Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chemistry Flashbacks & an Aging Realization

On the way home yesterday from a debate tournament, McKenna worked on her Chemistry homework--mostly making indecipherable markings on a page with such gobbledygook as "2Na + Cl2 = 2NaCl" and "NaCl + H20 ------- H2O + Na1 + Cl1." In a tone that I would have never muttered at 16-years-old, she said, "I like doing equations. They're really sort of fun."

I was tempted to roll my eyes and mutter under my breath in disgust (okay, I'll admit it...I actually did those things); how anyone that had my blood running through them could enjoy any chemical calculations was a bit bewildering to me. (Granted, McKenna can write a spot-on essay that makes her teachers literally giddy, and she stays up late at night I do know that she's my child.)

To say I did not like Chemistry would be an understatement. The only bigger understatement would be that I disliked Algebra even more than Chemistry. I sailed through my English and History classes in high school, but the consistent Cs in those pesky math and science classes kept me out of the honor society.

So, it was an interesting experience to see McKenna actually, sorta, enjoying her Chemistry homework. And it made me think of someone I hadn't thought of in years.

Mrs. Coley, my high school Chemistry teacher, was the epitome of "eccentric." I remember her wearing the same shirt and skirt every other day, and when you arrived in her class you better get ready to get to work. Because this woman talked chemistry and wrote equations at lightning speed. Once she got going, there was no stopping her. And she didn't even let the chalkboard get in her way.

She would get to writing equations on the board and, when she ran out of chalkboard, she'd just keep on writing on the wall. I remember one class period when she literally had circled the room and written calculations in a straight line all the way around the wall and back to to the original chalkboard.

She also had the habit of sticking her chalk in her hair and then forgetting where it was. And I also remember her telling story upon story one month about the squirrels that had taken up residence in her house.

Despite her eccentricities, in a way she was charming. Students liked her (although that could be because you could get her out of administering a test if you could distract her by talking about those darn squirrels). And students apparently learned chemistry skills from her. (Except for me, of course.) People claimed she was a good teacher.

I hadn't really thought of Mrs. Coley in a long time--not until McKenna's homework reminded me of her. And once I got to thinking about her, I began wondering something.

I wonder: How old was Mrs. Coley when she taught me? My teenage mind imagined her as old...but old is a bit of a relative term to high school juniors. Old could be eighty, but it could just assuredly be 35.

There's a distinct possibility, in fact, that I'm the same age now as she was then.

And there's a distinct possibly that I'm the same age now as all of those old teachers I once had teaching me.

And I'm reminded more and more that I'm not as young as I used to be.

I get this realization when I begin talking to my students (who are mostly 20 to 22-years-old) as if they're my peers and then realize that I could, conceivably, be their mother. Or when those same students sorta look at me humorously when I tell them I have a Facebook page. Or when I play "Sharks and Minnows" with the youth group at church, and then pay for it the next day with aching legs (ditto with trying to show Delaney's friends that I can still do the splits).

I can still vividly recall those days in high school Chemistry class as if they're yesterday; and, on the inside, I still feel like I'm in my 20s. But, nope, the reality is that I'm 40.

My Mom tells me that life just keeps getting better. That when you hit 40, you feel pretty good, but that 50 is really good and that 60 is even better.

Back in the days when I thought Mrs. Coley was old, I would have never believed that. I would have thought that nothing could be better than the 18 that was just around the corner, or the 21 that wasn't too far away.

Now, I think Mom's right. I think that each year has the potential to be better and better.

(As long as the girls' friends keep telling me I'm cool for playing Sharks and Minnows with them. And as long as I don't start sticking chalk into my hair. Then I may have to start worrying.)


Phats said...

I am with you, I hate Chemistry, and struggled through it. I got a B+ mostly because the teacher was very very very nice to us students who tried haha

Lynilu said...

This post brought back some fun images of my high school teachers, and then I realized it was [gasp] nearly 50 years ago!

Your mom is right, though. It does get better, and even with the aches and pains that you mention growing more each day, I wouldn't go back. It is good. :)

Jeff said...

Ugh Chemistry. Ugh Algebra. Not my favorite things by any stretch.

Great post though. I love that you're teaching. That is so very cool. I wish I was down there on a Thursday night so I could crash your class and see you in action ;)

Adrienne said...

Chemistry was one of my favorite subjects!!! I actually can't wait until the kids take it! LOL

Gin said...

Great post! Yucko on science.

Jenster said...

I never liked the sciences or math, either. English or history? May I have some more, please!?

I don't mind aging. Like you sometimes I don't realize I'm doing it, though. lol

Cheryl Wray said...

Phats--I wish I'd had a Chemistry teacher like that. LOL

Lynilu--The years just fly by, don't they?

Jeff--That would be fun, although I'd probably be nervous with you in there. :-)

Adrienne--You're CRAZY!!!

Gin--LOl Yucky!

Jenster--Nope, we don't realize it do we?

Leslie said...

Hey Cheryl-Glad you came by my blog and thanks for the comments.
I enjoyed reading this post on chemistry, teachers and getting old. I have trouble myself with thinking that I'm as old as I am-48, but am reminded of it when I try to stay up past 11pm.
I'll be back to visit again and thanks for sharing!

Peace and love,

Gretchen said...

I had a little leak in my eye when I read this, Cheryl. Must be the aging thing. :)

I remember striking a deal w/my mom in my junior year of h.s. I was suuuuuch a math flunky, but liked the live sciences, like biology and anatomy. Anyhoo...I struck a deal that if I got As in every other class, I could get C's in geometry and chemistry. She asked me if that was the very best I could do. I told her, truthfully that it was. And voila...a deal was struck and made. I had to take algebra twice, but on the second try, I actually kinda sorta got it.

Let's just say, I'm probably the only one in history holding a masters degree with a high school algebra 2 math limit.

BTW: THANKYOUSOMUCH for the recipe. Mac and cheese WILL be served in heaven. ;)

Linda said...

I don't remember them allowing me into Chemistry...I think after I screwed up in science so much, they decided it wasn't safe to let me into, and Algebra...HATE it. I'm with you though, I totally sailed through english and history, composition and special programs for advanced students in poetry and short story writing. how fun was that.

The teacher I remember best was Mrs. Kiley. She was the one teacher in Jr. high who finally realized that I wasn't a bad student, just a bored student. She played to my creative side and I responded like a fish in water, gliding seamlessly through her extra credit assignment.

When it was time for me to trade in my Jr. High ID and move forward into High School, she personally did her best to make sure that I got certain teachers for English and writing classes, in particular Mr. Kitching, who she felt would work well with my creativeness. She was right.

Mrs. Kiley Flaming Red hair, wore white framed glasses (big) and a those shirt dressed that billowed out into a pleated skirt with full slip underneath. She taught me to look beyond the perimeter of an assignment and find the creative avenue towards completion. and after that, I did.

Great post C. Thanks.

Cheryl Wray said...

Leslie--LOL Yes, I used to could stay up to 1 a.m. and not feel it in the morning. Not anymore.... :-)

Gretchen--I sorta had the same arrangement! I think my parents just realized that I wasn't going to make As in math and science and they let it go at that. I have a master's degree and never made it past Algebra 2 either. :-) Yes, you are RIGHT about the mac and cheese! LOL

Cheryl Wray said...

Linda--You snuck in on me. :-)

I LOVE your memories of your teacher!! And I know that you were fantastic in anything creative!!

hippo chick said...

This post brought back so many memories. I am making a note to write about my history with Chemistry. It was a very short one.

I'm so with you about not feeling your age. I sometimes forget that I am not YOUR peer. You see, I'm old enough to be YOUR mother. I just told my doctor this morning that I don't mind getting older, I mind looking older. I'm so surprised when I look in the mirror and see my mom looking back at me.

This was such a fun post for me to read. Thanks for sharing.

Oh BTW, I hated all sciences and math. Give me English and SS anytime.

~hippo hugs~

Keetha said...

Ditto! I was all about history and English but math and science - ugh. To me, chemistry was the worst of two evils - science AND math!

Deborah said...

I managed to avoid chemistry class, somehow, but later regretted it. It would have been useful basic knowledge to have in later life reporting on things like heavy duty engine oil additives, diesel fuel contamination and some medical topics.

Part of it depends on the teacher, too. I really enjoyed my geometry class, and doing proofs, because I had a teacher who focused more on the thinking process of how to solve the problems than on memorizing all the stupid theorems. We had open book tests.

Edleen said...

oh my gosh..what Chemistry? hehehe... never did enjoy that subject :P

but glad McKenna enjoys it :)
hope you're well and have a Lovely Thursday!

Cheryl Wray said...

Hippo--Age really is relative, isn't it? I feel connected to people of any age. I'll take English and SS any day too!

Keetha--HEY!!! So great to see you! How are you doing? (Yes, Chemistry was the Great Evil!)

Deborah--You know, it's funny. I was always awful at math, but I really loved Geometry and proofs (and I actually got As in that class). Of course, my teacher made it easy for me and was willing to help me and answer questions-- that's probably what helped me so much.

Ed--There are sure a lot of us like-minded chemistry haters here. LOL Hope your Thursday is great too (it's still Wednesday evening here!). :-)

Monogram Queen said...

I am struggling with angles and such in math right now. HATE IT.

I surely hope your Mom is right (and I suspect she is)!!!!!!