Explanation: I can still see the old classroom with uneven hardwood floors, creaky tables, and ancient green chalkboards. A group of seven young women sat facing me, scribbling away on mock SAT exams while I kept time and fended off boredom. As I often do, I picked up my notebook and started to write.
For some reason, I began to write the introduction to a book. I didn’t know what the book would be about; I just started writing. By the time I finished, I knew. When I went home, I began to draft cover images, chapter outlines, and title ideas (Avoiding Neverland was one of them). The more I planned, the more I realized I didn’t know enough. So I read the research of those who agreed and those who disagreed with my premise. I needed a place to process my thoughts and ideas. I wanted to test the waters to see if I had an audience, so the idea of the blog was born. I knew I had a year of travelling ahead of me, which made it a good time for that step.
One year ago today, I sat in a hand-me-down chair in my Boston apartment and typed the words that became my first blog post. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that I don’t know nearly enough to write a book yet – and I’m not even sure if that’s the right direction for me, anymore. My ideas and the passion haven’t changed, but my understanding of my role in the grand scheme of things has. I’ve stumbled on a whole realm of higher-qualified professionals who have already championed the amazing teenager. I want to join their ranks some day, but it’s encouraging to know that for now, I can look to them as mentors and resources.
However, since today is my one-year blogging anniversary, I thought I’d nostalgically look back at my early scribblings that started this whole thing. To that end, I’ve dug up the introduction to the book I haven’t written yet, and I thought I’d share it here. It’s been edited since the original spark of inspiration, but the core remains the same. Enjoy! 🙂
Introduction, by C. Roberson
People keep telling me that I should write a book. I’m not going to lie – I like the idea. I like the craft of putting words to a page, of giving thoughts and ideas the tangible form of print. I like the idea of my words and phrases reaching another person, causing them to stop and think, to smile or ponder. I like knowing that in that moment, I have made my mark on the world. All through a few words.
But for a long time there was one big problem. People would never tell me what I should write my book about. They seemed to like my anecdotes from teaching, or possibly my ponderings on culture, or my unique perspective of high school, but those ideas suffered from an overwhelming lack of purpose. In the education field, we call it “the essential question.” Every lesson, every activity should have an intentional end guiding students to answer one overarching query. I knew I liked to write; I knew I had ideas that I cared about, but I didn’t know the essential question, so I couldn’t write my book.
Until yesterday. Yesterday I sat proctoring a mock SAT exam, watching students fill in little bubbles on a scan tron sheet for four hours, and I decided on a whim to write the introduction to my book. It may seem odd to write the introduction of a book before even its author has any idea of what it will be about, but that’s what I did. Clearly, the initial brainstorming has been edited since, but many of the ideas – and even the words and phrases – that you are reading now come from that moment of whim. As I wrote, I made a promise to my reader and to myself.
“I promise that whatever comes on the following pages, it was written with passion and conviction, for only a clear, guiding purpose that I care about deeply could bring focus and coherence to my hodgepodge of ramblings.”
As I wrote those words, it all suddenly became clear – my passion, my conviction, the guiding purpose behind my ramblings. I knew my essential question. It was sitting right in front of me in those teens, scribbling away on their answer sheets. It has appeared in various forms through my journal writings, discussions with friends, and even my lesson plans. It is the purpose of what I do every day as a teacher, even though I never before put it so clearly into words.
Teenagers: Who (not what) do you want to be when you grow up? Why do you want that life? What do you need to do to prepare for it?
The task I’ve set before myself is a daunting one. I have presented the questions; now my mission is to gather as much information as I can to help you find the answers. As I write this, it is 2012. I don’t have a master’s degree – I haven’t even enrolled in grad school yet. I haven’t taken the steps of becoming a licensed guidance counselor and working to reform the private school concept of “college prep.” Right now all I have are dreams and the desire to fill a need that I have seen first-hand in so many forms. I have seen it in the wide range of schools I’ve worked in so far. I’ve seen it talking with my friends, people in their late twenties still figuring out this thing called adult life. I’ve seen it in myself, in how incompletely I understood what I was stepping into when I left high school.
So I don’t know where I’ll begin, and I don’t know how long it will take, but – gosh-darnit – I’m writing this. It needs to be written.