Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

Day by Day:
Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

June 5, 2017

By Liz Thompson
This Week News

In 1969, I graduated from high school, like so many students did last month.

My granddaughter was one such graduate; she was home-schooled. That decision came about mostly because her father was in the military and moving was inevitable. The admiration I have for my daughter — my granddaughter’s teacher — runs deep.

All my grandchildren are musical and have their own band, with friends included. My granddaughter plans to study music and become a teacher. She already has young piano students.

Academic and music scholarships found her because of her hard work and God-given talent.

Choices were different for young women when I graduated. Typically, but not exclusively, if a girl went to college, she would choose nursing, teaching, social work or secretarial studies — all important professions.

Memories of my graduation day are few, but I recall feeling undeserving of the honor.

I was in a different place, by the time I was a senior, from where my granddaughter is today. My grade-point average was embarrassingly low — in part, I’m certain now, due to the hearing loss that kept me struggling to know what was going on.

Had it not been for music and drama, I likely would have failed.

The love of music was in my heart with every note I sang. Even with my hearing loss, I was active in church and school choirs and musicals. I went to the only state college that accepted me and chose music as my major — because people assumed that’s what I would study.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

My second year, I switched to special education, with music as my minor.

But I never graduated from college. Out of necessity, I worked as a secretary at many levels of responsibility until my hearing loss prevented me from fully doing the job.

I became an unwitting advocate for myself and others. Thanks to a newspaper editor who believed in me, I became a deaf reporter.

A cochlear implant in 2002 made me a hearing person again. Words are clear, though the complexities of music are lost. Along the way, I learned tenacity, sign language, a healthful stubbornness, computer and writing skills and patience — for myself and others.

At 51, the Ohio University Experiential Learning Program allowed me to equate my life experience to more than 50 college credits, making me a college senior.

My last job as a teacher’s assistant for children with disabilities was a favorite because when you teach, you learn.

I learned that children with Down syndrome love to hug, and I had to brace myself and move them off to the side to be appropriate. These children show unconditional love — something they can teach all of us.

One child couldn’t speak, so I was her sign-language teacher. We hugged more than one palm tree (we were in Arizona) using her tactile skills.

Another child had muscular dystrophy. When it came time for a fire drill, I’d say to him, “Let’s hobble out to the field together!” My multiple sclerosis was beginning to slow me down enough to appreciate his struggles.

One boy had hearing loss but wanted to ignore it, or at least not talk about it. I’ve met adults with the same attitude.

My plans to be a music teacher failed, but I will cheer my granddaughter on as she pursues the same goal with a stronger foundation and more talent than I had. My grandchildren will carry on the music that I lost.

The best-laid plans often fail. Looking back, I see unexpected twists and turns in my path through life and obstacles I’ve overcome, with God’s help.

I didn’t finish college, but I never stopped learning. I’m still at it.

Day by day, figuring out how to build a bridge over obstacles to get to our goal and greeting the changes with open arms is worth the effort.

Hugging palm trees is optional.

 

 

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When learning new skill, desire is half the battle

Day by day

When learning new skill, desire is half the battle

By LIZ THOMPSON

October 13, 2015 This Week News

When I was a single mom, thankfully not for long, I made do with what I had — whether it was food, clothes, a car or any tangible, everyday item.

My daughter calls them our “oni-oni days.” Macaroni and cheese was 10 cents a box in 1977 and sometimes I added pepperoni, thus the oni-oni. Not completely nutritious, but we did fine.

Sometimes I bought juice bottled in glass jars with small openings. Once emptied, I washed the jar and used it to make juice from concentrate or tea. I used the thin end of a wooden spoon — one of my favorite kitchen utensils to this day — to mix the liquid. The spoon end, obviously, would not fit in the small opening. I never gave it a second thought.

When my daughter started her own family, she was mixing a drink in a gallon pitcher with a typically large opening. When her husband saw her mixing the liquid with the thin end of a wooden spoon, he asked her why.

“Because my mother did it that way,” she answered.

She realized the humor in it and asked me. Once we figured it out, we laughed. Funny the things we do just because our parents did something a certain way.

My cooking skills didn’t really improve for years to come, probably because I had no interest as a youth. As a teen, I even messed up Jell-O the only time I tried to make it.

Once I was remarried, with both my husband and I working full time, it meant a lot of quick meals for hungry children when we got home from work. I became a short-order cook and made a lot of what I called “skillet suppers,” with whatever we had on hand.

I became creative in how to make fast meals such as chili or Johnny Marzetti with many different ingredients, hiding vegetables at times. No one went hungry, for which I’m thankful.

This was pre-Food Network, and cookbooks such as The Joy of Cooking and Better Homes & Gardens were guides for home cooks. I gathered recipes from family and friends, too.

When I called from work to check in at home one day, our oldest daughter asked what was for dinner.

“Whatever you’re cooking,” I told her.

“Really?” she said excitedly.

And we had Joe’s Special for dinner, which was delicious. I likely cleaned up, as a special thank you.

Soon all three children were taking turns cooking and baking — and they excelled. Their children followed suit and know their way around a kitchen.

This proves we can learn new things, if we’re willing to try and be taught.

In my journey to improve my cooking skills, 35-plus years ago I decided to make noodles. Eggs and flour, right? My mistake was cracking eight eggs into eight cups of flour. (If you make pasta, you are cringing right now.) Disaster.

Seeing my dilemma, in the form of a huge blob of flour and eggs, my husband said to call his sister. Gin had already given me tips on pie crust, so I called her, knowing she wouldn’t laugh into the phone.

After I told her what I’d done and what my goal had been, she said: “Liz, throw it away. But not down the drain.”

This much I knew.

“Then take one egg and a partial cup of flour and mix it, adding flour as needed and maybe a little oil.”

I made noodles. With this experience, I learned to ask first and that I was teachable. But to this day, when I make pasta, I think of Gin’s advice and start with one egg and a partial cup of flour, not eight of each.

More than I’d like to think about, I have heard excuses such as, “I can’t cook,” or “I don’t cook,” with the latter puzzling. Or “I can’t write/read well,” and general statements about a person’s inability to do something they’d apparently like to be able to do.

I’m living proof that most things can be learned, if the desire and willingness exist. No excuses with finding resources. Libraries are packed with books, and the Internet has recipes, how-to tips and information about any topic. Julia Child led the way and now cooking shows and cookbooks abound.

If the people in your life have experience they want to share, be willing to learn. If it’s cooking, have your children join you.

It might make for a tasty meal. I guarantee good memories.

 

Cursive-writing instruction has proven benefits

Day by day

Cursive-writing instruction has proven benefits
By
LIZ THOMPSON
May 27, 2015
This Week News

Westerville was a village when I was born. I innately knew my neighbors — along with people at church, librarians, teachers, firemen, policemen, doctors and all people in authority — were there to protect and care for me.

School was never an option for me, nor did I want it to be, at least till third grade. On the first day, a friend of mine was talking to me, yet I was put in the corner by my teacher. No excuses. I got my marching orders.

This was the year to learn cursive writing. I was working on my alphabet on lined paper, likely sticking my tongue out one side of my mouth in concentration, when my teacher peered over my shoulder.

“Fix that F,” she said sternly.

I tried again and again and I still didn’t have the top loop open enough — and she told me so. I was near tears when she said, “You’ll never learn to write, Elizabeth.”

I hear you — if these were my worst school experiences, I got off easy comparatively. I know this now, but then I did not. I worked to write better, and with my mom’s help, I succeeded.

Writing cursive was and still is much easier than printing. As a writer who relies on her computer, I still begin all my writing in cursive on paper.

Today I know many of these same figures of authority are working to protect children in much the same way, although laws and rules have changed.

One change found lacking in the Common Core is the removal of cursive-writing instruction from school curricula. This fact is up for discussion.

Two such protectors of education are state Reps. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) and Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City). They sponsored House Bill 146 in April, requiring cursive writing to be taught in all elementary schools.

Specifically, the bill requires: “Handwriting instruction in kindergarten through fifth grade to ensure that students develop the ability to print letters and words legibly by third grade and to create readable documents using legible cursive handwriting by the end of fifth grade.”

This bill, with 13 co-sponsors, including several minority Democrats, follows a state law that went into effect last year, requiring students to read at grade level before they are promoted to fourth grade.

Even in this digital and app-based era, if they cannot write it, they likely cannot read it.

“Research proves cursive writing is essential,” Brenner said. “There is no contraindication for it. The Common Core does not require this in the curriculum and we need to have it back.”

Brenner has served as vice chairman of the Ohio House Education Committee for three years and hears from people who are surprised it is not being taught. The vast majority of those are in favor of teaching cursive writing.

“Cursive writing is a necessity, like learning to read,” Brenner said. “The arguments (against it) are that it is a modern day. Even though we have calculators, students need to know the basics of math to connect. Writing cursive is literally connecting one letter at a time.”

In Psychology Today, William R. Klemm wrote that writing cursive develops eye-hand coordination; to write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed.

“Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual and tactile information. The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument,” he wrote.

Grossman said she knows technology is important, yet learning cursive is equally important for different reasons.

“Research conducted by Columbus-based research firm Saperstein Associates shows that handwriting is a foundational skill that positively can influence students’ reading, vocabulary, memory and critical-thinking abilities as well. Studies report that longhand writing has also been shown to assist kids with dyslexia, helping them to become better students. Studies indicate that individuals retain much more of the content when notes are taken in cursive,” she said.

“I have been amazed to hear from teachers, parents and friends how much they support requiring handwriting be taught in elementary school,” Grossman said. “This can be accomplished with as little as 15 minutes being spent on this per day and can also be incorporated into other subjects.”

The problems with Common Core should be replaced by common sense.

I obviously overcame my third-grade experience. What challenges us makes us stronger, so let’s challenge our children in a good way.

When we look over their shoulder, instead of saying, “You’ll never … ,” let’s say, “Here, let me help you.”