At some point in the last seven days I finally synthesized my decision making process for picking up from a place I adored to join in the fun at SLA. The days leading up to the EduCon kick off were nothing more than a blur of constant activity and thought focused on organization, doing, cleaning, constructing, moving and every other action verb you can imagine. It was delightful.
However, when education professionals started pouring into the school on Friday morning one question kept popping up. It came in different forms and slight variations on a theme, but really people wanted to why SLA works, why I would move across country to join in. When I left Flagstaff last spring, I wrote:
The visit to EduCon2.0 and SLA solidified within me a certainty that I think I had been coming to for quite some time. I needed to work in a place with people that ‘get’ it with regard to students and learning. Although many of my revelations and connections were at tech conferences and online, at the end of the day I need to be in a real space with educators that approach education with a similar philosophy and curricular approach. By walking through the door of the Science Leadership Academy I literally opened a new door on my career path.
All of that is still true, however I realized a more subtle and significant connection in this whole choice to be here and it connects to another theme I find myself returning to time and again. I grew up in the smallest of farming communities in western Wisconsin, in the 80s. Glamorous it was not; hard work, struggle and perseverance were at the top of the list for descriptors. I would not change a bit of it. Nothing. Not one moment.
The school I attended was not progressive, traditional in all those really traditional ways. Lincoln High School was phenomenally important to a bunch of farm kids in the Midwest. Our teachers pushed us to be prepared to get out and do more with our lives. The people in the community pushed for it, the students reached for it and the result was a singular effort striving for opportunity that only college offered at that time. The high school held 160 students 9-12, but has cranked out a Ph.D. from Berkeley that works for the National Institutes of Health, a member of the CIA, a top account in a major firm, a vice president of Ericsson and who knows what else. Small farm towns do not tend to have this kind of success rate for their students. What my hometown did was unify behind the success of its young people in the most consistent manner. Communal, unyielding support and expectations for success walked with us everyday.
Since I left the cozy security of rural America 16 years ago, I have tried to create that feeling of community I left in the rolling hills of Wisconsin. And on Friday when I was being asked over and over again, why does SLA work, why did you choose this. The answer was the same for both questions: SLA epitomizes all of the good pieces of a community of care I was carefully raised in as a child and after all these years teaching all over the US, I am home again.