I don’t say it in this way often, but here’s the truth: I’m blessed. Besides all those other things (job, family, health), I get to read the work and co-host ideas and collaborations of insightful, dedicated, and creative science educators across the country (and beyond).
So, it gave me pause when at our closing Town Hall meeting, one attendee thanked “the organization” for the support they have provided her in the past and continue to give. I couldn’t help it; I had to interrupt this very genuine and complimentary sentiment with a correction. “There is nothing about us that is an organization.” We may be just the opposite. We’re better described as a disorganization. Only the most trite parts of me (which, admittedly, can be substantial) were trying to be funny. There are sharp contrasts between what John and I do versus what an “organization” looks like. We don’t carry over any money or charge membership. Just look at us. We’re not in this to be figureheads, and we’re certainly not organized. We make this up as we go along. The invitations of and subsequent presentations by Fred Lynch or Naomi Shihab Nye are a couple of good examples of whimsy and gumption that, with almost no thanks to us, gave good results. The best parts of Crossroads — your incubator discussions — are all due to us simply getting out of the way.
We created the space called Crossroads in an effort to generate a level of conversation we were not receiving in other formal settings. We sought to bring people together and discovered the common need to bridge emptiness and reduce isolation. Our goal has been to re-create a mission in science education which is collaborative and effective. And not just within research or in teaching, but in the initiatives that effect change at the local and global levels. Ambitious? Yes, and maybe I’m overstating it. But over the years since this disorganization has been in existence, we repeatedly witness others who reach the end of a year of Crossroads, give us a hug, and then undertake grand projects. They run community centers, link local teachers with resources, revamp research initiatives, and take their 4th graders to local ponds. Like I said, I’m blessed to get to work with you all. You inspire me to do more myself.
John and I glimpse these initiatives from a distance and develop better understandings about what it is you’re all doing. But, because we’re a disorganization, a scattering of folks with local ambitions, we don’t really have a way of representing the overall impacts. Too often, once people depart from Crossroads, we’re not completely sure what comes next, what’s happening across the span of timezones. Where is John’s research looking at multiple nodes of community headed? Has Adam figured out what ‘models’ are good for and how to study them? How well is Allison navigating the fine line between rigor and rapport in her classroom? Is Janet restrategizing how she couches curriculum development? Will Francis take that step into a classroom that he left years ago? Has Lara found a way for her students to investigate connections of “trust” in community networks? For each paper and discussion, I wonder what’s happening next. I’m not really looking for accountability; I really want to know how things are going, what next adjacent possibilities have tantalized you. Sometimes we get to hear about these things somewhere up the road, but these follow-ups are, well, disorganized, just like us.
We should change this. Although I think it’s right that we should be keeping to a certain tradition of the disorganization, I know that there’s a community of folks out there that wants to know what next steps are taking place. Or, maybe we just need to occasionally feed off of one another’s ventures, even (especially?) the ones that make strange left turns and leave us with new questions and trials.
So here’s our challenge to you: We want to hear more and more consistently about you and your work. And if you don’t volunteer, we’ll call on you. Our idea is to commission about one piece each month, and we’ll host it right here and advertise it on our listserve. Again, it isn’t for accountability, and it isn’t really about any kind of data gathering that we have in mind. Rather, we all want to know what else is going on “out there.” Because, really, the disorganization of people we get to host at Crossroads really is the group we all look to to lead reform, to take a stand, to change our thinking. When I have one of those days that shakes my faith in what I can do or just generally makes me want to take a nap, I look to people of this group to pull me up simply through your own example. I think we all want to know what we’re up to in those interims between meetings.
If you’d like to volunteer for a certain month before we start to call on you, just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or feel free to comment below with nominations.