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Louisa's Name

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  • Louisa's Name

    Posted by Barrett<script language="JavaScript1.3" type="text/javascript"> document.write(timestamp(new Date(2004,3,30,9,21,0), dfrm, tfrm, 0, 0, 0, 0)); </script> (Member # 67) on 30-04-2004 16:21<noscript>April 30, 2004 09:21 AM</noscript>:

    It’s been a quiet week in Cuyahoga Falls…

    This morning as I sat drinking coffee and working through some records in my office I heard a name mentioned on the radio that has always made me smile-Louisa May Alcott. This civil war nurse wrote one of the 19th century’s most popular novels, “Little Women,” a story so good that Hollywood remade the movie again in ’94 starring Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst. If this isn’t an example of how writing can endure I don’t know what is.
    The reason I smile at the mention of Alcott’s name is because it is connected to one of my earliest memories. My grandfather’s home was on West 103rd in Cleveland, a quiet street not far from Lake Erie. Just south down the block was a school yard where the swings had little wooden seats, the slats worn soft from years of use. My twin sister Leah and I were too small to get into the swings ourselves but Grandpa would lift us carefully, slide a small bar down across our waists and then take his place behind us, guiding us forward again and again. I couldn’t see his face, but I’m pretty sure he was smiling. And so were we. This playground belonged to Louisa May Alcott Elementary School.
    A major shift in my career as a teacher formally begins later this month. I’ll be working for Cross Country University doing workshops confined to six hours in each city. I’m told that people are signing up and that I can expect some decent crowds so that part seems to have been handled well. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get the essence of my work into this time frame. After all, I began in the 70s conducting workshops on pretty much the same subject-they lasted nine days.
    I heard Louisa’s name today in a report about a revolutionary teaching method that the Cleveland public schools have tried out in the building connected to my old playground. This “directed teaching” required that the entire faculty agree to change their methods no matter how long they’d be doing something else, some for thirty years. Gee, there’s something familiar about that number. The report indicated that this new method works wonderfully and that even the oldest teachers are pleased with the results.
    I googled Louisa’s name and found this about her father, a teacher: “Bronson Alcott was well known for his controversial teaching methods which relied more on student involvement and a belief that children should enjoy learning.” I also found out that like many nurses at the time Louisa suffered from mercury poisoning acquired during the preparation of medicine. I’ve written about Isaac Newton having this same problem and have only half jokingly speculated on a similar condition in myself (See “The Last Sorcerer”).
    Like anyone else’s, my life is full of comforting connections and I can see them if I just take the time to look. I’m determined to use the transformation of my teaching as an opportunity to involve the students more and see to it that they enjoy the day. When the strain of travel and public speaking begin to take their toll I’ll try to remember that swinging with my twin nearby and our grandfather guiding us forward.
    I’ll say Louisa’s name, and it will make me smile.

    Last edited by bernard; 30-12-2005, 06:04 PM.
    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. L VINCI
    We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. I NEWTON

    Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not a bit simpler.
    If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. Albert Einstein