July 13, 2017
We met at Krull Park this morning. Rain in forecast; and the rains came. Flash floods hit areas of Western NY and the rainfall in the area neared 3 inches. Record setting. We knew it was coming, just not this bad. We heard later that the conference being given in our gymnasium was met by water pouring in from the ceiling. Bless the capital project coming soon.
But when we met at 8:15, a mere mist is what we experienced. The kids gathered in the Lions Club shelter, wandered towards the shoreline…saw firsthand the non-beach…some who hadn’t been here since last summer marveled at the loss. Even picturing where the Polar Bear Swim is held annually in March was difficult.
We saw the formed concrete barriers which just a couple months ago formed clean, solid lines, were now tossed around the beach like so many rocks or stones. Seeing something and trying to capture the gravity of it…it’s a difficult thing. Trying to get our younger learners to all see…to feel…to wonder…they’re good people, but many are not feeling the weight of what they’re seeing quite yet. But…seeds. They’re growing…I believe that…I need to believe that.
I wonder about the grouping. I read somewhere recently (Mike Schmoker, education icon) that pairs work better than larger groups. You can’t hide in a pair, while in a group of four or five you can. I question the 5th-8th grade set up at times as well…our younger students are struggling with the learner behaviors they need. The quiet corrections that bring a 6th-8th grader back to focus aren’t working as well for others…I need to find a way to either bring our youngest in the fold, or find another way for them to be successful. I need to fight the urge to say, “they’re just not ready,” and all that entails.
We’re met at the park by the Deputy Commissioner (in charge of highway, bridges and structures) of the County’s Dep’t of Public Works. Dean Lapp II is an unassuming, knowledgeable, giving and quietly passionate public servant. He joined us quietly, leading our crew to the water via an access road that was almost lost this spring. He described for us the way in which he and his team built the area back up to save the road…to save access which is so necessary to do anything else. Concrete, rocks, soil vegetation…a newly formed slope which helps keep the road intact. He then led us to the remains of the beach–waves truly crashing. The mist turning to rain. “Stop throwing rocks.” How can I say that…there’s nothing but rocks here…next time I’ll give them time to throw/skip stones. This learner needs to grow as well. We see the barriers that couldn’t withstand the constant surges. We greet a student who made his way to us a bit late; his sidekick to follow in another 20 minutes. The adult learners are welcoming…glad they’re here…frustration with lateness is muted; perhaps it’s just enough that at this point, the effort was made to be here.
We head back to the shelter. Landon’s brownies are excellent, as is Colin’s popcorn. Joe’s Sprite and Andy Capp fries don’t rest much. We sit in quasi groups at picnic tables, and Mr. Lapp shares with us his work. His passion for the property of the county, of his privilege that comes with protecting that property. He speaks of the importance of the parents of our learners, of how their stake in the county matters. He talks of prevention, of judicious use of sandbags in the county, of how we need to take note of the high water marks of this season, and modify our current and build our new structures with this in mind. We talk about earthen barriers, of floating docks. He talks candidly of the limits his department faces: financial limits, and enviromenmental ones. He references the high waters of ’73…that prevention measures then would cost so much more today. He speaks of the Department of Conservation’s noble quest for clean water, but notes the delays that it causes his own work. He is a conservative in the non-political sense of the term…he shares with us what it’s like to try to conserve what we have; and how that is done through adapting to present realities.
Our youngest learners are still struggling to stay with us. Following a bus ride back to school (Ridge Road Express…the finest in the land), I take a pair of students, while the rest go to our regular classroom. Their discussion looked rich…erosion sparked interest…use of natural materials like clay were considered. In my room we struggled initially…but after about 5 minutes, one student and I were able to work on an idea. The second student eventually joined. We decided to come up with a solution for one group to start: boat owners. Each student made their design of a dock that adapt to changing conditions. One student’s was a two tiered system, while another’s was a floating model. Each idea was recorded on video; model making will begin on Monday (what a value it is to talk with other educators after class!). I will never consider my “teaching” on this day to be my best, nor was it the best learning day for the two students with whom I spent the latter portion of the day. But it was a day where understandings were made, and a product created. The leaving was on good terms, and I think there’s reason for hope. Hope is a good thing, as was once said beautifully in film.
Roberta, Sal, Michele, and Steve have been stars. So have the kids.
Energy is building…but so are the nerves. How do we continue to make this real. How do we support them in their growth as students, as learners. We want engagement…but at times…it starts with compliance. For the few who struggle with that…how do we proceed? That’s my question, among others, to wrestle with over the next days.
Week one in the books. On to week two. Thanks for reading.