Wonder

Friday, January 17, 2014

Over Christmas, my nephew took me completely off guard when he asked, “What happens when you split an atom?” In true science teacher fashion, I asked him a series of questions about atoms before I made him figure out his own answer, but it got me thinking about wonder. Curiosity. Children are always so full of wonder – asking countless questions and absorbing everything about the world. Watching the rain form droplets on the car window, I had no idea that one day I’d be teaching kids about hydrogen bonds. Scientists search for answers to their questions but some days I have trouble even getting my students to ask.

Early this week I just wanted to shake my students and ask, “Why aren’t you curious? Don’t you wonder about these things? Don’t you care?” Some days it’s like I’m tricking them into learning…cajoling them into understanding in spite of themselves.

When I was about to hit my breaking point and tell them that their teenager brains were broken and some day they would care about things again, I saw that spark of wonder. It started yesterday during our final exam when I handed out a new book (Microterrors) to some students who had finished early. As they started reading about viruses transmitted through cannibalism and intercourse and sneezing, they began to wonder. They whispered for me to come over to help pronounce “encephalitis” and they tried to secretly show their neighbor the pages of herpes viruses.

On the days I need it most, my students surprise me with their curiosity and their vulnerability. They surprise me every day…and the days of good surprises are happening more and more.

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A Snowy Drive

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Thursday, George and I were driving back from a slightly unfortunate New Year’s in Dayton (to summarize: double stomach flu does not New Year’s kiss make), and I was thinking about the beginning of 2013 and how differently the year ended. Since I’ve been neglecting all of my blog duties and I’m waiting for someone to come replace my cracked windshield, I thought I should reflect on my really really (really?) long year.

Last January, I went back to Kansas after the happiest of New Year’s celebrations having no earthly idea what I would be doing in August. For some reason, August was my deadline to figure out my life, but I knew that if I didn’t get a move on it would be another year of substitute teaching and after school programs and feeling directionless. My directionlessness culminated in February, and my mother announced that she was sending me to be straightened out by two of my most sensible friends in Chicago.

Straighten me out indeed. While Hallie was planting seeds for me to come live with them in their purple bathroom forever, George was winning my heart. After some interviews, a change in direction, and some serious stress, I announced to Hallie that [with or without a job] I’d be coming to live with her in Chicago on June 1.

Miraculously, everything worked out. I was accepted into the teaching fellowship and survived training, which led to a job and my first apartment. I had no idea that a spur of the moment trip to Chicago would lead to a new career in a new city. I had no idea that it was possible to grow so much in one year. I had no idea that I possessed the ability to somehow become a teacher to which students bring unidentifiable bones (it was a distal femur of a cow).

Here’s to another year of discovering more “I had no ideas…”