Welcome to the first day of school! Even though we teacher-types have been back at it for weeks, this day is nothing short of magical. While we wait for Jessi Kittrell to release her newest back-to-school photograph, let’s make a connection with an acquaintance of our friend Brett Bigham.
The brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking has changed the world of science even as ALS has left him immobilized for almost 50 years. While he has been busy making discoveries about the cosmos, his famous quotes about his groundbreaking experiences totally connect with #teacherlife in an elementary school in September. Here are five ways Stephen Hawking nails the first days of school.
Dr. Hawking said, “It’s no good getting furious if you get stuck. What I do is keep thinking about the problem, but work on something else. Sometimes it is years before I see the way forward. In the case of information loss and black holes, it was 29 years.”
Hawking, obviously, is referring to the black holes in space. I’m referring to the black holes that are my teacher desk drawers, closets, and book shelves. So much information loss has occurred in these places that not even a renowned theoretical physicist could find it. The teacher work days before school starts find me working on a variety of organizational conundrums every year. You would think I’d learn. Nope. I just shift the piles around and go look for something else. It’s been twenty-one years, and I still haven’t figured it out. Hawking allows me to hold out hope, though, for the next eight years.
“We need something new. We can’t predict what that will be or when we will find it because if we knew that, we would have found it already,” said Stephen Hawking.
I know of few teachers who don’t give in to the itch to go shopping for completely different classroom décor items during those first days of school. Unlike my more organized, Pinterest-y friends, I usually don’t figure out what I’m going to do with my room until I show up that first day, shaking the sand out of my hair from one last day of camping on the beach. I know I want to do something cool, but I’m never quite sure until I go on a hunt. I’ve found items such as a ceramic horse lamp, some old buoys, a string of flamingo lights, a fish net, a lava lamp, a string of buck deer lights, an old bushel basket, some turtle bones, and a few guinea pigs. I hope whatever I’m looking for this year doesn’t require bleach or pine shavings.
“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny,” Stephen Hawking tells us.
Speaking of pine shavings, I’ve had a menagerie of class pets to rival your average small mammal house. Gerbils, bunnies, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats have joined my class in time to meet the new students. Some last longer than others. I got written up by a principal once because my four-year-old guinea pigs had become incontinent, and she found their smell repugnant. I found her decision to be geriatric discrimination. I took them home to die peacefully the next year without further documentation in my file. In contrast, one hamster I bought the Friday before Open House died the following Sunday. I put him in the freezer to return him for a full refund of my $7.95 plus tax. Things got busy, and I forgot him until my husband cleaned out that deep freeze three years later. He got an aerial burial—the hamster, not my husband.
Hawking said, “Not only does God play dice, but…he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen.”
We try so hard to create fair class lists with compatible children grouped together for maximum happiness and growth. HA! Summer life changes and newcomers make every class list one big crap shoot. And then somehow, the teacher and kids form tight relationships that create a great community. Surely God cackles.
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change,” said one of the most brilliant people in the world.
In a classroom, change is the only normal. Things can be going famously well on the first day, and then some kid throws up on your shoe. You can think the clump of children gathered around the pet cage are happily watching “Cheeseburger,” the class gerbil, when suddenly some kid pulls the end of its tail off by accident and hands it to you. Smart people keep extra shoes and don’t have pets. I, on the other hand, go barefoot and change the gerbil’s name to “Cheeseburg.”
So there you have it. For all these years, Hawking thought he was sharing information on black holes and other deep subjects. In reality, those world famous quotes pretty much sum up the life of your average fourth grade teacher. I wonder what he would have me do with that gerbil tail? Have an amazing first day back, y’all!