Around here the arrival of cool mornings, warm afternoons and cool evenings brings with it, not only the migration of birds and the chirping of crickets, but also the beginning of a new school year. As someone who thrived in academia, I love this time of year.
Not all people love school as much as I did (still do—any excuse to take a class), even really smart people. My dad was one of those really smart people who did not fare well in school.
From a very early age Dad was taking things apart and discovering how they worked, from two-cycle engines on model airplanes to the bicycles in Grandpa Arduengo’s bicycle shop to his first car. But his performance in school was a different matter. He writes:
“As a youngster I spent a lot of time day dreaming. I guess I still do. In school I would always take a desk in the back of the room next to the window. (I got moved a lot.) I did not like school. Sometimes I had subjects that I liked, such as ancient history. I knew I was smart, but I had a hard time memorizing things, especially spelling and multiplication tables. I remembered things when they interested me, but not when they didn’t. My dislike of grammar school and junior high left me ill prepared for highschool, and I was 20 before I finally graduated.”
Daddy didn’t learn by sitting in a desk and listening. He learned by doing and figuring things out, as with his first car:
“The engine in my first car (Model A Ford) was really badly worn. The first day I had it, I drove over to my buddy’s house to show it to him, and it caught on fire when he came out to look at it. We took the engine out, lifting it by hand. I completely took the engine apart, to the last little part, loaded it on my little brother’s wagon and took it three blocks to a machine shop operated by a gentleman named Lovel Huckle. I told Mr. Huckle I wanted him to put new inserts in it, do a valve job on it and put it together. He explained to me that the bearings in a Model A were not inserts but were poured lead and line bored. Also the crankshaft had to be reground, and the block was too worn to be rebored. I found another block at a junkyard for $12.00, and Lovel gave me a useable crankshaft with new pistons. All the machine work and a number of new parts were going to cost me $80.00. I was making $12.00/week in the bicycle shop, and I told him I would give him 10.00/week until it was paid for. He agreed. I stopped by the machine shop on my way home and gave Lovel $10.00 every week. On the fourth week, he had the engine finished. Lovel told me to go ahead and put it in. When I told him it would still be four more weeks before it was paid for, he said “you are going to pay for it aren’t you?” I took the engine and paid for it as I had promised. This man had never laid eyes on me until I brought that engine into his shop. Over the years Lovel built several engines for me as well as doing several other machine jobs for me. Lovel Huckle was one of those people who influenced me and taught me a lot when I was young.”
So as the school year starts, remember not every child will learn by sitting still in a circle on the floor. Some will need desks with backs, some will need to take the clock in the dining room completely apart, and others will need to make up songs and rhymes. And the person who teaches a child the most about math may be the mechanic down the street, because learning can happen anywhere. No matter how or where it occurs though, true learning is joyful experience.
I leave you with this little story from my Dad’s grade school days:
“Many years ago, General Electric made a popular light bulb called Mazda. In grammar school the teacher asked us who Ahura Mazda was, and I answered that he was ancient light bulb. My teacher got a big laugh out of that.”
© 2014 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.