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.
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.