The other day, a friend of mine tweeted something about his childhood in Oshawa, Ontario. While I knew that he was Canadian, and may have been aware of the fact that he was from “Toronto”, I never knew he was from Oshawa.
Not that it mattered to me, but I replied to him, and said that you learn something new every day.
I often tell Son and Daughter that you learn something every day. Just the other day Son was a one-boy audience to a medium-long speech that Herb Brooks would have been jealous of, on the importance of practice, and learning by doing. Yesterday, when Daughter and I hung out at the rink, she worked on her math skills by tying to figure out how much time was left on the clock.
“Well, a bandy game lasts 90 minutes, and now they’ve played 86 .. so…,” I’d say, and she would be quiet for a while, and then deliver her answer with a big smile.
Sometimes, though, we learn something when things go wrong.
Our biology teacher was nice woman, probably in her thirties, although in hindsight I realize that I was a very bad judge of age when I was a teenager. She was young, relative to our history teacher, at least, and she was nice, and that was enough for me.
Our class was awful, though. We were 13 or 14, and some people’s hormones had got the best of them, and while they couldn’t contain their hormones, they themselves couldn’t be contained in the classroom.
The teacher tried to use some of that teacher judo on us – teach us stuff without it feeling so much like school – so she sometimes took us for short field trips into the nearby forest, and its jogging path where we’d collect soil samples, or maybe simply make observations.
One spring day, one of those gorgeous days in May when there’s no snow anymore and when the sun is shining it’s really warm, but since it’s not summer yet, you’re often dressed wrong, she took us to the river. The river was a nice walk from the school, much farther than the forest which was basically just outside the school’s front door.
The river was about a kilometer and a half from the school, and the likelyhood somebody not making it to the river with the group – but instead maybe ending up at the gas station cafeteria – was high, but the teacher probably liked her odds. She could probably do without those who didn’t make it.
Anyway, the purpose of our field trip was to take water samples from the river, and the analyze them to see how polluted the river was. The teacher had picked a spot, and we all walked up the hill and then down the hill to the river.
As far as I remembered, the water in the river had been brown, but since my friends – but not me – also used to swim in it, and since there had been talk about restocking the river with salmon I had never thought it might be polluted.
The spot she had picked was in an open area, with no forest, but she hadn’t chosen that place because she wanted to stay in the sun but because that’s where the sewage pipe was.
Because that’s where she wanted to get her sample.
With the class there she told us first what she was about to do, and then asked everybody to step back. She held a sample bottle in her hand, and then got to the edge of water, and we followed her every step. She dropped the bottle into the river, and when she pulled it back up, she was obviously happy with her catch.
We were all around her and for one reason or another, somebody in the crowd pushed the person in front of him. Maybe he didn’t hear her, and just wanted to get a little closer to hear better. Anyway, the person he pushed then shoved the person in front of him who, in turn, took a step forward and pushed the person in front of him.
Who then got shoved into the teacher, who … fell into the water.
And that’s how I learned the concept of “chain reaction”.