· Dare and Do ·
Dare and do. For so long, I could dare, but not do. The risks were high, the unknown was scary, and uncertainties were plenty.
Two months ago, that all changed.
Two months ago, I spent my last day in my first-grade classroom. A decision three years in the making, I made the leap to begin a new chapter in my story.
I’ve been an educator for 18 years. I love education. I love teaching. It’s a passion I’ve had for as long as I can remember. That passion has never wavered. In fact, I left the classroom because of that passion. I love teaching and still am teaching. I left the classroom to pursue a newly discovered passion – one that allows me to continue to teach, but not in front of 20 five- and six-year-olds that call me Mrs. McMenemy, and on occasion Mom. It looks different now. I get to teach through writing, in classrooms in cities I took three flights to get to, and on stages in front of audiences of educators who chose to be there. This new chapter has allowed me to set my creativity loose and get to know this adventurous spirit that was always too timid to believe it had a place in my world.
In the last two months I’ve traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, Loveland, Colorado, Osage, Iowa, and Detroit, Michigan.
I’ve explored noisy city blocks and quiet Main Streets. I’ve visited famous monuments and secret hideaways. And I’ve experienced new and crazy adventures I never thought possible.
I’ve, albeit unsuccessfully, attempted to explore an abandoned Six Flags in Louisiana. The threat of arrest on account of trespassing on private property had me turning around before I made it into the parking lot. But it was an adventure, nonetheless.
I wandered Bourbon Street at night and saw beautiful architecture lit up by the moon and the buzz of the streetlights and wild, stumbling party goers on the same city block. That same day I stood at the front of a conference hall and shared my story of disruption in education alongside an inspiring team of educators at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), one of the biggest national edtech conferences in the US. I spent months preparing for that conference and the experience flew by in what felt like minutes.
I stood out front of a hotel in Loveland, Colorado, wondering if I was going to make my flight home, as I waited for an Uber that was never going to show up on account of a freak snowstorm. The morning before, I stood in front of room full of district leaders from the Colorado Association of Leaders in Educational Technology at the Colorado Association of School Executives Conference sharing my passion for technology and why redefining failure for our students redefines learning for them. And why this is so crucial for education.
I spent hours walking around downtown Osage, Iowa – population 3500 – exploring the tiny town’s Main Street. I wandered into Watts Theatre, which opened in 1950 and I believe still has its original, maybe restored, marquee sign, in hopes of catching a Sunday matinee.
I saw all of six people, though, I may have seen the same two people twice, that afternoon. I spent my week in Iowa, teaching and learning with students and educators at Osage and Riceville Community School Districts. I shared Gracie and her world with 400+ kids that week.
I was given an opportunity to share my story with the incredible staff at Lincoln Elementary (who declared the Wednesday of my visit “Gracie Day”) in Osage and to a room full of educators in Cedar Falls at the Central Rivers AEA Future Ready Summit that same week.
Though I have visited Detroit, Michigan more times than I can count, I have not experienced it as I did last week. I was a featured speaker at MACUL, the annual Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning Conference, and spoke on stage in the largest room I’ve ever been in. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that many chairs in one place. I spoke to three separate audiences over the course of my week at MACUL, and proud to say, twice on that massive stage.
I played Q-Bert, Donkey Kong, and Burger Time at an arcade bar and had an impromptu photo shoot at 1500 Woodward Ave. in downtown Detroit, in front of international street artist Kelsey Montague’s famous angel wings. (And by impromptu, I mean, absolutely, 100% planned and not at all impromptu.) I went to a Skid Row concert and heard I Remember You, live! A song nine-year-old me would belt out at the top of my lungs like I was the one waking up to the sound of pouring rain. I sang it as loud that night, four feet from the stage, as I did in my bedroom in 1989.
In two months, I’ve experienced New Orleans, Colorado, Iowa, and Detroit. While maybe not worldly for some, extremely so for me. I’ve met and taught kids, educators, and building and district leaders in each of these places and even made a few lasting friendships. I may not have a classroom to call my own, but I’ve been welcomed into classrooms 800+ miles away and felt just as at home there as I did in my own. I’ve stood at the front of classrooms and on the stage of auditoriums and spent months carefully and meticulously planning for it all.
Dare and do. I’ve come to learn that while cliché, the adage that one cannot soar without spreading their wings is very true.
It’s easy to dare. It takes courage to do.
This new chapter has allowed me to experience things I never thought I could, things I’ve never had the courage to reach for – and not just tangible things. I’ve discovered the someone inside me that’s been tucked away, scared of all the world had to offer. And she’s spreading her wings. She’s soaring. She has a newfound courage.
And she is in love.
With the learning. With the journey. With her adventurous spirit.