How Does This Thing Work? More Lessons From My Grandfather

Last week, I experienced the honor of having a blog post on our school division’s leadership blog. Entitled Lessons From My Grandfather, the post focuses on dedication to professional learning and continuous improvement in order to provide quality learning experiences for our students.

Here’s an excerpt:

I vividly remember my grandfather having notebooks filled with pages and pages of tables of data. Whenever we visited his house, I would see him, every morning, check the rain gauge near the sunroom in the back yard.  He would record temperatures, humidity, and precipitation levels in his notebook and look for trends (something I found out later that he often did in his job developing insecticides).

Once I asked him, “Grandpa, why do you do write down all those numbers every day in your book?”

His response? “Because it has to be done.”

The more I have thought about it over the years, the more I understand what he meant. It’s true that information is available in so many places, in newspapers, on television and online. Even still, my grandfather had this tangible urge to learn first-hand about the specifics of his back yard.

Read the rest here. The post delves further into the relationship between updated Science Standards of Learning and changes in instructional practices, as well as the power of collaboration & team learning among professionals involved in continuous improvement.

The publishing team also asked me to share pictures that would highlight my grandfather’s many roles – New Yorker, WWII veteran, chemist, father, learner. While the one below did not fit the overall theme of the story, it is one of my favorites. It’s a “candid” self-portrait when a younger version of my grandfather was learning to use a new camera:


I just so happen to have a stylistically similar self-portrait, taken as a toddler. I don’t know much about my grandfather’s story with his picture, though I’m told that mine goes something like this:

Mother sees son walk through the living room into the kitchen.

Mother gets surprised by huge flash of white light, thud, and blur of son running out of the kitchen in the opposite direction.

Mother walks into the kitchen to see a tipped-over Polaroid camera on the table with this picture resting next to it:


Mother laughs hysterically.

Here lies photographic evidence of my grandfather and me each trying to understand what some newfangled contraption does and how it works, only to be surprised when we accidentally figured it out.

These are literal “snapshots” in time – just like the products of our students’ learning can serve as “snapshots” of his or her present level of performance. It makes me wonder what we can learn from any “snapshots” we take, from any evidence of “current state” – especially as we collect these snapshots over time and look for evidence of learning.

I guess it’s true that an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…and it certainly doesn’t roll far from its roots.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s