They Make Me Laugh

slice of lifeI leaned over the senior in my chemistry class and said, “Just to be very clear, I am not laughing at you – I am laughing at his reaction to whatever just happened here.”

I was thanked and I felt reassured that I had talked to the student.  My class was working in self selected groups on a series of purposely challenging problems so I could assess where everyone was at.  Last week was one of those crazy weeks where I was in and out of the classroom and I wasn’t sure if any of the instruction had stuck with the students; and it was homecoming week.  The math was not trivial, but not “rocket science” either.  But you would have thought by the reaction the other group member had that the student thought 1+1=cat.  He raised out of his chair, reached over, fussing at the other student and just kept saying, No!  He was loud with a bewildered expression on his face.  How could anyone have done that?

I love the difference in my students.  They may be in the same math class, they may not.  It really doesn’t matter.  Some kids come to me with some rather big holes in their math backgrounds but with practice they can identify them and fill them in.  And then I get some who are just very, very good at math.  And it is very hard for them to understand everyone else on the planet.  And they are just so fun to watch when they work together.

A few years back I was teaching honors physics and as a first day activity they wrote down what math class and teacher they had.  I double checked in the computer.  My honors physics kids had seven different classes and twelve different teachers.  Well, okay, I guess I will just assume absolutely nothing.  And the only two sophomores in the class were the stars.

Another year, again in self selected groups, a shining math star was helping the girl seated next to him.  This was physics.  And he retreated totally.  No pleading on her part could get him to help her because whatever math error she had just committed was the final fatal blow.  He put the neck of his shirt up over his head and sat like that for the rest of the period.  He couldn’t look at whatever it was that she had done.  How could anyone help but laugh?  I figured I didn’t need to know the details of that exchange either.

Why do I teach?  Because it is constantly changing, dynamic, entertaining, enlightening, and some days just downright fun!

Mama’s Cruet

slice of lifeEveryone seems to separate the world into two categories.  The problem is the sometimes I’m just not comfortable in either one.  Saturday I broke Mama’s Cruet, well, it wasn’t my mama’s cruet, but I’ll get to that.

The two categories to consider today are those who will use those things they love everyday and enjoy them and those who will keep them in a safe and secure place so that nothing happens to them.

My grandmother was definitely the latter.  If you gave her something she really liked, she would put it away and keep it.  But she wouldn’t use it.

My best friend lived in the other category and I admire it but I just am not sure I can fight genetics and not follow in my Grandmother’s path.  Lisa and her family would come to visit on Christmas night.  She was always dressed in a new outfit from her socks to her earrings showing off the best selection of her Christmas presents.  My presents were always kept, nicely displayed in the box back under the tree until the tree went down on New Year’s Day and the new clothes were put away to be used, later.  I can’t really tell you when later is, so please do not ask.

My grandmother’s half-sister, Lizzie, loved to go to garage sales.  For a number of years while I was growing up I remember her on a quest to find a stopper for Mama’s cruet.  This clear glass jar used for oil or vinegar that may or may not have actually belonged to their mother.  The stopper was lost or broken  so Grandma couldn’t use it.  She kept it safe, in the china cabinet.  Aunt Lizzie (great aunt is just too long and formal) was ten years older than my grandmother.  My great-grandmother died when my grandmother was eight and Aunt Lizzie was 18.  There were nine children total, and Grandma was the only girl at home to take care of the younger brothers.  So, this glass jar was the only thing they had of their mother’s.

For years Aunt Lizzie would find a top to a cruet at a rummage sale and give it to Grandma who would say it was too fancy, too tall, too plain, too thin, too wide, too something.  She must have finally given in, because when I inherited the cruet it had a top.  A top with a plastic stopper so this is not the original 1920’s stopper.

I had just finished making dinner Saturday night when I turned around and knocked the cruet, filled will flavored olive oil, on to the tile floor where it broke in many many pieces.  Thankfully only one piece has found my bare foot so far and I think I have mitigated the oil slick I created, but Mama’s Cruet is gone forever.  If I had just put it away…if I hadn’t put the basil olive oil in it…if I were more careful.  So, hopefully writing the story will atone for breaking the cruet and I can still remember the wonderful times with Grandma and Aunt Lizzie, even when I was dragged to rummage sales as a kid and maybe I shouldn’t regret using the cruet since that is why it was made.