In-between days

“A map can never replicate the ground itself. Often our mapping sessions would induce us to bite off more than we can chew. At home we would plot a route over terrain that would, in reality, turn out to be sucking bog, or knee-high heather, or a wide boulder-field thick with snow. Sometimes a landscape would caution us of the limits of the map’s power… Maps do not take account of time, only of space. They do not acknowledge how a landscape is constantly on the move – is constantly revisiting itself. Watercourses are always transporting earth and stone. Gravity tugs rocks off hillsides and rolls them lower down… These are the dimensions of a landscape which go unindicated by a map.”

Robert MacFarlane – Mountains of the Mind

I shared the above quote in my last post to make the point that we never know what we will encounter as leaders until we have walked the terrain. Every year we draw our plans, only to find ourselves wading through knee-high heather, risking breaking our ankle hopping tentatively between boulders, or simply stuck in a bog. Reaching our destination always take longer than we think it is going to. By the time we get there we are more jaded than we expected to be, and yet we set out on our next adventure with naivety, even excitement.

At this time of year we are nearing the end of our current adventure in schools. It is hard to describe to those who haven’t experienced it the strange mix of emotions; we are tired and bruised from our journey, but hopeful and energised by the chance to plot another route. Those of us with more experience know that there will be sucking bogs ahead, we just don’t know where or how deep they will be. We also know that reaching our destination will be all the more satisfying having navigated through the perils in our path.

It was pointed out to me that MacFarlane’s passage also works well as a metaphor for the journey through the curriculum. Those experienced teachers who have walked the terrain often will be better equipped to anticipate the hazards; they will chart a sensible course and take the right equipment. Even they will not know their companions well enough to anticipate every eventuality. Some will lack the experience, resilience or wit to avoid falling foul of the most benign features of the landscape. There will always be a gap between the planned route, the journey, and each person’s perception of it. I think it is now being called intent, implementation and impact.

In these in-between days, as the year behind us becomes a bitter-sweet memory, I begin to wonder what the next adventure will bring.

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