Maps Never Drawn To Places I Wanted to Go: A Memoir

Let’s say you just saw a map of the future. It’s a location that you care deeply about and you’ve been given a detailed proposal of what this place would look like a decade from now. Imagine that you thought you were working to explore the typography of what is possible in this location. Envision that you are working with others to create a tiny corner of this map. Feel lucky that you’ve been entrusted to help complete the work created by others who came before you. Listen to the tales of bewilderment  from your colleagues. Let your mind spin stories of legacy and great leadership. Witness a group of people not asking one crucial question:

What would be best for the people who will live out their lives in this future location?

Now try to ignore that this turf war isn’t happening so that you can perform the meaningful tasks at hand. Remember that maps usually allow you to daydream of possibilities, potential, and new directions. Pivot and get to the task at hand. Write a memoir title and move on:

Maps Never Drawn To Places I Wanted to Go: A Memoir

Here’s how this hypothetical map connects to the work I am doing with this FLC. (Note the pivot). In January, I’m going to report to other FLC coordinators about our progress. Here’s a rough draft of what I’ll say:

Accept that trying to get people from five institutions together at once is highly unlikely. We’ve identified a need and we are working to address to it. We’ve connected our goals to those of the state board. We’ve identified the “You Are Here” location on the map. We don’t know where we are going, but we have to go someplace else.

Explore synchronous modes of collaboration. I can’t believe it took some despair and rage to help me get here. FLCs need not only exist by face-to-face collaboration. File this under “Duh, like, aren’t you into internets and stuff? Hello? Um, read your own research lately?” A lot of the research about FLCs are about teachers working together–which is the future plan. I’ve discovered very little (yet) about the folks who help create the infrastructure for that to happen–which is the current plan. The digital space is the uncharted territory for this style of collaboration.

Spend the next six months researching, writing, and talking about how to accept that we don’t have the answers. I’m working with people who want to ask better questions, so that’s a start. Peg and I want to change the model how faculty collaborate at our institution. She’s already done some amazing things in the short time I’ve known her. She’s one of the strongest cartographers I know.

Invite different people talk to my group (If you can’t make it; I’ll record it, I’ll blog about it, I’ll talk your ear off if I see you). We’ll pick the brains of smart people. I’m also going to invite students who are thinking about becoming teachers. I’m curious how they envision their futures as teachers. Ideally, we’re building a space for them. What do their dream maps look like?

Remind myself that this grant justifies the time that I am spending on the organizing thoughts and researching. My boss is a librarian by trade who understands the need for space and time to learn. She’s a historian who understands how to learn from the mistakes of the past when designing spaces.

Continue giving advice to writers who are thinking about applying for this grant. I made this promise to Jennifer Whetham, who accepted it. If all else falls apart, I can at least help future writers who want to hitch their wagons to her train.

So here is your FLC tip of the day: As you are drafting up your ideas, look very carefully at the questions on the grant and how they align with your vision. Don’t get so caught up in the “deliverables” that you can’t give yourself permission to change directions. Remember this bullet from the SBCTC website:

  • FLCs increase communication and collaboration amongst faculty who, by the nature of their work in individual classrooms, are often isolated from their colleagues.

I’ve already said this in another post, but I can’t stress the importance of imagining the colleagues you haven’t met yet. Your FLC may be the map that will help you find them.

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