(Sunday Paper, Volume III, Issue 21)
Hope you're having a nice Memorial Day weekend, ushering in guest post season here at the Sunday Paper!
This week we turn the Sunday Paper over to my co-teacher for most of my teaching life...someone who I probably spent more waking hours with from about 2004 through about 2013 than I did with Kathy.
I've been very lucky in my co-teaching life - from the teachers I worked with when I was a student teacher through the teachers I collaborated with and those I shared a class with - I learned so much from them and got along incredibly well with all of them, which is no small thing.
David was the person with whom - in any part of my working life - I worked with closest and for the longest time. I've always enjoyed his writing and today I'm happy to share some of it with you as he takes over the Sunday Paper.
Happy Sunday. And three-day weekend. And unofficial start of summer.
John and I taught fifth grade together over ten years ago. He took care of all curricular things language arts and social studies. I taught math and science. It’s always dicey when two teachers work together. It's important for students’ sake that co-teachers see eye to eye. John and I did that and more. He must agree because he asked me to take over for him this week.
This week’s Sunday Paper is about things that set us to wondering. This is something adults do well in the middle of the night: I wonder, if I had to do it all over again, would I change anything? If so, what?
Kids are good at wondering, day and night. A fifth grader asked me once, Why does glue harden outside the bottle but is liquid inside the bottle? Sometimes kids’ wonder takes the place of what they should be concentrating on. After John and I spent some time setting up a project with complex directions, we asked the students if they had any questions. One girl raised her hand and asked us,“Do you know you two are wearing the same tie?”
Things I Wonder About When I Have Better Things to Do
• I wonder why people park on driveways and drive on parkways. OK, I don’t really wonder about this. Some wag came up with it years ago, and it has stuck with me. Want more?
• I wonder why, when you are sick in the hospital, doctors ask, “How are you feeling?” Your answer? “I’m in a hospital. How do you think I’m feeling?”
• I wonder why many men wear shorts and t-shirts all year round. It might make sense where you live, or if you are a middle school student. But here, where it is not infrequently cold and snowy? Really? I see these men in the grocery store parking lot in January and want to ask them, What was it when you got up this morning and looked out the window that said to you Summer Clothes?
• I wonder why we still have utility poles. We’re almost a quarter of the way through the 21st century, for goodness sake. Utility poles were first used 202 years ago. There were only 19 states in the United States in 1816. No one has come up with a better way to send electricity from one place to another in that time? Ask anyone in the snow belt of the United States what wind and snow can do to power lines to make their toasty living room into a refrigerator. Ask anyone who lives anywhere near the lava flow of Mt. Kilauea on Hawaii this month. The slowly creeping flaming liquid rock pulled down interconnected lines of power cable for miles, short-circuiting electricity service. Suddenly it’s takeout for dinner for hundreds of people in Hawaii, if nearby restaurants still have power. Ask the people of Puerto Rico how they feel about utility poles in the wake of a hurricane. They probably would have a lot to say.
• I wonder why we have traffic lights that change on a timer, not on the number of cars waiting to drive down the road. How many times have you been stopped at a light, and no one is on the street perpendicular to you? How many times have you approached a light that has been green for a half mile, only to have it turn red just as you get to it? Now you know why these are the informal meanings of traffic light colors in Massachusetts:
1. Green — Drive over the speed limit, as usual.
2. Yellow — Press the accelerator to the floor to get through the light before it turns red.
3. Red — You have ten seconds to make it through the intersection.
If Elon Musk put half the effort into reprogramming traffic lights so they responded to what was happening on the road as he did to sending a Tesla to Mars, we’d all be happier.
The one-word answer to the utility pole and traffic light questions is, of course, money. CNN estimates that in some areas of the country it would cost $1,000,000 a mile to put utility cables underground.
Things My Father Wondered About Just to (Successfully) Provoke His Family
When I was in school, my two brothers, my mother, my father, and I always had dinner together. My brothers and I could talk about school, as long as our report was 25 words or less. The purpose of dinner in my father’s eyes was a forum for him to hold court. He wouldn’t do monologues. He would ask provocative questions to get the rest of us to talk. One evening it was, what is the difference between cake and bread? Whatever answer we gave, it never was convincing to him. This was frustrating to those of us who thought our logic was airtight. Voices were raised as my father sat in his chair and calmly told us why, he felt, our answers were flawed. However, my brothers, my mother, and I eventually developed an effective form of rebellion:
Dad: “I wonder, why shouldn’t Richard Nixon be re-elected as president?”
Any other family member: “I don’t know. Pass the peas, please.”
Final Subject I Wonder About for Today
As I read over what I wrote above, I notice that they are rants and grievances, not really things I wonder about. Is that what other adults use their curiosity to do? I wonder.