As I’m setting up the blog again after a few years of, well, life, I noticed that the top three topics have been: Alcohol, Housekeeping, and Tantrums. Coincidence?
Archives for July 2017
It’s early morning and I’m organizing the kids’ school lessons for the day while the house is blissfully quiet. (Side note, quiet is only blissful in the context that the house will filled with ear-splitting noise in a couple of hours, otherwise, the quiet would be depressing).)
While preparing, I flash back to a memory from sixteen years ago. I had recently quit my job in manufacturing and was spending a year in the Pacific Northwest. Part of the reason I left was that I was burnt out working on the manufacturing floor; equipment breaks and I would get called in to fix it. Sometimes I’d end up being late on other assignments and get grief for that, and sometimes I’d be called at night or on weekends – whenever the plant was running was fair game.
I hadn’t planned to go back to being an engineer, especially in manufacturing, and thought maybe I’d do something like volunteer teaching or tutoring. I contacted the local high school and offered to help, saying that my strong point was math. I envisioned helping some kid by ‘turning the light on’ in a given topic, where they’d finally understand something that confused them and they’d be happier and more confident.
The school said they’d call when they needed me, and it didn’t take long. I got a call from the school with an odd request – their shop class had a small desktop robot. The robot had broken and no one knew how to fix it. Could I come in and see what I could do?
– sigh –
I visit the shop class and it’s a pretty cool shop. I had to admit that I did feel at home here. I get to work and fix the robot. Then, just for fun, I program it. I make a little material handling routine that picks up blocks from one area and organizes them on the other side. Students come by to check it out. I told the shop teacher I could come back tomorrow and he says yes. The next day I created an obstacle course and students got to learn how to program the robot to complete the course.
On the third and final day, I take a few freshmen to the chalkboard to explain how some of the mechanics work – how rotary motions can be made into linear motion and why that’s important. I start drawing lines and writing basic linear equations and explaining them. I explain that making the robot work is WHY we learn things like linear equations – it’s not just meaningless busy work. I was on a roll.
And then the bell rang. I stopped talking, a little sad that I was done here, and got ready to say bye to the students. They just stood there around me at the chalkboard. I asked them,
“Don’t you have to get to your next class?”
and one of them replied,
“We have five minutes until the next bell, you can finish explaining this.”
So I turned around and went back to finish the explanation. As I wrote that last “y = mx + b” on the board, I started to remember what I had loved about my job, what inspired me. There is some pretty cool stuff that can be done with math, with engineering, and with manufacturing; stuff so cool that a bunch of fourteen year olds would ask to stay after class to learn linear equations.
So here I am, sixteen years later, planning lessons for my kids. I don’t know what subjects will spark their inspiration, but I hope they find it. And it is nice that I can be here, helping them look.
There have been so many stories to tell since our journey began that I have struggled putting enough words to any single one of them. More so has been the challenge to find a good ‘first’ story, one that kicks off appropriately this Year of Living Sequeiralously. Many have come close – the (almost) $400 sandwich and the two pounds of meat I slow roasted (in the minivan at the airport parking lot during the week long heat wave) come to the forefront.
But just now, after Mick left for an evening shift after spending the whole day with us, as the low winter sun streams into the kitchen from the north (north?) west, and I’m watching the kids playing in their shorts out on the trampoline that came with the house we rented from a family of 6 who are on their own adventure, listening to Dino nice and loud, simmering some curry and rice for dinner, I realized that the epic story is that the five of us went through months of separation and moves and emerged together just wonderfully. Epic is in the everyday, and so begins the Year of Living Sequeiralously.