Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Best Plan

the Preface
I sometimes feel compelled to stay "on topic." EdTechWorkshop-- it's about education and/or technology, right? But it is my unique path that has made me the person who cares about educational technology enough to blog about it. I feel that some of my stories are worth sharing even if they're not about what I'm teaching tomorrow or the latest cool new thing I've found online. So I hope you will bear with me if I sometimes go off course. I offer my thoughts and experiences as that which I have to share, and I hope that someone learns from or even simply enjoys reading them.

The Planner
I often hear people proclaim with pride, "I'm a planner."
What I sense they are saying is "Subconsciously I know that life is unpredictable and some things are out of my control. By being a planner, I stay in control!"
Ah well. Good for you.

I, Andrea, am not "a planner." This seems to really bother people. I had almost become convinced that it was a regrettable personality flaw. But, you know what they say about plans.
When I rode my bike through the US, Mexico and Guatemala, my traveling partner, Daniel, and I had a saying, "The best plan is no plan, and that's our plan." It worked well for us-- time and time again something amazing would cross our path at just the right moment.

Here is one story of a time I didn't have a plan but everything worked out better than fine. Around 15 years ago I had my first teaching job. This job was actually two part-time jobs at the same school. One of the two jobs was that of environmental/outdoor ed. coordinator at an inner-city public school in San Francisco. I took all of the kids in the school on overnight camping trips.

If you know me at all, you know that I was passionate about the work I was doing and threw myself into it wholeheartedly. So when I heard about a large experiential education conference in Texas I thought, "that sounds interesting. I'd like to go to that."

When I asked my principal if I could go, she gave me a strange look. She told me that the school would not pay my way, but that I could go and still get paid for working. So I signed up as a volunteer for the conference which gave me free admission. I found a super-cheap plane ticket to Austin. And I packed my bags. I had never been to Austin, never been to a professional conference, didn't know another soul who would be there and did not know where I would stay once I arrived. Obviously this was before the days of having access to people, places and information online. As I headed to the airport, I began to question myself. What in the world was I doing?

I arrived at the conference hotel in time for the volunteer orientation. As I sat in the circle with the other volunteers I wondered where I would sleep that night. I noticed a woman looking at me and smiling. At the break, she walked over and asked if I knew Ken W. Know him? He was a close friend!! She, too, was friends with him and reminded me that we had gone hiking together when she was living in SF, and he had come to visit. Now she lived in LA and worked for an environmental ed organization there. They had sent her to the conference.
When I confided to her that I had made no plans for a hotel room, she generously invited me to share hers. She was supposed to have come with a work colleague who couldn't make it last minute, and she had a nice double room.
We had a great time together at the conference, and it sparked a friendship that lasted for many years.

It reminds me of a vivid dream I once had. I was planning a trip with a co-worker (a planner). He was busy collecting maps and plotting the route. He became frustrated with me because I didn't have a map. I told him I didn't need a map, I would follow the signs.

And that is pretty much what I have always done. While I have never stayed in one job or one house or even one place for too long, I have always felt that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I have always been pretty happy where I am at the moment. So who's to say that planners are superior to non-planners? I think the best plan is to try to accept ourselves and others. Most of us are doing the best we can. It's not as if life is a race to the end.