Monday, August 19, 2019

#Nostalgia My Inspiration to Teach Re: March 1993

Re: March 1993 

I retired from full time teaching in June of 2012. I currently teach an upper division writing class, WRT3000 Professional Writing" most semesters in Point Loma Nazarene University's RN to BSN program. I will teach my last academic class in Spring of 2020. The last class meets the week after my 70th birthday. When I turn in my keys for the last time, it will end the 49th consecutive year I graded student papers for money.

I was fortunate to have been nominated for and selected as California’s Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Science Teaching in 1993. That was a very high and humbling honor. It included what was truly a “once in a lifetime experience—a week of being treated like a dignitary in Washington, D.C. 

In 2010, one of the Math Awardees for that year, Sean Nank, did a lot of work and got a book of anecdotal chapters by Presidential Awardees across the years published. Chapter 45: Let “You” Show Through – by C. R. Downing – Pages 295-300 is my chapter. What follows—except for the photographs—is an excerpt from that chapter. Specifically, this post answers the following question:
3)  What inspires you to continue your endeavors in teaching and other goals you now have?

As I write this, I am nearing the end of my thirty-eighth year as a teacher. To my way of thinking, I have lived three “lives” as a teacher. For twenty-three years, I taught biology and integrated science at Monte Vista High School in Spring Valley, California.
My first Anatomy and Physiology Class. They called themselves The Chuckaroos. I am the Chief Chuckaroo and am in the bowler hat on the right of the photo.
Upon completion of my PhD in Education, I joined the Teacher Education Department at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) as full time faculty. Each semester at PLNU I was privileged to teach a special laboratory section of General Education Biology for the Elementary Teaching majors. Twice in my eight years at the University, I was accorded the honor of teaching the lecture section for that semester as well. 

Pig Dissection at PLNU.
In 2004 I began teaching at Great Oak High School in Temecula, California. It is my plan to remain in this situation until I retire.
Returning to high school teaching after my time at PLNU was the result of 1) my desire to get back into our state teacher retirement system to reach one of the key length of service milestones; 2) to have the opportunity to work for a person I knew and was compatible with; 3) to open a brand new school; and 4) to teach integrated science again.
I achieved my first goal--thirty years of service in California K-12 public education--in 2011. I retired in 2012. The other three reasons vaporized over time. The principal I went to my current school to work for is now Superintendent of the district. The school is no longer new, as is evidenced by our aged, slow, finicky computers and the fading paint on doors and window frames. Our original integrated science has degenerated from the well-designed thematic course it was seven years ago to a mundane collection of loosely connected science concepts across four disciplines.
So, why am I still teaching? If you ask my wife, she would say because it is what I do best—that is part of it for sure. The real reason I am teaching now, and will continue to teach for at least two more years is this: I am blessed to work with two of the best teachers I have ever known--Jen and Rachel. Each day they inspire me. Each has overcome personal tragedies in the year 2010-2011 that I cannot imagine overcoming. I was privileged to live that year with them—they are my heroes.
Rachel (Supergirl) and Jen (purple wig) join me (Buzz Lightyear) and Teresa (Operation Game)
In spite of the physical and emotional trauma in the lives of these two teachers, they continue to come to school each day, to engage students in meaningful and innovative ways. They also provide me with an overarching purpose—helping to equip the next generation of superior science teachers to lead and inspire.
Excerpted from: 

I pray for over 150 teachers by name every Monday-Friday during the school year. They are relatives, colleagues from MVHS or GOHS, or were students in my Teacher Education classes. 

So what inspires people to teach? While that varies dramatically, I love what Christa McAuliffe, speaking for all teachers, wrote,
I change the world… I teach.
I miss the kids and colleagues associated with fulltime teaching. The other stuff… not so much!
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Sunday, August 11, 2019

#Nostalgia Sputnik and Moon Walks Re: 7/20/1969

Sputnik, the first humanly-produced object to orbit the earth.
July 20, 1969 was a Sunday. I’d finished a week of counseling at “Boys and Girls Camp” in Running Springs, California the day before. I considered myself to be the luckiest 19-year old in the world because I’d met the cutest, sweetest girl counselor at that camp—we were married two years and two weeks later. We celebrated our 48th Wedding Anniversary on August 7.

But, back to the science context of the date.

Sputnik’s launch on October 4, 1957, had given the Soviets the undeniable early lead in the space race. Americans were appalled how a bunch of communists could do something like that at all, let along before we could. The following five paragraphs are from NASA's historical archives. This link is at the top of that page.

It's a WAV file of the telemetry (data) Sputnik broadcast. I'll be surprised if you aren't less than impressed by what you hear. 

"History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world's first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball (58 cm.or 22.8 inches in diameter), weighed only 83.6 kg. or 183.9 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.

The story begins in 1952, when the International Council of Scientific Unions decided to establish July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958, as the International Geophysical Year (IGY) because the scientists knew that the cycles of solar activity would be at a high point then. In October 1954, the council adopted a resolution calling for artificial satellites to be launched during the IGY to map the Earth's surface. 

In July 1955, the White House announced plans to launch an Earth-orbiting satellite for the IGY and solicited proposals from various Government research agencies to undertake development. In September 1955, the Naval Research Laboratory's Vanguard proposal was chosen to represent the U.S. during the IGY. 

The Sputnik launch changed everything. As a technical achievement, Sputnik caught the world's attention and the American public off-guard. Its size was more impressive than Vanguard's intended 3.5-pound payload. In addition, the public feared that the Soviets' ability to launch satellites also translated into the capability to launch ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons from Europe to the U.S. Then the Soviets struck again; on November 3, Sputnik II was launched, carrying a much heavier payload, including a dog named Laika. 
Immediately after the Sputnik I launch in October, the U.S. Defense Department responded to the political furor by approving funding for another U.S. satellite project. As a simultaneous alternative to Vanguard, Wernher von Braun and his Army Redstone Arsenal team began work on the Explorer project. 

On January 31, 1958, the tide changed, when the United States successfully launched Explorer I. This satellite carried a small scientific payload that eventually discovered the magnetic radiation belts around the Earth, named after principal investigator James Van Allen. The Explorer program continued as a successful ongoing series of lightweight, scientifically useful spacecraft.
 The Sputnik launch also led directly to the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In July 1958, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (commonly called the "Space Act"), which created NASA as of October 1, 1958 from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and other government agencies. "

After the Russians "won" the initial event in "the space race," there was a massive influx of programs and money into science and math education. I went through school with new math, the Biological Science Study Curriculum, Chem Study, and PSSC Physics.

What we witnessed on 7/20/1969 was evidence that America had overcome their stumbling start of the race. Read this blog for an in-depth look at the first moon walk.

My family was invited to our pastor’s home to watch the moon walk. The pastor had a color TV, which was still a big deal for my family, whose first color television was over five years away.
I remember sitting around that console TV with my mom and dad, my sister, the pastor and his wife, their four kids, and a newly-engaged couple, the girl of which I’d known for years.

Talk before the event centered on how it would be so good to finally put the Soviets in their place in the space race. This moon landing and walk would raise America to what we considered to be an unassailable first place position.

The most humorous comment I remember was about the lunar lander. One of the adults quipped, “That looks like Wayne’s lifted ’65 Mustang!”

As the hands of the clock neared 8:00 PM, the chatter faded. What would we see first? 

Finally, at 7:56, Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lander and down the ladder onto the surface of the moon.

Funny retrospective. All the video shot on the moon was in black and white—the color TV was of no value beyond the size of the screen.

What was my take-away?

I am part of a generation that truly believed America could do anything. To us, the entire space program was proof of that. We were proud to be Americans.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

#Nostalgia Thoughts on my 48th Wedding Anniversary

August 7, 1971

I possess a gateway to a unique technology. Known as the 

Latent Energy Accessible Neural Network Experience, 

it is guaranteed to correct any real of perceived error in my memory of a plethora of life events. 

I am indebted to Gene and Emily Stagner, the co-developers of this technological wonder. This blog series was scanned by L.E.A.N.N.E. Additions, corrections, and deletions—which, of course, you’ll never know about—are included in the same font as this disclaimer.

From an earlier blog

On Saturday, August 7, 1971, Leanne Marie Stagner, from Anaheim, California married Charles Robert Downing, from Spring Valley, California. For those of you calendar-challenged individuals reading this, that's 48-years ago...
... today!

The ceremony was held at 2:00 p.m. at the Anaheim First Church of the Nazarene. A cake, nuts, and candy reception followed in the Fellowship Hall.
Clockwise from Top. Bridesmaids. Leanne and I. Groomsmen. Leanne's Engagement Photo. Bride and Groom with Gene and Emily.

Chapel at Camp Cedar Crest. Viewing site of "Old Yeller."
As cabins filed into the chapel for the movie, Rev. Goble called Leanne and me aside.

“I don’t really need you two in here tonight,” he said. “Why don’t you spend some time together?”

“Okay,” I said.

I don’t remember if Leanne said anything.

For however long Old Yeller is, I did most of the talking. Between stories of my assorted injuries, I did give her my letterman’s jacket to wear in the nighttime chill.

If you want to read all the "pre-nuptial" stuff: 

New Stuff Starts Here

The next morning, the Anaheim Nazarene Church bus pulled into the camp. Leanne and I were talking while we helped our kids get their suitcases and sleeping bags to the right vehicle. At some point, Leanne informed me that her father was driving the Anaheim bus.

The first time I met Gene Stagner, Leanne's dad, he was stuffing luggage under bus seats. I think we shook hands, but we did not chat. Gene was not a chatter… ever.

Leanne and I exchanged addresses. I sent her a lot of letters during the 18-months we dated while she still lived in Anaheim.

I took her out on our first date later that month. Fish and chips at H. Salt Equire's.

For our second date, we watched the Angels play in The Big A. My most vivid memory is the stentorian voice of a guy behind us.

“Way to go, Jim,” boomed past us often as Jim Fregosi did something mediocre or poorly. 

Jim had a bad night. Not me. Leanne was sitting next to me.

The first time I held her hand was clambering down the rock to the beach in Doheny. I have this vivid memory of how our fingers intertwined. I was certain it was kismet. After all, how many hands fit perfectly into another person’s hands?

Turns out that it’s pretty much everyone.

I called Leanne Princess after Deja Thoris, the strikingly beautiful Martian princess in Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars novels. Those are still some of my favorite sci-fi novels. She's still my princess.

If we were lucky, Leanne and I got to go on a date every other Saturday. I would drive to Anaheim—106 miles. I wrote her a poem about that. I can't find it. Neither can she.

Regardless of when the date started, Leanne had to be home by 11:00. Occasionally, we spent some time in the parking lot of the city park close to her house before I walked her to her door. On one of those evenings, there was a rapping on my window. Startled, I rolled the window down and found myself staring up a one of Anaheim’s finest.

“Hmmm. I know you’re old enough,” he said to me. “But, you’d better take her home now.”

I did.

Oh, we did get to stay up together once—Leanne’s Grad Night at Disneyland.
Grad Night for Anaheim High Class of 1970
Once you go to D'Land dressed like this, when you go and see people in shorts in the summer, you look around and wonder how anyone could dress like that.
I don't remember when our first kiss was, but I suspect it was standing on her front porch with the porch light on waiting for my watch to show 11:00 p.m.

Boy’s Life, the Boy Scout magazine, was a staple of my reading while in Junior High. William Boyd played Hopalong Cassidy on TV. He also wrote a column for the magazine. I cut one of those out and kept it for years.

The subject of the column was dating. The key point I gleaned was 

“Never say ‘I love you,’ to a girl until you’re ready to marry her.”

I did that.  I suspect that it was very close to the night I asked her to marry me before I said, “I love you” to her.

I could write a lifetime of memories here. Well, at least 50 years worth. I won’t. I’ll close with this.

I was fortunate to meet a young lady who was willing to put up with all my “Chuck”-ness. More than that, she was willing to commit to that for our lifetimes. You are free to disagree, but I’m sure that I am the luckiest man on earth because Leanne Marie is my wife and the mother of my children.

At my sister's wedding in 1976.
Leanne helped make her dress, my shirt, and my matching tie!

Rockin' the Fedoras from the Padres at Petco Park.

If you did disagree about the luckiest man part, you’re wrong.

Happy 48th Anniversary, Leanne.

I love you.

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Monday, July 29, 2019

#Storytelling Story Telling VS. Writing A Story – Part 1: Story Telling

Me telling a story. This was about three weeks before I retired from full-time high school teaching. It's after school. I'm in a science lab with a posted occupancy of 87. There are over 120 students, teachers, staff, and administrators attending the 90-minute "Story Time with Uncle Chuck."
I’ve been a storyteller all my life. As a kid, during summer vacations in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, I would gather my cousins around under the weeping willow tree in my grandmother’s front yard. I would regale them with my interpretations of Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart comedy routines.

As a children’s Sunday School and Junior Church leader, and even to adult audiences at more than one church gathering, I spun my versions of Bible Stories. Did you know that Gideon had a pair of Nike shoes ready just in case the battle against the Midianites didn’t go his way?

When I started teaching, stories became a vehicle to convey meaning of science concepts to student in an often more comprehensible manner than reading, writing or lecturing.

Video of a story I told in class, click the link to see and hear the story
"The time I tore my quadriceps muscle."

  1. One of the most important aspects of oral storytelling is to read the audience and react to keep them focused on the story. All good public speakers do this. For me, it was a natural thing. I can sense when I’m losing a crowd and am almost always able to make adjustments on the fly to bring them back to my narrative.
  2. Also, when telling a story, good storytellers use dramatic pauses to give the listeners a chance to formulate a picture in their minds. 
  3. Different voices for different characters add another dimension to the oration. 
  4. Shouting, whispering, peering from side to side, using a shocked look—or smug or chagrined or embarrassed, among others—can bring a feeling or picture into the mind of the listeners. See the photo above for an example.
  5. I’ve even said, “Now, about this time, I’m thinking…” to get listeners to visualize what I see going on as I’m telling the story.
Example. of #5.
  • I tell a story about deer hunting and a mule. I heard it first at a coaching clinic. I've heard it told in 10 minutes. My version last 30+ minutes. 
  • At one point in the story, my friend and I are deer hunting at his request. I have no desire to deer hunt. I'm on this trip to keep him from ever inviting me again.
  • He assigns me a necessary task he does not want to do. Even though I don't want to do it, either, I agree--remember, I never want to be invited to deer hunt again.
  • While performing the task, I end up with a sprained ankle and torn trousers. When I get back to his Toyota Land Cruiser, he's asleep.
  • My next spoken line to my audience is,

“Now, about this time, I’m thinking…”
  • By explaining my thinking, listeners form ideas in their minds of my next action. And, the listen to the story to see if they are correct.
  • BTW. No one ever figures out what I'm going to do from this clue, and the ending ALWAYS elicits expressions from shock to anger to hilarity.

Unfortunately, when you write a story you can’t do any of the things I’ve listed that you can when you tell a story. Except the #3 point above…

But more on that next week in Story Telling VS. Writing A Story – Part 2: Writing a Story

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