The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 15, 2000


Welcome Back and Farewell

The Gleason Library is like the best of neighbors: they make all the right changes to their property and ask you before they do anything if it's all right with you. You really miss them when they are gone and then, when they return, they throw a party for you. Who could ask for better neighbors?

This Sunday, the library is having the town over to help celebrate their new look, and it sounds like a treat. Jugglers and musicians, ribbon-dancers and magicians will be on hand to amuse and amaze. The library, at the close of this renovation, has become even more of a gem to our community, so let's take this opportunity to welcome our neighbor back in style.

To everything there is a season, however, and it often seems that as we say hello to one thing we must say good-bye to something else. And so it is this week as we say farewell to Bill and Nancy Koerner, Carlisle's erstwhile treasurer and tax collector for oh-so-many-years. On many occasions, Nancy's warm smile has been the only thing that made paying a tax bill tolerable. Her cheerful demeanor and Bill's grand sense of humor will be missed almost as much as their financial expertise and town spirit. We wish them well in their next endeavors.

Cutting Corners, Breaking Rules

"Hey! Mr. P! How'd I do on the test? I think I did... like... really, really good!"

"You think you did... what?" I ask.

"Really good, Mr. P!! Like... awesome!"

"You think you did really... what?"

After a thoughtful pause and an annoyed look, I hear, "Okay, okay, like really well!" and I smile.

Variants of this exchange occur constantly during the school year as I try to not only instill in my students an appreciation and understanding of chemistry, but also to help them become good communicators. Clearly, subject matter mastery is the primary goal in chemistry. But I also insist that students both write and speak correctly.

This expectation is not always well received. "This is chemistry! It's not English!" students and even some parents exclaim. I've held my ground for thirty-eight years of teaching and am not about to change during my remaining two.

In today's society, it seems that the only thing that matters is "getting the job done." The quicker one can move from point A to point B... the better. Rules get in the way. Have you ever noticed how painted road lines wear away on the curves? And how about those windrows of sand and snow in the winter? They always form well within the inside lane when the road curves. Most drivers cut corners as they strive to get to point B a bit faster. Only today, I was forced onto the shoulder by a driver who decided to share my half of the road as we met on an East St. curve

Our young folk watch their favorite athletes constantly violate the rules of the game. If a player is caught, more often than not he'll vociferously deny it. Those who don't get caught are applauded and rewarded with obscenely high salaries. The message comes through "loud and clear." Break the rules. Don't get caught. But, if you do... lie!

When academic rules are violated, teachers can anticipate the student's denial which will invariably be followed by a tension-laden confrontation with both student and parent. As a result, my colleagues make such accusations with an anxiety that often surpasses the student's fear of being caught.

And speaking of sports, I may as well bring up another issue that offends the "teacher" in me. According to syndicated statistics, the Red Sox win about one game out of every 200 they play. (The Sox are frustrating, but they really aren't quite that pathetic.) A closer look at the "Pct" data in the daily newspapers makes it clear that these figures are ratios of wins to total games played. The decimal ratios have not been shifted to percentages. Thus, the Red Sox winning game percentage is 52.6 percent rather than the published 0.526.

Why does this trouble me? Young people often immerse themselves in sports statistics. When game "percentages" are not percentages and batting "averages" are not averages, confusion develops. However, it's teachers who are criticized when students fail to demonstrate proficiency in the handling of percents and averages.

Ah, yes. Another school year commences. My students never age. They were teenagers 38 years ago and they still are today. On the other hand, I'm considerably older and quite a bit more fuddy-duddy. My students would complain, "It's not fair!" Still, you can be sure I'll continue to hassle them, and they will improve.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito