life is that compassion? Are we helping our fellow man? As I watch what we do world-wide as a nation I seriously wonder sometimes. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Finding the trail in the search for knowledge

Bird Droppings May 23, 2012

Finding the trail in the search for knowledge

 

“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly…. We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way; the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.” Eagle Chief, (Letakos-Lesa), Pawnee

 

            A spiritual leader and elder of the Cherokees of North Carolina writes about in one of his books about the theory of opposites and how in Indian belief there is always an opposite to contrast and compare the other too. This also ties into circle of life that runs through this philosophy. Almost as a compass has opposing points within its circle life has its opposite aspects. Black and white, north and south, east and west, love and hate, wet and dry and the list continues on as we need each to understand and appreciate the circle of life. As I sat reading and writing the past few days primarily on various Indian philosophies and understandings I noticed that the main methodology of conveying of this knowledge had been word of mouth down through time. Within a given tribe or family group knowledge was past from elder to child. 

Continuing that idea further in today’s world how do we as teachers who in the now are considered to be the main purveyors of this transfer and parents convey knowledge to our students and children? It could be said that by following the established curriculum guides and maps and doing what is expected of a high school student you will learn this material. I think my frustration comes when students do not want to learn. I get very frustrated when I hear statements such as I know enough to get along in this world already or know enough about this subject. I think my favorite is why do I need this anyhow? It has been nearly ten years since I first met Frances Friedman at Loganville High School.    

 

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

 

 I have been sitting here thinking about this email from a dear friend for several minutes, pondering and reflecting. What if we do not provide enough information to a student? I spend much of my day doing academic support with emotionally disturbed students. Many times I will hear from students the teacher never taught us that. Trying to keep both sides in perspective I will discuss with the students teacher and with the student and work out a compromise of sorts, often just buying a bit of time. However often there can be learning curves on both ends especially with special needs students.  Over the summer I am gathering data on the ten percent of students who do not pass standardized tests. It is easy to look at scores of passing students and understand why they succeed in class. But why do others not succeed in that same class?

 

 “There is rejection without knowledge” Frances Friedman

 

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

 

 I have always been fascinated with information. It made my day when several years back the game Trivial Pursuit came out and became a big hit tiny bits of information questioned and answered. On TV the show Jeopardy is still a popular game watched around the world and it was here where a few years back Ken Jennings won over two million dollars with bits and pieces of information. He defeated opponents by answering over two thousand seven hundred questions correctly. It has been a few years since the final episode of his winning streak aired and no one has equaled his feat.  

 

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

 

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

 

We have to encourage active participation in students. We have to try and instill a curiosity and not set limits and parameters on learning. Far too often in today’s standards based curriculum there is a preapproved package of information that is taught because this is what is on the end of course test that we all have to pass. Anything else is superfilous. If students do not know something, then we should provide the means, the pathway, so that they can learn. Knowing where to find an answer can be as meaningful in the life of a student as the knowledge of that answer.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

For many years that simple philosophy written on a card has been laying on my desk. I recall a scene from a movie; most folks will not remember one of my favorite films of all time, “Billy Jack” where this prayer is used. Imagine a school or society where we lived what Niebuhr taught in his prayer. What if we applied serenity, courage and wisdom to our lives daily? Today we are challenged by which way to go and why.  Thinking back many years to an old movie “Indiana Jones and The last Crusade”, “choose wisely” the old knight told Indiana Jones and he did.  It is about teaching our students and children to choose wisely in life and in learning. Today is the first day of my summer holiday.  Last Friday we graduated our seniors to go out into life and hopefully many will continue to learn to seek knowledge and understanding. Some will stop learning and simply exist by finding jobs that pay enough to survive and function. It saddens me when I think of how limiting some people’s view of life is.

As I read various postings earlier on Facebook, a former student wrote about dreaming about what if you knew you could never fail at what you did. I responded that it would make all of your effort less and of a lesser quality. Knowing you can fail is what drives us to succeed and accomplish our tasks in life. I go back to my starting quote.

 

“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly…. We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way; the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.” Eagle Chief, (Letakos-Lesa), Pawnee

 

            In life it is about balance, we need failure to provide guidance and leverage for success. We need understanding to counter balance ignorance. We need on each side of the circle an opposite to provide the continuity that drives the life force of this reality. As I hear of death and illness there are new lives being brought into this world there are those being cured for everyone being found in sickness? How we cope with and deal with each aspect is with knowledge and understanding. I walk out into the darkness without fear knowing that soon light will permeate the dark. A dear friend’s father in law passed away and several I have known for years have in recent days been imposed the task of dealing with cancer and soon an end to their life’s journey. It is with these friends and their families I end each morning with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. Today so many here right beside are in need of support and concern. Keep each one with you as you go about your day and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

 

Innocence is more than a definition

Bird Droppings May 23, 2010

Innocence is more than a definition

 

“Look at children. Of course they may quarrel, but generally speaking they do not harbor ill feelings as much or as long as adults do. Most adults have the advantage of education over children, but what is the use of an education if they show a big smile while hiding negative feelings deep inside? Children don’t usually act in such a manner. If they feel angry with someone, they express it, and then it is finished. They can still play with that person the following day.” the Dalai Lama, “Imagine All The People”

 

It has been a quite a few nights since my wife and I had a chance to go out together. I was thinking back to one evening as we sat down at our booth at a country restaurant, an elderly couple (older than me) carefully made their way to the adjacent booth. Both the husband and wife helped each other moving ever so slowly. After his wife had seated herself the husband went and fixed a plate at the buffet for her. When he returned to the table my wife happened to glance over and the woman was smiling as her husband came back to their table. My wife said “she looked like a child”, the child in her was coming out as she smiled.

 Several years ago, for a class in human development, I developed a chart on the development of faith and trust. I had been reading a book by Dr. James Fowler professor and Director of Emory Candler School of Theology’s Ethic Center on the development of faith. It was interesting as I read and saw correlations of various concepts to other educational devlopmentalists such as Piaget, Erickson and even Freud.

 

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” John Ruskin

 

 When I read the passage from the Dalai Lama I was reminded of a stage I wrote about in my subsequent paper after research and reading Fowler’s book , the idea of  learned trust. Children when they are born inherently trust and in my paper this is what I called it, a Universal trust. A baby instinctively trusts as it survives by literally instinct and in effect a trusting behavior, sucking reflexes only require milk to satisfy. A bitter taste and the baby would soon withdraw. The baby would learn to not suck. A simple example that as the child grows becomes more complex. Each new facet of life requires new information and understanding and soon a child learns trust. We go from an instinctual universal trust to a learned trust.

 

“Who would not rather trust and be deceived?” Eliza Cook

 

 Quite a few Sunday night’s back, going on eight years now I delivered my youngest son to a local restaurant where the Early Learners were having their Christmas banquet. Our high school has a group of fifteen or so, four year olds, under the supervision of a lead teacher involved in teaching Early Childhood Education. Actually this is a technical class in our school, an experimental school in some ways a teaching school for high school students. Many of the little learners are children of teachers within our high school.

 

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” Frank Crane

 

 It seems my son had been Santa Claus for two years for the little learners. Matt inherited my father’s Santa suit. Dad, for as long as I can remember, has been Santa for our family. I recall a night inModenaPa., Santa came through the fire escape window when I was four years old. This image is still vivid in my mind and many things are not as I get older. I check my driver’s license for name and address periodically. For one reason or another Matt had to wait, which meant sitting in the waiting area of the restaurant. Little children came through, some would hide behind their parents, and others would go up and sit beside him and or ask him questions. Each child was unique.

 

“No, I don’t understand my husband’s theory of relativity, but I know my husband, and I know he can be trusted.” Elsa Einstein

 

“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

When Matt finally went into the Christmas party each child came up to him and I would take a photo. There was no questioning of whom this was, it was Santa. After all of the little learners came up, the teenagers, high school girls came and sat in Matt’s lap. Now I know why Matt did this each year. But within the context of these moments, trust was adamant. Children have learned to believe in, or not, Santa Claus, that is not an instinctual event.

 

“Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love — and to put its trust in life.” Joseph Conrad

 

So often we take the innocence of children and convert it to the learned ways of adulthood, greed, envy and all the other influences of mankind are learned. But I have found in life’s journey that trust does begin to filter back as time and age goes on. Thinking back to dinner with my wife and how she noticed the elderly woman’s smile, sometimes is it the glint in an eye or a smile from an elderly person that shows the inner child is still there. Perhaps it is that untouched innocence and universal trust has returned, or maybe like me, you forget all else, that you have learned not to trust. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird