I recently had the amazing opportunity to present at a teacher's convention. This particular convention included Christian educators from all over the Great Lakes Region. I presented about World War I and about teaching history with a Biblical worldview. I think I'm supposed to be all calm and professional about it, but can I just say -- THAT WAS SO MUCH FUN!!! I got to talk to teachers and talk about nerdy history stuff and it was just the best! Okay, back to sounding like a calm adult. I would relish any other opportunities to speak to groups in the future should the opportunity arise.
Although my presentations weren't specifically about reading books, I had stacks of books to recommend at each. I see immense benefits in students reading across a broad spectrum of genres and topics. Reading allows students to take their education into their own hands and study what they are interested in. Because we all differ so much in personality, it is always difficult if not impossible to find books that please everyone. When teaching 6th-grade reading, I used a method that I learned from Donalyn Miller in The Book Whisper. I assigned a total of 36 books for my students to read throughout the school year. I know this sounds daunting, but here's how it worked.
I used this method for three years and saw immense success. Pitfalls could arise so it's important for each teacher using this program to consider the definition of success that best matches their goals. My goal was to encourage literacy and get students reading. I had some students that only managed to read 5 or 10 books. I saw this as a win. As long as they noted everything and turned it in they at least got a C grade. (By the way, a C is and is acceptable. I'll write about that another day.)
I also allowed and even encouraged students to read graphic novels. Nathan Hale writes fantastic graphic novels in the historical fiction genre. Some graphic novels, such as Snow White, have little to no words but tell a compelling story. I would talk with students and make sure they understood the symbolism and picked up on the literary devices the author employed in the illustrations. Learning to "read" pictures is a very powerful tool especially in this day when images are king.
For my class, success equaled books consumed. And did my students consume books! During the 2015-16 school year, I had 52 students and we read over 1,400 books. Below, you can see a picture of our book chain. So that's how I taught reading. I got to read and learn with the students and we all grew. Maybe it isn't for every classroom, but I can't imagine my life without this experience.
What was your classroom reading experience like as a middle school and high school student? Comment below and let me know.
As I write this I am sitting in front of what is known as the "Rosa Parks Bus." It is the bus that the famous incident involving Mrs. Parks refusing to give up her seat took place. In my research on the American Woman Parks' name has come up several times.
Let me back up. This week Logan and his buddy Derek are participating in Day Camp at the Henry Ford. The Henry Ford is like Disney World for history nerds and is a must see. The Henry Ford is made up of multiple institutions the main two being the Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village. When Henry Ford created them his goal was to tell history from the perspective of the average American. History is about presidents and important figures, but it's also about the innovations that impact our every day lives. Both the Village and Museum are dedicated to celebrating those innovations and honoring our nation's history.
So, back to the bus. In just the few minutes it's taken to type this, almost 50 people have climbed on and off the bus. A docent inside tells the story of that December day in Alabama and points out the seat that Parks refused to give up. The children inside excitedly vie to sit in the exact spot then skip off happy that they've experienced a part of history. There's even a Scandinavian tour group with professional film equipment filming about it. I have no idea what they are saying but it’s interesting to watch them explore the history of our country.
In my research about American women, I've come across Rosa Parks several times. Each time I've read that she is brave because she sat. When I read this it's felt like something has been missing. There were several people before Parks who were arrested for refusing to give up their seats which made me wonder what was different about their story. They sat. Why don't their names go down in history?
Oddly enough the answer came when I was reading the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. In the chapter referring to habits of societies, Duhigg explains that Parks was a unique individual because of her character and her community involvement. "Parks' many friendships and affiliations cut across the city's racial and economic lines. She was the secretary of the local NAACP chapter, attended the Methodist church, and helped oversee a youth organization at the Lutheran church near her home. She spent some weekends volunteering at a shelter, others with a botanical club, and on Wednesday nights often joined a group of women who knit blankets for a local hospital. She volunteered dressmaking services to poor families and provided last-minute gown alterations for wealthy white debutantes." He goes on to connect the facts and mentions that the previous riders who refused to move were arrested, but nothing came of it because they were unknowns, yet when Rosa Parks was arrested it caused a ripple through the community. She had invested her time in the community and that community came to her support.
But all that community doesn’t explain my discomfort with celebrating Rosa Parks for "sitting." Duhigg, after detailing Parks' community involvement, explained that the former leader of the Montgomery NAACP and a white lawyer named Clifford Durr bailed her out of jail. Community leaders had been looking for a case to challenge bus segregation and with Parks' sterling reputation they believed they had found a worthy cause to take to the courts. Parks' husband was initially opposed to the idea because he knew the danger she was putting herself in. Her husband's warning, "The white folks will kill you, Rosa," was not an empty worry. Threats of violence and death were common for those who dared to alter the status quo, but despite the possible danger, Parks allowed her case to be the rally point for the protests and the boycott. Both she and her husband lost their jobs and received multiple death threats. Yet, she didn't give in and she allowed her case to move through the courts. Eventually, they moved to Detroit hoping to start over after losing so much.
There! There it is! Now, I am beginning to understand what was so remarkable about her. She shouldn't be remembered as a woman who sat. She should be remembered for 1.) Her kindness and community involvement. 2.) Refusing to move despite knowing the possibility of arrest or physical violence. (I was told by the docent that the bus drivers often carried clubs or guns to enforce the rules.) 3.) Standing and allowing her arrest to be used in the court case that changed a city and became a major event in the Civil Rights Movement despite the costs. Too often we relegate people's stories to a paragraph and forget that their lives are as complicated and as deep as our own.
Rosa Parks' story is one of compassion, community, and courage. She didn't receive the notoriety she has today until much later in her life. In our culture of instant gratification, it is important to share that standing up for something and being remembered rarely happens for those who don't have a depth of character. We need to remember that standing for what you believe in is not easy and will likely not lead to fame and success, but doing something because you believe it is the right thing to do may just change the world.
Rosa Parks visited the Greenfield Village in 1992. These photos are of her at the Mattox House.
Last week in my post about summer break, I emphasized that school does not have a monopoly on learning. Summer can be all about the best kind of learning. The kind of learning that expands the mind. The kind of learning that leads to interesting places and people. The kind of learning I hope Logan will continue with for the rest of his life.
There are two parts of our summer bucket list this year. I want to visit some interesting places and try some fun things with Logan, but I also want to work organizing some areas in the house, improving math skills, and strengthening language skills. When considering academic work over summer break, I like to think of it as bonus time. We had too much homework for me to add on more during the school year so summer is the perfect time to learn a few things that will help with next year. I also want to play some fun games that teach as we play such as the periodic table battleship and the Pringles ring.
The second part of the list is all about the go. I'm currently obsessed with my National Park Passport book and I want to collect several stamps available in our area. Detroit is part of the Motor Cities National Historic Area so several museums offer the National Park Passport stamp. On the list below, the areas with the available stamp have the green letters next to them identifying what they are. (Key below). Will we make it to all these places? Absolutely not, but we will have fun trying and often we get to them during days off school and weekends.
Without further ado, here is the Gies 2019 Summer Bucket List.
Visit Niagara Falls
Visit Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural NHS
Take piano lessons
Visit Whiting Forest
Clean out guest room closet
Visit River Raisin NBP
Study Men and Women in the Word with She/He Reads Truth
Learn about the law of diminishing returns with ice cream
Visit Cranbrook Gardens
Go to a baseball game
Host a class party
Day camp at the Henry Ford
Visit Stahls Automotive Foundation NHA
Ride bikes to downtown Rochester
Family game night
Visit the Edsel Ford House and Gardens NHA
Play the license plate game
Visit Cambridge Junction Historic State Park NHA
Build an egg drop
Visit the Detroit Zoo
Read and complete Big Life Journal
Visit the Toledo Zoo with Fougeres
Family movie night
Memorize the definitions for the parts of speech
Visit Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes NL
Jackson Pollock Painting
Visit Yankee Air Museum NHA
Play periodic table battleship
Visit the GM Renaissance Center NHA
Build a LEGO fortress
Visit Meadowbrook Hall NHA
Visit Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society NHA
Make a Pringles Ring
Plant giant sunflowers
Read a biography of Bob Ross
Finish London puzzle
Visit the Detroit Historical Museum NHA
Finish toy puzzle
Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts NHA
Memorize times tables
Read Treasure Island
We're ready to grow and go!
NHA - National Historic Area, NBP - National Battlefield Park, NHS - National Historic Site, NL - National Lakeshore
Yes, okay. It is very unprofessional and definitely not grammatically correct to use all those exclamation points but this is a whole month dedicated to reading. A whole month! Dedicated to reading and books!!!! That deserves the use of gratuitous exclamation points if ever anything did. Every March, reading month is celebrated in schools across the country. Why March? Well, it's because Ted Geisel, Dr. Seuss, was born on March 2, 1904, and he made significant strides in encouraging children to read. If you want to know more about his contributions I would recommend Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel by Judith Morgan and Neil Morgan.
Anyway, schools across America will be doing all kinds of different reading programs to encourage reading among the students. Being a dedicated reader, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. When I was a first year English teacher I required the reading of the text book and possibly one outside book, but other nothing in addition. I was often asked by parents, "How can I get my child to read?" As my teaching progressed and I grew as a teacher, reader, and learner, I discovered that motivating others to read was more about leading by example than finding clever external motivations. Here are some things I learned along the way and have helped me grow reading programs and encourage life long learners.
Never stop learning, Friends!
While in Kennebunkport on a church trip as a high schooler, I purchased a funny puppet. It was Lowly Worm from the Richard Scarry stories. Lowly cracked me up and I was a impulsive kid with disposable funds. We had fun with him on the trip even posing him with sites as we drove across the country. After coming home Lowly went into a box that wasn't opened again until Logan was around two years old.
It was love at first sight. Since Logan was two Lowly has been his favorite companion. Watching Logan cuddle wit his worm has been entertaining to say the least. Logan has stacks of Richard Scarry books which have increased his curiosity and reading skills. Over the years Lowly has become dirty and his cloth has worn thin. Last year, we found the Doll Hospital and Toy Solider Shop in Berkley and had scheduled to bring Lowly in for repairs, but it went out of business before we could have Lowly fixed. Logan was crushed. He was heartbroken about Lowly's seemingly irreversible condition. Jason searched the internet and found a shop out in California. For over year we've talked about sending Lowly out west, but Logan wouldn't hear of it.
Finally after much convincing and confirming that the nice lady who fixes children's beloved stuffed animals wouldn't do anything to hurt Lowly we have sent him off.
This morning my heart ached to see Logan so scared and afraid. He was worried about Lowly getting lost in transit. He's worried about the California wildfires. He worried about earthquakes. He's worried. So we prayed. We prayed that Lowly would return to us safe and sound. We prayed that he would come back good as new and last for many years to come. Then after we prayed, I prayed. I prayed that Logan's prayers would be answered. I know he's just a worm, but if anything happens I'm afraid of how it will impact Logan's faith. He is convinced that God will take care of Lowly, but life experience has taught me that things do not always go the way I want them to. God sometimes chooses not to answer with, "Yes," but how would Logan deal with that loss?
"Trust God," is excellent advise and I believe that is true, but it's also hard. God's way is best, but often there are trials associated with that trust. I remember what it was like to love my stuffed animal friends. I didn't have a house full of siblings or tons of friends. The bond I felt with my stuffed animals was strong enough that I still feel emotionally connected to them. As I pray for Logan, I know that it will be alright. Whatever happens. But that is hard. So tonight I find myself praying for a worm and his cross country journey. Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.
One of my favorite shows growing up was the A-Team. The falsely accused Green Berets hid out in the Los Angles underground helping underdogs that were being oppressed. Often they would be overtaken and locked up by the bad guys or trapped by some scheme. (Inexplicably, they were always trapped with lots of power tools and fixable equipment.) The leader, Hannibal Smith, would devise a plan and the team would execute it. After achieving victory, he would always say, "I love it when plan comes together."
As a learner, I love it when my reading combines to form a concrete and deeply understood idea. As silly as it seems, I get that satisfied feeling of everything coming together as it was planned to be. Today's word is an example of this coming together of ideas.
In my previous career as an English teacher, I was teaching Macbeth and discussing the concept of a tragic or fatal flaw. In Shakespeare's tragedies, the characters have a tragic flaw which is the ultimate cause of their destruction. In the plays we studied, the characters get what they want, but not in the way they saw it happening. Romeo and Juliet want to be together forever. They get that, but their togetherness is in death, not life. Macbeth is ambitious and wants to be above the rest as their leader. At the end of the play, he is raised up, but it is his head on a pike that is raised. As I was teaching this concept, a student said, "There's a word for that." Questioning her I said, "A word for what?" She said that there was a word for a tragic flaw, but she couldn't remember what it was. She had read it in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I had read the book myself and but had missed that part. Fortunately, she knew where it was mentioned in the story and I had a copy of the book on my Kindle. We looked it up and, sure enough, found it. The word was hamartia.
Around the same time, I purchased the book The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski. It was recommended to me by a friend. The book teaches systematic theology to young children by breaking down the concepts into very understandable ideas with many illustrations. They call things "The Ology of of God" or "The Ology of Christ" instead of Theology or Christology. This helps kids understand and grasp the understanding that "ology" simply means "the study of." One of the "ologys" mentioned is "The ology of sin". I was looking up the actual name of this ology and discovered that it is Hamartiology.
At this point, it hit. Sin is our tragic flaw. When I looked up Hamartiology the sources said that in Hamartiology, hamartia is defined more as the missing of a mark, because sin keeps us from missing the mark of God's glory and perfection. (Romans 3:23) But I think that the tragic or fatal flaw definition also makes sense here. I brought this back to my class and we discussed the impact that sin has on us. Although mankind was created perfect in God's image, sin marred that perfection and became our tragic fatal flaw.
Today's Word: Hamartia
Four syllables. Pronounced [hah-mahr-tee-uh]. Noun. Defined on dictionary.com as a tragic flaw. Today, I challenge you to contemplate your own tragic flaw. The sin that you cannot conquer on your own that only Christ can clean up for you. It can get overwhelming, but praise God that he didn't leave us without hope and offers us salvation from our hamartia.
I would also like to mention that this discovery was made possible by three things. (1.) The Holy Spirit guiding and directing in my life. (2.) Reading a wide variety of books on a wide variety of topics and reading what the students in my classroom were reading at the time. (3.) A classroom that allowed for expression and curiosity. I allowed the student to question me and my limited knowledge regarding the word for a tragic flaw. I indulged the curiosity of the moment by stopping the lesson and searching for an answer. I came back to them with updates as I learned from The Ology. This all took time away from my original plans, but the impact was much greater than had we just moved on. Shortly after this, a student brought in a page from his Word-a-Day calendar. I still keep it hung on my wall to remind me of the lessons we learned and the joy I felt in teaching those students.
Every year during the summer we go to a bunch of places and have a pretty great time together. I post about the things we do with the intention of motivating others to get out and experience life. I never intend to brag or shove our happiness down the throats of others or make others feel like we are winning some weird life competition. A comment that I've seen a few times on my posts reads, "You are such a good mom!" or some other variance of the statement. This. Makes. Me. Cringe. Please forgive my lack of grace in accepting this compliment, I just don't think its fair. No, I don't think I'm a bad mom, but I don't think of my adventures with Logan as making me any better than a mom who is unable to go to these places. I only have one child. I am a teacher which means I am free during the summer. This is not the case for the majority of the people I know. Some moms have full time jobs. Some have more than one child. Some have other things keeping them from travel and/or local adventures. I can participate in these summer adventures because of the circumstances God has placed me in.
So often we look at other people and compare their lives to our own without understanding the trade offs they make. For example, we travel a lot. When we fly, we fly Delta and stay at any variation of Hilton hotels. This is great and I'm happy to be a loyal customer of both, thanks to the loyalty points collected through business travel. As a family we've been to Paris, Disney, and other places and it's fabulous. But the cost of this is my husband's constant business travel. During a few months last year, thankfully non-consecutive, he was home less than seven days. This gets frustrating for many reasons, but we live this way because it works for us. Our travel allows us to reconnect and grow as a family and Jason's hard work pays the bills.
For some families, dealing with a parent traveling wouldn't work. They would be unwilling to deal with the stress or unable due to a variety of unique issues. That doesn't mean either family is better. Jason's failure to be home every night allows us to have the success of being a family that travels. For some people they are happy to fail to travel but enjoy the success of being home together every night. There's a trade off.
This trade off applies to everything. If I run a marathon I miss out on time I wanted to spend with family and friends. If I spend time with family and friends I give up my chance to run a marathon. If I spend a day cleaning and caring for my home, I miss a coffee date out with my friend. If I go for coffee with a friend, I miss out of time necessary to care for and clean my home. In these four examples there isn't anything better than another. I like running. I like spending time with family and friends. I like having a clean home. I like coffee dates with friends. But I can't have it all.
Marketing and our social media feeds makes us think we can have it all. We see the highlights of the lives of others but rarely see their struggles. We. Can. Not. Have. It. All. It's just not possible. Women's magazines or family themed magazines like Parents offer parenting hacks or how to balance work and life, but the cover images show families smiling and happy with clean and organized kids. We're usually pretty cleaned up for my Instagram posts too.
A little behind the scenes view of my social media:
Me: Logan, smile. Logan. LOGAN!
Logan: I am.
Me: No, not like that. You look like you're in pain. Come on. We're doing this cool thing together. Just SMILE!
Logan: (looking like he's holding in a fart).
Me: Aughhhh!!!!! (this makes him laugh).
Me: Caption photo "Just an easy going day at ______. So much fun."
Please tell me I'm not the only one. Please.
One book that has influenced me and given me courage to be bold and pursue my writing is Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I do not agree with everything that Shonda says, but her writing style, personality, and personal challenges deeply connect with me. On June 8, 2014, she gave the Dartmouth commencement address in which she addressed the question, "How do you do it all?" This was her answer.
"I don't. Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means that I am failing in another area of my life.
Even that seemingly unattainably perfect woman described in Proverbs 31 made trade offs. She was not always there for her family. Look at the passage. She's buying land, she's making and selling garments, she's amazing. Verse 21 says, "She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all in her household are doubly clothed. " I imagine that just as she's sitting down with her sewing a little one begins demanding her attention. "Not now, little one. Mama is working on warm clothes for us. I said, NOT NOW." Okay, maybe she wouldn't raise her voice, but I imagine she was firm and when the snow came she could say, "See, that's why I worked so hard. Now you are nice and cozy warm." Maybe they would grudgingly acknowledge her work as young children, but as they grew up they understood her incredible work ethic and appreciated her. She works hard and verse 31 says, "Give her the reward of her labor and let her words praise her at the city gates." She made choices and she is praised for her work. Part of her diligent teaching was training her children to figure things out for themselves. Success. Failure.
This is the key to intentional living. Evaluating why we do things. Recognizing the successes and the failures and accepting those choices and their consequences. I'm trying to teach Logan this. Sometimes he wants to two things that are occurring at the same time. Both are good choices, but it is only possible to do one. I think it's important for him to see those success and failures instead of me giving him the impression that either of us can do it all. It's not always easy, but that's life.
I hope I didn't discourage you today. Being a success and a failure is hard, but if you accept the choices it can be very rewarding. Stand strong! Be an example to those within your circle of influence by admitting that you can't do it all. I'll go first. I'm Edy, and I'm a success because I'm a failure.
My last few posts have been a bit heavy. From ultimate school commuting with Mrs. Mendeleev to the discussion of suffering and the beautiful ending to stories, we've covered some weighty stuff, so let's lighten this up and switch gears.
Learning new words can be a chore when the task is formalized by an academic assignment, but when they are discovered in their native territory, written and spoken language, learning words can be fun. My son has a extensive vocabulary for someone going into the sixth grade and people sometimes comment on his knowledge of words. They assume I've been busy teaching him or we learn it from the literature we listen to, but if I'm being candid here, he's learned a ton of words from Phineas and Ferb. He tells people he is an Anglophile (someone who loves all things English) and points out the aglet on people's shoelaces. Both of these words were the centers of P&F episodes. We laugh about these words and talk about them and soon after they enter our everyday language.
One of the things on our summer bucket list was to read Something BIG Has Been Here by Jack Prelutsky with drawings by James Stevenson. If you aren't yet familiar with Jack Prelutsky's poetry you need to familiarize yourself with it immediately. His poetry is published in books about the length of Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends or A Light in the Attic, but Prelutsky's work is more lighthearted. He is silly and writes in nonsense much the way Edward Lear wrote his Nonsense Poetry. The poems are light-hearted, fun, and silly, but they contain some pretty high-level vocabulary.
Nonsense is good. Nonsense is great. Especially when you are tired and just want a laugh. It's a way to intellectually stimulate your brain without being intellectual. For sake of copyright, I cannot write out any of Prelutsky's poetry, but Edward Lear wrote a very long time ago so his work is now public domain. Here's an example of Lear's work.
Isn't that delightfully nonsensical? Yes, yes, I know it is stupid and doesn't make sense, which is why Mr. Lear titled it Nonsense Poetry. If his title was "Romantic Poetry" we could be confused together, but he made his intention clear. But even this silly limerick can be a great teaching tool. First, geography -- Where is Hong Kong? Second, pronouncing the words. Rhyme and repetition can build confidence and increase comprehension. Third, do you see that fabulous word in there? Innocuous -- not harmful or offensive. Bonus -- why is he laying with his head in a bag? (Remember, keep it silly.)
Note: There are some limericks in Lear's collection that could cause offense because of underdeveloped racial acceptance during his time period. I would recommend reading ahead and only reading the ones that are appropriate with your child or class.
Although I love Lear, I chose today's word from our summer book, Something BIG Has Been Here. Possible options of fun words we read in this collection were as follows:
Today's Word: Disputatious
Four syllables. Pronounced dis-pyoo-tey-shuh s. Adjective. Defined in the OAD as fond of having arguments. The poem is titled "The Disputatious Deeble" and is about the Disputatious Deeble who argues about everything. If you say, "It's freezing!" he says, "It's far too hot!" The illustration shows a very disgruntled old man with his arms crossed. After reading the title of the poem and realizing I didn't know what disputatious meant we googled it on my smart phone, heard the pronunciation, read the definition, and went back to read the poem. We cracked up because Logan has a bit of the Disputatious Deeble in him sometimes. Later in the day he was contradicting me and when I started to get upset he pointed out that he just realized that he was being disputatious. The moment calmed and we both laughed. In this case, a vocabulary word has helped a mother and son relate and take a step back in a heated moment.
So that's it for today. Enjoy your Wednesday and look for wonder words everywhere.
I can't not share this poem. It is ludicrous. I love it. Maybe next time I'm disgusted with life I'll try a ballad and a salad too.
What makes someone successful? Isn't that a loaded question!? If we had a set answer to this question we could create a formula that everyone could follow, right? Unfortunately, no. Success is difficult to define, fleeting, and changing with cultural norms.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of success from a very unpopular perspective. I say unpopular because he debunks the pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps American Dream story we love. We want to believe that anyone can achieve anything because it sounds great, but success is way more than an individual outcome. Also, we often learn about historical figures as they relate to their most famous contributions to history. They often enter and exit the stage of history having only done one thing, but in reality they had exciting and fulfilling lives full of mentors and teachers. Case in point: the Wright brothers. In our history books we learn On December 17, 1903, they successfully flew their airplane for the first time. They were two self-taught engineers who became aviation pioneers and changed the world on that December day. It's almost as though they woke up picked up their plane they tinkered with for a while, flew, and that's the end. But there's so much more. That two-sentence summary leaves out the years of struggle and preparation. It leaves out their incredible family and the time they spent studying. The world may have changed on that December day, but their part of the performance was being performed long before the world ever took notice.
Not all of us are called to be major characters in the great story of history. Some of us are cast in supporting roles that make the grand successes possible. In the case of the Wright brothers, they had several amazing people in supporting roles. First, their parents were incredible. Their dad, a minister in the United Brethren Church, taught them to think, debate, and encouraged them to read on a variety of subjects. Their mother, a wagon maker's daughter taught them mechanical skills and building techniques. Their father inspired their imaginations with a toy propeller and the boys' thirst for knowledge was developed by family discussions in the parlor. Hard work and perseverance were a major component of their success as well. They suffered through brutal nights in the Outer Banks and had to puzzle through complicated calculations. After years of struggle they succeeded, but they didn't stop. After December 17, 1903, they continued to study and improve their designs and defend their patents.
Recognizing supporting roles is important because being a secondary character takes humility and a willingness to remain in the shadows. We can't all be great, but we can all help others in their drive to become great. This doesn't mean we get squashed or deserve to be treated with scorn. Mattering to someone or something is a part of a basic human desire that some of us feel so very strongly it hurts. But not all our roles will be recognized. A doctor that saves someone's life may not be known to history at large, but he mattered deeply to that person. Any maybe that person or a decedent of theirs will go on to greatness. Reaching for greatness should never require you pushing others down. Reaching for greatness should always include pulling up those under you and pushing forward those above you.
Recently, I read a book about the periodic table. (#nerdlife) The author describes Dmitri Mendeleev, the father of the periodic table, as a gifted scientist, and explains that without his mother he would be completely unknown. Mendeleev was the youngest of 17 children and at the age of 15, his mother crossed Siberia on horseback to take him to Moscow to get him into the university there. After traveling around 1,200 miles the university said, "No," to accepting young Dmitri. Undeterred., Mrs. Mendeleev told her son, "Get back on the horse!" and they traveled another 400 miles to St. Petersburg where he was finally accepted. She died shortly after he was accepted into the university. Her journey cost her her life, but without her sacrifice, Dmitri Mendeleev would have died in obscurity in eastern Russia. (This makes me feel pathetic when I think about how much I whine about driving Logan around to his activities.)
I want to pull back here and make it clear that I'm not advocating mothers or fathers kill themselves providing wonderful lives for their children. This is far from what we need. Your children need to see you having a fulfilling spiritual, social, and intellectual life. But having a supporting role means that you are willing to push those around you ahead not to leave yourself trampled, but as a way to contribute to the world at large. Teachers get this. This is what they do. They work crazy hard and maybe someday one of the students they influenced will become president, or cure cancer, or become a teacher and continue the circle.
As I close this post, I don't want anyone to feel discouraged about being in the shadows. If you feel God asking you to step toward leadership or do big things, that is wonderful. But true leaders, as exemplified by Jesus Himself, are also willing to serve and remain humble. Do what is right and don't worry about grabbing for glory. Leave that to God.
The Wright brothers are fascinating to study, but their family is equally intriguing. David McCullough's book on them is good, but if you are looking for a wonderful quick read, I would highly recommend The Wright Words by Kirk Haas. Kirk is my favorite presenter at the Henry Ford. (Yes, I am a big enough nerd to have a favorite presenter at a museum.) In his book he tells stories about the Wright family and how the boys became to be the innovators they are remembered as. I may have cried. It is only about 60 pages so it is a quick read. By purchasing and reading you are also supporting a local author. Go Michigan!
This entire week you will see people wearing all varieties of red white and blue, decorating with the stars and stripes, and even making menus to reflect our nation's colors. People screaming "'merica!" and blowing up fireworks. People attending parades and waving flags. This is patriotism, right? Well, no. Back when I was teaching a high school government class I read an article by Lawrence Reed that changed my perspective on what true patriotism is.
Freedom—understanding it, living it, teaching it, and supporting those who are educating others about its principles. That, my fellow Americans, is what patriotism should mean to each of us today.
The article, written in 2003, make a great case for true patriotism and warns about the dangers of false patriotism. I am weary of political debates in which the sides claim to have America's best interests in mind and claim that the others just hate her and want to see her burn. Look back at history; the founding fathers were passionate about their beliefs and debated vehemently with those who disagreed. Each saw their vision for the future to be the best. That has been the case throughout our history and continues today.
I propose that this Independence Day we lay aside our differences and celebrate the freedom we have to share those opinions. We have much to be concerned about, but we also have much to be thankful for. We live in a society in which we can openly speak and not go to jail. We can flaunt our political opinions on our shirts and the bumpers of our cars. We can write about and post about our beliefs on social media. We can travel around the country and visit monuments, landmarks, and museums celebrating our history.
How can you be patriotic this Independence Day? Spend some time this week or month learning about those who fought for our freedom. This is not only the founding fathers, although they would be good place to start. Learn about those who fought for civil rights and equality. Learn about the hero scientists who created medicines and vaccines that have saved countless lives. Learn about those who invented things that drove American industry and made us the superpower we are today. In short, celebrate freedom.
Below are a few of my favorite books about Americans and stories that are worthy of getting to know. The links are to Amazon, but if you can buy it at your local independent book store that would be even better.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."