“I guess that’s what happens to everybody who comes, he continued. We forget what we came for, but there’s this reflex to act like we still have some secret plan.”
-Yuri Herrera, Signs Preceding the End of the World (trans. Lisa Dillman)
I don’t have a plan. Yep. No plan. I’ve checked the drawers of my desk, the spare inches of my bookshelf, the complex filing system that might look like a pile on my floor. I have a lot of ideas. Some pencils. Socks that need washing. Seashells, and orange leaves. A turkey feather and glass beads. Walnuts from the back yard. But a plan?
Part of me keeps thinking that I’ll figure out this teaching thing. I’ll find the steps, A then B then C, and then I’ll just follow those and my students will Learn, Understand, Care, Work, and other Actions with capital letters. Another part of me–Todd, we’ll call him–looks at that first part and says, Plhhh! If you did that, says Todd, you’d stop moving, you’d stop questioning, wondering, dancing, and it’s that questioning wonder you’re trying to teach anyway. You’d be bored. You’d be boring. You’d try to force people through your ABC sausage machine, and if those people had actually Learned anything about Caring, they’d rebel. And possibly, adds Todd, throw you in a lake.
Every time a class doesn’t go perfectly, I get mad at Todd, and I tell myself I should figure out those three perfect steps. Then for a few days I act like I have a secret plan. I act like I’ve understood everything, weighed everything; like it’s all solved, and I’m certain. Don’t worry about me, I say with my smiles: I’ve got it all figured out.
Sometimes that feels good. Sometimes that feels constricting–I stay on the same path, or break violently away from it, to make it clear that I’m Doing Something. Sometimes my Doing Something gets in the way of all the other somethings (lower case “s”) I could be doing. Sometimes, inside, it feels like I’m doing all this because I’m scared. What if I wasn’t–or at least, what if I wasn’t scared of that, scared of the hurly-burly?
There are things I’d like to do. There are journeys I started years ago, journeys I hope to continue for years to come. I have values and friends and loves and communities. I have skills I practice, and skills I’d like to pick up. I have work I intend to keep doing. I have habits: walking, occasionally vacuuming, trying to help. I don’t, however, have a secret plan. I don’t understand everything that’s happening. Do you?