I’m a philosophical wanderer moving away from ideological islands in search of some intellectual space. I’m a perpetual bender of paper clips, an incessant doodler at staff meetings and a cook who rarely cracks open a recipe box.
I’m a “small-l” liberatrian, a “small-c” conservative, a “small-l” liberal and a “small-d” democrat. I’m not a fan of labels or jargon or anything else that forces me to abandon nuance and push toward educational tribalism. I like to protect my voice, not because it’s better or even different from others, but simply because it’s mine and I’ve seen how quickly individuals abandon their voices for the mainstream megaphone that dominates the dialogue.
I’m an anarchist. Not the kind who wears black and throws bricks into Wal-Mart, but the kind who embraces the idea of an absence of a leader. I love the idea of organic change, starting as a movement, growing as a rhizome. I love the idea that change won’t happen through heavy-handed power struggles, but through humility and meaningful conversations.
So, it was admittedly odd for me to embrace the idea of the Cooperative Catalyst. It felt trendy, because it was popular. It had this strong sense of shared values and a collective voice and yet . . . each individual had the freedom to be themselves. Conversation could get intense, but always out of respect and honesty.
I was drawn to the community within the conversation. I quickly found that I could speak openly, sharing my geekiest thoughts and most personal stories and I would run into people who would challenge my thinking while affirming many of the ideas that seem strange within my current school context. I found other writers doing amazing things throughout the world and rather than feeling jealous (which I sometimes do when someone does “something big”) I felt hopeful that things could change in education.
I admit that sometimes I still feel like an outsider. Perhaps that’s part of being an introvert. Maybe it’s a part of feeling distant from big events and conferences and anything else that starts with a proper noun. I get it. I can be pretty improper. My voice is unflitered. My writing tends to meander.
However, what I’ve found is a community where I can express that unfiltered voice without judgement. I’ve found a place where my thoughts are valued and where people actually want to engage in hard conversations about learning. I’ve found a place that will accept a small-a anarchist who sometimes wonders if he’s wandered away so far that he’s thinking in isolation, until he runs into people who remind him that the quest for authenticity is perhaps the most sane journey available for those who are drowning in a sea of standardization.