Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Necessary Journey

I was running errands yesterday and stopped by a small butcher shop. The butcher was joking with me, asking me how big my boys were, how much they ate. He asked about my school year and if I still was enjoying elementary aged kids. I paused, then told him I was moving to middle school next year to teach seventh grade language arts. The man stopped, looked at me, and said, "Did they force you to move?"

Of course I assured him that my district did not, in fact, force my grade level change. What floors me is that this is not the first time I've been asked this question. 

Today I read Kate DiCamillo's new book Where Are You Going Baby Lincoln? This is an extension of her Mercy Watson series, a series called Tales from Deckawoo Drive. In it Baby Lincoln is compelled to go on a trip. She doesn't know why, she doesn't know where, she doesn't know what she will do. She only knows this is a necessary journey. 

As the book progressed, Baby Lincoln is filled with uncertainty. Is she doing the right thing? Why would she leave everything she knows behind? To go on this journey means being in unfamiliar territory. She has to meet new people, rely on the kindness of strangers, find new ways to do things she's always done. 

I loved this book.

To say I related to Baby Lincoln would be an understatement. After twenty years in education, all at the elementary level, I'm going on my own necessary journey. I'm leaving behind the familiar, the dependable, and what I know. It's scary. I could fail, but I know it is what I need to do. 

I have spent hours in my new classroom this summer, organizing, putting things away, thinking. It isn't real yet, of course. It won't be real until the kids enter the classroom. When we begin sharing stories, writing stories, and creating our own community - then the real stuff begins. I am certain I'll miss some of the elementary experience, but I had no choice. This was my necessary journey. 

This summer I've had many wonderful experiences. I've gone on family vacations, spent time with friends, relaxed at home, and attended conferences. At my last conference this summer - the Scholastic Summit - a friend asked if we wanted to walk across the bridge. This would allow us to cross from Kentucky to Ohio. Someone asked him why and he said, "It's a necessary journey." 
Our blurry "necessary journey" across the bridge.
We didn't need to walk across the bridge into another state that night, we could have easily stayed in our hotel. But the laughter as we walked, the conversation we had while we had this experience together, brought me such happiness. Sometimes I think we say no to things that are not part of our plan, things that make us have to try something new - to put forth more effort than we'd like. But these journeys, they can be what bring us the most memories, the most joy. 

I think Baby Lincoln and her necessary journey will stay close to my heart this school year as I begin my 21st in education. Her story will remind me that these scary experiences, the unexpected times, the hard stuff we face - it is all part of our journey. And sometimes we have to get through that to reach the good stuff. I want to remember that not only am I on a necessary journey, but my students are as well. Together, we're going to make this year the best ever. I cannot wait to get started.