It’s the 60th day of summer break, the 53rd day of my new knee, and my dad was right.
The other night I was picking up O after band camp and I opened the rear door so she could put away her bass drum. And she said,
“It won’t fit!” O sounded frustrated.
“Turn it on its side.” I responded.
She did and it fit. When she climbed into the passenger seat she asked,
“Dad, why do you have to be right all the time?”
“I’m not right ALL the time.” I smiled gently and replied with a emphasis on ALL.
“I’m just right some of the time,” I continued.
And the conversation shifted to how band camp had gone that day and what she had learned.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately. More so than normal. He passed away nine summers ago and I don’t think there has been a day when something about him or something he said or wrote has been far from my thoughts, but lately his wisdom has been in the forefront.
Dad was a marine, or I should write is a marine. W heads off for boot camp in less than two weeks and I think dad’s wisdom about what he learned from being in the Marine Corps has been on my mind, but also dad’s advice about learning and health.
I remember one of his quips about how much he really knew. He explained when he was younger he knew this much and he held his arms far apart. He explained that as he got older he realized that he really didn’t know that much but only a little and he held his forefinger and his thumb about an inch apart. He finished his thought by explaining,
“But, that inch that I know, I really know and I know it well.”
When I told my dad, I had decided to change careers and become a teacher, he was excited and very supportive. Later after he retired and I would call him or he would call me, he would ask how teaching was going and I’d share what I was teaching and what I was learning. He always had good questions which made me think and was always encouraging about learning and being open to new ideas. He always reminded me that there was so much he didn’t know.
I’ve been feeling that way lately – there is so much that I don’t know.
Earlier this summer I began reading, Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel. It’s an interesting story about British soldiers serving along the Western Front in WWI. As I finished the first two chapters, which were about birds and birding, I began to look around and notice the birds in my yard, and beyond, and wonder. I wrote a post about this earlier this summer, but I realized I really don’t know much about birds. I can tell a cardinal from a robin and a duck from a gull, but that is it. It’s made me wonder. I am not a naturalist or biologist, though when I was younger, much younger, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Long story, not now.
I teach science to 13 and 14 year-olds, what I really try to do is to inspire them to be curious and wonder about the world about them. For some of my students it works.A couple weeks ago, at the five-week post-knee surgery mark, I took a week to go back to the classroom – to learn and grow as a teacher. Over the past year I have been active with a group of teachers in a project funded through the U.S. Department of Education to help improve science education at the elementary and middle levels – it was called Project S.M.I.L.E. – Science and Mathematics In Line with Engineering. It was also a test of my new knee and my endurance.
We spent the week exploring the local area. The first day we explored the Field Museum in downtown Chicago. It had been a while since I had visited the museum. It was a blast, but it was also a significant test for my new knee – up and down stairs and a lot of walking. The following days we explored a quarry, visited a waste-water treatment plant, hiked a restored prairie, investigated a local river to discover micro-invertebrates and many more activities. The week finished with a symposium at one of the program’s sponsors – Ball Seed – where we shared our culminating projects.
It was an excellent week of learning. It was also an excellent week to test my new knee. I discovered my new knee was ready after five weeks of physical therapy, which is good because the left knee surgery is scheduled for December. I also discovered that I wanted to learn more about birds and birding. I don’t know much about birds, but I hope to learn more over the coming months.
One of the things I did learn from my dad, that I didn’t appreciate until recently is his example of life-long learning. He was an avid reader of history, politics, and science, and at the age of 54 – two years younger than I am now – he taught himself to use a personal computer – the old style before Windows made the PC much easier to use. He passed his first computer to me and I used it for the several years before I got my first Windows machine in ’96.
Dad was right, “I don’t know much, but what I do know, I know well.” And what I don’t know, I am willing to learn. Dad did tell me to pick my battles with learning, because there is a lot to learn much more than you can imagine and there is only so much time.
My dad also warned me against getting old. What he really meant was to take care of myself and focus on wellness. Old is relative, I don’t think of myself as old, though others may ‘see’ me as older (especially my students), I think of myself as experienced and always learning. My dad’s cautionary warning of ‘age’ came much later in his life as the aches and pains of living took its toll.
My dad was right, we can learn new things. My new knee is like my dad learning how to use a PC. Learning how to use a PC opened doors for him and my knee is going to open a whole new world for me.
It’s all about always learning, always growing, and being open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. It’s Friday and it’s the end of the week, the weekend lies ahead, and there are twelve days remaining of summer break. There is much to learn and experience. It’s gonna be a great day, today could possibly be the best day ever. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, learn©ing something new. Always.
What did your parents teach you?
NOTE: This post is edited with the new WordPress – Gutenberg post editor. Learning something new, always.