“Ms., this is surreal.”
January 3, 2018
At the end of Winter Break, as I sat down to write out lesson plans for our first days back to school, I thought alot about what 2018 would bring for my family, my students and for me. I had just read a blog post about how often we deny ourselves joy about something we’re excited about by not sharing our anticipation with others because we believe that we’ll jinx our dream. The author likened this to life being about the journey, not only the destination. I decided to use our first hour back together as a class to dream big about our lives by making vision boards.
Thus, the tidy and gleaming classroom I’d left in December was quickly taken over by glue sticks, cut-outs from magazines, and cardstock, not to mention excited, chattering 8th graders. I shared my exemplar that featured icebergs and ice and words like explore, education, and travel. I told them about the Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program and how I’d applied the year before, I wasn’t selected, and that I was excited to try again. We hung our vision boards around the room so that we were surrounded by our dreams.
February 6, 2018
We were finishing up ancient civilization maps and I needed the wall space. I’d arrived early to take down the vision boards and sort them by class. I left mine hanging on the board to reference one last time.
As I handed them back to the kiddos, I invited them to hang them up on their refrigerators or in their bedrooms; I invited them to keep their dreams in sight. I pointed to mine and told the kids how I was dreaming of this amazing opportunity and, if I wasn’t selected, well, I’d try again next year.
10:10 - time for movement break. Half the class was already out the door when the phone rang. Usually Daisy answers the phone, but I slid into my chair, my momentum propelling the wheels toward the phone. I looked down to the caller ID……... Nat Geo Society.
I will not attempt to summarize the content of the call beyond saying that Amy from Linblad Expeditions was on the line while I was having a variety of emotional responses with about a dozen adolescents observing.
When I got off the phone, the kids were all over me - WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT????
And when I told them, they pulled me out of the classroom and onto the field and yelled to the other half of our class that, “MS. IS GOING TO THE ARCTIC!!!” They huddled around me, wrapped me up in one big, group, smelly, wondrous hug.
When we’d collected ourselves and had a passing teacher take our picture then headed back into the classroom, I stood before them with, I’m quite sure, the goofiest of smiles.
A kiddo, pointing to my vision board and obviously now a true believe in the Vision Board, said, “Ms., how did you do that?”
Jared summed it up with, “Ms., this is surreal.”
I cannot think of a better word to capture that morning. Being in the classroom, with my students, talking about our dreams and then getting this call...well, it was sublimely surreal.
As a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, I traveled to Svalbard in May 2018! Thanks to Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic for supporting teachers and encouraging us to be explorers.
Some of the text shared here was written in my journal or through social media posts while I was on expedition.
But much of the writing shared here was written in the months following my return home.
I had this idea that I would embark on my journey and, in real time, reflect and write and create blog posts and videos and online albums and photo books and postcards. I had fantasies of sitting in the ship's library with my pen and notebook, collecting and composing what I'd seen and experienced and manifesting deep, profound thoughts.
Yeah. That didn't happen.
My experience was so intense, so surreal, that I had difficulty finding adequate words to describe it all. Silly, inconsequential, and unsatisfying words were all I had - great, amazing, unbelievable, incredible. At the end of each day I would try. After dinner, somewhere between 10pm and midnight, I'd make my way up to the library to write. But I would get distracted. The large, glorious, gorgeous windows were too inviting and each moment was unique. The clouds were shifting, the water was moving, the ship was in motion, the ice upon the water was drifting. Each and every moment was unique.
My eyes were up and wide open. I was outside on the deck feeling the cold air and the lightly falling snow on my face. Or I was sitting on the bridge, snuggled in warmth, with a pair of binoculars looking looking looking. Oh, I tried to shift my thinking to writing something more than a bulleted list, but I just couldn't pull it off.
To put it simply, I couldn't focus.
I coined my condition Wonder-Induced ADD.
It is a beautiful affliction to have.
This blog is dedicated to my aunt, Tina Chavez, who is always my biggest fan and supporter. When I told her about my expedition to the Arctic, she asked, "So, when do you go on the Polar Bear Express?"
She also told me to run fast from the polar bears, but naming this blog "Run, Jen, Run!" isn't as charming as calling it "The Polar Bear Express."