I am often amazed at some of the things that pop into my head from time to time, usually things that I learned in school. I had a lot of really good teachers, and some were outstanding in my opinion, because they dared to go outside the textbook before “thinking outside the box” became popular.

Who would ever think that a seventh-grade math class was the place to learn poetry? Mr. Kinsel Breakey did. I’m not sure how many poems we learned in his class – maybe one each grading period – but I still remember parts of two of those poems, “If” by Joyce Kilmer and “Trees” by Rudyard Kipling.

I enjoyed a lot of my classes during my school years, especially the reading and grammar classes. But my all time favorite – and it lasted four years – was my Latin classes, taught by Mrs. Barbara Emerick. Those classes opened up a whole new world for me, and if things had worked out differently, I would have become a Latin teacher instead of a newspaper reporter. But the Lord had a different plan for me to fulfill!

Many of the words I learned during those Latin classes come back today, and lots of them are especially helpful when studying the Bible, needing a definition of a sometimes archaic word. But Mrs. Emerick also went outside the box, and when the Christmas season rolled around, I’m not sure if it was Latin I or Latin II or both, she had translated many of the popular Christmas carols into Latin, and we had a music class in Latin! To this day, when I hear people singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” I also hear “Adeste fideles, laeti triumphantes . . .” The same thing happens when I hear Conway Twitty singing about Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer!

All those “useless” facts we had to learn in high school come in handy when watching TV game shows, especially Jeopardy. It’s amazing how many of those facts we thought we had forgotten, until competing with the contestants in the privacy of our living room. Names out of our history books, symbols from the periodic table, even names of geometric shapes occasionally pop up in our memory at just the right time.

One of the most fascinating things I learned in school happened during my junior year at Geneva. My class was on the history of the English language. Dr. Ann Paton walked into the classroom, greeted a few students who had been in one of her other classes, then gave a formal greeting to the rest of us, who were new to her.

There was a sentence on the blackboard, but no one had really paid any attention to it. After briefly discussing the syllabus for the class, she would point to a student she had not previously met and ask the student to read the sentence on the board. Then she would tell that student which part of which state (s)he was from. She wasn’t wrong one time! She said it was all in the way the words in the sentence, which had been carefully chosen, were pronounced!

That same year, Dr. Norman Carson, chairman of the English Department at Geneva, assigned a term paper to our class of five students. It was due the following week and he told us we could not rewrite after our first draft. His reason for that? He said we never knew when we would be in a situation where there wouldn’t be time to rewrite, so we had to get it the way we wanted it the first time. Little did I know that for me that instruction was prophecy.

Tidbits of information that might have seemed to be as valuable as lumps of coal the first time I heard them have proven over the years to be diamonds in disguise. It will be fun to see which tidbit pops into my mind next.

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Thought for the week — Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. (Martin Luther King)

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