By Todd R. Nelson
Three metaphors for impending Middle Day:
One. Numerically, the school year may be half over — pending the final tally of snow days. But Middle Day, today at midday — 87½ school days into the 175 days required—is simultaneously more than and less than halfway. Can the magical 100s day be far off? And from what is that a hundred days from? In which direction are we counting? And is counting the days and hours a true measure of how far along we are in value, appreciation, generosity, skill, civility and laughter? It’s a good measure of how hard the lake ice might be for ice fishing, or what the moon will look like tonight.
Time, as it turns out, is a malleable, plastic building material — not necessarily a constant. In school, it behaves less like Einstein predicted and more like good story lines from science fiction: it can bend, jump forward, slow down, slither, crawl or stop. It is quicksilver. The recess clock runs fast; spelling runs slow, depending on your individual ticker, of course. P.E. is fast; math slow, in my case, as a fourth-grader, a long time before Middle Day as counted from the beginning. That’s my theory of relativity.
And time passes differently depending on the route you take. The school year is a mountain with direct routes to the summit up craggy rock faces and glaciers, and scenic gentle paths cutting across steep slopes or easy swaths of mountain meadows. Everyone takes a combination route, in unique sequences. It’s always good to pause and appreciate the view. Off to the summit, then back down to the valley and readying for the next climb.
Well, that’s a pretty linear metaphor and will work for some.
Two. Is our glass half empty or half full? As a wise grandmother once said, “It all depends whether you’re pouring in, or pouring out.” Doesn’t that just sound like older generational wisdom? Is our year half over or half begun? It can be so predictable if you always count forwards from 0 to 100, or only think from full to empty! Do numbers only go in two directions? Water only goes in one. Thank goodness human development, especially of the elementary school kind, numbers to infinity in countless directions and all at once. So many equations, so little time. I forgot: time curves abundantly. Kindergarten alone seems like a field of daily parabolas.
Three. “Mobius knew: He figured it out,” writes Philip Booth. “This complex plane does not, by any equation, add up to zero.” Finally! This explains school time. The walk from September to June and back to September is actually a vast plane extending in all apparent directions. Here, a line also can be a curve and a circle with a single side. And following it, you turn inside out and come back to a finish line that is the same as the starting line. Best to say that schools (good ones) defy reduction to the known dimensions, no matter how traditional the building may appear.
Therefore, every day is middle day, and 100s day, and just when you think you’ve come to the end of the path, it starts up again, pouring us forward and outward continuously. In fact, we’re always halfway there, to somewhere…. like value, appreciation, generosity, skill, laughter. And you can always get there from here— wherever “there” is. Seems like we’ve only just begun. I say, “To infinity and beyond!”
Todd R Nelson is principal of Brooksville Elementary School.