Lisa Noble threw out a challenge on her blog with the post Leaving Kansas….
It’s a blog post that describes a young lady with the gumption to say goodbye to her local community and to experience living with other families in another country. It was a different time and a different era – no texting or hanging out from a distance – connections with family would be difficult and probably impossible at times. Yet, she stuck with it and had a moment of reunion with a friend recently. It’s an interesting read and I’d encourage you to do so.
But she does pose some questions to anyone who happened to read her blog and she tagged me explicitly and, knowing Lisa, she’s expecting a response.
Being me, I am left with some questions. What was that defining experience for you – when you knew that you weren’t in Kansas anymore, and that you were okay with that? Who were the people you shared it with? Are they still part of your world? Please share in the comments, or your own writing – I’d really love to know.
Second batch of questions: Do those opportunities still exist for our students and our children in this ultra-connected world? Do we encourage our students and kids to take them, and then get out of the way? How might the technology that enriches our lives be getting in the way of this kind of adventure? How do we help our parent/teacher selves let go?
So, response it is…
The description from Wikipedia sets the stage.
I wish that I could relate an interesting globe trotting story to compare with Lisa’s. Sadly, I couldn’t. My “leave home and friends” moment happened when going to university. Just about everyone from my graduation class took the traditional route and went to the University of Western Ontario. My friend John and I were a bit different in that we headed east to the University of Waterloo to study Mathematics and Computer Science.
For us, it was a big deal. On our own, we learned to cook and budget and study and meet new friends for real. Sure, our parents encouraged all this when we lived at home but it was artificial. A meal here and there or a job that existed to raise money for school but the ability to go home at the end of the day and live rent free was always there. University was exciting at first but then the reality kicked in. No matter how tired and tough the day was, we had to cook and clean or go without. How can people live like this? And raise kids? My parents were saints.
Further studies took me on to Toronto and then a great career in Essex County. It was all new and exciting, but the reality was that I could always go home. It was only 3-4 hours away. Frozen in time, my old bedroom was always there. We were always welcome to come home and our place was always welcome for parents to visit.
But that was to come to an end. It was a sad moment when we signed the papers to sell the building that had been home and later home away from home.
I guess it’s our Kansas in that, when we visit these days, there is no place to land and have those family conversations. The local restaurant or coffee shop becomes more than just a place to eat – it’s also a washroom. Overnight stays now involve a motel or a very long day of travel. The bottom line – identifying your own Kansas means coming to grips and facing your own mortality.
Though I’ve lost touch with my friend John, my wife and best friend has been there every step. My story isn’t nearly as exotic as Lisa’s but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
To address the second question, I do believe that the opportunities do exist for today’s youth. But, I also believe that it’s not as easy as it once was. There was a time when going overseas on an exchange was the “thing to do”. I don’t ever recall advisories from the government about countries that were not recommended for visiting. The notion that you could experience the real underbelly of another country isn’t always the best of decisions these days.
Even airports are so much different. Instead of being places to fly the “friendly skies”, we’re all treated with suspicion and considered guilty until our belongings have been x-rayed and we’ve walked through a metal detector or had a full body scan. On a trip last year, I had a can of shaving gel confiscated because of its size and my wallet double x-rayed because it looked too thick for the homeland security agent. (Don’t be too impressed; they were all American $1 bills. I should have traded them for 2 or 3 twenties)
To that end, Lisa’s “How do we help our parent/teacher selves let go?” doesn’t resonate with me. While it is possible to blindly go and potentially put yourself in danger, only a fool or the truly brave would do it. Why wouldn’t we use the available technology to ensure a certain level of safety or, in this day of the selfie, fully document the experience?
So, dear Lisa, there’s my Kansas. I hope that you have more folks that open their lives and share their thoughts.