Thursday, August 04, 2016

Some Reflections From The Road

I'm not by nature a happy traveler, yet here I find myself in the midst of a five week barnstorming tour of Australia that has taken me all over Queensland and New South Wales and will take me next to both South and Western Australia in the coming weeks. Since the middle of last month, I've rarely slept two nights in the same bed. I've traveled by plane, train and automobile. I've literally slept in pubs, chapels, a child's play room, and tomorrow night I'm apparently bedding down in a mansion.

I actually got to sleep for two nights in this chapel, where I also presented workshops.

This is the third time I've been Down Under in the past four years and at every stop I find educators and parents who, shockingly, have come to hear this preschool teacher from Seattle speak. I'm in equal measures flattered and inspired by these grown-up people who come together wherever I go in the interest of making the lives of young children better. I talk about play mostly, sharing some of the things I've learned over the two decades I've now spent working with young children on a daily basis, doing a job I'm finally starting to really understand. And like happens with the children I supposedly teach, I feel that I'm learning far more from the incredible people who come to hear me than they can possibly learn from me.

My bedroom was behind that door to the left of the alter.

It might sound like false modesty, but I assure you it's not. Everyone I meet knows more than me. Everyone I meet is more accomplished than me, at least when it comes to their schools, their communities, and their way of working with children.

I've been forced to reflect on why it is that I get to do things like this, even as an unhappy traveler. In the past few years, I've been invited to speak in my own country as well as Greece, Iceland, England, China, New Zealand, and right across Canada.

That's the wonderful Prue Walsh presenting at the Village Ways conference at the Dusty Hill Winery. I had to follow her! Yikes!

Of course, the fact that I've become an obsessive daily blog post writer is the biggest thing. I stand out, I think, by virtue of having published at least five posts a week since 2009. In fact, there were two years in there (2011 and 2012) during which I wrote 363 posts, taking only Christmas morning and New Year's Day off. I've since cut back to only around 260 posts a year, but it's still a lot and people have noticed. So, one of the secrets to my blogging "success" had been sheer volume.

As far as content, I'm all over the place, I think, although for the most part I'm writing about play and the politics of education, subjects that appear to be universal. Prior to becoming a parent I spent 15 years as a freelance writer. I expect that has contributed as well.


I think people appreciate that I'm not an ivory tower academic or pundit, but rather, like most of my readers, a classroom teacher and parent who is just trying to figure this thing out as I go along. Folks have asked me if I would ever consider hitting the road full time. Absolutely not. The classroom is where I belong. If I had to give up one or the other it would be the traveling.

Then there is the gray beard. From the time I was a teenager I was interested in the cache that gray gives a man, even once going so far as to inquire at a local drug store after gray hair dye. The sweet clerk, laughed as she said, "Oh honey, they don't make gray hair dye. No one would buy that."

A tableau from Aussie World

And finally, we come to the uncomfortable truth that I am a middle aged white male in a profession dominated by young women. I would be an ass to not acknowledge the boost that this accident of my birth and longevity has given me.

I'm about halfway done with the trip. I've seen old friends and made new ones. I've had experiences and collected stories to tell when I get home, like when the reception clerk asked me, "What kind of accent is that?" When I answered, "American," she replied, "I thought so, but I didn't want to insult you." I'm by turns exhausted and fired up. I arose this morning at 4 a.m. to get this posted, then catch a shuttle to the airport. I can't wait to find out what this day will bring even as I'm dreading my time on the road.

Macadamia orchard on a sunny day.

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1 comment:

Kris Taylor said...

Rock star! But in all seriousness, thank you for sharing the message of respect, compassion and joy in everything to do with a young child becoming their best self. You're a fierce yet approachable advocate for kids...that's a pretty hot ticket!