Monday, July 15, 2013


I have so many occasions to think back on the random little bits of information that I learned from teachers over the years. I never had a grandiose plan for how to use the information they gave to me, but I loved the way they made me feel like a half-filled piggy bank who was constantly receiving the golden coins of ingenious minds against a future investment.

Teachers are really terrible investors. They give away valuable information and insight daily and indiscriminately, never knowing whether their rich deposits will pay off. At least, that's the way the good ones are.

But I'd like to throw out a random little list of wonderful ideas that teachers have imparted to me and that I just held onto because they were beautiful:

1. I had a 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Ferrari, who had a "Ferrari parking only" sign on the side of her filing cabinet. She introduced me, magically, to the concept that Greeks truly believed their mythology. I know that is so stupidly obvious that I should have realized it on my own but at the time, I had only ever heard the myths as a curiosity. Once I was able to hear the stories again AS a believer, they meant so much more. I especially loved the idea of Athena springing fully formed from Zeus's head; the idea of a person being created in whole out of the stuff of imagination. That is such a fundamental part of the folklore of humanity. It is a timeless belief. I never would have *felt* that story without her introduction to the material.

2. I had an 11th grade Physics teacher, Mr. Delorme, whose grandfather had been my mother's first pastor in the little town where I grew up. He was a physicist before he was a teacher and he thought more like a true scientist than a teacher, which made him a great teacher. One day he explained that two events which appear to be correlated could be caused by a third factor rather than one event causing the other. For example, if you notice that people who like tent camping also like granola, it may not necessarily be that love of tent camping causes love of granola or vice versa; it may be that both tent camping and granola loving are caused by being a douche bag. (I just made up that example right now. Pshaw. I love both. And I own a Subaru). This notion dispels so much idiocy.

3. I had a 9th grade Biology teacher, Mr. Browning, who described the process of centrifugation as a process of spinning of cellular parts at high speeds until they separated by density. I remember thinking of that concept figuratively and applying it to life experiences: understanding that there were certain life experiences that, if your life were centrifuged, would sink to the bottom for their sheer density. And those are the ones you need to spend a lot of time analyzing.

There are dozens of more examples; these are the things that, 10 or 15 years later, resurface time and again. They are the bits and pieces that left an impression. The pieces that touched my soul. It would be nice if I were miraculously capable of recognizing the import of events as they occur. But I'm not that bright so it takes a great deal of time.

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