Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

In a galaxy so milky, stimuli run rampant. Every boom, crash, pow, and flash conjures up curiosity and drives deep dialogue. As a passionate, lifelong learner, every opportunity—a learning opportunity.

Under the Microscope

It’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of wonderment. There are so many phenomena to analyze, and from every angle under and over the sun. But exhaustive, deep, critical thinking is like a double-edged sword. While scientific learning opportunities never tire, scientific communities are comprised of people who need variety and rest.

No matter how hard we try, science can’t be conquered by humans. We can’t make science out of an art, and we wrestle to construct scientific meaning as artists.

In addition, when we never break from the micro, we miss the bigger picture. If we’re not careful to zoom out once in a while, zooming in will lose its flavor, killing creation and tainting beauty.

It’s time for a break.

The Experience

On the flight home, I’m reflecting on my experience at the National Science Teachers Association Area Conference in St. Louis (#NSTA19). Of the many conferences of which I’ve attended and presented, this was my first time going with a team—and from my own district. I’m so grateful for this opportunity!

Science educators like me may think we know a lot, but we certainly don’t know everything, and maybe we really don’t know that much at all. Perhaps what benefits us the most is when we embrace not knowing–and being okay with that. Some call that vulnerability.

It’s great to demonstrate risk-taking, fail forward, and the comprehensive growth mindset. But it doesn’t stop there. That’s only half the story. We have a professional obligation to share our strengths with our students, teams, and communities. That’s the unique contribution each individual brings to learning spaces.

The Wake County Science Core Leadership Team (#WakeSCLT) consists of educators in different grades, departments, backgrounds, passions, and levels and kinds of expertise. Initially, I couldn’t wait to share my expertise and passion with my team. What actually happened, though, was quite a different experience.

When you think you know, zoom out.

I was encompassed by teammates radiating knowledge and passion with planetary proportions. I found myself rigorously rotating my dial to the left. My perspective was changing, one conversation at a time. “But what about—”

Stop. Talking.

Pause. Exhale.


Listen. Learn.

Reflect. Repeat.

Zooming out, the focus shifts from very specific standards to broader, cross-cutting concepts. Applying this focus to science and engineering practices is a process. It’s about constructing meaning, together.

But of all the professional connections we make nowadays, wherein lies the meaning?

Getting out of my own niche to see others was food for the soul. The more I invest in others and the more I volunteer for experiences that may be challenging or just beyond my orbital comfort zone, the more I arrive at this place:

There’s so much I don’t know… that I don’t know. Is it okay to share that? I think so? As long as I realize that right now, and for that to recur in the future.

I have loved the conference experience for years. But this team experience was different.

It wasn’t about applying memorized, finite products in different scenarios. It wasn’t about how to best navigate incredible amounts of content. It wasn’t about sharing my expertise with others via carefully-prepared presentations. It wasn’t about me.

It was about embracing others and their perspectives at a deeper level. It was about celebrating changing systems at all levels. It was about processes. It was about moving forward, together, meaningfully. It was about others.

Over the Telescope

I don’t always want breaks from the details, but maybe we need them. And this #NSTA19 experience couldn’t have come at a better time, especially heading in to Spring Break.

The opening keynote speaker attracted his audience with gravitational force. In retrospect, it was one of the best presentations I’ve ever experienced, but at the time, it didn’t feel like a presentation at all.

Scott Kelly had all the right balance to steer the shuttle. He went back and forth, repeatedly, sharing personal anecdotes and his own school experiences to technical space stuff and historical timelines. He invested work in the range of emotions, including laughing, crying, and deep thinking. He captured the mind by going through the heart.

Then, he shared this–something so beautiful and pure that it could have only come from a whole new world.

Perhaps, we don’t invest enough time contemplating the cosmos; envisioning the future; pondering perspective; exploring expanses; and looking to the heavens.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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