Grabbing My Ducks

Plastino Scholar Project

“So…” they begin slowly, always tentatively, “how did you end up here?”

“Here?” I think to myself. “What even is here? Australia? Koonwarra? On a Plastino Scholar Trip? Studying alternative schooling?”

I decide to respond to all of these questions and more, offering up a winding narrative about how I journeyed from studying the civil war in Syria and the failures of direct food aid in Ethiopia and the neocolonialist powers of the Western world to studying school pedagogy and curriculum and even, simply, how a school is set up. I talked about my inspiration for studying how different schools are set up and how those changes subsequently affect student learning. I talk specifically about the process of applying for the Plastino Scholar Program. I talk about my junior year, my family, my hobbies and my passion areas in life. I tell everything and nothing all at once.

“Well it really sounds like you have all your ducks in a row!” Sarah, one of the mentors (read: teachers) at the Koonwarra Village School responds in an impressed tone.

“Not at all,” I start, “it’s more like I grabbed all my ducks under my arms and ran for the plane!”

Sarah and I laugh together and Sarah adds my quip to the quote section on their online school portal, where they track the students and daily happenings at the school. Just like that I’m immortalized in some small way at KVS.

As much as I want to be that person who has everything together months and years in advance, that’s just not who I am. I know that I am driven and goal-oriented, but I certainly work best within a short-term frame of mind. Just because I’m thinking in the short term doesn’t mean I don’t think about the future, though. I simply have faith in myself and in my ability to discover my own passion areas in life over time. By remaining flexible and adaptable in the long run, I can take advantage of every opportunity that peaks my interest in the short-run. And who knows? Maybe that opportunity will take me half way around the world or maybe it will take me to Newark, Delaware. Both have equal potential to catalyze passion and inspiration in my eyes.

I know that if my eyes were fixed firmly on one future goal I would never see any of these opportunities, which rest just slightly of the path, hidden a bit among the trees. I’ve learned that it’s important to look around even as you forge ahead to find opportunities and to simply see the immense beauty that the world kindfully shares. Too many people go through their daily life without pausing to appreciate the beauty of the present moment. The world is filled with beautiful and amazing things that are all too easily missed. Don’t worry about your ducks. Put them in your backpack and suitcase. You have your whole life to figure out where those ducks need to go. Shoulder your pack, look around, and see what you can find.





Moving Out, Moving On

Plastino Scholar Project

Today marks the end of a grueling 14 week semester that has left me exhausted and spent, much like those awful looking mops that lurk in the corners of restaurants. Today marks the 147th day of 2016, which has been a year of promise and adventure–my two favorite things–in addition to adversity and loss. Today is the 27th day of my beloved birthday month of May, in which my days were brightened by the arrival of loving cards or presents and quality time with all those who I love most in this world. Today is my last day of stress and worry.

And today is the first day of my new adventure.

For those who might not have read the article that my Mother kindly shared at least 4 times on Facebook I will quickly fill you in. I am headed to the Koonwarra Village School in Koonwarra, Australia (about an hour outside of Melbourne, for those of you who aren’t familiar with obscure Australian towns) to begin my Plastino Scholar Project. This is a project of my own design that I proposed in early December. Since then, I have been working to make all the necessary arrangements to leave immediately at the end of the semester from the University of Delaware and head for the land down under. At the Koonwarra Village School I will be completing qualitative research (observing and conducting interviews) with the students and staff in order to get a better understanding of this alternative school. The school, led by headmistress Fiona Mackenzie, is focused on student-led learning, environmental sustainability, and the development of socio-emotional intelligence. Basically, the Koonwarra Village School ( KVS, from here on out) is a mecca of innovative educational practices.

Throughout the course of this month long adventure I plan on climbing a certain famous bridge in Sydney, touring the Yarra Wine Valley by hot air balloon, finishing my scuba diving certification in the Great Barrier Reef, getting lost once or twice, seeing a world-famous opera house, and maybe just enjoying a craft beer here and there. (Hey Mom and Dad, I’m 21 now!) I also promised my 4th grade students that I would try to pet a kangaroo, but we’ll have to wait and see if that pans out…

At the moment, I am resting comfortably in the diffuse light pouring in from the expansive wall of windows in the Admirals Club at the Philadelphia Airport. A HUGE shout out to my cousin Lisa for hooking me up with a free day pass!

To continue with the theme of giving thanks, I want to express my deepest gratitude to my parents and sister who came to UD to help me pack up my room yesterday and and then brought me to the airport today. I want to thank Dave Plastino for endowing these once-in-a-lifetime projects. I want to thank Pete for encouraging me to apply, for having the faith that I would ultimately be selected (even when he gave me an 1870 map, quite presumptuously, of Australia for Christmas before my project was even selected), for putting up with my endless ramblings about the trip, and for teaching me to use Google Earth to scope out all the cool things to do in Australia. I want to hank Dr. Morgan for helping me to plan all the nitty gritty details and to make it through the IRB process. I want to thank Mac for walking with me to turn in my application. I want to thank my friend Sophiana for answering my every question about the program. Finally, I want to extend a huge thank you to anyone reading this and to anyone I might have accidentally left out. This is a huge opportunity and undertaking and I know that all the wonderful people in my life have helped to make this a reality.

No matter what the day is, today is my new start. I can’t wait to see what each day of this month-long journey brings.