I recently heard from an old teacher of mine. That isn’t very remarkable, except that in this case it was my teacher from 5th grade, and I had not seen or heard of him since I walked out of his classroom nearly thirty years ago. Mr. Wall says he saw my name in the Minneapolis newspaper, remembered me, and looked me up on the internet.I sure remembered him. Mr. Wall always wore a white shirt and tie, although he occasionally removed his sport coat while speaking to the class. I do not believe he ever yelled at anyone in our class, although he probably didn’t need to because his tall stature sent a non-verbal message to those of us who might have been inclined toward disruption.Now he is retired and living in Wisconsin, and other than a chance meeting in a newspaper clip we would likely never have connected again. I think that is kind of a shame. For every kid who turns out okay in the world, there are probably a dozen or more teachers who made it happen. There were at least that many for me, and it seems to me unfortunate that teachers who really tried or cared or just plain did their jobs correctly rarely get to see the end result of their professional work. In most professions success can be measured in weeks or months, but teachers don’t really know if something they taught sent a student on their way to future endeavor, or perhaps sparked an interest in a lifelong occupation.It was great to hear from Mr. Wall, to be able to tell him about a few other kids he remembered, and that he can take satisfaction in retirement that his was a job well done. He wrote back that it was nice to find out that one of his students, in his words, "turned out okay."
Archive for December 2006
Well…here we are about week away from Christmas…and still not much snow. Western SD is getting some this weekend, but the east will see flurries, and not nearly enough to make a difference.There is still a storm possible next week, but the computer models are having trouble handling the intensity and path of the storm. That’s typical in storms we call "cut-off" lows. The upper-level low is forecast to be south across Kansas by Wednesday.If the storm follows this path, KELOLAND would be in line for some rain and snow.Remember, these cut-off lows aren’t very predictable by their very nature. Computer models typically are much better at resolving low-level weather features…so this system will be a little tricky. The best advice is to stay tuned the next couple of days so we can get a better lock on the track of the storm. However, that said, since this is trending back to the original forecast a few days ago, a white Christmas is still quite possible.
We recently received a stack of letters from students at Axtell Park Middle School in Sioux Falls. Miss Benker’s science class has been studying the metric system, and apparently debated the issue of whether or not the metric system should be used in television weathercasts. Instead of describing snowfall in inches, we would forecast the number of centimeters that are expected. Rather than using degrees Fahrenheit, we would convert to Celsius.Here is a sampling of the opinions expressed by the students:Tsegereda- "I think we should because people need to learn. Almost every other country uses it."Michael-"I think that you should not use the metric system because everybody is experienced to the system you’re using now."Daniel-"I think we should use metrics. They are really easy because they are based on the number 10."Joey-"I find that the weather would be too hard to understand if you told it in metrics."Gilberto-"I think that you should tell us the weather in Celsius, so the people that come from a different country can know what the weather is."Ocean-"Just think if we did ever decide to go with Celsius it would be expensive for our state, because we would have to change all of our temperature resources such as car themometers and/or house thermometers."Jasmine-"I believe that you should say it in both Celsius and Fahrenheit."Kiersten-"If you say something like, ‘It’s 45 degrees F outside, in other words it would be 9 degrees C.’ Something like that. It wouldn’t cost you a dime."All of the students showed pretty sound reasoning, and had strong arguments to back up their positions. Before these students were born, the US Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975, setting the wheels in motion for a conversion to metrics. Our highway speed limit signs were even changed to read 55 miles per hour, or (in smaller type) 88 kilometers per hour. But somewhere along the line, the train left the track and the movement has failed to catch on. In weather, we use the metric system in a daily basis. Computer models use metrics, weather balloons use metrics, aviation meterologists use metrics. But then we convert everything back to our old-fashioned English units before we read our forecasts in public. When I attend conferences in Europe, I not only have to translate my words into another language, but also convert my weather numbers back into Celsius, doubling the strain on my brain.I wonder what would happen if I ever went on TV and said, "We’re expecting a nice warm high of 25 degrees Celsius today, with up to 1 centimeter of rainfall tomorrow."?