Finding the Path, V

When my children were younger, one of their favorite TV shows was the remarkable Ned’S Declassified School Survival Guide. It’s not a perfect show, but I always enjoyed watching the adventures of Ned, his friends, his enemies, his crushes, and the various hapless adults who inhabited his middle school. Ned and his friends formed a joyful learning community in the midst of a very stereotypical, 20th-century style teaching factory … and, quite frequently, the seemingly hapless adults worked bravely within the confines of the factory system to make it more of an authentic community, too. Plus, I loved the Guide, which Ned created, edited, and used as a reference for himself and his friends as they navigated those treacherous waters of early adolescence.

I thought about the show, the community, and the Guide a lot on Thursday as I was driving from home to Buffalo. My favorite-and-only 11-year-old is spending a few days with a friend of his, so I dropped him off with the family (and discovered some amazing connections!) around 9:00. By 9:30 I was ready to hit the road, and I took a quick look at the Map app on my phone, just to make sure that it and the GPS unit in the car agreed on the best route.

They didn’t. So … what do you do when two Guides offer conflicting information?

In this case, I opted to go with the more familiar route: I-95 north to Washington, DC, then the Beltway, then I-270 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. From there, a couple of options were possible; would I choose the scenic route on small state highways or the longer, all-Interstate route through Pittsburgh and Erie? Either way, it should be about a 12-hour drive for me.

16 hours later, I arrived in Buffalo.

There was road construction and an accident at the North Carolina-Virginia border, and that caused one hour’s delay. And that brought us to Quantico not at the 3:00 time I’d planned, but at 4:00, when DC rush hour begins in earnest. 3 hours and 30 miles later, as I left the DC metro area, I faced a long, but uneventful rest of the journey.

Was it a mistake? It certainly wasn’t perfect … but in the end, I think it was exactly what I needed for the journey up. I’ll be going home by another road, but I needed to take this one on the way. Driving through Richmond, I had an insight about Tres Columnae Project subscription pricing for schools and groups … one that never would have happened otherwise. Driving through Pittsburgh, I remembered a family connection I need to make. And when I arrived in Buffalo, where I’m sitting on the university campus, finishing this post, there was just enough time for a brief sleep, connection with my amazing co-panelists, and a wonderful breakfast before we headed over to the conference. It looks like there will be many opportunities for connections, and for building joyful communities, during the sessions and discussions.

And those connections, especially the unplanned and unforeseen ones, are important. I’m writing this post on a mobile app, so links are difficult … but the Google+ thread about yesterday’s post is powerful, and you should take a look at it if you haven’t. As you do, think about the power of overcooked soup (as Diana describes it) and the power of unexpected reconnections.

While factory schools and factory textbooks are all about minimizing disruptions, the power of learning (and of true social and economic change) comes when we allow time and space for them, when we examine them carefully, not dismissing them out of hand. What new opportunities, disguised as problems or pitfalls, will you and I face today? And how will we use them to build meaning, purpose, and joyful community?

Published in: on April 5, 2013 at 1:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

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