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The story of Professor Jeffrey Wright: turning negativity to positivity

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Jeffrey Wright is a physics teacher at Louisville Male High School. He is one of the most beloved teachers at the school and teaches with a passion that most would find to be inspiring. He is also one of the few teachers who seems to truly care about his students. Always there to lend a helping hand or provide a shoulder to cry on, it’s no wonder that many around the school respect him so much.

However, that’s only half the story.

Jeffrey has a son named Adam who suffers from a condition named Joubert Syndrome. It’s a rare disease that only around 600 people have in the whole world. His brain is perfectly functional but it prevents him from controlling his body. While some might see this as a challenge, Jeffery see it different.

This is Jeffrey and Adam’s story and it brought tears to my eyes. It takes a special man to deal with all of this and Jeffrey truly is that special.

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Jeffrey Wright is well known around his high school in Louisville, Ky., for his antics as a physics teacher, which include exploding pumpkins, hovercraft and a scary experiment that involves a bed of nails, a cinder block and a sledgehammer.

But it is a simple lecture — one without props or fireballs — that leaves the greatest impression on his students each year. The talk is about Mr. Wright’s son and the meaning of life, love and family.

Mr. Wright said he decided to share his son’s story when his physics lessons led students to start asking him “the big questions.”

“When you start talking about physics, you start to wonder, ‘What is the purpose of it all?’ ” he said in an interview. “Kids started coming to me and asking me those ultimate questions. I wanted them to look at their life in a little different way — as opposed to just through the laws of physics — and give themselves more purpose in life.”

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Mr. Wright starts his lecture by talking about the hopes and dreams he had for Adam and his daughter, Abbie, now 15. He recalls the day Adam was born, and the sadness he felt when he learned of his condition.

“All those dreams about ever watching my son knock a home run over the fence went away,” he tells the class. “The whole thing about where the universe came from? I didn’t care. … I started asking myself, what was the point of it?”

Mr. Wright gives a lecture on his experiences as a parent of a child with special needs. His son, Adam, now 12, has a rare disorder called Joubert syndrome, in which the part of the brain related to balance and movement fails to develop properly. Visually impaired and unable to control his movements, Adam breathes rapidly and doesn’t speak.

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In the lecture, Mr. Wright signs it for the class: “Daddy, I love you.” “There is nothing more incredible than the day you see this,” he says, and continues: “There is something a lot greater than energy. There’s something a lot greater than entropy. What’s the greatest thing?”

“Love,” his students whisper.

“That’s what makes the ‘why’ we exist,” Mr. Wright tells the spellbound students. “In this great big universe, we have all those stars. Who cares? Well, somebody cares. Somebody cares about you a lot. As long as we care about each other, that’s where we go from here.”

As the students file out of class, some wipe away tears and hug their teacher.

Mr. Wright says it can be emotionally draining to share his story with his class. But that is part of his role as a physics teacher.

“When you look at physics, it’s all about laws and how the world works,” he told me. “But if you don’t tie those laws into a much bigger purpose, the purpose in your heart, then they are going to sit there and ask the question ‘Who cares?’

“Kids are very spiritual — they want a bigger purpose. I think that’s where this story gives them something to think about.”

Mr. Wright says the lecture has one other purpose: to inspire students to pursue careers in science and genetic research.

“That’s where I find hope in my students,” he said. “Maybe if I can instill a little inspiration to my students to go into these fields, who knows? We might be able to come up with something we can use to  help Adam out one day.”

 We saw this story on larrycuban´s blog, “Being a Physics Teacher and Father: The Story of Jeffrey Wright

 

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QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

♦What is your impression about this story?

♦Have you ever had any profesor who inspired you? Share your story?

♦How would you motivate others to be positive in difficult situations?

♦What motivates you?

♦How would you turn negativity to positivity?