I haven't written here in ages, but there are lots of reasons I've given - I haven't had time, didn't know where to start, lots of episodes of Top Chef that won't mindlessly watch themselves...
But sitting here tonight, reading tumblr while thinking about which Top Chef episode to watch next, one of those Moments of Sudden Clarity hit me: I'm afraid. And I have been for months.
I spent the last few months of the school year terrified of creating. I even stopped keeping up with my YouTube subscriptions. Since March, I've done dozens of trainings encouraging teachers to use video in their classroom and helping them create that content. I've extolled the virtues of various platforms and software.
And I've talked about what I USED to create.
In that Sudden Moment of Clarity, I realise that this - my hesitancy about creating - all tracks back to Ninja News. For six months, my leadership class created a weekly puppet-led newscast that shared upcoming events, ran segments on important people and ideas, and made people laugh. Then they hired a new director of technology. Someone who was afraid of teachers using social media at all. Dozens of teachers in the district were told they weren't allowed to talk about the school publicly, or post student work (even though we had all the necessary photo releases). I was told that Ninja News was done.
The last episode we did was actually the video I used to apply for Google Teacher Academy...a video written, acted, directed, and partially edited by my students. This video appeared to upload successfully, and only gave me the Error of Death after I had submitted my application. The application says that if the video doesn't work, you can't be considered.
I didn't get in.
I am only just realising the impact that both of those situations had on me, not only as a teacher but as a writer, content creator and person. Now, I'm not blaming anyone for this; the truth is that I failed to practice what I preach to my students and to my colleagues. Even this week I was tweeting about the need for routines in fostering creativity in the classroom. "Give them room to fail safely" I say. "Provide them with lots of opportunities and don't let them opt out - creativity sometimes is born from constraint!" I say.
And I just keep hiding in this hole and letting days go by where I could be creating, but I'm not.
I guess I've been afraid that something I put out there won't be good enough. Or that my best effort will still fail and I'll be exposed for the horrible failure I really am.
I know it's wrong, but the neural path for those ideas have been worn down for so many years that I sometimes don't even see how far down the road I am until turning around is a battle. That's exactly what it is though - I look at my external hard drive full of Teach 180 videos, or puppet videos, or even some contract work I'm doing and I know how much it will take out of me to fight back brambles and kick away rocks to get off this path. And that feels like it will take more than I have. So I keep going, getting farther and farther from who I am and from doing the things that I love.
The funny thing is that my life actually rocks right now. I just got a job teaching at a full Project-Based-Learning school that is 1:1 with MacBooks and is highly collaborative. I've traded in my 80 mile round-trip commute for one that might take 20 minutes on a bad morning and that takes me through one of the most beautiful parts of California every single day. My personal life is awesome, and I have more love and support than I know what to do with. I am speaking to groups of teachers about technology and creativity and not only do they seem to find it useful, people are willing to pay me for it.
But it is just those circumstances that have let me slide away from creating. I've found that when I'm not driven by "have to"s or the crushing boredom of busy friends and lonely nights, it's easy to forget why I started doing all of this in the first place:
My life is better when I create, when I write, and when I share.
There may not be tons of time left this summer, but I'm going to try and claw my way back, off this path. And if you've got hacks for how to do this, please share. Better together isn't just a thing we say; it's what life is meant to be, and how we are meant to live. I'm grateful that I have a bunch of friends who, now that they know how lost I am, are unpacking their flashlights and hiking boots and coming to help me.
It's a good life. And I'm thankful.
I'm ending with the words of someone who has inspired me and taught me more about creativity than any other human being: Ze Frank.
Let me think about the people who I care about the most, and how when they fail or disappoint me, I still love them, I still give them chances, and I still see the best in them. Let me extend that generosity to myself.
Believing that is my end of summer mission. Who's with me?