Tag Archives: Indiana Dunes

Ms. Harper’s Dunes

Went on a very long walk in the Indiana Dunes. This place always bring me back to high school biology. Hopeful, futureful days.

Rapid ecological progression.  From forest to sand in a short span of space. 0 to 60 vps (vegetation per step).

sand dune with trees sloping to a beach with gentle waves.
The Indiana Dunes and Lake Michigan

If I could have a do-over,  biologist would be at the top of the career list. But I’m not sure I am organized and disciplined enough to be a scientist. (I’m not sure why I think those are key requirements.)

For my teaching degree, I chose elementary education over high school because I wanted to keep my fingers in all subjects. Everything is connected. Maybe too connected. My popcorn brain compelled some kids and confounded others. 

My guiding light was Ms. Harper, my freshman and then AP Bio teacher. She kept the life in biology. Organized loads of experiments, brought us into the minds of scientists, gave us the big picture which made it easier to fill in and remember the details. Her assignments helped me break through as a writer. I knew about the power of content area writing long before my M.Ed.

And she brought us to the Dunes, adding texture and wonder to what had simply been the big beach just outside of Chicago we visited once a year. Those trips had been about sandbars, sunburns and corn dogs. Eyes on the water, not the ecological marvel behind us.

photo of informational of a poster that provides an overview of ecological progression
From a poster at the Dunes Visitor Center. Here’s a National Park Service Video: https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/plantsuccession.htm

I hope all kids have a few Ms. Harpers. School can be a miserable slog, more so for some types of brains and personalities than others. I didn’t know know about neurodiversity. Just thought I was a lazy kid not living up to her potential while at the same time being quick to challenge teachers. (I owe some apologies though PITA kids are part of the job description.).

Ms. Harper and a few other teachers somehow made me feel whole as a student, like I belonged with the “smart” kids even though I could never get my work done on time and my writing was an overambitious mess. They were nimble, patient, and rewarded curiosity.

water with a thin layer of ice with  faint heart pattern in front of a bank with brown grass and bare trees
see the heart?

I tried to emulate those qualities as a teacher but always felt like I came up short. Ugh the teaching part of my professional life is tender territory. I am tempted to write about why I was no good. That I knew content more than I knew kids.  Sucked at making cute bulliten boards.  Struggled to turn my daily attendance in on time

But when I force myself to take a break from the “wah wah wah I failed” song, I remember teaching moments that would have made Ms. Harper (and Ms. Shelton, Ms. Tarta, Mr. Viktora…) proud.

Well, this is not at all the direction I thought I would go. Taking a hike in the Dunes gets the brain moving I guess. I know I’ll keep returning to my lives as a student and a teacher as I move towards healing by 50. Also, go Kenwood Broncos.

a tree stump almost in the shape of a heart surrounded by dead leaves.