Larry Hehn is my special guest blogger today. He is the brains behind Christian in the Rough, and I feel honored to be the Jewish girl he lets hang around the joint. As Larry says, “I encourage people to find fun in the middle of dysfunction, action at the end of distraction, and grace at the end of disgrace.” Every time Larry posts something I learn something new. I really wish I knew him in real life. Feel free to Twitter-stalk him at @LarryHehn.
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Ode to Werner Berth
Werner Barth was the best teacher I ever had. A wiry man with a spring in his step, a sparkle in his eye, a gravelly voice and a thick German accent, Barth had a tremendous effect on me. Strangely, it had nothing to do with the topic he was teaching.
Barth taught statics – defined in one dictionary as “The branch of physics that deals with physical systems in equilibrium, in which no bodies are in motion, and all forces are offset or counterbalanced by other forces.”
It was potentially one of the most boring subjects on earth.
But not with Barth as the teacher.
He loved to teach. And he loved his students.
He communicated ideas in ways that were fun and memorable.
One day, to illustrate the difference in direction between a positive bending moment and a negative bending moment, he stood on his chair and swung his hand up to his head. As he scratched his head, he said, “You can do this on the subway. That’s a positive bending moment.”
He then swung his hand down to his rear end. As he scratched, he said, “You can’t do this on the subway. That’s a negative bending moment.”
Twenty-five years later I still remember the difference.
What impressed me most, though, was his reaction when our entire class performed poorly on a test.
At that point he had been teaching for more than 25 years, longer than most of us in the class had been alive. But there was not an ounce of pride in Barth. At our next scheduled lesson, he pulled up a chair in the middle of the classroom, sat down and questioned us for an hour about how he could improve his teaching methods.
Even after years of learning, applying and teaching, he was still a student.
What I learned in that classroom had only a bit to do with statics, and a lot to do with a lifetime of learning, humility and working within your passion.
Sixteen years after leaving the program, I tracked him down and called him out of the blue to thank him. He remembered me. “Ah, Larry . . . skinny guy!” He remembered all of his students by name, and kept in touch with many of them.
He told me about his retirement 14 years earlier, his recent hiking trip, and how he had beaten colon cancer a few years ago. He spoke with a positive attitude and an appreciation for life that surpassed just about anyone I’ve ever known.
When I grow up, I want to be like him.
It has been eight years since that phone call. I’m sorry to say that I have again lost touch with Barth, but I know we’ll meet again. And when we do, I’m sure he’ll have a sparkle in his eye.
Can you recall a memorable lesson? Who was the teacher? What did he/she do?
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If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored / Teachers Who I Think Sucked, write a specific memory about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction.
Essays should be around 700-800 words.
Interested but have questions? Email me!
My information is under the Contact Me tab.
NOTE: If you haven’t yet voted in the poll to determine which definition best fits for the word “castanurgle,” click HERE. The polls close on October 20, 2011 at 7 am EST.
To celebrate my 200th post the other day, I told people if they commented, I would create a new post explaining how we met. Of course, I explained, all the content would be a lie. (Especially since I don’t know most of the people who post on my blog.) So here it is: a piece of fiction to include everyone one of you who was brave enough to leave a comment. I hope you enjoy this brief digression, where I veered off-course — away from parenting and education — and went straight to fiction.
I would like to encourage people to click the highlighted names to see the work of any bloggers with whom you might not be familiar. In addition to being my cyber-friends, these people are truly great writers.
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Blackwatertown and I met on a chilly day in Bratislava as we fled hand-in-hand across an icy river. We’d had to spend an uncomfortable night hiding in a chicken coop because we couldn’t find a proper hotel. Covered in feathers and fowl feces, we carefully made our way across the creaky ice. I am forever grateful that he was wiling to share his single mitten.
Betsy W. and I met during our stint at Harvard Medical School at that cool bar where we stayed up late discussing the scaphoid, the lunate and the triquetrium. We bonded over our devotion to the fourteen phalanges.
I met Chrystal at a high-end mattress store in Savannah, Georgia where she insisted I bounce up and down at least 16 times on the Sealy to make sure the Posturepedic was really what I wanted. Of course she was right: the pillow top was too soft.
I met Ricky Anderson in 3rd grade after Chuck E. punched him in the nose on the playground. While the blood poured from his nostrils, I went in search of toilet paper to stop the oozing gush.
SaveSprinkles1234 and I met during the intermission of a really boring orchestra concert. We laughed as we met in the lobby and decided to grab a quick cup of chai and talk about the poor performance. Outside in the chilly air, Sprinkles found a cardboard box filled with abandoned kittens and insisted that she would take them all home and raise them up — and that’s exactly what she did.
Larisa and I met while we worked briefly as U.S. spies in the former Soviet Union. We were crammed inside a tiny airplane, trying to sneak into Tajikistan — under the radar, you might say. I’m probably not supposed to say that we were spies. I’m sorry, Larisa. I hope you are not a spy anymore. If you are, I have just put you into terrible danger.
I met Teri when a lost buzzard accidentally smashed against the front glass windows of her house. The ugly bird was decidedly dead, but Teri made me perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, just to be sure. It was very traumatic for everyone involved. Especially the dead buzzard, as it was early in the morning and I had not yet brushed my teeth.
While going through an odd stage in my life where I wanted to cover everything in platinum, I met E. Rumsey who helped me understand that while platinum is precious, it is not a good idea to try and cover one’s friends in the substance.
I met Amie the same day I met isrbrown. It was a warm spring morning and I had been churning butter at one of those old-fashioned country museums, talking about how everything was better in the good ole days when Amie picked up a brush began painting a fantastic mural on the floor and isrbrown sat down in a rocker and started knitting a cap. We churned and painted and knitted for hours until the good people from the museum brought us proper costumes — pretty dresses with fitted bodices and bonnets for our heads — so as to better fit in. Though we remain bitter that the museum people did not pay us for the work we did that day, we did enjoy playing dress-up.
JM Randolph was wandering around downtown SoHo smoking a cigar when some rogue ashes accidentally caught the sleeve of her shirt on fire. Hearing her screams, I pulled my ’75 Plymouth Volaré to the curb and drove her to the nearest hospital. Alas, JM proved to be extremely non-compliant and began scratching the nurses who were trying to help her. In an act of desperation, the doctors declawed her. Tragically, they removed every fingernail on JM’s right hand which is why she always wears one long white glove.
One day I was out pruning the rose bushes when I decided that I was going to give the most perfect bloom to the first person I saw passing by. And who do you think was the first person to roll by on her bike? Keenie Beanie! Okay, so I might have looked a little funny scary chasing after her with my sharp gardening shears. In fact, now that I think about it, this could help explain why she was pedaling away with so much enthusiasm, but I did eventually catch up to her and ask her if she would accept my rose. She said she would take it. If I promised not to hurt her.
D’alta and MamaSauce got into it in 7th grade. The two best gymnasts in the class, they would not stop arguing over who could make more passes on the balance beam without falling off. They had been carefully walking for over three hours without showing any signs of slowing when Marshall came over from the boys’ side and pushed them off in one fell swoop — and that was the end of that.
Jean, Lisa and I shared a chisel as we tried to escape from after school detention. Looking back at it now, we should have chosen a quieter method.
Kasey went through a science stage where she liked to experiment with different chemicals. One day while I was at her house, she told he to lie down on the couch while she put a cloth over my nose and mouth. A short while later I awoke, slightly disoriented, and asked what had happened. She simply answered: “Well, I guess we know what Chloroform does.”
Deborah the Closet Monsterand I met while working as dishwashers in a fast-food restaurant in 1985. Deb refused to wash dishes and mumbled continuously about “dish-soap mermaids.” Finally, Kathy – the manager — stepped in and told Deb that she needed to pull her weight or she’d be fired. In a single act of defiance, Deb tipped over a bucket of filthy mop-water, destroying Kathy’s pink legwarmers. We all laugh about it now. Right, you two?
One day, I zigged when I should have zagged and I accidentally ended up in the men’s room of a rather swanky restaurant. Thing is, I didn’t realize I was in the men’s room until I came out of the stall and saw someone… you know… standing there. I froze. My feet simply refused to turn back or go forward. Thank goodness Clay was such a good sport about the whole thing. After we washed our hands at the sinks, we left the bathroom together and had a good laugh about it. I never thought I’d ever see him again — but he turned out to be the beekeeper from whom we purchase our fresh honey. Small world, huh?
I met writerwoman61 at a Farmer’s Market while on vacation. She taught me how to select the freshest cucumbers and told me which vendors had the freshest goods. She also told me I should always buy cucumbers in threes. So I do.
At one point, I entered myself in a LEGO building contest to see who could create the best creation. Hundreds of people were there, but Ray Colon stood to my left and Limr stood to my right. We each had 10 minutes to sketch and one hour to build. Limr created an amazing dragon with huge wings. Ray crafted a vehicle that morphed into a really tall tower. I made an emu that carried a jewel of enchantment on his back. We all lost.
Christian Emmett and I met at a rock concert. I can’t remember the name of the band because it was that long ago, but at some point someone started passing around a joint. I could not have been older than 14 years old, but I was terrified. I didn’t want any. I looked at my friends, who were all partaking. I didn’t know what to do. Christian, a complete stranger, saw my fear and simply took the reefer out of my hand and passed it to the person sitting to his immediate right. We played footsies for the rest of the show.
Having just ended a terrible relationship, suchmeagerinsight and I found ourselves alone in Cancun, Mexico. It was a balmy evening when she started eating the entire contents of a large glass container filled with maraschino cherries while lying in her white-netted hammock. What she didn’t realize was that the cherries had been packed in liquor and she got mad-drunk on cherry juice champagne. I spent hours holding my new friend’s hair as she vomited into the toilet. People generally bond over things like that.
Larry Hehn, Becky O’Connor and I met on a Greyhound bus headed north to Massachusetts. Becky planned to see Salem to learn more about the witch trials; Larry wanted to go to Trinity Church, and I wanted to go to Fenway Park to catch a Red Sawx game. Alas, our bus overheated in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and — after waiting 17 hours for another bus to show up in sweltering summer temperatures — we decided to Rent-a-Lemon for $38 and drive the rest of the way together. We never made it. But we had a great time at Busch Gardens Amusement Park in Virgina.
After seeing Bo Derek in the movie 10, I decided to try the whole “corn-row braids thing.” After a few weeks, I realized I’d made a terrible mistake and, as I sat in on a bench the local mall crying my eyes out, Ermigalsat down next to me. I told her how I regretted my decision while she licked her vanilla & chocolate swirl ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles, and by the time she had finished her frozen treat, she selflessly offered to help me take out each and every bead and braid. It took 4 hours, but she never complained.
Some of you may have heard about how Annie, redheadstepmom and I unintentionally stopped a robbery. Redheadstepmom had an itch on her elbow, so she set her tuba case down on the curb and, as the rapscallion tried to make his getaway on foot, he stumbled over her over-sized instrument. Annie and I heard people screaming, “Stop that thief!” so we tackled the guy, giving the police just enough time to arrive on the scene, arrest the villain, and recover the stolen loot.
Jodi and Faith and I met at a barbecue for some people none of us knew. As we waited for our hot-dogs to grill, we looked at the condiments and had an exhaustive conversation about different types of mustard. Since then, we always exchange Grey Poupon for the holidays.
One winter, Educlaytion and Leanne Shirtliffe were wearing white snowsuits and lying in the snow on a curb outside of Bowness Park just 7.5 miles outside of the city center of Calgary, Canada. The two had been looking at the patterns they saw in the clouds when I tripped and fell over their legs. As I apologized profusely, Leanne laughed hysterically but Clay was all “Whaaat?” We found a nearby coffee shop to defrost and talked about “action verbs” for hours.
I would expect Val Erde to remember that we first spoke at the base of Mount Etna. But the only reason we met there was because I stalked her! I had been told I simply had to make authentic Italian calamari, so when she purchased the last octopus at the fish market and put it on ice in a big cooler, I simply could not let her go. When she stopped for that hot-dog in Sicily, I tried to swap my inexpensive Kappa knock-off tee-shirt for her box-o-seafood. Of course, she caught me red-handed. Nevertheless, she graciously invited me to her beautiful apartment where we promptly burned the octopus and overcooked the pasta.
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Thanks for helping me celebrate my 200th post with some fun fiction!
How’d I do? Let me know if I forgot any details. Or if you missed out on that post, feel free to remind me how we met!
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