Retreat, Renewal, and The Razor’s Edge

“It is easy to be a holy man on a mountain.”  This phrase from one of my all time favorite stories, The Razor’s Edge, has been a recurring motif in my life.

Young Life’s Malibu Club on the Princess Louisa Inlet. c/o Malibu Club

For years I worked at a camp in a remote inlet on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. Each summer I was cloistered with a group of people that challenged me mentally and spiritually. I felt truly alive. But then in August, the real world would await. When I left my retreat I had all the best intentions to infuse my life with the things I had learned. Yet re-entry into the real world brought perspective, distractions, and frustration.

Coast Guard beach with my favorite girl.

Coast Guard beach with my favorite girl.

After I was married we spent our summers on Cape Cod. As we crossed the Bourne Bridge it was like a giant reality gate would slam shut behind us. I seemed to have infinite free time to enjoy life’s little pleasures. I had time to collect sea glass and discover new beaches. I had time to read. I had time to cook. I had time to mull over life’s most challenging questions over long languid meals with friends. When I would leave our little shack in August, I had the best of intentions to reorganize my life to include more little pleasures. But as the first day of school approached, so did reality…committees, marking, unit planning, life.

Last week, I again found myself cloistered in a small community.  On the shores of Bainbridge Island, for 5 gloriously sunny days, the Global Online Academy brought together 35 teachers from all points on the planet.  We came together to design curriculum for our online classrooms. We were nourished with the most amazing edible delights. We drank the best Washington had to offer. We planned, designed, and reflected together. We shared our love for our content and our love for innovation.

We were an island. We were surrounded by like-minded educators. There were no mixers or getting to know you’s. There were no introductions explaining who we were. We knew we were similar because we were all invited to be there together. We were revitalized as practitioners with every conversation and critique. We found a place to hide in each other, but also a place to accomplish what could never be accomplished at home. We were holy men on a mountain.

On the last day, reality began to set in. I have to go home. And I still have half a course to design and plan. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m supposed to be on summer vacation. Yet I have hope that the momentum I gained on the mountain will get me through the valleys that I know are facing me on my path.

What I learned about myself, about instructional design, and teaching in the online classroom will have significant impacts on my work in the “brick and mortar” classroom. I am excited to see how life takes shape in the lowlands.

A special thanks goes out to my new colleagues at Global Online Academy.   Our week together was truly life changing.

You can also read about our time together at Islandwood here.

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