When I was twelve and thirteen, I was really into science, especially rockets and space. It was the early days of the US space program, and I was so absorbed by the whole subject that I even made my own crude, pen-top, match-head rockets in my basement. This was so long ago, folks, that there was no NASA yet!
Then came October 4, 1957. That was the day that one of the greatest events in the world of science, space, rockets and technology shocked the world: Russia had launched the first man-made earth satellite, the basketball-sized, shiny, silvery Sputnik. I was soooo excited.
October 4 fell on a Friday that year, and I absolutely couldn't wait for school to start on Monday when we could talk about this monumental event in science class. Well, Monday came, and there I finally was in 4th period science. I sat at my desk near the back of the room all excited and full of anticipation. The grey-haired science teacher stood up at his desk, paused for a second and said, "OK class: open your chemistry books to page 419."
Of course, my heart simply sank in my chest. This was not a student participation class; this was a serious science lecture, day after day, and you did what the teacher told you to. I was crushed with disappointment and did what I was told to do.
But I did learn a serious, life-changing lesson that day. When I became a teacher, many years later, I determined not to ever make the same myopic mistake that my eighth-grade science teacher had made so many years before. Every class, for the last thirty seven years, I begin with the same sentence. I ask this loud and clear: "Does anyone have anything to say?" Be assured that this is no idle question. All of my students learn from the very first day of class, and know for certain, that I am sincerely interested to hear and discuss what each and every one of them may have on their minds. They know that comes first.