I hadn’t expected to feel queasy and dizzy all day Sunday … but I did. And I hadn’t expected the queasy dizziness to turn into an ugly cough on Monday … but it did. And, when the three Latin teachers decided to submit a panel proposal for SXSW Edu about “Building Learning Community with Purpose and Joy” we really didn’t think it would be accepted … but it was. And even when it was accepted, we thought it might be buried in the program somewhere … but it’s been featured here and here, which left us amazed, humbled, and (I’m sure you can imagine) excited beyond belief.
So a few hours after pressing that “Publish” button today, I’ll be on my way to Austin. I’ve spent a bit of time in North Texas and in the Houston airport, but this will be my first visit to the Hill Country. Logistics made it a lot easier to fly from Charlotte to San Antonio, so I’m looking forward to a beautiful afternoon drive, a non-stop flight, a beautiful evening drive, and a very exciting few days. The sheer variety of sessions, parties, opportunities, people to meet, places to see … it’s overwhelming in a wonderful way! So many opportunities for new, expanded joyful learning communities! And then, before we know it, the excitement will be over. Time for another lovely drive, another flight, yet another lovely drive, a few moments with family and animals Thursday evening. Then time to lead a staff-development session on Friday for an appreciative (?) audience of Latin teachers; then a weekend with typical “weekend stuff” planned, then a much more typical week at school.
Or at least that’s the expected plan for the next few days. We’ll see what actually happens!
Meanwhile, back in North Carolina, my students will be working to maintain their joyful community in the face of some potential distractions. In factory-model schools, it’s hard to stay focused when Your Teacher is absent; “everybody” learns, despite everything that the Powers That Be might say, that substitute teachers are less important than “real” teachers, that “sub work” is generally a synonym for “busy work,” and that, for all her yelling and labeling when she gets back, Ms. X probably didn’t actually expect quality work on That Worksheet anyway. Members of the “Latin Family” are often surprised, early in the year, to discover that I do expect them to manage themselves, continue what we were doing, and do important work together whether I’m there or not. Of course, they’re also surprised, sometimes, to discover that the focus is on deep learning and language proficiency rather than on task completion … but, ironically, that the tasks are so designed that, by completing them in a thoughtful, engaged way, you do develop the proficiency and deep learning you seek. It’s hard to remember that, though, when Your Teacher is gone … and when there’s testing today and an assembly on Thursday and the state-wide tornade drill sometime, too.
It’s all connected, as I’ve been saying a lot recently. All connected, but often in unexpected, surprising ways. And the unexpected surprises – the opportunity to save money by flying to San Antonio, the cough that made an afternoon flight so much more attractive, the ways everything came together, not as expected but better than expected – are all part of the remarkable tapestry that life seems to be weaving these days.
Responding on Google+ yesterday, Debbie once again helped me clarify things:
In a Native Teachings book that I have read (a dozen times) it speaks of the South Direction as representing “Trust” — trust the possibilities, trust the changed plans, trust the unfolding journey, and trust ourselves.
“Plan for the best, expect the worst” is also a great Wisdom to include in life’s journey. We plan but we know that the “X Factors” can happen. We are ready for them, not that we have planned what to do for each scenario but that we Trust that the X Factor will lead us to greater opportunities, greater Wisdom, new lessons, new connections, new strength. And we Trust that after we get past the X Factor it will be a thing of the past, just a blip in our timeline.
So how do we pass this along? First we need to understand it ourselves… and we need to believe in it and live it.
Then we can role-model it, preach it, guide it, plant the seeds.
Over the past two decades, my family and I have slowly moved farther south and farther east in North Carolina … moving toward a place of greater Trust, new Beginnings, and new Awakenings, it seems. And today we’re heading south by southwest, bringing in some conclusions, goals, and physical wisdom. Is it significant, I wonder, that when I was young I moved north and west for college, then came back south and east? Whether there’s literal significance in those directions or not, I’m intrigued by the metaphor … and I’m truly intrigued by the notion of balance, of bringing folks together from many directions, many cultures, many backgrounds. That Fire of Truth to which Debbie frequently refers – it calls you to sit in a circle around it, and I suppose when you join the circle, you’re looking toward a new direction, since you’re probably facing away from where you’ve been before. It’s a challenge to move forward in new directions, but it’s even harder to stay still when everything is in flux.
It’s an exciting new day, but every day is an exciting, new beginning if you’re open to it. I wonder what new forms of joy and learning and community the day has in store for each of us!