Early this morning I read @bonstewart’s “Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires.” I was awake too early, with a terrible headache and a day full of things in front of me. As I read, hope blossomed in my head and my heart. Lately, things have seemed bleak. I am over committed at work, with several exciting projects, but they are all in the doldrums of implementation; that time when the day to day grind of starting something new often frays the sense of excitement and wonder because it is too far away from the start, and the end. And there is this dissertation, the long, lonely, and tangled journey. And there is daily life, family, children. (And I won’t even bring up the concerns about the next 4 years although those factor significantly.)
There are gleaming bright spots; the colleague who not only jumps into one of the projects, but builds an awesome team because he believes in the concept; colleagues who step in and pick up pieces when I can’t; the sparkling voice of students striving toward their own futures, my younger son’s absolute joy in Christmas, and so many more moments. Lately, though, those things have been hard to hold on to, but they shine and are important. I don’t want to down play the importance of those small moments of perfection and joy. However, it is tempting to hunker down and just get things done, be safe, and move carefully. However, that feels like a cop out if I am being honest. And so in this mire, I read about the Antigonish movement and dove into the #hortonfreire thread on Twitter. Despite the 4 am hour, and a screaming headache, I felt hope.
Earlier in the day yesterday, as part of an @vconnecting session on open dissertations, I was turning over my thoughts about the institutional assumptions we make about education and how we might free ourselves from their limitations. I became a teacher because I wanted to change the system- one of those one foot in, one foot out, tempered radicals. But I often question my ability to change the system as part of it, and I worry that my participation in the system is actually advancing it? Can you really change a system without unpacking all those assumptions– and how do you unpack the assumptions in a way that allows you to do something? Can one person do something, alone or does it take a series of individual actions in the right space and in the right time?
The #hortonfreire discussions on Twitter and the posts (THE POSTS!!) from smart engaged educators point to options and ideas for shedding or reshaping or erasing those institutional assumptions, for instance, Kate Bowles’ post “The Roads We Make” added another layer. As I left one campus for a meeting on another today, came across this:
A road made by students rather than using the steps to the left or going around to the right. Kate’s metaphor (and a manifestation of #hortonfreire discussion) right in front of me. I started thinking about all the ways I see faculty making their own roads, squishing around the boundaries, but from my observations of my faculty colleagues, I think many are doing so as individuals, and are doing so by instinct and not by design. They are doing this in a certain amount of isolation. What happens when we do this by design? What happens when we stop and examine and talk and share those observations, will a new design emerge or do those other conversations serve as energy that propels the system in new directions more incrementally? (This begins to tag into my dissertation work, now, and that is way too mixed up in my head right now to bring out.)
I am grateful for the hope; it feels a little like a lifeline right now.