Non-fiction

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55 articles in category Non-fiction / Subscribe

Webster defines experience as being: “The actual living through an event or events, the skill or knowledge gained by actually doing a thing and something that one has actually done or lived through.’

The Portsmouth Herald published a column on February 3, 2016, entitled, “Portsmouth schools to incent teacher retirements. To quote the article: “ The City Council unanimously approved a proposal by the School Board to offer teachers a retirement incentive package this year.” The City Manager explains the purpose for the incentive is to achieve savings without compromising education.

Does he really believe this? Do people who are responsible for the education for the children of their community think experience has no value? City Manager Bohenko adds: “The savings would be achieved by replacing employees at the top of the pay scale with new employees who would be paid at a lower rate.”

I wonder if he understands that the purpose of a pay scale is to provide incentive for teachers to stay at the school. It is important to have teachers understand how to work with young men and women. The art of teaching can’t come from taking classes and earning high degrees in a graduate school setting.

The University of New Hampshire has an interesting concept. There is no undergraduate education degree program. Students earn a degree in a specific discipline during their under-graduate career. I agree with this concept. Then they take an advanced program at the university to earn their master’s degree in education.

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Not long ago everyone was excited about Disney’s new movie “Tomorrowland”. The movie concerned bright, optimistic teens bursting with scientific curiosity.

It also centered on other children jaded by disillusionment about what they thought the world should be. This basically defines what my classroom has been like for the past three decades. I am retiring this year with the knowledge I did the best I could do to astonish my students about the wonders of science. I tell them science is not magic but magic is definitely science.

For my entire career I’ve taught young adults. These were usually juniors or seniors getting ready for their futures. I sometimes wish I had my shot at younger students who were just discovering how much fun learning can and should be.

Working at a school that contains students from 6th grade to their senior year, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many classrooms demonstrating my passion for science and how they could easily enter into its world. I am especially proud of the times I invite 6th grade students into my chemistry class. I tell them that if they work hard they would one day join the ranks of these motivated and talented young men and women they are working with now. It is interesting that every one of them remember this time when they reach the age they can join my class. Continue Reading →

There is nothing like the early morning autumn fogs of Maine. One week it was a classic example of how these fogs change the way one feels about life. My day started like every other day of my life with getting up early in the morning before the sun dares to rear its crimson flaming head.

I literally rolled off my side of the bed hoping not to wake up my sleeping wife. I swear this is the best part of her night not having to put up with me turning from side to side while snoring something that sounded like the ‘1812 Overture’.

I then tip-toe over to our towel closet hoping I will pick out something that has nothing to do with flowers and pink things. This is always a shot in the dark because I grab them in the dark.
Once I grabbed what I thought was a wash cloth only to be shocked by the fact the cloth was soaked in something a man’s skin was never meant to experience.

Needless to say all of my male friends at school decided to stay away while my female friends continued to ask me how my new boy friends were. I won’t even talk about the rash. After my shower I once again tip-toed into my closet hoping to give my wife at least a couple more minutes of sleep.

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A few years ago my father, who has now passed, called me talking about a ring his found somewhere in Somersworth. At the time I was concentrating on a class of labs and I must admit I wasn’t paying much attention to the conversation.  He was concerned about how he could get the ring back to the rightful owner.

My first thought was why would anyone care? My father described the ring as being an old gold class ring dating back to 1934. He told me it was very small and thus had to be a woman’s ring. There was no stone in the middle like the rings of today. It was all gold. I don’t know what carat weight it was but there was no tarnish or wear to give a hint to its age.

This one was simply moulded to show off the name of the school, that was Somersworth High School and the date of graduation. My father went on to explain how the ring was in impeccable shape as though it was rarely worn or had been lost for a very long time. Within minutes both my interest and imagination started to spark.

The pile of laboratory reports I had in front of me became unimportant because any opportunity to massage my imagination had to be taken seriously. My father continued by stating the ring also had something else special about it. Inside the band were the initials “CB”. Because the ring was over 70 years old the concept of having the initials still appear on the inside of the band was quite remarkable. Continue Reading →

I always got a kick out of watching television shows about how a person’s pet starts to look like its owner. Or maybe it is the other way around. Chipping the ice out of my driveway, I watch a short, stocky man walking a short stocky bulldog and a frizzy-haired older woman holding onto her Pekinese.
 
Last Friday I was stuck in some slow-moving traffic. As usual I would put on some soothing music, or sport’s radio station, in order to simply wait it out. Moving through traffic I noticed a large black Chrysler truck pull up beside me.
 
I believe a truck of that size would have to be black. I don’t remember ever seeing a light-blue Chrysler truck. Even though I was driving a pick-up that was supposed to be high off the ground, I still felt as though I was in a sub-compact next to the monster truck beside me.
 
Inside was a man who also made me feel very small. He had his forearm leaning outside the window. Or at least I think it was his forearm. His arm looked as though it was twice the size of my thigh. Peeking into the cab of his truck, I also noticed his head was twice the size of mine.

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I don’t know about anyone else but I want to go back to a time when all I had to worry about was to how to take care of my family. The other day I drove with some my friends. It is common knowledge I hate to drive so being picked up to go anywhere by anyone is never a problem. Our conversation concerned politics and how our nation is going through difficult times.

We talked about the war against an enemy that had a variety of names, the government, which long ago decided to do nothing and how our freedoms are being eroded because of what has become a perpetual war on terror. Throughout the conversation our thoughts were with our children and their children’s children.

Since the national debt has reached historic proportions, and the concept of buying a house has been eliminated by huge costs, the joy of having our children evolve into their tomorrows was reduced because of our concern for their future. We arrived at our destination 45 minutes later and found a place to park on the street.

It was a nice neighborhood filled with homes literally on top of each other. Since I live in Maine, and am used to having a lot of land around me, it was difficult to understand how people could live so close to each other. It was obvious the people we were visiting were not like us. They were city people. Continue Reading →

Webster defines happiness as being, “a state of well-being and contentment.” Webster continues his definition by stating it has something to do with a pleasurable satisfaction.

I have to admit for most of my life I have been told the best measure of the success in life is to equate how happy I am. I don’t think I am alone because most of my family and friends are in a perpetual hunt for happiness.

But, I have to ask myself if it has always been this way? I would assume our original ancestors who lived in caves defined happiness as a day they were not squished by a giant lizard; or I should say bird. A day of happiness would be a time when they weren’t hungry. The idea of happiness probably didn’t occur to them because they were more interested in survival. Continue Reading →

 I had a great day………. yesterday. But, even the greatest of days doesn’t make it any easier to get up at 5:00 in the morning. If only I could get to bed before 11:00 PM on school nights. That would make my life much easier. With mountains of correcting being precipitated every day that possibility is basically impossible.
So here I am, shocking myself awake with a cold shower so I can stay alert for the approaching new day. I’m off to work before 6:15 am because it is critical to arrive at school at least 45 minutes early to complete any final preparations for my classes and to see if there are any further reports due for either the administration or the many state standards guidelines that make little sense to my students or myself.
The buses arrive. In come numerous students ranging from age 12 to 21. Their entrance is noisier than a Foxboro crowd. My classes begin with a review of what we had covered the previous day. Most of my students now begin to pay attention but I always see in their eyes that they would rather be anywhere else. They don’t understand why they are being forced to learn something they think they will never use and probably soon forget.

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It was remarkably quiet on the beach the other day. The quiet time was logical because most of the tourists had gone home, so the ocean’s shore clearly demonstrated the beautiful place I call home.

I was not alone on this particular morning. All around me were men and women enjoying the same serenity I was enjoying. Having benches along the beach at York, Maine makes it especially special this time of year. Since I’ve been living here the past four decades a memory popped into my mind. Years before I remember sitting next to an elderly gentleman whose white ashen skin probably hasn’t seen the sun in a long time.

He looked frail and after I sat down next to him he appeared anxious. After a few moments it was obvious I did make him feel uncomfortable because he leaned toward his side of the bench as far away from me as possible. Maybe he was afraid of me. I decided to talk with this gentleman, so I could at least try to calm him down. He wouldn’t even look at me. He just stared straight ahead and in his mind’s eye I am sure I didn’t even exist. Or did he believe he didn’t exist.

I remember asking myself why won’t the old talk to us. Why is it so hard for them to explain their years of experience to those of us who try not to make the mistakes of those who lived before? Why is it so difficult for them to look into our eyes and explain how they got to become so old? To paraphrase Harry Truman, “There is nothing new in this world. Only the time that is not remembered.”
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Another Harvestfest is over and here I sit on a Saturday evening stuffed to the gills from eating sausage subs, baked beans, oxen sandwiches (that tasted a lot like roast beef), home cooked pies, ice cream, and freshly popped kettle corn.

One year they ran out of sausage sandwiches at which time I was actually upset because those sausages were the best I ever had. At least this is where I sat in 2002. The beauty of Harvestfest had nothing to do with the food or the crafts even though I miss them. It had everything to do with the people.

The population at the Harvestfest was filled with people I knew, I thought I knew, and that I had no idea who they were. The primary bond between them was they were all enjoying a time in a place they called home. Many images come to mind.

I watched lovely young ladies in remarkably beautiful costumes dance to what I think was Irish music, I observed beautiful women in colonial garb show off their crafts inside an historic church I assumed had always been there.

York Village was filled with costumed young men and women demonstrating we all had a heritage we should be proud of. I especially liked the man who sat by the Emerson Wilcox House caning chairs. I never talked to him and to this day I’m sorry for this fact. Continue Reading →