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Morning Sun
  • OKIE IN EXILE: Lighting the Fire

  • Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road

    Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go

    So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why

    It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time

    It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.

    I hope you had the time of your life.

    --Green Day

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  • Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
    Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
    So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
    It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time
    It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.
    I hope you had the time of your life.
    --Green Day
    It takes a fire to start a fire.  You have to input energy to get a process going.  Depending upon the kindling, it might require only a spark or it might require a sustained blaze.
    There are certain things I’ve done in my life that if I’d known how hard they were going to be I wouldn’t’ve begun them.  They were things of such difficulty that--at certain times -- if I could’ve found a graceful way out of them I would’ve. Yet I couldn’t. I had to stick with them to the bitter end. But once I was done I was glad that I’d done it.
    One of these was my trip to Russia in June of 2000. One of them was my two years as President of PSU/KNEA.
    One other is farther back. I was in the second, third or fourth grade. I can’t remember exactly which, but I do believe that Mrs. Bishop was my teacher. I wrote a play.  I remember the title: Space Play. I wrote it and my fellow students in the class put it on. As I recall, we had a book at home about the Apollo program. I read the book — or parts of it — synthesized it, and then parcelled out lines from it for my classmates to regurgitate.
    It couldn’t’ve lasted more than a couple of minutes.
    I sweated over that play for hours. My first problem was the physical act of writing. My penmanship is still hideous after nearly five decades of practice. I still get my little d backwards.  In those days, the act of putting anything on paper was onerous.
    But harder than that was the pressure. I wanted my classmates to put on this play. I wanted the fame of it, such as it was in that small school, in that remote part of the world. I remember my momma remarking to the teacher, “I think he believed he’d bit off more than he could chew.”
    She was absolutely right. But I kept on chewing and chewing and after a while I swallowed real hard and it went down.
    I need to meditate on this. As a teacher, we listen to our students. We want to know what they are understanding and what they are not understanding. There is always---always--a certain amount of whining. As a teacher, you have to learn how to deal with that. The students will tell you that they are dying, but you have to be able to judges if those are death pangs or growing pains. Are you as a teacher about to quench the flame of learning or see it burst into a blaze?
    Page 2 of 2 - A lot of that will have to do with the fuel.
    And in the case of learning, the fuel has a mind of its own and thinks for itself. It does what it darn well pleases.
    It is often said that learning comes naturally to humans. And I can’t argue with that. We come into the world naked, without currency, and not able to speak the local tongue and within a few years pick it up. But, while some of it comes as easily as picking fruit, sometimes we have to climb the tree. And sometimes in climbing the tree you wish you’d never got on it in the first place.
    You don’t always get the fruit either. My handwriting has never become any good. I’ve wanted it to happen and I’ve tried but it never came about. I’ve worked and worked, recopying my class notes by hand semester after semester, year after year, until I was in my forties.  It still looks like the work of an eight-year-old serial killer.
    So you never know.  What I do know is this: Often the fire catches and burns into a blaze.  That makes all of the rest worth it.
    Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University. He blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. You may contact him at okieinexile@gmail.com.

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