Pop’s Sparkling Eyes: A Lifetime of Learning

My Pop had the most amazing character. He was hard working, honest, friendly and intelligent. His father died when he was a teen, so he grew up fast, working hard to support his mother.  A motorcycle accident stopped him from going to war, and in the hospital he fell in love with his nurse, my Nanna.  Together they crafted a formula for raising six children:  hard work,  witty humour and a whole lot of love.  Nothing was more important to Pop than his family, and his sparkling eyes let us see through to his soul.  Without much formal education, he was a scholar of life, cherishing and appreciating knowledge as he found it.  On his breaks at work, he would sip his coffee and read the dictionary.

Pop with my oldest son – Pop’s eldest great grandchild


popMy fondest memories of my Pop take place at our family cabin on Otter Lake in Tulameen, BC.  Summer days were filled with big breakfasts, long walks, boat rides and nightly card games.  As we played outside, Pop would chop wood for the fire while Nanna would bake fresh pies.  With six children and eventually fifteen grandchildren, the cabin would bustle with the sounds of a happy family.   However, twice per day, Pop would command our silence, so he could catch the noon news and the 11 PM evening news.  This was his source of knowledge – and distractions from laughter or chatting of others would frustrate him as he would miss the chance to learn what was happening around the world.


Pop’s habits have influenced my thinking, and I often use the 11 PM News as a daily deadline for myself. My nightly goal is to have the kids in bed, work done, and chores complete so I can end my day by turning on the nightly news.  Just the other night, I found myself frustrated as I lost track of time and didn’t look at the clock until 11:10 PM.  Immediately I felt Pop’s frustration, knowing I had missed the most important top stories.  After a couple minutes of disappointment I laughed at myself, finally cognisent of the numerous ways I could access top stories at my fingertips.  In Pop’s generation, knowledge was truly valuable.  It made sense to walk miles to a school house so a teacher could impart knowledge. Turning the news on at the exact time was his only way to stay current.

And here we are in 2015.  Knowledge is free.  Facts that we once memorized are available in milliseconds on Google.  Online classes exist around the world on millions of topics, often for free.  The 11 PM News is actually old news as social media captures news by the second.  Twitter has turned the tide where anyone can report live from a scene at anytime.  We have access to more knowledge than any generation before us.  The teacher as a master of content is no longer a sought after commodity. And so, you may wonder, why do we still send our children to school?  Really, kids and adults alike, can learn anytime, anywhere.  The flexibility and freedom to learn has never been greater.   And yet, knowing this, I still want my kids to go to school each day.  Why?

  • The role of the teacher has changed.  Teachers today are master learners who help students understand how they learn just as much as what they learn.  Together teachers learn side by side with students igniting their passion for discovery.  Students learn how to ask great questions, and how to guide their own inquiries. Teachers are more important than ever, sparking a love for learning in each child.
  • Free information is useless without the skills to use it. I want my children to learn how to think critically, distinguish fact from fiction, learn from a variety of view points, and seek further understanding.
  • I want my children to play.  Taking time to play and discover encourages creativity, wonder and imagination.  Having fun is a great foundation for learning, getting our minds ready to take risks and expand our thinking.
  • I love that school still brings children together, face to face.  The value that comes from building community, learning how to be friends, discovering how to be great citizens and understanding how to empathize with others means much more to me as a parent than the subject content.  Developing a sense of compassion and social responsibility in children gives me hope and optimism for our future.

I smile as I wonder what Pop would think.  If he was alive today, what would he Google? What would he Tweet? What would he learn now that knowledge is abundant and free?  One thing for sure –  his eyes would sparkle knowing he instilled in his family a love for each other and a life long love for learning.

Shoot – I just missed the 11 PM News 🙂




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