Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

First times are special, and I’ll never forget this one.

As part of a professional development opportunity through the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, I got to travel to Ocracoke to learn all about the United States Coast Guard at Stations #186 and #187 for an entire week.

Our cohort of about 20 educators stayed at the old Coast Guard Station. Over the week, we traveled to all parts of the island to research history, culture, and the way of life, and, together, we would ultimately draw several parallels to our personal journeys, career, and education. We gained a lot that we could take back to apply in our learning spaces.

In my sixth year of teaching in the Fall of 2007, this was the closest I would ever get to the sabbatical experience. A dedicated educator, I was on my way to burnout. I needed this restoration, and, to this day, it holds a special place in my heart as the reason I stayed the course in education. I had never felt so appreciated as an educator! We loved learning for the sake of learning, and then learning from reflecting on our experiences together.

The whole thing was amazing. Yet, this reflection is just…

About Getting There

As a Midwesterner growing up in the corn fields of Indiana, I had always dreamt of living at the beach. To actually travel to an island to do research with fellow North Carolina educators was beyond a dream come true. I loved every minute of it.

To get to Ocracoke Island, I would have to take a ferry—A FERRY! What is that?

Just a few miles from the Swan Quarter Ferry Terminal, I can remember coming to a four-way stop. I believe that each corner had a different crop: corn, soybeans, cotton, tobacco. It was literally as if Indiana met North Carolina. I’m pretty sure I took… a few… pictures of just that.

I arrived to Swan Quarter about an hour early. I took a few more pictures. Was this really gonna happen?

It took a little while for me to realize that my truck would be going with me. Sincerely, I didn’t know that I would literally drive my truck right onto the ferry. Was this standard protocol? Would I have to pay extra? I took a few more pictures.

And then, the best part about getting there

For the entire 160-minute ride, I explored the ferry like a kid in a candy store. I met the crew and asked questions. I greeted fellow ferry friends and sparked conversation. I analyzed the ferry’s navigational and meteorological instruments, realizing some of the real life applications specifically related to what we were learning in fifth grade science back at school.

With the sun radiating throughout another beautiful, Carolina blue sky, ocean waves splashing in wide open water, the steady hum of the ferry, and a gentle, salty sea breeze upon my face, I was in Heaven.

There simply wasn’t enough time to take it all in.

Alas, I found myself at the vessel’s stern, completely alone. I took a few moments to reflect. Lost in thought, I was mesmerized with the ferry’s wake. What a breath-taking view. And what amazing evidence of a journey-in-progress.

It makes me wonder…

What’s Swimming In Your Wake?

Of the thousands of analogies, similes, and metaphors about education, learning, and ships, none has struck me quite like this. And in a time quite like this.

As a forceful vessel in your own life journey, you have amazing power to chart your course, to navigate the open waters, and, most importantly, to create a wake for others.

As you ferry forward, do you ever stop to look behind you?

  • Who’s there?
  • What’s being said?
  • What kinds of reactions, conversations, and interactions are you inspiring?

Intended or not, you sell yourself every day. People are watching, listening, and reading. Subconsciously, people are making judgments about you and choosing how to react, respond, and interact–if at all.

People will ebb and flow in the wake that you create.

Intended or not, you have the potential to:

  • Cause a ripple effect with every motion;
  • Make a splash with every comment; and
  • Create a tsunami with every post.

Intended or not, you assume opportunities to influence others.

How are you navigating these opportunities? On a similar wavelength,

What Kind of Space Are You Creating for Others?

In addition to surveying your starboard side and panning your port side, what do you see when you stare out over the stern? When you take a moment to look back at the waters figuratively reflecting back at you, what do you see?

Are you immediately immersed in and favorably flooded with:

  • Positivity or Negativity?
  • Trust or Turbulence?
  • Reciprocation or Rip Currents?
  • Schools of Fish or Circling Sharks?
  • Neap Tides or King Tides?
  • Sea Breezes or Hurricane Warnings?
  • Conversations of Courage or Clams?
  • Islands in the Stream or Sinkholes?
  • Deep Authenticity or Shallow Shipwrecks?
  • Buoys or Icebergs?
  • Harbors or Shoals?
  • Lighthouses or Graveyards?
  • Bridges or Planks?
  • Circles Back or Anchors Away?
  • Reconnaissance or Abandonment?
  • Guide Lines or Torpedoes?
  • Oyster Opportunities or Whale Swallows?
  • Pearls of Wisdom or Callous Cannonballs?
  • Round Trips or Burn the Ships?
  • Rising Tides or Loose Lips?
  • Dynamic Drawbridges or Muddy Moats?
  • Treasure Maps or Tricky Traps?
  • Red Sky Nights or Red Sky Mornings?
  • Brackish Adaptation or Extreme Drop-offs?
  • Collegial Seashells or Congenial Driftwood?
  • Fleets of Friends or Fleeting Friends?

With all the pollution, spills, and junk floating around out there today, I remain optimistic, often wondering:

What if we could adjust our sails, adapt our apparatus, and anchor our purpose in

Building People Up Without Tearing Others Down?

Just beyond the sunlit shallows and the unpredictability of the shifting Diamond Shoals, there lies an ocean of opportunity.

Where the depths of relational capacity amplify the currents of common humanity–therein lies the sweet spot for meaningful connection and favorable conditions to make the world a better place.


What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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