Who Do You Illuminate?

The weather was perfect for the kids to toss their scooters into the van and hit the road into Saskatoon. One of their favorite places to explore is the University of Saskatchewan, and they have come to enjoy riding their scooters on the paths in the bowl. Before they begin terrorizing the pedestrians and the gophers with their reckless racing, they always like to head into the Agriculture building first. A highlight for the kids, and yes, maybe for me too, is the ride in the glass elevator. This is always followed by a visit to Apple Jack, the metal sculpture that depicts what appears to be a prairie boy sitting under an apple tree with his books close by. From there the kids love to race through the walk way that connects the Agriculture building to the Biology building, where the giant dinosaur skeletons, live fish and snakes, and dazzling rocks and minerals await. It’s the same routine, and it’s a lot of fun for everyone.

Excited to see the parrots.

Saturday’s visit was different than previous trips we’ve made. As we entered the Biology building, my youngest boy, Charlie immediately noticed all the helium balloons dancing on the ends of their ribbons. Their curiosity was piqued and they quickened their pace to find out what was going on. We discovered a collection of displays and demonstrations as University students had set up for the Let’s Talk Science expo. Many things caught our eye, including the live snakes and the falcon, however it was the learning about light demonstration that captured our imagination. As we sat in the lecture theatre, two young chemists performed a series of experiments that were designed to teach us about the way light and chemical properities of substances work together. It was the demonstration involving black light and tonic water that really intrigued me.

Splitting the light from a flashlight much the way a raindrop splits the sunlight.

When you look at tonic water, it really does not look like much. It’s a clear liquid, a little bubbly, but for the most part is quite unassuming. When you turn on a black light, not much happens. Alone, black lights and tonic water are not all that exciting. But, when you bring the two together, and the black light reacts with the tonic water, magic (or as is usually the case, science) happens. The black light causes the tonic water to glow this beautiful, fluorescent blue. It looks like a beverage you would see in some science fiction movie, but there it was, right in front of us. You’ve probably already figured out what I was thinking about as I watched this demonstration, and saw the expression on my kids’ faces, after all, they were completely blown away by this.

What I thought about is the magic that happens when two things come together; adults and students. I see it every day, and I see it all over the school. I see it when Dan and David are working on his 3-D chess board, I see it when Dwayne and Alaina co-present at our staff meeting, I see it when Lucian lights up when Jade walks in the room, I see it when Kelly and Corinne work through a tough spot, I see it when Jesse and Aliyah discuss her scholarships, I see it in Cora’s smile as Porter does his excited dance, I see it in the smile Reane shares with Jamie in the hallway, I see it everywhere!


Are we illuminating every student? This does not mean that you need to be every thing to every one every day, but, as a team of 35 caring adults, is it possible for us to make sure every student is at least given the opportunity to glow under our light? We are blessed to work in a school where every adult wants every student to succeed, so I do believe it is possible. Doing rough math it works out that the magic number is twenty. Twenty illuminations in a day by each staff member and we would have the entire school glowing brightly. (The actual number is 13.1, but just think about the power created when kids are illuminated by multiple adults in the building!)

Is this realistic?

I truly believe it is, and I feel this way because of the evidence I see every day. Here is the challenge for Monday’s illuminations: think of a student that you have not connected with yet this year, and make a move to connect with them. That’s it, I believe it is that simple. If we each take a moment, and start shining our light on those students who may be trying to live in the shadows, out of sight, I believe we can illuminate them.

On Friday, I had the shocking and troubling realization that I’ve never really had a conversation with a certain unnamed grade 9 student. I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself, so I made the effort to sit beside her, only for a few minutes, to see how she was feeling about school. I learned from her that she really loved the academic side of school, particularly reading, but really struggled with the social aspect of the daily routine. We discussed how some people make it look so easy, and ended up drawing a second student into the conversation that was feeling the same. I have no clue how she felt about the discussion, but I know I felt better about making time for her.

You likely have students that are very easy to connect with. They are the ambitious, outgoing kids who are always ready to talk (and in some cases talk, and talk, and talk, and talk…..). As I was reminded by a grade 10 student from Delta, BC, the quiet, shy kids really need the adults in their school to make an effort to get to know them.

You may think your light is not that powerful but it is. Our quiet, unassuming students (our tonic water kids) may seem content, but don’t let that stop you. Shine your light on them. Illuminate them. Connect with them and watch the magic happen.

Here is what lies on the horizon for this week:


  • Dwayne is prepping the track for our students to practice on, please be aware he will be out there in the morning


  • SCC AGM at 6:00 pm
  • Lock down drill at 9:15 am


  • EA staff meeting 8:00 am


  • Fire drill at 1:30 pm


  • Prep day (PowerTeacher Pro training for those who wish at 9:00 am in the computer lab)

As always, create an illuminating week 🙂

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About the Author: Bruce Mellesmoen


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