Last June I wrote a post stating that I wouldn’t be spending the summer learning how to become a better teacher. After all, I already spend 10 months a year immersed in professional learning. The past couple of years I’ve come to a place where I want my summers to be about more than being a teacher. Partially because I want my life to be balanced, but also because I honestly believe the most important quality I have to offer my students is being an adept and critically evaluative learner. Alvin Toffler states, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” My summer will be devoted to some of each.
My first summer challenge is developing a life of gratitude. What? I think most people are great at being thankful when it’s slotted on the calendar, like Thanksgiving day, but in my regular day in and day out life, it’s easy for me not to be grateful for all I have.
So although I’m not a journaling person, at least not in the traditional sense, I’ve started a list. My goal is to write down 1,000 things that I love. Things that I’m incredibly thankful for that make my life rich and enjoyable. The thing I’ve noticed so far is that the items on my list don’t tend to be “big” things. Most of them cannot be bought. A few examples:
6) The feel & smell of the cool earth as I garden.
18) Freshly picked strawberries –warm from the sun.
4) The freckles on my 4 yr. old daughter’s nose.
19) Driving to work past cows, fields of golden wheat rippling in the wind & expansive skies of blue.
I admit, at this point my list isn’t very long. I’m still in double digits, but it’s a work in progress. I write things down as they come to me, or more often, as I notice them. And I think that’s how it’s been most helpful; it’s helped me to stop and notice all that I have. I’m learning to pay attention.
My second challenge is learning about global and ecological economics. Not the stuffy, academic, theoretical kind — the practical, why-this-matters-to-everyone kind. I took a few economics classes in university, and haven’t really learned much about it since. However, with everything that’s going on globally, it’s pretty fascinating, and with what might be looming on the horizon, I also think it’s pretty important. Ecological economics looks at the true cost of all we produce and buy. Global economics looks at the intricacy, and quite truthfully the fragility, of our entwined economies. I’m learning that what I do, what I buy, and what I take for granted matters and affects lives other than my own.
Finally, my most difficult challenge is figuring out if our family can actually eat locally. Seriously. For me, the whole organic, sustainable and local thing really matters. I’ve read numerous terrific books about it over the past couple of years. And it’s something we’ve dabbled in, going to farmer markets during the summer and shopping occasionally at local organic stores. We’re also pretty fortunate that we already have local, sustainable sources for our beef, pork and chicken.
But now I’m talking the full deal. Everything local, organic, sustainable. Here’s the thing – I live in Saskatchewan. And for at least four months of the year, the climate is like frozen tundra, which means salad is off the table for almost half the year and bananas are out of the question. So over the next two months I’ll try to figure out what does it really look like to eat like this? How do we do that year round? What are the sacrifices our family will have to make and are we willing to make them? These aren’t easy questions, but to me they’re important ones.
So that’s what I’m doing this summer. I’m pursuing the questions that matter most to me. I’m learning, unlearning, and relearning, and likely failing a lot, too, along the way.