I have loved and identified with Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” for more than 30 years. There’s something about choosing to follow a path that isn’t clear and will undoubtedly require course corrections that feels right to me. I have never fit in any role (though I certainly tried hard enough), and most jobs I’ve taken felt like straight jackets. I still laugh at the memory of my mother asking me why I wanted to pursue art in college. “You’re so good with your hands,” she said. “Why don’t you become a dentist?”
It was only when I finally stopped trying to fit into the boxes that others tried to assign me – bus driver, swimming coach, cook, office manager, journalist, editor, illustrator, teacher, textbook writer – that I began to feel like I belonged in my own skin. That’s not to say that it’s been easy, wearing the many and often conflicting Not Perfect hats that are required to start and build your own company, but it feels a whole lot better than pretending to be someone I’m not. Oh, and here’s the other thing. People are drawn to authenticity. They sense and respond to those who feel good about what they’re doing, who believe they can have a positive impact on the world.
Which brings me to teachers. I come from a long line of committed, caring teachers who have struggled with the low pay, lack of acknowledgement and increasingly restrictive rules. I have also done my time as an educator, teaching ESL for more than 9 years in Japan. But I have to say that the educators I’ve been meeting recently are a new and exciting breed. Yes, I hear them struggling with the many and ongoing challenges of the job, but there’s something in the air, something exciting about how they are coming together to collaborate, share and remind one another that there is nothing more important than what and how we teach our kids.
I am drawn to these teachers and they to me, and, though I have no idea where all this collective enthusiasm, intelligence and pent up desire to create positive change will lead, I believe in our less traveled roads. I believe we WILL make a difference. – Jena Ball