When I learned Sutton Elementary needed a bilingual teacher I went there and the principal, R. B. Davis, interviewed me. He saw my master’s and work overseas and asked, “Can you speak Spanish?” I said, "Yes." He said, “Say something in Spanish.” So I asked in Spanish, “What should I say?” R.B. Davis said, “You’re hired.” R.B. had a reputation of getting things done right and was the highest paid principal of HISD.
When I introduced myself to the students I told them, “I don’t like children.” They gasped, and then I added, “I like students.” I was telling them that I would be treating them as an equal. Never entered the classroom with attitude I was the boss. I felt like I was like entering a cage of 34 hungry lions and would have to get their approval before they would let me enter into their minds.
More than half were illegal and fled to America but could not get refugee status as our government was giving weapons to their governments to kill their own people and Congress would cut off the military aid to that country. Their soldiers would come to a village and the teacher would run, for being educated meant the teacher was a Communist, and America was fighting Communism in Latin America.
I taught them linear multiplication in a day, three-quarters in one hour. As science and math words are similar in Spanish but pronounced differently it was easy. So why learn English? they asked. Well, I explained, learning another language is abstract thinking which added to the concrete thinking of science and math would improve memory, expand their ability to communicate with other people and increase their intelligence, even though psychologists say you can’t increase IQ.
Teaching division, I wrote 9 x b = 5, so what is b? Letters were substitutions for numbers and substitution for words like Einstein’s E = mc2. E = energy, m is mass and c2 is the speed of light.
Oh, oh, so I had to explain Ole Romer’s observation of the eclipse of Jupiter’s inner moon, Io. That as the Earth moved away from Jupiter, the eclipses were getting longer and longer and returning toward Jupiter, the eclipses were getting shorter and shorter. So in 1679, Ole decided that in going away, the light had to travel farther and coming toward Jupiter, light didn’t have to travel as far. Ole calculated the speed of light at 146,000 miles per second. Not bad considering the calculations of distances between planets was in its infancy.
So I explained the real speed of light was around 186,000 miles per second or 199,000 kilometers per second. As light is affected by magnetism, it is called electro-magnetic and there were visible electro-magnetic waves that our eyes can see, and invisible waves such as on their cellphones bouncing through the room. If all the electro-magnetic waves were put in a scale the width of your thumb, all the invisible waves would go around the earth to the other side of your thumb on the same scale. So what we observe with our eyes is like looking through the crack in the open door and saying, “This is the whole world,” when what we see is just a very tiny piece of creation and we must design instruments to understand the whole universe.
What pushed the Earth and all the planets to orbit the sun? It was the Earth falling toward the sun in December at 90 million miles from the sun and picking up speed then being thrown out in June at 92 million miles to coast around to December again.
Light from the sun was created in the very core of the sun which is made up of hydrogen atoms that has an electron whizzing around the nucleus at two-and-a-half times the speed of light. The electron acted like a force field that kept the power inside the atom and kept everything else out. The example I drew on the blackboard was like a fly 300 yards from an orange sitting on the 50 yard line of a football stadium and there is a lot of space in between, just like space between stars and space between galaxies which are a collection of millions of stars.
The Greeks called air, water, fire, and earth elements but are really states of the elements: gas, liquid, and solid, which are determined by temperature. Well this led to measurements from old times (fractions) and the metric system (decimals) developed by French scientists. It begins with the meter as 1/10.000.000 of a line drawn from the equator to the North Pole going through Paris.
As the sun is made of hydrogen, it takes four hydrogen atoms to make two atoms of helium. And this goes on and on until the sun starts producing iron (52 atomic weight) from silicon (26 atomic weight) and the star becomes unstable, explodes into a Supernova to make more stars and planets that orbit the new sun. So as all humans are made of heavier than hydrogen atoms, we are all made of star material, and they liked that idea. I also explained that if all cars were a perfectly engineered as a human is, they would get 850 miles to a gallon and respect all humans more than the most expensive cars.
After leaving Sutton, I went back to see how the last class was doing. Mrs. Deming told me she had to correct Rodrigo as he would call a classmate “stupid” for giving a wrong answer. Mrs. Deming told me, “I would say, Rodrigo, let’s go in the hall to talk.”
When I stopped at Mrs. Wilson’s classroom, she said, “I think you know this student.” The student rose gracefully and faced me. I was dumbfounded and said, "No." “This is your student, Iliana,” Mrs. Wilson said. I was stunned. Iliana was so timid when she first entered in my class. And now she was a poised and mature young lady.
I asked R.B. for a letter of recommendation. It was one line. “In all my 37 years of being a principal, Mr. Patterson is the finest teacher I have known.”