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  • Elliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF "Are you with me now?" 6.11.21

“The Optometry Office is now my 2nd home.” David

David Benitez had his exhibition as the first Project InSight Fellow with his mentor Dr. Jay, an optometrist. It was a great exhibition where David discussed using technical skills to measure contact prescription lenses and repair glasses with heat machines. David explained what the phoropter does and how to use it. The phoropter is that ominous looking machine at the Optometrist’s office. As David explained, “it is very complicated and difficult to use.” At this exhibition, one of David’s key points was his connection to his family and their eye health. Another was his understanding of the growing percentages of children during COVID being diagnosed with myopia caused by the length of time spent looking at computer screens for online learning.

David is a wonderful first Project InSight Fellow. Other future Fellows were in the exhibition audience. They were certainly inspired by him. I asked David if, he would be ready to lead discussions about vision and eyecare for others. He agreed to be on the Project InSight and B-Unbound sites. It is great to see how we can extend BPL practices and measures beyond our schools into the mainstream.

Like his mentor, David wants to go to Pennsylvania School of Optometry. To be continued.


Playtime – What’s in a name?

Teacher: It’s Spaulding with a ‘g’, not Spauldeen.

Johnnie: Yeah, dat’s what I said, Spauldeen with a ‘g.’

When I was a kid, the quality standard for rubber balls was a Spalding or as we called them in Brooklyn and Da Bronx, a Spaldeen. Even though the name of the ball is spelled right on it, us kids pronounced it, Spaldeen. The great part about this dialect mishap is that the company listened. They changed the trademark to Spaldeen. Spaldeen’s had a certain texture, a certain smell and a seam with some kind of grey glue that sealed the two halves of the ball. They could bounce high and because of their rough texture, you could control them to make the ball do all sorts of things that made it hard to hit in stickball and easy to slice and cut in handball. In the 1960’s, they cost 25 ¢. It was quite an investment but compared to Greenies or Pinkies that cost 10 ¢ less, it was a no brainer to buy the Spaldeen..

Spaldeen’s were plentiful. You could buy them at any candy store and my bet is that they weren’t that hard or expensive to make.

This week I purchased four Spalding rubber balls because three of the friends I grew up with from the crib turned 70 on June 7th and we are meeting in New Orleans to celebrate. To my surprise, these Spaldeen’s only resembled the rubber ball I knew and loved in name only. I don’t want to look up the de-evolution of the Spaldeen because I already know the story. Some corporate entity wanted to make more money so, they bought the brand, skimped on the materials and made it overseas with marketing claims that it is as good or better.

Even though Spaldeens were all different, some bounced higher than others, Spaldeen’s meant quality. Each had a personality and a soul. Depending on the game, we would decide which one to use. They were cherished. Now when I present these to my friends as a playful reminisce, I know, they will say, “Dese ain’t our Spaldeen’s.”

Is the Spaldeen “Hi-Bounce ball” yet, another example about misdirecting the public to lowering standards by using language like ‘high-quality.’ Don’t be fooled. Rubber balls have lots in common with education marketing. Don’t follow the bouncing ball.


Fifty years ago, who would have thought there would be an article about Willie Nelson in the Wall Street Journal. Even though he is always out on the edge, he somehow resonates with many in the middle. Way before and during all this talk about student centered, I’ve always said that going from the edge to the center and not going from the center to the edge is the way BPL operates. If students start in the middle or center, the gravity of the center never gets your work to the edge and being edgy is where change, creativity, uncertainty, engagement and meaning live.

Will we be with youth at their edginess with their creativity and risk-taking or will we only work with them in the center where there is little risk or creativity? Getting Centered by Going to the Edge is about this topic.

Two nice parts of the Willie Nelson article discussed how he used his time off the road during COVID to be creative and write. This is what I’ve been predicting as an outcome of COVID. Creatives and introverts are having a field day. They have time to focus without everyday distractions. The other part was about being always being playful. Woody “Harrelson noted the toll that being off the road has taken on Nelson. The key that unlocks Willie is contained in one four-letter word, and that’s play,” he says. “He’s always playing—he hasn’t lost his kid juice. He’s constantly playing guitar, playing a song or playing a game, and even in conversation he’s like a really playful kid who, luckily, never grew up.”

In a world so serious, I hope we never lose our BPL playfulness or ability to get centered by coming from the edge. It is this playfulness that will bring the creativity to unlock so many of the serious issues we are facing.

Be Well!

-- Elliot Washor Co-founder of Big Picture Learning

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