The Simple Truth

My high school French teacher challenged us one day to “write about why you believe — or don’t believe — in God.”

We were cautioned not to recite our church’s theological platform, but to give our own heartfelt reasons for our belief. All in French, of course.

Well, easier for me to translate a simple thought from the heart than any complex theological belief to French, so that part wasn’t difficult for me. And I would no doubt offend my French-speaking friends today if I tried to repeat what I wrote then, but here’s a short portion of it, in English:

“I believe in God because the sun rises and sets each day. The mountains speak loudly to me of his presence, the rivers and the valleys, more quietly…”

I struggled with that essay, because I wanted it to flow smoothly in French, and since my teacher was a native speaker, I think eventually it did. I regret I no longer have it.

My life, like most, has been a series of sunny days and stormy ones, of peaks and valleys, of mountains I couldn’t scale and oceans I couldn’t swim, along with unexpected and glorious triumphs. Perhaps small, but glorious nonetheless.

I’m grateful to Mr. Keplinger for giving us that assignment, for early on forcing us to think in two languages of our deepest-held beliefs, for whether he knew it or not, it formed a foundation for my faith over the years.

It’s simple, yes, and there are much more complex issues that crowd my mind every day. The details of my faith change year to year, but the core remains the same.

And part of the core is this:

I believe in God because the sun rises and sets every day.


Photo Credit :© Kotenko Oleksandr — Adobe Stock

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Lessons Learned: A Belated Thank You

In sixth grade, in an effort to teach his students the importance of simplicity in writing, Mr. Dunton assigned each of us a famous saying, something we all were familiar with. We were told to re-write it, using unnecessarily complex language.

Here’s what I came up with:

AdobeStock_143047698“An overabundance of persons engaged in creating edible material taint the liquid in which meat, fish and vegetables are stewed.”

I’ll leave it to you to figure out the original popular saying. Mr. Dunton loved my interpretation, and my classmates were completely confused. I can’t speak for any of them, but that lesson stayed with me.

As did the assignment we were given in eighth grade. Write a 100-word description of anything you choose, just don’t use the same word twice.

Unfortunately some of us were very literal and thought that included such words as “the” and “is.” It became a challenging assignment. One that has proven to be useful to this day.

Frequently after I’ve written and published one of my blog posts I find an “appalling” error. I hasten to correct it, but what I really should be doing is thanking those teachers who taught me to spot the problems in my writing and helped me hone a skill that is essential to my well-being.

I have several friends who are teachers, and I know there are days they feel as if they’ve accomplished nothing. The demands put on their job that seemingly have nothing to do with teaching, but rather, with meeting the obscure expectations of bureaucrats, overshadow the part of the job they love.

AdobeStock_110260540
Thank you very much!

Most days will eventually fade in the memories of their students, most assignments will be a part of a hazy past. Still, some things will stick, and they will make the difference teachers want to believe they are making.

Thank you, Mr. Dunton. Thank you, Mrs. Edwards…Mr. Teall…Mr. Tabucchi…Miss Golart. For those of you I’m not naming, you are not forgotten. Neither are your lessons.

Thank you.


Images © geosap — Adobe Stock

Wisdom is as Essential as Salt

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
— Aristotle

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Centuries apart, great minds came to the same conclusion. It takes more than a headful of knowledge to truly be of use in society. The one who can spout a bounty of facts may be of passing interest, but those who take those facts and put them into perspective will have a lasting impact.

Grammar police are often annoying, and with good reason. They rarely relay in any meaningful form the purpose of speaking with precise correctness. Written grammatical correctness has its place. It makes reading easier and more comprehensible. (Anyone paying attention will find errors with my writing, so no need to point that out. I know already.) And certainly speaking with clarity is a necessary skill for most of us.

turkey strut

But if I fail to properly use “whom” while I’m talking to you, or I tell you I’m “good” instead of “well” when you ask how I’m doing, you should know you come across as pompous and insecure about your own intellect when you correct me.

That kind of education, knowing proper grammar, is important. But knowing when it matters is just as important.

I have said it before and it bears repeating: the most valuable class I took in college was Logic 101.  I was fortunate. I had a fantastic professor. Today’s world of pundits and sometime fools spouting off facts on 24-hour television requires our discretion and wisdom. It doesn’t hurt to have those skills in everyday conversation, either.

If you cook, you know salt is essential for the tastiness of so many foods. Those on a salt-restricted diet will tell you that’s absolutely true. Yes, there are healthy alternatives. Wisdom is as essential as salt, and the alternative is discernment.

Knowledge concept with books and seedlings

I have good friends who are in education. Bonnie is one of the leaders of a state college in California, and her passion for students and learning is inspirational. As is the same spirit in so many teachers and administrators. I applaud all of you.

My cousin is working toward his masters’ in education, and plans to teach high school when he’s done. All that learning for a job that pays so little while demanding so much. Kudos to all of you committed enough to the process to pursue that highest education for the sake of others.

I hardly have to tell you educators, because you know by experience, the importance of wisdom as well as knowledge. I remember the wise words of my freshman English teacher, who’d throw those thoughts out almost as an aside, better than I remember the vocabulary tests we took each week. It’s forty years later, and they have helped shape my life.


Photo Credits: (rooster) © Tsomka — Bigstock; (book with plant) © Elnur — Bigstock


Learning

Help for Helping Your Kids With Math

There’s one blog I follow that stands out from others in its purpose, and for parents of elementary school children, it can make an important difference.

You’ll find creative ways to make learning about math FUN for you & your kids. Which isn’t always easy.

The blog is How I Help My Elementary School Children With Math, and the woman who writes it is pursuing her Master’s in Math Elementary Education. She knows what she’s talking about, and is passionate about it.

She also has two children, ages 4 and 7, so she’s got some practical experience in this as well. And she’s darn nice.

Math is important, and a lot of kids struggle with it. What’s more, many parents have difficulty helping them. This blog can help everyone find ways to look forward to learning about numbers.

As a child, I was lucky. My dad was a math major in college and he also was a good teacher. Yet even I had hard time learning the basics. So I appreciate any tools for this key subject.

Check this blog out. Check out a number (pun intended) of the posts. Let your friends with elementary school children know about it as well!

Math is Cool, and Math is Important!


 

Image credit: © Gstudio Group – Fotolia

the man and the boy named Paul

I learned a lesson that shaped my life in what was perhaps a tangential conversation to a day’s English lesson, and gave meaning to a well-intended, yet immensely distressing, event a year before.

I was a freshman in high school, and oh-so-fortunate to have a teacher named Paul Meredith. He taught not only the accelerated English course I was in, but the course for those who struggled so much they didn’t even qualify for the most basic of English classes. The kids on the outside, the ones we didn’t see.

Of course we called him Mr. Meredith, and one day, Mr. Meredith told us, “it’s not what happens in your life that determines who you are, but how you handle those events.” Or words to that effect. A new thought for me that day, but one that’s echoed throughout my life.

There was another Paul who entered my life a year before, in eighth grade. This Paul was one of those we didn’t see in high school, but in junior high, because our school was so small, he was visible.

Paul had been going to a different school up to then, called Mark Twain, for boys with behavioral problems. Much to my shame now, we tended to look down on them. Paul apparently had progressed enough they thought he could handle coming back to our “regular” school.

I guess he had a crush on me. He stood out from the other boys in my class because he always called me by name and was incredibly polite. I bet someone had worked with him on that.

One day I was wearing an elastic-waist skirt, peasant-style with a matching blouse, and another boy yanked it down. While my friends scrambled to pull it back up, Paul hit the boy in my defense, more than once. In fact, I think there was quite a scuffle. As a result, he was sent back to Mark Twain.

I had a hard time with that. I kept trying to explain what had happened, that he was only defending me. My parents & teachers told me his intention wasn’t what got him in trouble. It was how he handled it. Much later, I finally understood

candleI’ve cried more than once remembering him, and what he did on my behalf that cost him. It wasn’t about me, yet, it was. I hope someone told him, “Paul, yeah, you messed up, but hey, she stood up for you. You made the right impression.”

What’s more, for years I’ve wanted to tell Paul that whether or not I showed it, whether or not I even realized it at the time, I deeply appreciated his calling me by name.

No doubt his anger was the consequence of something that wasn’t his fault, and ultimately, it wouldn’t be what happened to him, it would be how he handled it that would determine the man he would become. Anger is tough to change, but he was young, and he was trying.

To both the man and the boy named Paul, I remember you.

Photo Credit: © 9comeback – fotolia.com