The school year starts with all my high schoolers on the floor building a web to connect us all by a piece of yarn because I love this idea--that we all can connect. And that we are in charge of the boundaries and rules for those connections. I recently got a chapter published in a book called Pathways to Collaboration. What is most significant about this is how I came to write it--I was invited by a former student of mine. Austin is quite a remarkable guy--talented in the arts, sciences...and in understanding people. Son of an equally talented woman, he grew up home schooled with Latin, dance, art, theatre, science projects, history immersion... you name it, this kid knows something about it. When I had him in class, he taught me about pushing kids who needed it. He confided in me. We planned lessons together. We talked about the trials of being a teenager. He went off to college and was, of course, a success! When he asked me to contribute, the honor was not lost. He had seen my love for collaborating--for connecting. And albeit, not always perfect at it, my hope is to embrace everyone for whatever it is they have to offer.
I took a pride in what I wrote--because it was for him. A former student trusted me to be in a book he was publishing with his instructors--his collaborators. It was humbling and simultaneously invigorating. I reflected on my career--all the people with whom I collaborated--who strengthened my teaching, adults and kids alike; the good and not-so-good experiences that helped shape me now.
I often wonder how overt we have to be about creating our social circles. Families who move are always rebuilding their nests. People transitioning between careers or positions have to create and build their "tribe". It makes me want to celebrate the resiliency and adaptability of our human selves. All of which lies under the umbrella of trust. We TRUST that we will find someone out there who likes what we like, thinks similar thoughts, values shared ideals.
But sometimes that takes engineering.
Recently, I went to see St. Vincent with my friend Drew. (Under the advisement of, Tallon, another former student.) We left our spouses at home and went to dance and listen and enjoy. We had a great dinner at a place I had been previously with my friend, Julie. We went to the venue, where I ran into yet another former student, Jordan, and his birthday-celebrating girlfriend, Bethany. Drew and I chatted about the other shows we'd like to see, the shows we had each seen at that location, and stories of past and current friends drifted into and out of our conversation the night through. All that wasn't conscious, though, quite the opposite, but making those connections was essential to strengthening the one we had at that moment. Simple. Expected.
Reflecting about these life-collaborations in an explicit way, pausing to value them is something I'd like to more frequently afford myself--to take stock of who I have, why I have them, and how I can learn from them. And assess, too, if I am an asset or detriment to their development as a human--am I giving to them? How is my presence in their world enriching their life? Am I contributing? And is it in a way that they need or even want?