We’re lost- but we’re making good time! Billy Crystal in City Slickers– originally by Yogi Berra
Do you see this photo? The one lane, rutted dirt road that led away from the washed out bridge and then consequently led to a series of switch-back one-lane tractor tracks? This road that led me round and round through Deliverance country- lined with Walmart mansions and trailers? AT 5:00 in the morning? This is the road that my TomTom-GPS took me on from Fayetteville, AR to the Rogers XNA airport- which is, on the (visual) map, a few double-lane roads away. 28 miles away. That took me 1.25 hour to traverse on tractor paths. This is that road.
I was going home from a long three days of watching teachers try to include kids- kids who needed peers, who needed access to the general curriculum and kids who needed information to be presented in visual ways, or in smaller chunks, or in ways that kept their attention- kids who through no fault of their own needed something different and who needed grownups to teach them in different ways. And watching teachers who could and did, who couldn’t and didn’t, and everything in between.
After swearing at the Tom-Tom, and jolts of anxiety waking me right up without coffee at 4:30am and praying, praying that the GPS signal did not fade out in the depths of the Ozark mountains, I wound up on a paved road, 1/2 mile from the airport- successful in my path. I was shaking, traumatized, and resolved that I would never again depend on my GPS, but use my own sense of visual awareness to consult a hard copy map. (A promise quickly broken, btw, as I crossed the state of Georgia looking for the Duluth High School where the state Chess Championship was held- next post!)
As I sat waiting for my flight, I thought about the possible metaphors for my trip- the parental search for treatment for autism- going from one thing to another, going to places you had never dreamed you would find yourself, trusting- and losing trust- in yourself and your sense of direction. A sense of palpable relief when you find you’ve made forward movement.
I thought about how teachers are in search of strategies to help children, but are lost in a confusing mix of “this is how it’s always been done”, relationships between teachers, confusing directives from administrators, and not seeing themselves and their classrooms on the path, and losing their way.
And of course, I thought of my children as they grow up, and how they will follow certain paths that don’t look like the beaten paths; at how many washed out bridges we’ve found and will find, and how many switching tractor paths they are going to go down as they navigate schools, and relationships and love and…
And as I say there in the airport, waiting for my plane, I finally realized that it didn’t really matter which metaphor I picked. In the end, we were on our way home.