Inspiration vs. Living the Dream

10 Jun

At the tail end of my adventures, I felt pretty sure of what I wanted.  I wanted to keep trekking, keep traveling, keep alive the feeling in me — the feeling of adventure and freedom and quenching my wanderlust.  I thought of moving to India, traveling more in SE Asia, climbing more mountains.  I, the ever-planner, started envisioning another life for myself.  One that did not include, for example, a full-time job or the security I once thought that I needed.  And even if I was not totally sure of the work that I was planning on doing, I knew what I would not be doing.  I knew I couldn’t teach again (not never, just not now).  I knew I would not be going back to Renaissance, as much as I loved the place.  I knew I would not be going back to my old life.

And so, I arrived back in the US and attended the Expeditionary Learning National Conference, where I was slated to present a master class for other teachers from around the country.

Now, a quick word about EL schools.  For those of you who are not familiar, Expeditionary Learning Schools is a national model of school reform that has roots in Outward Bound.  It is constructivist education at its best – making learning come alive for students, but with a strong focus on success, equality for all, and high quality.  It is a model of schools that fits perfectly with my professional goals and my personal values.  But, as in all good and important work, it is a lot of effort and time to do it well.

So — while traveling, even though I knew that I wanted to keep going, I also knew that I would eventually return home to Expeditionary Learning.  I knew that I would return to work in one of the schools or within the network.  But just not yet….

And, so that was my mindset when I went to Denver, to the National Conference.  A mix of coming home to family with a longing to keep my feet out in the world….

And as the conference continued, I became more and more confused.  Confused because I because I got more and more inspired.  I was inspired by the educators who surrounded me.  Inspired by the work of students I saw.  Inspired by master classes led by my colleagues from around the country.  But the icing on the cake was being inspired by the last speaker of the conference, a state senator from Colorado who used to be a school leader at an Expeditionary Learning School in Denver, Colorado.

Mike Johnston spoke about how public education should be the last generation of the civil rights movement.  That we should be taking kids from where they start in kindergarten and 13 years later,  we should be offering them a level and fair playing field.  That we should be promising them equality, by changing schools.  And that our goal, as educators, is to create children that feel that this is their world to love and to change.  That they are confident that they can love and change the world.

Yeah, I was done for….

Yes, sign me up for the good fight.  Yes, sign me up to change schools in this country.  Yes, sign me up for equality and justice for all.

Wait a second….  did I just say this country?  That wasn’t part of the plans….

So….  now what?  how do I balance the inspiration and the passion with living-the-dream?  Living the life I want to live that involves mountains and street food and learning spanish and freedom — versus doing work I deeply care about?

Me with two of my students at the 3rd Renaissance graduation — 3rd time that 100% of the graduating seniors have been accepted to college.

That is the conundrum…..

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