copyright-symbolSwing Your Partner, Alamand Left, and Doe See Doe

The smell of a roaring wood fire filled the night air as I plied my way up the narrow dirt trail from my cabin to the massive stone “Mess Hall”. Night had just fallen and my trusty Boy Scout flashlight made navigating the narrow trail relatively easy. The cool night air smelled of fragrant pine and the crickets chirped incessantly. The lights from the Mess Hall swayed in the breeze pushing through the open screens making weird shadows on the broad wooden porch. A few of our chaperones sat on the comfortable wooden rockers on that porch smoking pipes filled with cherry tobacco as others scurried about the Mess Hall kitchen preparing the evening snack and beverages and setting out the pots and utensils for tomorrow’s breakfast.

An older gray-haired man in bib-overalls and a black and red plaid flannel shirt was hunching down under one of the long wooden mess tables looking for an outlet to plug in his record player, and amplifier. I pushed open the massive screen doors and walked across the solid oak floor toward a table near the fireplace, where several other adults were deeply engrossed in a game of pinochle. My parents had taught me the game several years before, and I often played it on a card table on our back porch at home with several of my buddies from the neighborhood. We’d play for pennies most of the time, but occasionally around holidays, when we’d acquired some extra cash, we’d play for nickels or dimes. The players this night were playing for bottle caps; after all this was a church camp and gambling wasn’t allowed.

After watching intently for about 20 minutes I noticed that a number of the other older campers had entered the dining hall now and were forming small groups around the Mess Hall tables. As was typical at our church camps the boys were at their tables and the girls were at theirs. Rarely did one of the opposite gender dare to enter the domain of the other, especially with the chaperones so close by. We could sit next to each other in morning chapel, or evening vespers, and afternoon bible study, and we could play softball or volleyball, or quoits together, or go to the swimming pool or lake together; we just had to have chaperones with us at all times. On rare occasions, a very clever boy and girl might be able to slip off the path for a quick kiss in the pines, but if they were caught it would mean being personally escorted by your own private chaperone for the remainder of the camp session.

As I panned the room to see who had arrived from the senior cabins, a tall lanky man who always reminded me of Abraham Lincoln, Bill Zick, popped his head out of the kitchen door and announced that the square dancing would start in five minutes and we should help push the tables back against the walls and pick up any trash on the floor so there would be no hazards for us to trip or slide on during the dancing. I grabbed the end of a table and Rick Levan, a good friend of mine, grabbed the other end as we moved the table as far back against the wall as we could. We scoured the floor nearby for trash and picked up a couple of Popsicle sticks left over from the desert at dinner. Then we sat down on the bench in front of our table and waited for the gentleman who had been setting up the record player to come out of the kitchen where he had been finishing a cup of coffee to start the dance session.

The adult chaperones who weren’t on cabin duty in the junior cabins soon came wandering in through the side door of the mess hall and found seats on other benches. The tall gray-haired gentleman emerged from the kitchen, took his place in front of the record player and pressed the on buttons on his microphone and amplifier to get things started.

Well, how’s everyone doing tonight?”, he queried. There were a few muffled okays to which he replied, “Oh, come on now, we’re going to have some great fun tonight”, and for you young athletes out there, you’ll get a better workout tonight then you’ve had all week”. I leaned over and whispered to Rich, “Yeah, I’ll bet!”. “How many of you are new to square dancing?”, he queried again. Just about all of us under the age of 18 raised our hands. “Well, we’ll get some of our experienced folks up here to do a little demonstration for you all before we have you pair up and form squares for our dancing.” All I heard was “pair up” and immediately I scanned the room for Paula.

Paula was my “soul mate”. At 15 she and I were best buds and would remain so for many years to come. She wasn’t easy to spot in this crowded Mess Hall. Paula was barely five foot tall. She was petite, a little on the round side, but she had this fantastic brown hair cut in a boy bob, deep brown eyes that sparkled in any light, a smile that went from ear to ear, a laugh that could light up any room, and a heart so deep, loving, and passionate about life that she was absolutely infectious. I was in love with Paula, but not the typical 15 year-old raging hormones kind of romantic love. Paula was the kind of person who could absolutely make me feel utterly comfortable and at ease and I could talk with her about anything. She was a fantastic listener, and when I looked into those deep brown eyes of hers, I would just melt into this warm relaxed state that I felt with no other girl. With most other girls I was awkward, gawky, tongue-tied, and sometimes down-right stupid. I finally spotted Paula at a back table sitting with a couple of her friends. She was wearing a plaid wool shirt, blue bib overalls, and red low-cut Keds. As soon as I saw her it seemed as if she turned her head toward me and gave me one of those luscious smiles that just beamed across the room. I was transfixed as usual and wasn’t listening at all to the instructions being given by the Square Dance Caller. Some of the adults were in the middle of the Mess Hall floor in pairs forming a square while the caller was giving them instructions on what he wanted them to demonstrate for us. As he put the needle down on the first record track, the dancers began to move about the floor to his directions and cadence. The steps seemed simple enough and relatively easy to learn. The caller mixed the steps and actions into an interesting pattern of clockwise, then counter-clockwise motion around the square, that often resembled more of a circle then a square. The music was loud and lively, and I especially enjoyed the banjo and fiddles playing the melody. I was really into country and folk music at this time so I really related to the music being used for this dance form.

After watching the demonstrations for about five minutes the caller invited us to pick a partner and form squares in the open spaces in the room. I was up instantly and headed across the floor to where Paula has been sitting. She was already up and waiting for me. Rick headed over to the side of the room to collect his girlfriend, Mary Ellen, who had also been waiting for him. We ended up meeting on the dance floor and joining with two other couples we knew.

We all laughed a bit with nervous laughter about trying to do this kind of dancing, but Paula just tugged on my sleeve pulling me down closer to her and whispered in my ear, “Relax, we’re going to have fun tonight”, and just like that I felt myself relax and put my arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer to me. She gave me a hip bump to push me back a little and then took my hands in the appropriate beginning dance posture as the caller began to give us instructions on the dance we would start with. The record player needle was placed on another track and the caller began his directions. Since I hadn’t been paying attention to the earlier instructions I ended up going counter-clockwise instead of clockwise like the caller directed so I ended up crashing into the couple coming from the opposite direction. The caller quickly pulled the needle off the record, had us get back into position and gave us, (me actually), and repeated the directions. Paula chuckled quietly knowing the caller was directing his attention to me and my failure to follow his original directions. I tried to stifle my own laughter, while the music kicked in and we began moving to the caller’s directions again. This time I got it right and the dance went quite well.

The dances started out slowly but as the night went on they got much more lively. About an hour into the dancing we were all ready for a break. Most of the older adults had started sitting out some of the faster dances much earlier. The caller finally gave us a break and the kitchen crew burst from the kitchen with trays of baked goods, bowls of popcorn, and good old “bug-juice” (Cool Aide) for the kids and coffee for the adults. Paula and I headed over to the snack table, grabbed a paper plate and piled on popcorn, and Kaye Zick’s famous brownies, and a cup of “bug juice” and headed over to a table where Paula’s parents were sitting. They were both chaperones and I often spent time at their home. I was especially fond of Paula’s dad who was a great listener like his daughter and also a man of great character and faith. We sat with them a few minutes and then decided with both needed some fresh air so we headed out onto the front porch of the Mess Hall. The fire in the Mess Hall fireplace had added to the body heat of the dancers and the cool evening air felt great on our hot sweaty bodies. Paula took my hand in hers and we walked to the edge of the porch where we could gaze up at a sky filled with millions of stars. A sight we never could see from our porches in the city. It was awesome. I continued to gaze skyward, not noticing that Paula had her eyes fixed on me. It wasn’t until I was starting to get a crick in my neck that I lowered my head and caught Paula’s eyes staring up into mine.

I was caught off guard a bit. I knew that look was very different than I had seen before and felt a bit uncomfortable for the first time since we had known each other a few years earlier. I felt pretty sure that look was a different kind of love, the kind that has to do with those raging teen hormones and young love romance. I really didn’t know what to do with this, but was saved by the caller picking up his microphone and bellowing that we all should return to the dance floor. I spun my body toward the Mess Hall door and pulled on Paula’s hand as I turned toward the door. She followed me onto the dance floor. Fortunately for me, she dropped her gaze back into that relaxed smile of hers and I was able to relax again, and focus on the dancing. We danced for another hour, and then the caller indicated that he was going to slow things down so the adults could join us for a final dance. Everyone got back on the dance floor, and we finished with a simple slow-paced dance that allowed us to catch our breath and the adults the last chance to enjoy the dancing before having to round us up and head us back to our respective cabins for our lights out prayers and a good night’s sleep.

When the music stopped we all collapsed onto the nearest bench and caught our breath. Paula leaned her head on my shoulder and I could smell the perfume she was wearing for the first time, now that the fire in the Mess Hall fireplace had died down and the smell of wood smoke was not so overwhelming. I have no idea what the fragrance was, but it was very pleasant and not overwhelming. I rested my cheek on the top of her head and she snuggled closer. We just sat like that for about five minutes not saying a word. I think both of us were just sitting there feeling our heartbeats as she leaned up against me. Finally the chaperones, began gathering us up into cabin groups and heading us slowly out the door. Mr. Hand came over to where I was sitting and asked Paula and I to separate and go to our respective cabin groups. We both got up and headed toward the front doors where our groups were exiting. The Mess Hall lights were being extinguished so that the porch was really dark. I stepped down a step or two still holding on to Paula’s hand to help her down in the dark. I had my flashlight in my pocket but hadn’t turned it on yet. As I stepped down, she leaned forward, now that her head was even with mine, and kissed my cheek. I stopped dead in my tracks, this startling tingling feeling running up and down my spine. I was about to turn and say something to Paula, but she had already released my hand stepped off the porch, turned on her flashlight and had headed off down the trail toward her cabin. I stood there just staring after the blinking flashlights moving chaotically down the winding trail, and thinking to myself, “Wow, she risked it all for me!” She could have ended up in deep trouble and her mom and dad probably would have been furious with both of us, but Wow!, she risked all of that for me. No girl had ever done that before, and my head was filled with utterly confusing thoughts and feelings that would last for the next several weeks.


  1. Square Dancing is a very orderly, directed form of dancing. We willingly place ourselves under the control of the dance caller and allow him to direct our movements.

    1. When we are learning how to use a new technology it helps to have a “caller” someone who can guide us through the process, show us the steps, and then keep directing us as we learn to do the steps better and finally on our own. It helps us to be willing to place ourselves under the influence of the “caller” so that we become a willing part of the process of learning to use the new technology tools in new ways within our curriculum.

  2. Sometimes we are moving slowly and deliberately and other times you are quick-stepping swinging your partner widely around your square. Yet despite the swinging, you never really leave the area in which you start the dance.

    1. The pace of our learning to use technology may change as may the direction for which we are intending to use the technology, but in the end, we learn to stay within the parameters of what the technology was created to assist us and our students with.

  3. You typically finish the dance with the same partner you started the dance with.

    1. It is nice to know that we can start out learning and sharing our new technology skills with others and that frequently those persons will continue to be our learning partners and support network for our continued learning and use of the technology.

  4. Foot stomping is permitted as are “Yee-Haws”.

    1. Enthusiasm and having fun is a critical element that helps promote the use of and continued use of technology in our classrooms; so learn to have some fun and yelp it up a bit once in a while. That energy release can be really beneficial for you and your students.

  5. It helps to have a “soul-mate” close by.

    1. Having someone that understands your fears, concerns, and questions, is very important to your success in acquiring new technology skills and applying them in the classroom. A sort of shared consciousness or awareness between you, your tech trainer, and your students helps bridge any trepidations about using the technology and/or fully partaking in its benefits for your students.

  6. Taking a big risk can open up all kinds of possibilities for your future.

    1. Today taking big risks involves how we will respond to the growing use of mobile digital technology among our students and how to help them use this technology responsibly in our classrooms.

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