Are we there yet?

Journey

When the kids were little, we use to drive the 21 hours from Chicago to Florida for our family vacation. Not an hour into the drive would one of the kids start with the oh-so-familiar phrase, “Are we there yet?” that would then be repeated for the remainder of the trip. My responses would begin with something mild and motherly like, “no honey, not yet, it’s going to take a long time” to a more impatient, “no, please stop asking, you’ll know when you see the beach”. Now the kids are grown and in our recent trip to visit my husband in Abu Dhabi, it struck me that not one of them ever asked the question! Not that I missed it, but it made me stop and reflect on why that might be and I made a connection to how people view a journey.

Personally, I feel there is great value in the process of a journey rather then the actual destination. When the kids were small and had little understanding of the process of taking a trip, they were not interested in how we get there but just that we get there. The importance was in the end product; beach, pool, and playing in the sand. I would have to say that working in education, many educators hold this same focus on the end result, rather then the journey we take together. The journey process holds the greatest capacity for learning; take for example a family vacation with little kids. Remember all that you learned about packing, mapping out the best route, the ideal time of day to leave so the kids would sleep most of the way, places to stop along the way to break up the trip, states to watch your speed (NEVER speed through Georgia!), car games to teach and play with the kids! Countless opportunities to learn, understand, and appreciate the journey.

If I viewed the adoption of the Common Core with the same regard, I could say as well that the journey to adopt and implement is full of learning! Teachers involved in every step of the process of unpacking and understanding a standards-based education, powering the standards with colleagues, rich conversations to prioritize the learning outcomes, articulating standards between grades to ensure fluid learning for students, mapping the power standards into quarters, using standards to design pre and post assessments to measure student learning, and reporting out to parents using a standards based report card. How rich are all of these opportunities for a system of educators to experience together. How often do we still hear the cry, “Are we there yet?” I’d like to presuppose why this phrase is used; the learning journey is hard! From sitting in a car as a child, for 21 hours not really knowing where it is you are going; to educators spending a substantial amount of time changing their mindset and practice to meet the new standards. It’s not easy…it’s hard…and worth it!

Why have my grown children now stopped asking the question? I would say it is because of all they learned about the process of a journey. They have an appreciation for and trust in the process enough to know that there is great value in how you get there, as in arriving! Just in this one trip alone we have met dynamic people from all walks of life that we will remember forever, who have confirmed in all of us how truly amazing peoples stories can be and how rich a journey is when we take time to notice and learn. Some examples; a 27 year old man who sat next to my son who was flying for the first time in a plane back home to New York for Christmas; the cab driver, Faisal, drove us from LaGuardia to JFK, one of 22 brothers and sisters native to North Sudan, who entertained my simple Arabic phrases and shared his view of the dyer situation currently gripping his nation (I could write a whole blog just on our conversation alone); the three Serbian (my national background) flight attendants on Emirates and the young man Amir, also Croatian, who all made the 12 hour flight more bearable by sharing in speaking (and me practicing) Serbian. Was the trip hard….YES…exhausting, frustrating, uncomfortable… but we are profoundly changed because of it!

I would encourage my colleagues to not be so concerned and quick to come to the end of their journey of just saying they have adopted the Common Core but rather to allow the uncomfortable, exhausting, and sometimes frustrating work to profoundly change how we teach! My hope for all of us would be to grow up, like my children, having an appreciation for and trust in the process of the journey…the reality is, if you’re too focused on just getting there, you miss many opportunities to venture off the path and deepen your learning as you go.

Bon Voyage!