Bustling Ducks

Spring in Oregon means that it was sunny and 89° when I took my daughter to soccer practice on Thursday afternoon and a rainy 57° when she played in her game on Saturday morning. The blossoms are on the trees, the grass is growing at a rapid rate, and the world around campus feels like it’s speeding up as we rush headlong through April showers and May flowers toward graduation in early June.

It means that students are hurrying to keep (or get) their grades where they want them, teachers are rushing to get in the lessons they want to before the end of the year, and everyone is thinking about what needs to get done before mortarboards take to the air and the bustle of spring is replaced by the quiet drone of a bee in summer.

At an art school like ours, spring also means performances, exhibitions, and celebrations of creativity. In the past four weeks alone, our performing arts center has played host to a musical, a visiting German piano quartet, a story slam, dance recital, jazz and classical performance, and huge art exhibition. We’ll add a choir concert, film night, and another dance show before the month is out, and cap it all off with commencement in June rich in student performances.

But we are a school that likes applause, and as crazy busy as the last few weeks have been, I don’t think there is one of us who would want it any less so.

It was against the backdrop of this frenzied springtime that Mother Nature provided us a moment of pause and reflection. On a warm Thursday morning, ahead of a hot afternoon, I got a call on my radio that I needed to go to the courtyard near the rear of the PAC. I was still on my first cup of coffee, but thought I heard the word “visitors,” which in the nomenclature of school walkie-talkies means trouble as often as it announces welcome guests.

I grabbed my sunglasses (springtime invites optimism) and headed out, hurrying past students who seemed to be drifting eagerly toward the alley between the performing arts center and the Quonset Hut that serves as our cafeteria.

I picked up my pace, doing my best to keep that sense of calm a good principal should as I turned the corner and saw them.

My head custodian had arrived first, so our guest was hissing a him as students watched and a few took video with their phones.

But he kept his cool, gesturing the smiling kids back and whispering loudly to give the mother and her ducklings room to waddle out of the student walkway and onto the neighboring grass.

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For an instant we were, all of us, caught up in the lives of these ducklings. And I thought that no matter what character in this story that we are in the moment: fuzzy youth, hissing mama duck, or shepherding custodian, for us spring is a season of surprises, action, and (as when those ducklings stepped onto the green, green grass) applause.

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Spring in the Air

photo-3-1There’s a shift in the school year when the time comes around for kids to start playing ball. Those gray days of winter still lurk nearby, and we all worry that water is pooling too much on the infield, but as the March sun punches through February’s clouds, drying the dirt and bringing life to the birds, there’s a palpable feeling that spring is in the air and summer is around the corner just waiting to be summoned with those two magical words: “Play ball!”

Spring sports at a high school are a high water mark for student participation. In addition to softball and baseball, lacrosse begins, the boys are playing tennis, golf and volleyball start up, and the largest team most schools ever see begins to jump, run, and shot put around the track and field.

513Those student athletes know that the difficult hours of practice they put in during the cool weather of March will pay off under the May sun, and their seasons starting up remind us all that graduation is closer than we think.

As a principal, this time of year is busy with preparation: for next year’s master schedule, giving tours to prospective students and families, and making sure that our ducks are in the proverbial row for state testing, senior activities, and ultimately that final day when mortarboards take to the air. Along the way there are retirements to commemorate, student awards to celebrate, and teachers to hire.

But this can also be a “tired time” as my former superintendent used to call it, a long stretch between winter and spring break. It’s a part of the year where we do well to try to be more patient with each other, smile a little more, and allow those around us, and ourselves, a little more room to breathe.

photo 1 (2)This is a time to embrace the efforts of others to keep our spirits up: ASB’s Spring Spirit Week, the math department’s “Pi Day,” and (here at SDA) the Dorkathalon.

Cheering on those spring athletes, the embodiment of youth, and spring, and hope, can be inspiring too. Today, if the rain holds off,  I’m going to head out and watch a softball game, and I know that the time spent in the stands promises renewal. Kids playing under the sun has a way of helping put life into perspective.