Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Are you an island?

Yesterday I sat in a room at the Gates Foundation where I listened to my new friend Ian Simoy talk about how the experience of teaching can be isolating and make educators feel like they're living on an island. Then someone remarks how he really is an island; Ian lives in Oahu.
Me looking crazy with Ian Simoy
and Joan Hurley

But Ian does not manifest island-ness. No, he is connected and networked with educators from across the country.

I began my own teaching career 1994 in Nepal in the Peace Corps working in a tiny village cut off from the modern world. In all ways I was the proverbial island Ian spoke about yesterday. But being alone in a village where I had to make it or break it gave me the fortitude to understand that my experience there depended solely on me.

My failures were completely mine. My successes were too. My life-changing epiphany came when I realized that I could bring other people into the success I was trying to create for myself.

This is when I began listening. Listening to my villagers, listening to my family members. Yes, I needed to listen to get the language down, but I have brought this home with me.

Listening to people about their experiences has brought me to every great teaching epiphany I have ever had. I never imagined when I began my career I would still rely on this epiphany that took me so long to learn: that I must listen to others, especially when they feel passionate about something. It might lead some really great places.

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