Yesterday, I flew my tired self home from the three-day meeting with the Heinemann Fellows group. It was a true, “AND” not “BUT” kind of moment (if that doesn’t make any sense, read this). As I said to my wife upon my arrival in Chicago, that was the SINGLE most powerful educational experience that I have ever had. The excitement continued to pulse through my veins hours after our meeting had ended. AND I was terrified and overwhelmed at the work ahead.
One of our last moments as a group involved going around the table and sharing our take-aways from the three days spent together. There were two major common themes that were shared by almost everyone:
1) This gathering of passionate educators did wonders for our souls. We had each been feeling the isolation that I have spoken of in earlier blog posts. We each had been feeling as if we did not have enough people around us to discuss things with or enough opportunities that invited the type of discussion that we had experienced over our three days together. We were all craving connection. Connection to those who thought like we did, connection to those whose experiences were vastly different than our own, connection to those who believed that educators have the power to make our classrooms and schools better places, and connection to those who believe that a small group of people can create big changes in this world. We found that connection as we came together as a group and it was so powerful. Some were even moved to tears by it. I don’t think any of us expected it to be quite as powerful as it was, but I know that I was incredibly grateful for just three days of that kind of work.
2) Most of us felt completely unqualified to do what we were about to do. It was so funny to hear that each one of us sat quietly in our own self-doubts and assumed that everyone else was feeling just great. Until we began to reach out, to be honest, to be vulnerable. That is when we all realized that most everyone was feeling completely overwhelmed at what lay ahead. Most of us have never done action research in our classrooms in this formal way. Most of us are still unable to visualize what our projects are really going to look like. Most of us are swimming in an ocean of, “What if it just doesn’t work?” or “What if I don’t find anything to help answer this question?” and most overwhelmingly, “What if I am just not good enough (or smart enough or connected enough or savvy enough or whatever enough) to do this?”
So we walked away with both of those things. Power in our connection and fear in our self-doubt. What makes those two things manageable, what makes it all workable and doable is that we are not alone. We’ve got this incredible little group of Fellows and this incredible team at Heinemann next to us and behind us and in front of us. That’s what makes it all so much more okay.
I have to remind myself to take this one step at a time. One foot in front of the other. I have to remind myself to be okay with not knowing exactly how the path is going to unfold in front to me. As I tried to sit down today and figure out a plan, I realized that I have more questions than answers at this point. How am I going to go about starting to help kids set their own goals and then work towards those goals in reading workshop?
I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that I am so motivated and rejuvenated from these past three days that I am going to figure it out. It is isn’t going to be perfect, these are children we are working with after all, but I know that I am committed to figuring this path ahead of me out. AND I know that I have got some great people along for the ride.