October 26, 2021-

Who is more uncomfortable teaching math to a group? The question was on both my mind and that of my co-teacher, earlier today. The kids were not too concerned. My group seemed to understand the lesson, and took my fat-fingering the Smart Board graphics in stride. The other group loves their teacher too much, to not cut her some slack, in the one-day absence of her regular co-teacher.

Besides, these two classes are perfect examples of what keeps me connected to education, even after official retirement. They are typical, robust, sometimes devious 11-year-olds, but when it comes to learning, to paying attention, their concept of their role is spot-on. Like the native speakers of Parisian French or Mandarin Chinese, all they ask is that you try.

Trying to explain a concept that is a bit rusty, from decades of scant use, is a temptation for shyness or self-doubt to set in. I said “No”, to that temptation, and took the fat-fingering in stride. It was made all the easier by the students’ assumption that Boomers know nothing of Smart Boards, and their inherent patience. (Disclosure: Penny was in the first group of teachers in Arizona to use a Smart Board, in 2002. I got to try the tool out, several times, on visits to her classroom.) The kids were amazed, at how quickly I learned to use the tool.

There is joy, and power, in extending oneself. That is the most important lesson I hope the students picked up today.

Adding New Skills


November 10, 2020-

As I returned from work, this afternoon, my friend, the Mourning Dove, landed briefly on the gravel of our driveway. Usually, her greeting me is an indicator of good news. So it was this time, as I received written confirmation of a change in my monthly deposit from the Feds.

Workwise, I was asked to preside over a pair of online classes, this afternoon, having completed two in-person sessions in the morning. Being math and science, I had to pay close attention, ahead of time, to the material. It was not difficult, but these are “whiz kids” and it turned out they already had mastered the material.

What I had not mastered was the setting up of Breakout Groups, so everyone ended up in the same group, with little to discuss. This will be a matter for Zoom Tutorial, over the next couple of days, as I am quite sure today will not be the last time that I need to oversee such a class format, between now and Christmas.

In the end, my young friends were glad that someone was there to run them through the session, even if it was review material. There are a number of avenues of learning that can branch off from the lessons, yet I leave that to their very competent regular instructor, who returns next week.

I dreamt last night that a former hard taskmaster managed to teach me how to secure caps on bottles of cola, using plastic ties. I can pretty much guarantee this will not happen in real life. What I got out of it, though, was that I can, and will, acquire new skills, over the next several months and years. I won’t be working for wages, all that much, after next month, yet life itself needs us to stay sharp and focused. As I write this, the image of one of my uncles, whose cognitive skills were sharp during his working years, but faded in retirement, is cautioning just such a regimen of regular mental exercise.

Life is certainly a sweet cornucopia.