Uncovering the two of us
On that fundamental ground
Where love’s unwilled, unleashed, unbound
And half the perfect world is found.
– Leonard Cohen
This is the third year in a row I’m spending my spring break with students.
Each year, just about a week before we depart, that voice coughs slightly in the back of my head.
“Yes?” I say.
“Oh, nothing,” says the voice.
“No, you have something to say. Let’s not play games. What is it?”
“Fine. Are you sure you want to spend your entire break with the same kids you spend the bulk of every day with during the school year? I mean, it’s your break.”
“Oh,” I say.
“Anyway, don’t mind me. I’m going to go back and finish clearing out our understanding of declensions in Latin. Who were we kidding when we thought that would be useful?”
And I’m left alone with the realization that I have, in fact, decided to be a mandatory responsible adult during my vacation.
The thought doesn’t trouble me long.
Most of my vacations are about exploration. Chaperoning the river trip is no exception. The students on the trip aren’t the same as the students I teach daily in my classroom. These students are unplugged from electronics, living in a foreign place and exploring right alongside me.
During our week, I get to explore the pieces of who these kids are beyond their literacy profiles. True, my classroom practice has never been solely tied to the curriculum. On the river, though, it’s entirely unbound.
And we’re all exploring together. We’re walking in spaces indigenous peoples walked hundreds of years ago, viewing petroglyphs, studying rock formations. The places are as foreign to me as they are to them.
In the classroom, I’ve been most of the places to which I’m asking my students to go. I’ve explored prepositional phrases for years. I’ve excavated the revision process long before they arrived at the dig site. While a certain joy exists in vicariously rediscovering these things with my students, nothing can take the place of learning and exploring together. It’s why I sometimes select a text to teach in class I haven’t read – so we can discover it together.
I climb back to those Latin declensions to find that voice.
“We’re going on this trip because we are explorers,” I say.
“Oh,” says the voice, “that makes sense.”