Wallet

photo (2)It was during the last week of construction this summer, before teachers had returned to campus, that a backhoe operator uncovered a Spitfire wallet near some bushes along our back fire road. Caked in mud, the wallet looked like it had been there a while. He opened it up and found a school ID card that showed that it belonged to a student at Diegueño. Fresh faced and smiling at the camera, the student looked like he would probably be out surfing and enjoying the sunny weather before reporting back to classes in the fall.

The workman brought the wallet to the administration building and showed it to the office staff. We saw that Charles Moore had purchased an ASB sticker and a bus pass. There wasn’t any money, or any other identification, but we saw that the student was in 7th grade.

…and that the date on the ID card was 1999.

Our office staff passed the the wallet around, searching for someone who had been here when the wallet was lost. No luck. Diegueno has changed a lot in the past decade and a half, not just its staff, but the campus, technology, and the world around us.

The students at Diegueño today weren’t alive in 1999. For them the year conjures images of the dark ages: dial up internet and flip phones, a world before Facebook, Twitter, or Insta-anything. The smiling face on that Diegueño Middle School ID card wasn’t using his iPhone to play Kahoot in English class, or logging on a Chromebook in the media center to Skype a chum at Oak Crest. He didn’t need to ask if he could use his tablet to take a photo of the homework projected from the document camera. If he was techy, he was probably worrying about the Y2K bug and going home to watch a TiVo’d episode of Deep Space Nine.

And while it’s fun to think about the myriad changes in technology in the past decade and a half, perhaps the biggest change on campus is in the flexibility students and families enjoy, and the choices they now have.

In 1999 all students started the day and ended the day at the same time. Electives were limited and independence was something associated with a declaration in history class. Everyone knew the rules, and while they didn’t exactly match up to the world we were allegedly preparing students for, they were clear, smacked of tradition, and got carefully enforced.

Today students not only have a decision about which middle school they’ll attend (and while I’m partial to Diegueño, our district is home to four fantastic middle schools), but also what time they’ll start and what time they’ll end. At Diegueño about 400 of our 950 students elect to begin their school day at 7:30, finishing early to go to other activities including Independent Study Physical Education. In 1999, Charles and his family wouldn’t have had those choices.

Electives look different too. From coding to dual language immersion language arts, students in elective classes today see relevancy and application to the world beyond campus in the offerings they sign up for. We know that we can’t prepare them for the world of 1999, or 2009, or even the world of 2014; we must arm our students with the reasoning, thoughtfulness, and kindness that will take them decades into the future. Education is still about teaching and learning, but what that looks like is different than it was 15 years ago. Hands on learning has replaced the ubiquitous lectures of the 1980s and 90s. Students still research and write, but do both with a new set of tools, and an increased emphasis on critical thinking.

The environment in which students do this thinking is different as well. Charles wouldn’t recognize our media center, devoid of the stacks he would have known in 1999, and renewed with Proposition AA construction so that it stands out as a vibrant place for students to engage with the curriculum and each other. He wouldn’t recognize it, but it’s a pretty fantastic center of campus, and I’d love to show him.

I thought about Charles in the days after we’d unearthed the missing wallet, and put in the back of my mind that I ought to ask teachers when they returned whether they could place the name and face. Many are new, of course, hired after Charles had left us for high school, but a few were around when he was, and one of my teachers was even a student at Diegueño at about the same time.

And then the rush and rumble of the start of school arrived and my best intentions were crowded aside by the thousand things that fill our days at a school. Skies cleared on Friday, as the midpoint of October approached and we settled in to the hum of school, the image of that wallet resurfaced in my brain, and I reached out to teachers. It’s Sunday night as I type this, and I’m looking forward to hearing back from teachers who might have known Charles back around 1999. Until then I’m left to wonder…

So, Mr. Moore, distinguished Diegueño alumnus, if you’re reading this, give me a call. We have your wallet.

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