This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘learning’

The Old Paths: The Thrill of the Scare

**This was originally published on Thursday, October 31, 2013, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

“Where is my golden arm?”ghost stories

Just hearing those classic ghost-story words around a late-night campfire always made the hair rise up on my arms. I wouldn’t go to the bathroom alone on the way to bed, and I would lie awake in the darkness for a bit longer than normal, just expecting to see the dead man looking for his golden arm.

Oh, you did that, too, huh?

And how ‘bout the one where the couple picks up the hitchhiker who mysteriously disappears from the backseat or the one where you’re working a jigsaw puzzle late at night and when you get done, you realize it’s the very picture of your room with a man’s face staring in through the window behind you?

Versions of these and other stories have long been part of the old paths of campfires and sleepovers. And if you were lucky back in the day, your friends’ parents would let all of you pajama party kids stay up late to watch “Shock Theater.” You’d all scramble into your sleeping bags in the living room floor after that creepy show—feeling cold chill bumps upon cold chill bumps, scared to talk above a whisper.shock theater

Everything seemed magnified in that atmosphere of fear. What might have been the family dog banging his tail on his doghouse suddenly becomes the ghost of Great-Aunt Marge rap-rap-rapping on the door to take revenge on the family. The leaking bathroom faucet down the hall becomes blood dripping from the ceiling.

Yet you giggle and shiver simultaneously, knowing that you’ll tell the same stories at the next sleepover or on the next camping trip. How can something so spooky be so fun?

I don’t get it. Why do we LIKE to be scared? It is obviously part of human nature, because children (and adults) have told ghost stories throughout history. There is something in the human psyche that finds such fear “delicious.”

Why else did we all rush right out to see “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” years ago? And then we watched sequel after sequel of these and other cult classics. Scary movies are big business. Hollywood ain’t dumb.halloween movie 1978

When I taught high school, my 11th-grade American Literature students might drowse through the Puritan poets or Longfellow. But let me start teaching Edgar Allan Poe, and those kids were on the edges of their seats. Not one student ever told me they had had enough of Poe.

Yet his writings were macabre, dark, depressing. Someone is bricked up to die in the cellar. A tell-tale heart beats underground. A raven is rapping at your chamber door “once upon a midnight dreary.”

Yet we cry, “Give me more, give me more!” Sometimes I would like to reply, “Nevermore! Nevermore!” (Kudos to those who get the Poe reference.)poe book

I know I am in the minuscule minority, but I don’t like for my children to tell ghost stories or watch scary things on TV. They still inevitably do when the cousins get together. “Scared?” you may ask. Goodness, no. My hubster laughs at my irrational fear of mice because he considers me a woman who is pretty much fearless and would fight a roomful of literal demons.

But I believe that what we fill our minds with becomes a part of us. To make a Sunday School reference, the Bible tells us to think on things that are lovely, pure, honest, praiseworthy. It also says that however a man thinks in his heart, so will he become.

Whether or not you subscribe to the Good Book, you must admit that even logic tells us that whatever we feed ourselves is what we become. Junk food will eventually beget a junky body. I tend to believe that theory holds true for things that go deeper than the physical.think-on-these-things--brain

A Purdue University professor, Glenn Sparks, did extensive research on how scary movies affect us physiologically. He found that palms sweat, heartbeats increase as much as 15 beats per minute, muscles tense up, skin temperature drops several degrees and blood pressure spikes. Sparks says that although we tell ourselves what we’re seeing is not real, our brain hasn’t adapted to technology and still reacts as though what we see is factual.

Shouldn’t we be conditioned to seek things to give us pleasure rather than what elicits these unpleasant side effects of fright? Being thrilled AND scared is paradoxical, isn’t it?

Media researchers have found that indulging in this type of media actually makes the viewer feel more hostile, view life in a more hostile way and be haunted by the images that have entered their brains to make a memory—whether real or not.brain--horror movies

Joanne Cantor, PhD, director of the Center for Communication Research at University of Wisconsin, Madison, is acclaimed as an expert in this subject. She has found in surveys of her students that almost 60 percent of them admit that scary things they watched before age 14 had created disturbances for them, both while sleeping and awake, to this present day. She notes hundreds of students who have told her they became afraid of clowns or battled horrible images running obsessively through their minds for years after watching frightening movies.

Her thought is that the brain possibly stores the movie images as memories in the amygdala—the storehouse of memories which generates emotions based on them. If this is true, the same emotional problems that can be caused by memories of actual trauma from childhood can also be caused by memories of fake violent, frightening images in movies since the brain may not be able to differentiate between reality and the big screen.

That makes me question how many adults are struggling through life with depression or anxiety and panic attacks or horrible nightmares and sleepless nights because their brain stored up the scary movie images as real. These people wonder what’s wrong with them and wonder how to get to the root of the darkness in their lives……never thinking to question the horror movies and scary images they filled themselves with once upon a time……

I know, I know—I’m a spoil sport on Halloween, aren’t I? Go ahead and see the latest horror movie without me; at least you’ll save money by not having to buy me a ticket. Keep the machete; I’m running through fields of daisies. And the only man with a golden arm that I’ll acknowledge is whoever wins the Cy Young Award next baseball season.

To each his own, I suppose. However, just know that if I come to your campfire gathering, I’m gonna sing “Kumbaya” or something. Here’s hoping you’ll join in!

whatsoever things

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The Old Paths: Lighting the fire for learning

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News on April 18, 2013. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish in this blog all of my columns that once appeared in the newspaper.

fire for learningWhen I taught public school, I was often dismayed by the lack of interest I saw in many of my students. By the time they came to me in their final year or two of high school, they very often had lost the desire to really learn. They were more concerned with passing the test, getting the grade for the college transcript—whether or not they ever really learned a thing.

I am afraid it may be even worse now that EOGs/EOCs/ WHATEVERS have become the law of the land. My heart goes out to dedicated teachers who feel they must first teach for a test rather than light a fire for learning. Their hands are tied in many ways.

Could the push for performance be dousing the flame of learning and curiosity that is so inherent in children? Are the bright-eyed kindergarteners ending up as glazed-stare teenagers?test for the test

I believe children are naturally programmed to want to learn and explore. And when they come in contact with a teacher who encourages that, the flame for learning is fanned into a raging fire. I am more and more convinced that Stokes County overflows with such teachers, despite the necessity of focusing on tests more than in days of yore.

I saw this when I watched the news story that CBS did on the Civil War camp at London Elementary School. Yes, I got teary-eyed every time I watched it. I wanted to stand up and salute somebody or some flag or something!

Walnut Cove making national news—I thought I would pop with pride! But the best thing was that we made the news for something so wonderful, so worthy.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nc-teacher-helps-fifth-graders-make-history/

When I covered the Civil War camp at London in my career at The Stokes News, I wanted to be a fifth grader again—to be in the class of Mr. Marshall or Mr. Boyles or whoever was lighting the fire to learn in these kids.

When you live it, you learn it. Reading about something is marvelous, but when you experience it, it comes to life in a way that touches your soul as mere words never can. You can read a romance book and mentally swoon, but when you fall in love yourself, you physically and emotionally swoon and are changed forever.tests--joke

When my kids were younger, we did The Prairie Primer—a curriculum based on the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When we read about Ma churning butter, we churned some ourselves. It was one thing to read about Pa’s muzzleloading guns, but it was another thing altogether when my daddy showed us how his muzzleloader operated.

I pray that my children will never forget what we learned as we read those nine books aloud and did the hands-on activities suggested. Chances are, they won’t, because they experienced so much of it. Neither will the fifth graders who experience the Civil War camp at London.

Today, I attended the Stokes County Historical Society’s annual fourth-grade tour. I was amazed that all fourth-grade classes in the county didn’t take part; it should be mandatory. But I believe the ones who did came away with a greater understanding of what their forefathers went through and what made this county great.

I know that I did. I was fascinated by the stories of local history and the various implements used on the old paths as seen in the Stokes County Historical Museum. My love for history was fanned even more!history--love it

And as I stood at the Moratock Iron Furnace and sat inside  Davis Chapel, I remembered the many teachers who lit the fire for learning in me—especially those who made history come to life. (I am a firm believer that if we don’t study history, we are destined to repeat it.)

I thought of Mr. Ron Jessup whose charisma as he led us through our history lessons made me want to hang on to every word. He so inspired me that I creatively wrote a journal, speaking from the first-person perspective of a heartbroken girl whose favorite cousin had gone away to fight in the Civil War.

Mr. Jessup was so moved when he read my “journal” in our eighth-grade class that he immediately led me down the hall at Southeastern Stokes Junior High to Ms. Glenna Hicks’ ninth-grade history class. He had me read it to them, his face beaming with pride.

That was my introduction to Ms. Hicks—perhaps the greatest history teacher to walk the face of the Earth. When I had her the next year for part two of American History, I was in ecstasy every day for about 50 minutes.

She breathed history. You would’ve thought she was there for the proceedings that led to World War I. Surely she was on hand to witness WWII from the inner circles of nations. Her lectures held me on the edge of my seat as I furiously took notes on everything she said.

teachers

She wasn’t teaching for a test. She was teaching what she knew, what she loved, what she wanted to light a fire in us to love—the oh-so-important history of our nation.

The fire that Ms. Hicks helped ignite in me burns yet. And I want to pass it on to my children. It still burns in other former students of hers, such as history teacher Graham Flynt at North Stokes. Think of how many young people Flynt has taught to love history as well. The fire spreads still.

As National Teacher Appreciation Week approaches in early May, take the time to tell such a teacher how much they meant to you. Thank your children’s teachers for their dedication. And let’s all continue to help spark a love for learning that will burn for a lifetime.

teachers--income, outcome

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