A year ago, I walked away from teaching full-time at the Science Leadership Academy. This was not because I wanted to stop teaching or stop working at SLA or anything other than trying to continue to live my life as intentionally as possible. It made sense to go, it was the right time. Leaving was tough. I still find myself looking at the world as possible lesson plans and units and shareable with learners… I’m not sure I will ever shut that off. But, leave I did.
Now. What have I been up to? I added it up the other day and I’ve been in 28 states and 5 countries in the past year. I lost track of the number of miles flown and drove, but let’s say its a large number. My travel schedule at times feels like a Jenga game that I’ve been lucky to have work out more than I’m entitled to. Working with teachers all over the US and a few internationally has been incredibly rewarding and exciting and I feel as though my efforts contribute to more classrooms and teachers feeling empowered to move their learning spaces in more modern and learner focused directions.
But, I will also share that nothing is as good as teaching kids. Teaching is like a puzzle that just keeps needing solving, everyday. It made my brain spin, inspired hope and anger and frustration and joy and heart break at times. I sat in a gym in Texas this past February and had to get myself under control as I almost broke out into tears. I miss being a teacher.One would think that would lead me back into the classroom, and while I will find myself there next year as a long term sub in Flagstaff for a friend… I will not be back full-time this fall. The best explanation is that I am not ready to fully dive into a new school community just yet.
So what am I up to. Lots of different things actually. For anyone that knows me well, knows that I am habitually over-committed with projects and such, this year is no different. The biggest collaboration that I am working on right now is launching a new endeavor with Chris Lehmann to simultaneously open a second SLA campus in Philadelphia as well as create a non-profit called Inquiry Schools to further the goal of offering more inquiry driven, project-based, 1:1 learning environments for students and teachers. Additionally, I am supporting a turnaround school project in a Philadelphia K-8 school. I will find myself back in Philly for much of August, September and a bit of October. Later in the fall, I will once again be teaching for the University of Minnesota as a adjunct professor as well as heading off to Flagstaff, AZ to step back into the school I left in 2008 to join SLA… as a long term substitute teacher for a gentleman that used to sub teach for me back in the day (the circular ridiculousness of this is not lost on me). Sprinkled in between all of that are speaking and professional development opportunities that take me into schools and organizations all over the US. And let’s not forget that Educon planning will start anew soon enough.
And my favorite question… where are you based? Answer: I am not. For the past year I have not (as I like to say it) maintained a home. My mail goes to my parents place on the farm in Wisconsin and my stuff is still in boxes in my sister’s basement. Today, I am writing to you from my Aunt Carol’s RV, lakeside in Hatfield, WI. The same lake where my grandparents used to ‘summer’ near my hometwon. The layers of memories are plentiful. This is where I learned to water ski, swam until exhaustion, went out to ‘fancy’ dinner with my grandparents and generally reveled in being a kid. It has been quite special to be able to spend time here hiking and kayaking and hammocking. After the local county fair, I head back to Philly then to Flagstaff, back to WI and then Philly again. I have my ‘living’ situation figured out until February when I will once again decide if its time to maintain a single address and a home. While there are moments when I feel like I need a place, nothing seems to make sense yet.
One cannot live like this without the consistent and gracious support of all kinds of people. My SLA family takes care of me so well when I am in Philly… opening their homes and refrigerators and calendars to welcome me. My family has been such champs through this all… to say that I made different choices than any of them would have preferred is an understatement, but they just take it all in stride and I have been able to spend more time with them this year than the last 5 years combined. I have 7 nieces and nephews that I try hard to know. It has been easier this year to do that and it has been a gift. And finally, there is the place where I actually own a home that I don’t live in, Flagstaff, AZ. I consider this the space I was meant to live in, but for many reasons back in 2008 it was time to go. My friends there are as close as family and they all do so many things to support me when I am there and on the road. I look forward to spending more time with them all over the next year as well.
So. There it is. 18 years as a formal student. 15 years as a full-time teacher. 1 year as a ‘freelance’ teacher and nomad. See you all out there on the road and wishing you all a restful and joyful summer.