What do dynamite, Teddy Roosevelt, and Malala have in common?
I posed that question to my eighth graders last week. It was how I began my science instruction for the day and I tweeted it on my school Twitter account. It was Thursday, the day after Wednesday; because that is the way the week usually plays out. Friday came and went, then Saturday, and now it is Sunday morning.
I’ve been feeling guilty lately. I haven’t written, blogged, or read much outside my realm of eighth grade science and history since Thanksgiving. I was looking at my blog and reflecting about its purpose and my commitment to the blog – writing, and in life in general. I looked back at the history of the blog back to my first year, 2010, and every afterward. In December, I fell off a cliff. It wasn’t just this year, it was last year and every year in December my posting dropped off and in each month there is a significant gap between Thanksgiving and the next post, today’s post is 17 days after Thanksgiving. I find comfort in the fact that every year I seem to be consumed by a vortex. It’s every year, not just this year.
Which is why I found the above riddle so intriguing. Half of my science students are immersed in science fair and writing their reports. Over Thanksgiving Break, I read their first drafts, commented, marked them, and returned them Monday, December 1st. They’ve revised and rewritten those first drafts, they’ve worked on their experiments, collected data, and their final drafts are due this Wednesday. That will be their Christmas gift to me. Over Christmas Break, I will be reading, marking, and up to my eyeballs in science fair reviews of literature. The other half of my science students are immersed in learning about matter – atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons, and the periodic table of elements. Both sets of students have been busy, which is why I have been so silent.
I had several responses – which were on the mark. Friday morning I revealed the answer. All have to do with the Nobel Prizes – which I am certain you knew.
Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and inventor, invented dynamite and several other breakthroughs in explosives. In fact, he became quite wealthy because of his inventions. Yet, there is a dark side to his inventions. Nobel lost his brother to an explosion and his breakthroughs in the field of explosives were not viewed by the public as ones which benefited humankind – probably with a bit of media influence, but I digress. When he passed away, the bulk of his fortune was diverted to fund prizes that do benefit the world and since 1901, 567 Nobel Prizes have been awarded in the fields of chemistry, physics, literature, medicine, Economics Sciences, and peace.
That leads me to Teddy and Malala. Both are Peace Prize winners.
Roosevelt was awarded the prize in 1906 for his role in the peace treaty between Russia and Japan, as well as resolving a dispute between the United States and Mexico by resorting to arbitration rather than war.
Malala was awarded the Peace Prize this year and shared it with Kailash Satyarthi. The Peace Prize was awarded for their:
“for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education” Nobel Peace Prize – 2014
And that is what I do, I teach kids. I try to teach all kids regardless of gender, religion, what they look like, how they dress, if they are rich or poor, nice or naughty. I am like most teachers in my school, my community, and across the globe – we make big differences in the lives of our students and most of the time we never know. That’s why we teach. Malala serves as an inspiration to us all for the very idea that universal education is the true liberator and the courage it took to stand up for what she believed was right and almost paying for it with her life.
On Monday, I received a Christmas card from a former student’s family. It made my day, my week, and my year – all in one. He moved away after his seventh grade year and I’ve gotten a Christmas card every year since. I opened the card and read. It has been five years since he was my student, he still looks back on the time we worked together as his favorite memory. I beamed. It made my year.
It’s Sunday morning and the entire day lays before me – it’s full every Sunday is full – chores, planning, and catching up on what I couldn’t finish or even get to during the week. It’s gonna be a great day and tomorrow is could be a million and six times better. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one question, one class and one student at a time. Teaching to make a difference.
Have a wonderful day.