Friday, September 11, 2015

Lessons Learned From a Box of Light Bulbs by Todd Burleson


Six years ago when I began working as a Resource Center Director, I inherited tons and tons of history.  Our library collection had  thousands of books that needed to be weeded.  There were dozens of old pieces of equipment: everything from filmstrip projectors, record players and even some of the very first computers used in our district.  I spread it all out; it took the entire floor of our library!  I kept one of everything and neatly stored them on the newly built storage shelves.  




One of the items that perplexed me the most was a box of light bulbs for various makes and models of projectors. There were dozens of different kinds; of all sorts of unique shapes and sizes.  As I opened the packages to see their variety, I notice that they all were still perfectly preserved in their corrugated casings.  Not owning any of the projectors any longer, my first instinct was to pitch the bulbs.  For some reason I didn't do that.  I put them in a big box and labeled them: light bulbs.

They sat in that box those first couple of years.  Finally, one summer in the third year of my tenure, I was re-organizing the shelves and opened the box and saw these beautiful packages and glass orbs inside once again.  I knew I needed to do something with them, so I took them up to the library, took them out of their packaging and sorted them by size and shape.  The packages themselves were too cool not to keep. So, I saved one of each type and found a neat way to share them.  I love the colors and images on the boxes!



It turned out that I had doubles of nearly all of them and I liked the arrangement I had made.  So, I bought some super heavy duty glue and created a display of the old bulbs.  That display hung in our computer lab along with several displays of antiquated technology.  To be honest, I don't think anyone ever gave them a second thought.


Then, over the past six months, our school decided to create our version of a makerspace.  We wanted a unique name and so we came up with the term IDEA Lab.  We are hoping that this year the students will help us come up with what the acronym IDEA stands for.  For now, the light bulb metaphor works.  That eureka moment, symbolized by the light bulb glowing over a person's head, seems to fit pretty well.  



That's why I decided to buy the large light bulb to hang in the IDEA Lab.  I hope that the projects we attempt here open student's minds to new and different  avenues of exploration and thinking.  To this end, I thought I would share five lessons I learned from the box of light bulbs. 



Lesson #1:  If you only do one thing, even if you do it really, really well, you might end up on a shelf for a quarter century: diversify.  Try and do lots of things.  

Lesson #2:  It takes all shapes and sizes to accomplish the same basic task.

Lesson #3:  Despite the size, each of the bulbs brought light. People are much the same.  We may project a little more light than others or connect in a unique way, but we all have the potential to provide light.

Lesson #4:  Protect yourself.  Insulate yourself from extremes, and you will probably last to a ripe old age.

Lesson #5:  In the end, there will be something, or someone who does what you once did faster, brighter, and more efficiently.  Embrace change:  (see #1).  

Lesson #6:  Lastly, when you end up with a box of things you no longer use, make something beautiful from it!


25 comments:

  1. Awww.

    Todd, this is lyrical, magical & transcendent.
    I think this article can be placed nationally. The images are super. The story is compelling & the life lessons are topdrawer. Try Huffington Post or somesuch, if you want to & have the time.
    You are a First. Class. Act.

    Happy 2015-16 Hubbard Woods School Year,
    Jan

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    Replies
    1. Jan,
      Thank you. I will see how that works and give it a try.
      Sincerely,
      Todd

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  2. Love this. I'm glad you didn't toss those bulbs!

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  3. Todd, what great advice from you and the light bulbs. You illuminate your students' and teachers' lives.

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  4. Great post! Thanks for shedding some light on our creative process.

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  5. What a positive message! Love the creations you made and the learnings from that box of lightbulbs.

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    Replies
    1. Beverley
      Thanks for the kind words.
      Todd

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. Lovely story. You have some lucky students.

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    1. I'm pretty lucky; no, I'm REALLY lucky too!
      Thanks for the kind words.
      Todd

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    2. We all feel lucky too Todd, having been brought together by you & being able to learn from you.

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    3. Jan,
      You are too kind. Thank you.
      Todd

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  8. A positive to start my day, Todd! Thank you for the inspiration and the tips to think those thoughts that push us forward.

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    Replies
    1. Charlotte,
      So happy to pass on the positivity.
      Have a great day!
      Todd

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  9. Terrific post! Love those bulbs and wish I had a display like that for our school—although we don't have an idea lab. I'm trying not to end up on the shelf. :D

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    Replies
    1. You are working forward; that's all that matters! Thanks for the kind words. Best wishes!
      Todd

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  10. Thanks for sharing! This is neat. I'm looking forward to hearing great projects that come out of that Idea Lab!

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    1. Tina,
      For sure. We've got two that have just bubbled up: one involving a major wood working project; the other a major sewing project.
      Stay tuned.
      Todd

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  11. Love this post, Todd! You're IDEA lab is amazing, and this post demonstrates that you're an idea guy. I don't know if you have this book in your library -- if you don't, it's a great read. THE FIREHOUSE LIGHT by Janet Nolan is the story of a lightbulb in a California fire house that has burned for more than 100 years!

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    Replies
    1. Patricia,
      Thank you! I do love that book; met Janet last year too! Your words are very kind and I truly appreciate them. I love being an IDEA guy!
      Todd

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  12. The display of various lightbulbs is such a perfect addition to the IDEA Lab at Hubbard Woods Elementary School. I look forward to hearing more about the first year of implementation of the makerspace project, as the students learn and grow through many opportunities.

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