The beauty of the Kenan Fellowship, that I was recently awarded, can also be its biggest challenge: flexibility. The program is not tightly structured in terms of what Fellows must do as part of their research. We are tasked with writing new curriculum, and we are offered guidance from alumni and Kenan leaders, but we are largely left to our own devices to decide the direction we take.
This is incredibly empowering and liberating. I feel that my professional expertise is valued. My job as an experienced lesson planner and curriculum specialist is validated. For what may be the first time in my short career, no one is telling me which path to take.
At the same time, however, it can be daunting to have so many choices to make. I am constantly questioning whether my mentor and I are making the right decisions, especially since by the time we realize that we’ve gone down the wrong path, it may be too late to change course.
But this mix of excitement and anxiety is intoxicating. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been tossing around some preliminary academic outcomes for the project. Since the title of the project is “Global Collaboration in the Classroom”, I know that I want students to be more savvy in the skills needed to collaborate internationally, across great geographic/cultural/language distances. But I also want to stress the science skills and concepts that will be reinforced by this opportunity.
Like any project, this one starts with setting goals. In a way, this can be depressing because the nearly limitless possibilities begin to thin out as you settle on one or more expected outcomes. The choices that remain are rich and meaningful, but there are still fewer of them than there were before I began the planning process. What was once an open plain with breathtaking vistas is becoming a narrower set of intersecting trails. This is, of course, a necessary step toward a more feasible and manageable project. But, I still find myself nostalgic for the wide open spaces.
I only hope that I am neither biting off more than I can chew, nor setting the bar too low for what we can achieve within the confines of this amazing opportunity.