All Hands on Deck

A new calendar year flips and most feel a sense of time passing. We imagine a “clean slate” and start to take stock of where we’ve been and where we’re going as individuals and in the groups of people we are invested with. Then, maybe, we set our sights on peaks we’ve yet to climb.
The Partnerships for Innovation grant in 2015 gave NDEC its seed money to buy time with experts beyond our state borders, food, and the formal support of administrators. We can’t say we started with nothing. We got a website up to help share information and publish our teachers’ writing, and we’ve hosted two conferences. We’ve gotten to know one another, put names to faces, at least start a few conversations, and share what and how we do what we do and why we do it. “If you build it, they will come” has become cliché for a reason. Many are coming. There is need and a benefit to share, build relationships, and support one other in our teaching, advocacy, and emerging policy front.

It’s clear that we are still building NDEC.

I’ve imagined building a sailboat in my garage. I can’t even park another bicycle in my garage much less build a boat. (I have eight bikes in there now.) It’s not all that practical either; it’s been some time since I sailed. I don’t exactly build things with my hands either. It doesn’t hurt to imagine though—the building and sailing as part of a crew of others.
I imagined what a network of teachers is and is capable of doing. It’s work I can’t do alone. That is obvious. Working alone runs counter to what a network really does. People with shared (and diverse) interests come together. We saw that in Kearney for two years, drawing about 25 teachers each year. We are sharing what we are reading and thinking on our blog and on our Facebook page.

Clearly, NDEC exists. This boat is afloat. Our sails are catching collective wind that propels a vessel forward. The wind blows inconsistently in Nebraska, sometimes a gale, sometimes a whisper. Sometimes even a stillness. I can appreciate all of it.

I didn’t know if “build it and they will come” would hold true for NDEC. We are separated by many-a-mile. We have so much to do in our own institutions, and are so focused on our students, committees, and local communities. Who has time for one more what we might consider “extraneous” commitment? Yet it is happening. A resource is posted. A comment is shared. A blog is written. A core of representatives from our seven colleges is meeting monthly as the NDEC leadership team. Plans are being made for a third gathering in fall of 2018 (Oct. 4-5) at Northeast Community College (Norfolk). Feedback from this fall’s conference was heard. Folks want more interaction with colleagues. That will happen. But it’s “all hands on deck” to keep the NDEC boat from flagging.

An English teacher at Southeast Community College, Phip Ross is a teacher, writer, activist, and musician.  To contact Phip, please email