Today we had a thunderstorm. Those of you not in Southern California might be thinking, “And?” You need to know that rain here is an actual news story, and thunder and lightning are certain to be a leading story in this evening’s news. In fact, it is the number one story on tonight’s six o’clock news. Before today’s storm, I have heard thunder exactly three other times, each time only single claps.
It is so rare, in fact, that my first year here, the Kindergarteners were so upset that they had to debrief with them and one of my eighth graders climbed under his desk.
But today it’s been raining and thundering off and on since a little after 10:30. The first thunder-clap happened while my kids were writing, and I had to explain what it was. Once they realized it, they begged me to let them go outside to try to see lightning. “I’ve never seen lightning before,” one of my eighth graders confessed. Several others nodded in agreement. “Please,” they implored. “I want to see what it looks like!”
Now, I am from the Midwest where the sky goes green-black and tosses hail mercilessly upon the earth. The light rain and occasional grumble from the sky did not impress me. However, it is a Big Deal to kids who wish longingly for rain under the endless sunny sky.
So, we went outside, and I helped them find the best vantage point to find lightning. They chattered with excitement, breathing in the fresh air, and waited patiently to catch a glimpse. Finally, it happened: a bright flash of light right in front of them followed a few seconds later by a loud boom. They clapped their hands, danced around, and tried to figure out how far away the lightning was by using calculations they’d heard about but never used before. It was more than a little magical.
Taking ten minutes out of our humanities class might seem frivolous in this age of accountability and testing, but I disagree. It bought a lot of goodwill, enthusiasm, and a visit back to a younger age when everything was fascinating and worthy of study. We still accomplished everything we needed to, and we shared an important moment in their lives. Sometimes looking at lightning is more important than what we’ve got planned in class. Not always, but sometimes, and it’s important to embrace those moments for the things they teach.