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Posts Tagged ‘self help’

This is a very exciting time for me.

On my not-so-very-good-days I’d say it differently.

I’m scared as hell!

The face of public education is changing.  My job (urban grade 5-6 teacher in a once progressive school) is no longer to inspire and challenge kids. I’ve become part of a test giving data analysis machine.  Once I’ve digested the data I follow (often) pre-prescribed lessons and procedures to plug the holes and raise the scores.  I see no boat building, inflated cities or working hovercraft in the future (These are all projects that I’ve completed in my classrooms at this school).  Much of the joy has left the building.

I was going to teach for five years.  I was going to do something exciting and creative at the end of those five years. (To build wooden boats was the plan then.  It’s still on the list.)

Things happened.  I bought a house and a car.  I married a lovely women with two lovely children.  We had two more. I got stuck. I’ve been teaching 27 years and I have no regrets, but I’m stuck!

This morning I began to plan my way out.  It’s not the first time and probably not the last, but by sharing in a public forum I hope to build a little dialog and some accountability.

Jim Eck, a ukulele and carving student and friend, and I exchanged a few messages yesterday.  We were sharing a bit about being stuck.  He ended his last message with, “You have such amazing talents.”

I’ve heard this stuff before.  Three hundred and fifty years of Quaker heritage make these kinds of statements roll off my back.  This time it didn’t.  It was what I needed to hear — an unintentional pep-talk. (Thanks Jim!)

So this morning I began to really examine these talents.  Along with the Quaker thing, I’ve a very informal approach to learning and teaching so I don’t often give my “amazing skills” the importance and weight that I should.  They seem to just be things that I’ve picked up along the way.  I also carry a very old load of weight from a grandfather and a father (both engineers and both named Keith Davis)  that completely discounted most of my skills and talents.  (My father once told me that I wouldn’t understand my parents’ failing marriage because I was only a teacher.)

An older teaching friend (and wise sage) tried to convince me of the value of my skills many times.  I always shrugged and blushed a lot and went right on my way.  (Hazel, you’ve always been right.)

Anyway, I began cataloging talents this morning.  I didn’t get far.  I listed a few that are particularly strong and that I do better than most folks.  There are others.

I then focused on three, ukulele playing and building and carving birds.  Now I’m brainstorming ways to make these skills into meaningful and creative work.  Income.  Fulfillment.  Joy.

I’ve spent a lifetime learning cool stuff.  I’m an expert at teaching this to others.  This formula should work.  It has to work.

Thanks for reading this far.  I need your input and help.

I’ve a few ideas that I’ll share later today.

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If I Could…

I’ve begun to listen to a self-help audiobook.  I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this.  I don’t do self-help books, but I may be at a turning point in my life and need to think things through.

The section that I’m listening to now asks me to really think about the things that I want to do — a bucket list, of sorts.  The author argues that we will be healthier, work harder and have more money if we pursue adventures between income producing projects.

I’ve long believed this and have tried to have a few adventures.  I once flew to Maine to paint and be alone.  I returned several years later following a photographer friend to write, climb some rocks and mountains and chase birds.  I’ve been to Hawaii twice to hang out with famous ukulele players and builders.

Most adventures are much less ambitious.  A couple of weeks ago I took a daylong drive to a gallery in eastern Indiana stopping to bird at several lakes.  Birding day trips seem to be as big as my adventures get right now.

My self-help book/audio file challenged me to plan several adventures over the next six months. They suggest that for every 3 months of work I should take a month to adventure.  They claim that eventually they will show me how to get this done.  I’m curious but not holding my breath.

I went to sleep last night thinking about these big adventures.  I certainly have a mental list.  Several trips make the list.  I grew up sailing wooden boats.  A transatlantic crossing in a classic wooden boat was once loosely planned.  I’ve planned a canoe trip from Farmland, Indiana to St. Croix, Illinois – the entire length of the west fork of the White River (The river passing through my hometown). I would love to walk the Appalachian trail.  Driving the entire length of the Lincoln Highway or Route 66 woudl be amazing.  A narrowboat trip through Wales would be incredible!

Since it opened about ten years ago I’ve been fantasizing about paddling the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.  This trail — often called the Appalachian Trail of Canoeing — takes paddlers through four states and Canada following traditional canoe trails from Upstate New York to The deep Maine woods.  740 miles of stillwater paddling, upriver poling and lining and white water.  Up to 75 miles of portages.

I’ve visited the trail across upstate New York.  I’ve crossed Lake Champlain near the trail crossing (on a ferry).  I’ve paralleled the rivers and strings of lakes through New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.  Now it’s time to paddle.

So the North Woods Canoe Trail is number one on my list.  All I’ve got to do is clear two months and find a way to pay the bills.

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