A First-person History of a Twentieth-Century Student
[In December, I am reviewing and revising my select Ten posts of 2015]
#10 Three Dog Life 12/4
#9 The Evolution of One Writer 12/6
#8 Before I Built a Wall…. 12/8
#7 Birches – Robert Frost 12/10
#6 You Could Be Immortal 12/12
#5 FDR is DEAD! 12/14
#4 Ella and Louis 12/16
#3 Journey of the Human Mind- Introduction 12/18
#2 Writers and The Butterfly 12/20
#1 Lessons from My Grandmother 12/22
If you are a good teacher/mentor, you will continue to live in the lives of your students and the lives of their students.
Lessons from my mentors for Writing and for Life: I write a lot, every day. I make many decisions every day.
Every sentence that I write is influenced by my grandmother, my parents and a regiment of teachers/ mentors. “We stand on the shoulders of Giants.” (1)
Every word, sentence and paragraph that I write, is “in-my-ear-edited” by numerous teachers who still tell me to “pay meticulous attention to detail”. ” Check for spelling errors and clarity of meaning.; “does this sentence say what you mean?” “Check the accuracy of, and the certainty of, if checked, that the reference is where you have indicated.”
My mentors are far more than some vague accumulated habit-patterns. As I write, my mentors come to mind, and I see their face, and each face has a name; they advise me on content and mechanics, word by word, as I proceed. [I hope you don’t think of me as experiencing seances or as “hearing actual sounds from the grave”]. I don’t hear sounds; I just feel thoughts. I don’t go seeking them out, but when I am in need of a thought or a rule, my mentors speak up, in a solo, or as a “Greek Chorus”.
Grandmother says: “Look, listen and learn.” “You can learn something from everyone you meet. or read.”
Mother says: “Always do your homework; always be on-time” and “Wear clean underwear.”
My Father says: “Give everyone eye-to-eye contact and a firm handshake.” He also always said: “No man ever stands so tall as he who stoops to help a child.” and “Always be forgiving.”
My Uncle Bourley says: “Don’t take yourself too seriously; we are all in this together.”
“Skipper,” (School Principal, Scoutmaster, surrogate father) says: “Be a Renaissance Man; you only have to try to; you can do every kind of thing if you try.” Speak, sing, play an instrument; write, try out for the team; don’t let a fear of failing stop you. Get back on your horse, again and again.” “Illetgimus noncarburundum!”
Miss Heron (English 101) still tells me to read and re-read my written work. Have an introduction, a discussion, and a conclusion. She tells me this, this very morning, Essays need clear thoughts, one thought to a paragraph; paragraphs need sentences; complete sentences require, at least, a subject, a verb, and punctuation.
Miss Jackson(English 103, 202-204) required that I have The Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus (2) with me for every written examination. Re-read one’s written work for logical content, and mechanics; each misspelled word is 0.5-grade point deduction. The Western Canon is a bottom-less well of material. All great authors depend on those writers who came before. Did you think that Shakespeare had all those ideas on his own? Miss Jackson says: “You must read more than you write.”
Mrs. Brown (Biology) says:”Every living person, animal and plant is a manifestation of the miracles of life! Relish it and celebrate it every day.”
Dr. Adams (Radiation Physics) says: Don’t turn in carelessly written papers. Use a spotless piece of paper; put your full name and the date on it, Re-read it carefully for errors. What you turn in, is your face to the world and tells your reader what you have learned and what you are capable of producing.
Dr, Banks (Anatomy) says: “You must be a complete master of your material. Generations of surgeons were taught by Dr. Banks, that the smallest details of normal anatomy had to be memorized and understood. “You can’t look it up during the operation.”
Dr. Ebert (Internal Medicine) says:”Never be without a stethoscope” and “Read and cite the refereed literature. No “Cliff’s Notes” of medicine allowed.
Dr. Merrill: (Gynecology-Obstetric) says: One must be on time! If the operation is scheduled for 08:00, that means when the hands on the clock clicks on to 8 O’clock, that you are fully awake, fed, had your coffee, completed ward rounds, in a scrub suit, post-ten-minute-hand-scrub, gowned, gloved and with a scalpel or a Kelly-clamp in your hand and the patient is anesthetized, before 08:00! And know for certain who your patient is! A 08:00 operation means that the knife blade goes through the skin at 8 O’clock. That is what prompt says: prompt means be completely ready and early!”
Dr. Crosby (Gynecology-Obstetrics) says: “The purpose of your training is to teach you to pay meticulous attention to detail”
Dr. O’Fogludha:(Radiation Physics in Medicine) Says: Having worked a problem and getting an answer, study the response to make sure that your answer makes sense. Your answer could have the correct units but could be off by an order of magnitude if you misplaced a decimal point… Small percentage errors may work; orders-of-magnitude are disastrous. Where the decimal point is, is more important than the numbers. “You cannot see or feel ionizing radiation”.
Dr. Alper (Radiation Biology) says “Write your material weeks in advance of its need and have everyone in the department critic your work. Their review is a gift.”
Dr. Newman (Surgical Pathology) says: (A total information man) “You must know the patient’s complete medical narrative and gross observations in order to interpret microscopic findings.” and “you must know the diagnosis before you treat.”,
Dr. Yates (Pediatrics) says: Whatever you want someone to remember, you must write it down and clearly; and put it in their hands.”.
My Son, Steven: Echos Winston Churchill:”Never, ever, never, give up!”
My Son Evan says: “Everything is built on basics. Every day, practices all of the major and minor scales, every day; master your instrument.”
These are some members of my Mentors and Greek Chorus, who talk to me as I go through my day.
“After we are gone, [we] survive only in the memories of others, and those memories butt against the walls we erect and the roles we play”“ (3)
Every day, I read about people critical of “university educations” as indoctrination of dogma. If these critics had known my mentors, they would see that their lessons were GIFTS from the well of life’s experience and wisdom!.
Charles Clanton Rogers, AB, MD, FACR, emeritus professor, GWU
Revised December 12, 2015
Steven Rogers. saxophone
(1) The best-known use of this phrase was by Isaac Newton in a letter to his rival Robert Hooke, in 1676: “What Descartes did was a good step. You have added many several ways, and especially in taking the colors of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
(2) Merriam-Webster: Dictionary and Thesaurus, An Encyclopedia Company.
(3) Roger Ebert, Movie Critic: summarizing the message of Citizen Kane, the movie, Directed by Orson Welles, 1941.
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