36.2% and the Street Lamp That Refuses to Unlamp

Everlasting light

Truth be told, it’s always been this way. In fact, I used to drive the school custodians <strong>crazy</strong> in the summer when I would show up at the front door of the building in mid-July, asking to work inside my classroom.

“I promise, I won’t get in your way. In fact, you won’t even know I’m here.” For the most part, I kept my promise. In fact, I would show up most mornings with coffee and doughnuts, partly as payment for their consideration, and partly as a way of engaging them in the type of conversation that doesn’t happen during the busyness of the school year.


Usually, I don’t reflect or obsess about the fact that I’m constantly thinking about things related to teaching, learning and school systems. It’s just part of who I have become and what others have come to expect from me if they are brave enough to invite me over for a BBQ or an afternoon by the lake. But today, as I reached the half-way point on my early morning walk, I looked up to find that there was one lone street lamp that appeared to refuse to…well…unlamp. Perhaps she had glanced over her shoulder to see that the moon was still very visible in the early morning sky. Perhaps she had not read the memo about the spring-time shift to Daylight Savings Time or perhaps—and I think that this is the story that I prefer—she just had too much going on in her mind to turn off.

I’ve taken time this past Canada Day Weekend to do some quick calculations and the number I’ve come up with is 36.2%. Yup, I’m pretty confident that I’m pretty close with this one, though I would be willing to admit to a generous helping of statistical deviation.

When I make a list of colleagues that have been willing to engage with me in “ed-talk” during the summer months and divide that by the total number of folks with whom I’ve had the privilege of working over the past 35 years, the result is 36.2%.

I realize that this calculation may come off as sounding a little self-righteous and that’s not really my intention. Really. In fact, there have been summers where I have envied those who could completely shut down and turn their attention to other things. But for me, and for some of you as well, the summer months provide an opportunity to take advantage of those two things that are so elusive during the regular school year: <strong>time</strong> and <strong>space</strong>. For many of us, summer vacation, whether we choose to stay at home or head to a lake or a beach, offers both in abundance. The two months that lay ahead offer us the space to spread stuff out and the time to sift through it, make connections and be open to what might emerge.

And that is something that I’ve always seen as a bit of a gift.

Summer has always been a time to plan crazy new unit ideas, design unique classroom spaces, and imagine different ways of engaging students. But as exciting as all of that might be, summer vacation has also provided me the time and space to move through my world differently thinking about how some of what I’m seeing might become part of my thinking for the following year.

I remember one summer taking a very bulky video camera on a trip around the province so that I could film footage to accompany Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”. The trip took three weeks, the editing took just as long!

Then there was the summer where I nearly got arrested by a police constable in a city northwest of Toronto. Noticing that a group of officers had set up a “seatbelt trap” at an intersection in the downtown, I sat for a whole hour on the edge of a nearby concrete planter, watching and recording data. At one point, the three officers turned around to look at me, with one coming over to ask what I thought I was doing. I answered, “I’m a teacher and I’m planning a unit on data management and probability. I’m collecting data!” The officer smiled wryly and walked away, somewhat confused.

I have some friends who know about my particular condition and will state as a type of footnote to the invitation, “But, no work talk.” Those are the evenings where I will show up at the door with two bottles of wine. I figure that the second bottle will do one of two things. Either it will cause them to completely forget the terms and conditions that I agreed to in accepting their invitation or it will cause me to be able to shift my focus for a few hours.

But, mostly, I’ve learned to respect the wishes of my hosts and will pretend to turn off that part of my brain for the evening (or until I’m able to sneak off to the bathroom to check my twitter feed where, incidentally, the 36.2% rule does not apply!)

So, there you have it…well 36.2% of it. Here’s hoping that your summer vacation provides you with whatever you need to refresh and rejuvenate. I’m trusting that you’ll be able find something here at voicEd Radio that helps keep your lamp burning over the summer.

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