Ken Robinson describes “being in your element” as the point where passion meets talent. Once you find that place, you never work another day in your life. I have never had a problem finding my own element. However, what about finding people with the same, or a similar, element? What about finding people with similar passions who want to work together towards a common goal? I have always had a problem with that.
My element is teaching. But more than simply teaching, it is teaching in, and advocating for, an alternative system of education. A system that is learner-centered, personalized, encourages creativity, curiosity, and passion, and, in essence, trusts children. When I was 20 years old, I decided that in addition to opening my own school, I wanted to get involved in the alternative education movement. I wanted to help drive the education revolution, and bring the knowledge of alternatives to a wider audience. I went to my university’s volunteer office searching for a connection, in the hopes that they could point me towards a group that was involved in this movement. They had nothing. The most they could do was to point me back to a professor that I had already asked. My element, as I learned, was not widespread, common, or well known. I had work to do.
A few months later, I found AERO, the Alternative Education Resource Organization. Now, for the past few days, I have been lucky enough to attend the annual AERO conference, network with countless educators, activists, and administrators, brainstorm with like-minded people, see Ken Robinson speak, and have been hit with a flurry of my own ideas. For the past three days, I have been blissfully (although exhaustingly) immersed in a group of people striving for, and believing in, the same things as I. But what happens when this ends? Will my active mind be deactivated? Will my ideas perish without moral support? Will I once again feel alone in my mission, with no clue as to how to move forward? The main questions are these: Is it necessary for us to be together, working side by side, in order to accomplish our goal? Or can we do it with the known, although not physical, support from one another? How necessary is a physical support group, in any situation?
I guess I will find out.