I’ve been keeping this on the down-low for many months now, but I’m moving on to new adventures professionally this fall. My seven years at Saint Ann’s were enormously satisfying and growth-promoting, but over a year ago I began a search for a new opportunity to contribute to a community of learners.
Figuring out what I wanted that new opportunity to look like—and then actually finding a slot where it could happen—has been a long and textured journey. I’ve learned something about the educational landscape in the US in the process, and I’ve definitely sussed out some aspects of myself that I didn’t know about or that weren’t in focus for me before. I haven’t said much about all of this before now, because where I’d land was up in the air until just recently, and I wanted to be able to share the news of my transition in a future-oriented way. So here goes!
I’m delighted to share that I’ll be working at the Princeton Learning Cooperative in Princeton, New Jersey. To get a real sense for the place, you should check out our website. Briefly, though, PLC is a supportive community that helps teenagers that are having unproductive school experiences to leave school and begin directing their own learning and lives. From a legal standpoint, these teens are homeschoolers, but not the kind where their parents sit them down at the kitchen table and teach them school subjects. In some ways PLC is like a free school, but it doesn’t have an attendance requirement. It’s not a school. It’s an “unschooling center.” Even though this is the case, staff members and volunteers offer classes and tutorials that members (not “students”) can choose to take, and each member has weekly mentoring sessions with a staff member to help them in their self-direction.
It’s very hands-on and personalized—helping young people to learn what they want and providing them with opportunities to figure out what that might be. No holds barred. I bet you can see the sparkle in my eyes all the way from over there. There will also be lots of opportunities for me to contribute to the structure, design, and execution of the program. All together, it’s really a fantastic match and I could not be more thrilled to have found PLC. Believe me, you’ll be hearing (if you wish) a whole lot more about it in the weeks and months ahead!
This all of course means that I’m moving on from Saint Ann’s. Leaving a place where I made so many fond memories is definitely tough. Leaving behind my great students and colleagues is tough. And I’m way bummed that Michael and I are currently doing our best impression of two ships in the night.
Still, I’m ready and excited for new challenges. The metaphor that I’ve been using is that when I showed up at Saint Ann’s with by big britches and bigger ideas, they gave me blank canvas after blank canvas, nicely-sized, and all the colors of paint I could want. Seemingly infinite possibilities! And that wasn’t an illusion—there really are infinite possibilities and a lifetime of craftsmanship to learn and employ in the medium of a Saint Ann’s classroom. But “infinite possibilities” doesn’t mean that every possibility is open. Try as you might, you can’t do a tiny painting on a regular-sized canvas without it looking silly, and you’ll have a hard time painting a mural. Making a sculpture is a definite no-go. As an artist (if you’ll bear with me), there are experiences I want to help create for and create with young people that can only happen at a place that’s different from Saint Ann’s. And so I wish it well and recommend it heartily and will keep in touch with folks there, but I’m off to see what other art I can make.
After just a few weeks of interacting with the staff and a few members and parents at PLC, I feel really valued for my skills, my energy, and my ideas. I feel like I’m going to be able to do a lot of good, both for our members and for this community, and I know that doing this work is going to be good for me. What classes exactly I’ll be teaching is still up in the air, but it’ll likely be some math and a lot of other things, like a poetry workshop and a video games class. I’ll also be coordinating the Mondays program. No classes are scheduled for Mondays—they’re reserved for trips into the community and hikes and such, as well as for one-off or short-term workshops and guest speakers. Lots of room to experiment in new ways!
I feel really pumped up and secure in my decision to join PLC. It feels just so, so right. The only twinge I’ve felt is—get this—losing you guys, my wonderful personal learning network on Twitter and the blogs. Since I won’t be a math teacher per se anymore, will I still belong? Will my thoughts and experiences still be relevant to the discourse in this community?
I’m not really all that worried, because I’d miss y’all too much, and I know that I’m involved in projects and conversations that won’t be affected by my relocation. But what this has made me realize and appreciate is how big a part of my professional and personal identity is wrapped up in the goings-on of the mathtwitterblogosphere—with you wonderful people who I get to have as colleagues, co-conspirators, and friends. Thank you so much for that.
So here’s to old adventures and new adventures! And just adventures! Yay!