Passing My Finger Through the Flame


Candle Flame by Andew Warren (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In Grade 2, my twin brother and I shared the same home room teacher. That in itself was unique, for it was the prevailing opinion that twins should be kept in separate classes to reduce the chances of “sibling rivalry.”

No such fear there. Despite being told that we were similar in looks (I was constantly mistaken for a boy, thanks to our similar haircuts, even up to junior high) and academic inclinations, nothing could be further from the truth.

Even at the age of 5, my brother was more inclined towards mathematics and sciences, while I preferred the arts — drawing, writing, reading — and generally, all things creative, although fingerpainting offended my code of cleanliness.

The other unique thing about Grade 2 was the our Grade 2 teacher, Mrs. P. One afternoon, she had candles brought in for each and every one of us, which we lit and placed on our desks. For the next hour, she talked at great length to us about candles and flames.

Not once did she talk down to us, but as she would have spoken to another adult. We lost ourselves to the soothing rhythms of the shifting flame, and the sound of her voice in the darkened classroom.

Candles Flame in the Wind by

Candle Flames by Sam Mugraby, (CC-BY 2.0)

We even did the passing the finger through the flame “trick.” None of us were frightened about the experience. Bursting with curiosity and full of wonder, yes. Because science and the art of discovery was fun! Back then, I thought that we were hypnotized to some degree to do what we did (even though we now know that wet fingers briefly passed through the lowest part of the flame do not burn).

Certainly, if our parents ever heard of this little experiment beforehand, they would have freaked out, and today, a teacher who taught such ‘interactive science’ might have lost their job for putting students (at such an tender age, too) at unnecessary risk of injury, or been put on leave while an inquiry into their teaching methods and ethics took place. Safety waivers didn’t even figure into that equation (although permission forms did exist for field trips). Still, I can’t remember if Mom and Dad asked what we did for school that day, or if they did, if they were even shocked or incredulous to hear our answers.

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