I can never understand why a student doesn’t enjoy studying. I suppose the fault must lie with the student’s immaturity or the teacher’s boringness. I remember how much I dreaded waking every morning to milk the cows when I was young. The menial was meaningless to me then.

But what causes me to really scratch my head (or rub my baldness) is chemistry. Why don’t more students love it? Math students should love the orderliness of it. The cook and the cow milker use it every day. Isn’t it cool these days to eat more proteins and fewer carbohydrates? Why then the apathy?

So I lecture and I diagram and I digress in chemistry. I talk about our stomachs and the students wonder why you can’t drink hydrochloric acid if that is what is in your stomach anyway. We pass around the small vial of HCl and practice wafting instead of sniffing. This knowledge I pass down from Lester Showalter and my time in his ninth grade chemistry class. Some students sniff and get burnt.

Another student notices the small skull and crossbones on the label. He pulls out his pencil and adds, “if swallowed, buy a coffin.”

I hope they are enjoying it a little bit.

This past week we made hydrogen.

I stopped along the main street in town and entered a tiny auto parts store. “Acid pentru baterie?” They pointed me down the street to the next shop where I bought some diluted H2SO4 in a bottle labeled “electrolit.”

Zinc was more difficult to resource. Asphalt shingles do not exist in Romania, so zinc strips don’t either. I researched the metal roofing screws that I had left over from my house, and discovered they indeed were coated with zinc.

In an ideal demonstration my sulfuric acid would have been concentrated, and my zinc would have been in beautiful chunks. But we made do with what we had, and what we had made hydrogen.

No pictures of the effect a match had on this little balloon. But it did make a handy pop.

Johnny was a chemist. Johnny is no more. For what Johnny thought was H2O, was H2SO4!

Collaborative creativity

What do teachers do with their summers?

They hang out with fellow friends and hobbyists, bouncing ideas from brain to brain, finding their own worlds enlarged and rounded.

Claudia and I are on the staff of the Curator. We are a collection of poets and artist who are trying to promote the arts among Anabaptists. The Curator publishes a poem a week, hosted a Literature Camp the beginning of August, and recently developed a hardcopy booklet of poems called Leaf Magazine.

So this past summer included meetings in which we discussed things like the font and layout of Leaf Magazine. We Curator staff met in a little café called The Rabbit and the Dragonfly that finds its space under a building in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and fills that space delightfully with themes from Tolkien and Lewis.

Here we nibbled chili cheese fries,
drank Ent-sized birch beer,
and discussed whether or not to use a stylus for the letter “a” in “Leaf”.

Then on July 23 we welcomed a daughter, Josephine!

And in August the three of us traveled to Literature Camp. This weekend included poetry workshops, sessions like this one on embodied worship in which the speaker addresses culture and theology, and also a session in which I explain why I am a poet.

So this past summer was possibly the busiest of my life so far. My beautiful daughter was born. I was a full time electrician who worked nights and weekends remodeling a house, ordered school books during morning break, and did my best to squeeze in space for family and friends.

I blogged much less than I had hoped.

We arrived back in Romania on Tuesday.

Journey over.

School starts Monday. Join me again this year as the blog reawakens.



In His Hands

Perhaps some teachers teach for the chance to create beautiful bulletin boards. I don’t. I do care about the decor of the room and love a good bulletin board; but the work of it and finding the right materials for creation are not my favorite divisions of school teaching.

So often I try to get the students to help me.

This bulletin board is inspired by the song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” I divided the students into teams and gave them each a part of the board to paint or create.

I loved the finished product.


Eating Bug

Many people were caught off guard by President Donald Trump’s election in 2016.

Dr. Sam Wang, for example.

As a pollster, he promised to eat a bug if Donald Trump received above 240 electoral votes. President Trump netted 306. Dr. Wang netted a cricket. With honey.

He said it tasted “mostly honey-ish, a little nutty”.

Dr. Wang also said he felt a little like John the Baptist in the wilderness. He suspected many people were surprised with the election results, but that most were not out in the cold with a wager as he was.

Psalm 15 says that a person who is worthy to dwell in God’s house will keep his commitment even if it ends up hurting him.

Read Psalm 15.

Let’s be careful what we commit to, especially if the “bet” is speculative. Because those who God considers worthy are those who keep the commitments they make. And let’s also be careful to always keep our commitments fully. Even if it means eating crickets.

Bonk that Homework

I’d never heard of fish bonkers before I was a teacher. But one year when my décor was everything fishing, I explored the sports section of the local Walmart and discovered a handy wooden club with a whimsical set of instructions.

The club was threatening. So I repurposed the instruction booklet for my own means and displayed it on the class wall.

A Small Gift

Teachers don’t eat off a golden platter. They struggle. They put in long hours. They work with wobbly pencils and broken chalk. And as I mentioned on my Welcome page, they often need to beg, borrow, or steal.

But sometimes they are handed a very nice worksheet.

Kat, from education.com kindly reached out to me this past week with some helpful material.

So set sail to learn about figurative language in this crossword puzzle worksheet and answer key! For more language arts activities, visit Education.com.

Happy sailing. May your skies be clear and your seas calm.

And may your need for pirating be diminished today.

Jesus’ Quiz


Read John 6:1-14


Jesus had become quite popular. People were flocking after Him to hear Him speak and to be healed of their diseases.

Jesus sailed across the Sea of Galilee, climbed a mountain, and there sat down with His disciples. He lifted up His eyes and saw the people following. But He didn’t just see people, He saw needs.

So Jesus quizzed His disciples.

Phillip was the mathematician. He quickly crunched the numbers and submitted the results.

Andrew was a statistician/ logician. He used his head, took a poll, evaluated the facts, and shared his conclusion.

Jesus knew the correct answer all along.

Does Jesus quiz us today?

He lets us get tired. He lets us be hungry. He gives us a little food. He sends a little boy to help us. He asks us to trust Him.

Jesus took the meal, blessed it, and bit by bit His disciples distributed it. He gave them just a handful to carry out and share. And every time they came back to Him, He had another morsel ready. I think they got the lesson one bite at a time.


Jesus is still a healer. He teaches and heals those who follow Him. And He quizzes us. He tests our love for others and our belief in Him.

When we trust Him and find our answers in Him, He overfills us and not even the smallest crumb is lost.