About the Author

This is two years too late. I’m careful about what I reveal to my students, just like I was careful what I revealed to my patients. If it’s pertinent, I think it’s fair game, even if it just makes the point of “hey, I’ve dealt with something like this, too.”

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Spam, it’s good for the soul…

In no particular order of importance…

In case it hasn’t been clear from my blog, I’m the middle child – I have an older sister and a younger brother. Yes, we actually get along, and as I get older, I find I want to associate with fewer people and hang out more with my siblings. I get along with my parents just fine. In fact, over the next year or two, my family is looking at doing a multi-generational household with my parents.

I live in St. Louis, MO. I like it here, but I’m not sure I love it here; it has its short comings for sure. (I’ve lived in Galesburg, IL and Chicago, IL as well). My wife and I have a hand shake agreement that when we retire that we won’t die here (I would like to experience something different when our kids have grown up). Unless you are forced to live someplace against your will and you are treated awfully (for a variety of reasons), I find people that complain about the area where they live to be horribly obnoxious. If you aren’t being forced to be somewhere, the problem isn’t the area where you live. If you can’t find a few positive things about where you live, the problem is YOU. Stop being a snob and make the best of it.

That someplace else we’d like to be someday is problably New Mexico or Colorado, although it probably will depend on where our kids are.

I’ve joked about it, but I’m 5’7”. That’s because I wrestled in high school. I wasn’t very good. (Truth). I also dropped from 130 lbs to 112 lbs (and I was running 4 times a week with my dad) during my freshman year. Then I cut from 135 lbs. to under 125 lbs my sophomore year after having run cross-country. No probably about it; I had an eating disorder. Those two wrestling season cost me a few inches off my height. I wouldn’t have been 6 feet tall, but I probably would have been 5’9” like my dad. For the record, I don’t blame the coaches. Quite literally, every wrestler did it, and no coach ever told anyone to loose weight. One person cut weight and dropped to a lower weight class, and it set off a chain reaction gone wrong. (This is what happens when teenagers are left to come up with their own ideas) The rules are better now. But, regardless of intent, that’s the effect it had on me, and I’m certain I wasn’t alone.

My consultant teacher has complimented me on my relaxed culture in my classroom. I’m glad to hear that, because it doesn’t come natural to be relaxed. I’m pretty type A, no doubt about it. So I work hard at not driving the students into the ground. They probably SHOULDN’T be like me most of the time, and I realize that. I keep the competitive side of me well under wraps and hidden as much as possible.

For instance, when I played baseball (I think I was 8 at the time), I was playing in a 4th of July tournament. Our team was getting our @$$es kicked. I laced a pitch down the right field line, and our runner on 2nd would easily score. My dad was coaching third base – as I rounded 2nd, he had already made up his mind that I was going to try to score. He’s waving me home. I round third, and he looks up. The catcher just received the ball. He’s going to be waiting for me, with plenty of time to tag me out. I’ve since asked my dad what he was thinking at that moment. He said, “I thought I was sending you to your grave.” The catcher had 6 inches and many pounds on me. About ⅔ the way down the baseline, instead of setting up to slide, I lowered my shoulder. I guess I caught the catcher off guard. I knocked him over, the ball loose, and I touched home. I also sent the catcher to the hospital. We lost 20-2.

I played catcher the last 2 years I played baseball, and I was run over my fair share. The key is you’ve got to take it like a charge in basketball. Two hands on the ball, and as soon as your glove is contacted, roll backwards and away. If you brace yourself, it will be worse. I know the collision rule is in games now to protect players, and the old pediatrician in me supports that. But you do learn something about yourself when you get run over (or take a charge in basketball). Am I really going to stand in here? Yes, yes I am. I’m not stupid enough to tell you we should still do things this way. We don’t need TBIs to prove our worth.

I love watching my students’ reactions when they ask me, “Why am I learning this?” Then, I tell them my progression. When I was in high school, I thought I was going to be a journalist, politician, chemist, doctor, politician, and I didn’t know. Then, in medical school, I swung from pediatrics, to oncology, pulmonology, to an NIH career, back to pediatrics. Never did teaching cross my mind. You learn things because you just don’t know where you’ll end up.

I also tell my students this one: my job isn’t to tell you what to think. I’m here to help you learn another method on how to think. It’s just another tool in your toolbox. Most of you will never directly use science again in your career. But the brain synapses you use in my class you will use again, guaranteed. Lean Six Sigma overlaps with stoichiometry and limiting reagents. Reading kinetics data has a lot of overlap with being able to read any sort of data you’ll see in business. Don’t fall asleep in my class; you may not use chemistry again, but you will use these skills again. Of this, I am sure.

My students know that I’m a soccer fan. Specifically, they know that I’m a Southampton fan, and my club is sitting just above the relegation line. And a few of them let me know it. But it gives us something to talk about other than school and science, so it’s worth the grief they give me.

I used to have athletic goals. Now, it’s more of sightseeing goals that require fitness. I would really like to hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim in one day (it’s in the 22 to 24 mile range; strenuous, but doable). I’ve watched more than my share of videos on this one. Now I just need to find one or two people crazy enough to do it with me. Sonia might; she’s afraid her hip won’t hold up. Andrew agreed two years ago to try it some day, but he’s backtracking already. Allison has a strong self-preservation instinct.

Other hikes I’d like to do: Half Dome (Yosemite), La Luz Trail in Albuquerque (I think it would be a quintessential semi-urban hike), anywhere in the Great Smoky Mountains, and I’d like to do a major portion of the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota.

In my last blog, I realized I left one celebrity off the list. When I was in junior high, a good friend of mine happened to be related to (2nd cousins, I think) Melissa Ethridge. I went backstage at the Fox Theater here in St. Louis and met her in the late 80s after a concert. She was very gracious. She’s also very short (5’2”, I think). Although her style of music wasn’t my “thing” at the time, she was an excellent performer, and I recall loving the concert. Actually, that was the first concert I ever went to.

The best concert I’ve ever been to is a toss-up between U2 (Vertigo Tour) and Los Lobos (I saw them at the Sheldon about 5 years ago). Zoo TV would be the best, but it doesn’t count; it was a multi-media experience, so I have to take that out of the equation. R.E.M. was my biggest disappointment live – I saw them twice, and for whatever reason, they didn’t sound very good live.

I have a very small bladder – it’s one of the many reasons that I didn’t go into surgery for a living.

One of the best moments from our road trip in 2017 – it wasn’t hiking the Grand Canyon. It wasn’t getting to the top of two mountains. It was waking up at 5 AM and pouring 16 oz. of coffee for yourself and 2 oz. of cafe mocha for your daughter, with a spoonful of sugar, and 2 oz. of milk. Then, you watch the sunrise together. Yes, 9 year-olds aren’t supposed to drink coffee. Stick it up your nose, AAP!

For the record, for all the athletics I’ve competed in during my life, I don’t remember winning a championship, league title, anything. Of course I wanted to win. But I just loved to compete. And, when I got a participant ribbon or trophy, it got thrown away. Take that for what its worth.

I also need to correct myself again. I’ve met one semi-famous author. I met Tim O’Brien at a book signing in St. Louis about 10 or 15 years ago. I don’t remember much from the evening. Someone asked him if he thought his books should be taught at the high school level (he was very mildly against it), and he was also very short. I got his autograph – I still have the book.

I guess if I had to come up with my favorite books, the list would be The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, what if? (Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions) by Randall Munroe, Duel in the Sun by John Brant, and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

Along those lines, I don’t really have a favorite song or album. My favorite artists are U2, REM, Los Lobos, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington. But my favorite musical art form is jazz, no question about it. That comes from an experience growing up. I would hang out with my friends on a Saturday night (we’d play ultimate frisbee in a park, in the dark. We’d tape a glo-stick to the frisbee and play until the glo-stick wore out). We’d grab a snack and then go home. I’d be back at home by 10:30 or 11 PM. One of the radio stations would play a jazz stream until the early morning hours. I would come home, and lie in bed until 1 or 2 AM and just listen until I fell asleep. When I became overwhelmed and stressed in 2016, I started listening to jazz again while I did my electronic charts. It kept me from losing my mind.

If you come over to our house for a meal, I’m testing you. I keep two types of beer in our beverage fridge. I’ll keep a six pack of something “fancy” and a six pack of Stag. Which one will you pick? Are you too good to drink a Stag with me? It’s not that I won’t invite you over again. But if you won’t drink a Stag, what’s the matter with you? The best meal I’m eating is the one in front of me. The best beer I’m drinking is the one in my hand. Collectively, as a society, we’ve gotten a little too picky. If you refuse a Stag, you have made me, as your host, just a little sad. And perhaps, you’re a bit of a snob. Mind your manners next time.

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If this looks good to you, then there’s an extra plate and seat for you at our house.

I think that willingly giving your DNA to a place like 23 and Me is insane. I’m sure their intentions, like Mark Zuckerberg’s, are purely innocent and benign. While you’re at it, just implant the microchip into your back and make it easier for them.

Last one – I have little interest in furthering the debate between Big Bang vs. Creator. Sometimes, I take no relief in either idea. It’s not like you can die, wake up for 20 seconds, and yell, “Hey, everybody, the Hindus are right! I’m hosed, but save yourselves!” or “Nothing happens! Be a secular humanist!” Personally, I think it would be hilarious if God exists, and God were a Chicken. Because with the amount of chickens I’ve cooked on my smoker, I’d move straight over to the “hell” line, but not before I dumped 4 or 5 more hickory chunks at God’s feet for good measure.

Author: Jason Kesselring

I am a 42 year old high school chemistry teacher (and former pediatrician), happily married, and a father of two wonderful children. I'm occasionally active on Twitter; you can find me: @STLLenny and on Facebook (@trialofmilesjk)

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