Tag Archives: musings

Establishing Scale

It was a rare rainy morning, the kids had been in the auditorium before school since it was too wet to play on the playground.  As they crushed through the outdoor hallways to the classroom, I heard one of my students call out, “Look at the millipede!”  Sure enough, on the wall outside the classroom hung a pretty good-sized millipede.  As we looked, our principal approached, always interested in creatures and eager to help move the millipede from the wall to a protected natural place.  But before she moved it, I had to take a photo.  On her suggestion, another of my students laid her finger alongside it to establish scale.

millipede

This idea of scale is one I have been thinking about all day.  Relative size, importance, and impact can all be aspects of scale.  And scales are variable.  I often joke about the way our local weather newscasters talk so seriously about “storm watch” when referring to a chance of rain.  A colleague seemed to be amused by all the concern as she referred to the storm warnings as “SD-style storms” in an email…perhaps because of her upbringing far from the mild weather associated with San Diego.  (To be fair, the storm was a big one for us, bringing more than an inch and a half of rain at the airport and more in other places around the county. And since storms are rare, they definitely cause havoc!)

Scale comes into play when reporting student progress too.  A conversation on Monday in a district meeting had us debating the relative merits of rubrics and role of the report card in teaching and learning.  Do students need to be “above average” or at the top of the reporting scale to be successful learners?  Is the scale relative to other children in the same grade or to the student herself?  What is the difference between consistently meeting standards and steadily progressing toward those same standards?  How does the reporting help or hinder the learning process?

I don’t have the answers to these meaty questions, yet understand the worries of parents, of the public, and of educators striving to do their best for students.

Back to the millipede, I’m glad to have a record of it being as long as my student’s finger.  I’ve seen bigger millipedes, but not in the wild crawling up my classroom wall.  But I also wish I had a photo without the finger to allow the focus to be on the creature itself, to appreciate its unique beauty, and consider what it has to offer in this world where we live.

Splash

Water. There is something about the sound of a splash, waves curling with foam before crashing onto the shore, the white noise of the ebb and flow of tides that brings a calm and focus to my brain, causing connections to build, ideas to generate, understandings to emerge.

Maybe it is the smell, briny molecules that tickle my nostrils.  Cool, damp. Particles searching for their polar opposites, sticking together, forming droplets that create a film on my skin, a chemical change that soothes not only the body but also the soul.

Could it be the walking that makes the difference? Putting one foot in front of the other, the bipedal motion integrating the hemispheres of the brain, breathing in and out, swinging arms in rhythm. Or is it the combination of water, walking, and fresh air that energize the mind, replenish the spirit, and allow for creative thinking and problem solving?

As I walk the shore my eyes search the horizon, taking in the blues and greens and all the shades of white.  I notice the ripples in the sand under my feet, the tiny bean clams sitting up on end partially buried, the uneven terrain of pools and islands revealed as the tides pull the water back.  Seagulls squawk, shouting directions and warning to their kin,  Sandpipers whistle their concerns.  Pelicans dive and float, soar and scan, only to dive again.  Children scream and squeal as they race into and out of the water.

In all of this commotion, there is stillness and space.  I breathe deeply, taking it all in.

Splash.

egret silhouette

 

Over My Shoulder

It’s there, a constant, even when I can’t see it, hanging out over my shoulder.  It follows me around as it changes form, exerts its influences on the tides, and even becomes invisible.

As our students learn more about the solar system and space, I realize how little I really know about these things myself.  Of course I know the names of the planets and some basic information about them.  I know that the sun is our star and that our solar system is heliocentric.  I know that scientists continually update their own understandings about space and its celestial inhabitants…that Pluto has been demoted and a new solar system was recently discovered.

But honestly, it’s the moon that fascinated me.  I love that it appears large and low, orange like a pumpkin at some times of the year.  I’m fascinated by that Cheshire cat smile that greets me on a dark, clear night. And I can’t resist those slender crescents that seem to wink into view in the warm, short nights of summer.  I constantly wonder at its presence during the day…and today was one such day.

I looked up during my walk this afternoon, the sky was particularly blue as the sun shone brightly.  This is really the first warm day we’ve had in a while.  Tucked under the large palm, there it sat…not as bright as in the dark of night, but noticeable all the same.

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I’ve struggled to photograph the moon effectively at night, but during the day, I’ve had a bit more luck.  But that doesn’t mean I will stop trying to take a portrait of this friend of mine.  I like knowing the moon is right over my shoulder, a constant companion I can depend on, even when I can’t see it and even when I can’t photograph it.  It’s there, and that’s enough.

 

 

Waiting

We do it every day in lots of ways.  In the line at the grocery store or as the barista prepares that perfect latte.  In the dentist’s office or in that line of cars on the metered freeway onramp.  For the ladies room during that oh-so-short recess break or that important phone call you were expecting half an hour ago.  Waiting…

As I walked the beach the other day I noticed a bunch of surfers out on their boards on the waves…waiting.  Or were they?  Does it only count as waiting if it feels like time is slipping away?  That you could be doing something more important or more productive (or more fun)?  As I’ve watched surfers over the years, I notice that surfing involves spending quite a bit of time sitting on the board, watching the waves develop, visiting with other surfers, perhaps even enjoying the sun (or rain or fog or even cold) in the time between actually paddling into a wave and standing up.  Do surfers see that time as waiting?

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When I know I am going to wait, I come prepared.  I carry my book or some work I need to get done, I pull out my phone, flip through social media, news, photos.  If it’s a long wait–like an airplane ride, I bring an assortment of activities and hope for access to a movie or TV shows to help pass the time.  The worst waiting for me is the kind of waiting when you can’t do anything but wait–like sitting in rush hour traffic.  My only options then are to listen to the radio or maybe squeeze in a phone call (hands free, of course!).  But sometimes, waiting leaves you with only you to spend time with.  Time for thinking and reflection…alone with your own thoughts.

So maybe waiting is about your frame of mind.  When it is part of an activity you enjoy–like surfing, waiting isn’t waiting, it’s just what you do.  So what about those lines at the grocery store? Can we make them more enjoyable, time spent in thought, perusing tabloid papers, visiting with the stranger in line in front or behind you?  Maybe we need names for the different kinds of waiting–like the names for snow in those really cold places–to express the nuanced differences between them.  I’ll be thinking about that as I sit in traffic tomorrow…