Thursday, September 19, 2013

Google Doodles...

Usually enjoy the "Google Doodles" quite a bit. Foucault's Google Doodle yesterday was no exception and reminded me of my family's day-trip to Chicago's MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) when I was in junior high.

I really enjoyed that day, and can safely say I soaked up more knowledge in that one trip than in any 2-week period at any school I've ever attended. In fact, when I'm teaching, I still mention things learned from that trip... some 25+ years later.

When I first saw the Foucault Doodle, of course I had to play around with the controls, was completely side-tracked for several minutes, then wanted to Google search Léon Foucault, clicked right over to his Wikipedia page, read the entire thing, opening several tabs in my browser to look at all of the cool things he'd been involved in discovering. Eventually I "woke up," noticing I'd spent a good hour reading, completely forgotten why I went to Google in the first place, and had missed my short window-of-opportunity for a 20 minute power nap.

Normally, no power nap isn't a problem, but this year I teach in the mornings, my wife comes to school, hands off our 2 year old, I play with her, &/or run errands for an hour, feed her, put her down for a nap, then (if time permits) grab a 20 minute power nap, and work from home the rest of the day. My brief foray into the life and accomplishments of Léon Foucault led me to the realization that I am (and probably most Americans today are) quite "busy," but don't really accomplish quite as much as people did a hundred years ago. Foucault lived a grand total of 48 years, 4 months, & 23 days (six years and a few days longer than my lifespan to date), and he discovered many interesting and amazing things.

I, on the other hand, could not think of one single thing I've discovered or created. Sure, I do have an incredible wife (that not only puts up with me, but loves me too), five great kids (that are better looking, have more skills, and are in better shape than I was at their age), have taught kids for years (one-on-one, in "regular" school settings, & in Sunday School), and can carry a tune (with my voice and several different instruments), but that's about it. Not overly impressive.

Was thinking I'd like to "up my game" in the "life accomplishments" department so I could have an impressive headstone like Foucault, until I took a closer look and realized: there was no mention of his family. Then recalled I hadn't seen any mention of Foucault's family members in any of the on-line biographies I'd read either. I scanned them more thoroughly, but still found no mention of a wife or any children. After that additional reading, I realized he died rather young with progressive (and incurable) paralysis (due to all the chemicals with which he'd worked) and he died alone.

That decided it for me: my simple life, with not a single "discovery" or "world-renowned accomplishment" has been much more fulfilling than poor Mr. Foucault's. Sure, there are still things on my bucket list, and I need to put more time in on my wife's little projects around the house, but if a drunk driver puts me underground some morning on my way to or from school, in my view, I'll have had a greater legacy than Foucault... just in our five children... even if every one of them lives their own "inconsequential" and "simple" lifestyle... just like mine.

I still appreciate his discoveries, think it would be neat to make some scientific discoveries of my own, or become a world-renowned singer, or musician, or a multi-millionaire in business, but if none of that happens, I'm fine with that too. I'll have the love of several little people and my wife to keep me happy for years to come.

Off to school now. Think after school today I'll run my errands, play with the baby awhile, and see what can be done around the house for my wife. =)

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Some Time & School Tidbits

Well, I've been quite far "out of the loop" (the "active blogger" loop that is) for quite awhile. Haven't had much time, and really wasn't getting enough sleep to care. The kids are all (obviously) older now, my wife & I are "tag-team" teaching, and (amazingly) I do have a bit more time on my hands since school started!

As I thought about it, am fairly certain this is the only time since I first boarded a school bus (with my multiple cow-licks slicked down and my lunch box clutched in my grubby little hand) that I've been able to say "more time since school started." Pretty amazing actually. I'm sure someone just might be thinking, "How on earth could he possibly remember every year so far back into ancient history? He's over 40; surely he must be exaggerating." (Thank you, BTW for relegating me from "cool" and "young" to "fogy," but I was hoping no one would notice for another 10-30 years.) While I do not have a photographic memory, there still is quite a bit in this old belfry that's not so thickly "coated with cobwebs" that it can't be brushed off and drug out into the light of day...

For example, remembering back to a small USAF base in central Illinois, there was a messy little boy that was quite enthused about starting school… but that only lasted about 2 weeks. Once I realized school was not a place to learn about all the "cool stuff" in the world, but was actually just a place to coop up a bunch of rambunctious little kids all day, and that all of us were only allowed to learn as slowly as the least motivated student in the class, then I wasn't all that interested in school anymore.

I did want so badly to learn to read... yet Miss Fry would only teach us one letter each day! (FWIW, I thought it was funny that "Miss Fry" became "Mrs. Brown" later that year.) When we weren't practicing our measly one letter, the rest of the time we had to "color." At least we had our big boxes of 64 Crayolas with the pencil sharpener on the back, but I knew my 3-year old sister was doing the same thing at home... so the "fun factor" was totally not there. Coloring at school was completely boring.

There wouldn't have been anything at all to look forward to at school if it hadn't been for my best friend (& neighbor) Tori and the cute little red-haired girl that rode the bus with us. Every day I'd look forward to holding her hand as we walked all the way through the "big kids' end" of "bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, Pleasant Acres" Elementary to where the Kindergarten classes were on the far end... and then repeating the process after school to get back on the bus. (Neither one of us cared that the big kids thought we were "so cute.") Can still remember the daily disappointment of leaving my two best friends at the door of the "other K-5" class before trudging across the hall to my slave-driving teacher and then trying to sit still… for those never-ending hours… every day… bored, and completely unmotivated to color. (It got worse after the little red-haired girl moved away part way through kindergarten. One of the greatest travesties of my lack of education in K-5: they hadn't taught us to read… so I couldn't get her address to write to her!)

When first grades' Mrs. Dupree showed us how to put all those single letters together to make words… and I was finally able to read on my own I was SO excited! Of course, from then on I was still in trouble quite often, but rather than being scolded for talking to my neighbors, I was sent to the principal's office for reading my books… for "not following along" with all the slow kids (never mind that I would read every textbook from cover to cover in the first 3 weeks of every school year). Needless to say, school remained pretty boring, but at least with a few books secreted in my backpack I knew there would be something interesting to do in school each day.

Suffice it to say, as I'm teaching now I try very hard to exclude dull, "busy work" from my classes, include as many interesting things as can be crammed into each class, and still pay attention to which ever student(s) may be love-struck over their little neighbor. It is too bad I don't need to test them on all the interesting stuff, they seem to remember it much better than the things we're required to teach them.

Anyway, about that extra time I've found: the baby (who's now 2, has decided she's too big to soil her diaper, and and has been speaking in complete sentences for several months now) needs to be put down for a nap every day after lunch. Since my wife is teaching English during nap time & my classes are over by then, I get to come home and hang out for a few hours. Have lesson plans and quite a few projects around the house that still need to be completed (as well as mounds of laundry to fold… but what man in his right mind wants to fold laundry?), but several of those projects can be done quietly, so I'm not planning to be blogging daily, but still have high hopes for the life of "ye olde blog" this school year.