I must admit I sometimes struggle with my tendency to minimize the impact of the little that I am able to do on the world at large. I read of the Mother Theresas in the world and the selfless sacrifices they make to bring comfort to the poor and hungry. I read of agricultural scientists spending long hours in the field and lab as they make breakthroughs in the battle to conquer global food shortages. I read of climate scientists set on saving us from cataclysmic global disasters. I read of NASA scientists landing rovers on far away planets.
My work won’t save the planet, it will likely largely go unnoticed. My work includes getting on the floor and sharing the beauty of a dandelion blossom in the spring with a bright eyed kindergartner. I find joy working alongside a fourth grader when they devise a circuit that will light a bulb. A deep smile wells up when my preservice adult students wrestle with the inability to grapple with the misconception that if they back up far enough they will be able to see their whole body in the mirror. I share with them the joy of sitting alongside a child alighting a sense of wonderment. We float fruit and fly paper airplanes to provide a context for developing understanding of the artistry of creating a learning environment conducive to best practice, constructivist, student-centered science classrooms. My work won’t save the planet, but it may ignite a fire in one of my students that will.
I listen to MPR’s Science Friday on my walk to work. The other day there was an episode of a playwright’s experience in bringing to stage “The Other Place”, a story of a leading expert in dementia’s struggle with her own developing dementia. Sharr White described the research he does as he prepares for his writing. His immersion into the field got him caught up in feeling a sense of responsibility for solving the mysteries of the mind as it becomes mired in the confusion of misfiring neural synapses. At some point he had to come to terms that this was beyond his reach. He began to realize his research didn’t need to lead to ground breaking cures, but rather to be sufficient to allow him to adequately tell a story.
One of my preservice students wrote, “I look forward to my classroom where I can help my students find a sense of wonderment in the world.” No, my work won’t save the world, but if I can participate in a fabric that has the potential to ignite the mind of a young child to follow his or her path to be all they can be and make their own contributions to the world, my work is whole. I go to bed at night happy.