George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

Out of the Ordinary: An Unusual Experience Relates to Education

September 13, 2006

Recently I was in Bisbee, Arizona, to visit my brother. Being a New Englander born and bred, I love traveling to the Southwest -- everything is so different! Geologic time is laid bare, and plants and animals engage in a visible struggle for survival.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw a rather casually attired fellow walking through Tombstone Canyon with a medium-sized, broad-nosed, friendly-looking dog on a loose leash. I was surprised not by the dog, but rather by the black-and-white cat riding atop the dog's back, and -- yes, please do believe me -- the brown mouse lying on the back of the cat. Now, you have to have been to Bisbee to understand how something like this could just come walking down the street, but trust me, it was cool. And, yes, all three animals, as well as their owner, appeared to be calmly enjoying a walk.

The few tourists still left in Bisbee in mid-June ooh-ed and aah-ed as they asked the bewhiskered fellow to pose with his menagerie, and everyone who saw the animals smiled. Everyone. It was so unexpected, so different, and everyone thought it was great.

This experience got me to thinking about the great things that can happen in a school community when folks work together to make something happen -- like when a fellow teacher and I used to bring old-timers, guys who spent a fair amount of their time hanging out at the local store complaining about the school budget, out to our archaeological dig at the site of an old blacksmith shop to help kids identify some of the vintage car parts we were finding. All of a sudden, we were partners, and our class could ask for their help anytime.

And the real beneficiaries? The kids, of course. Not just because more opportunities or resources come to your school or classroom, but because, in a world that all too often appears to be populated almost wholly by "us" and "them," by our side and their side, the kids get to see dogs, cats, and mice all get together and do something everyone can agree is great!

Sure, it may take some work to find the common ground these unexpected partners can work together on, but I think it's worth it. Anybody have any stories of unusual collaborations to share?

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