Today marked an end and then a beginning, in one single action. After almost a year of considering how I might help children in public schools in New York City, I mailed off two packages, one to Bronx Charter School for the Arts and one to M.S. 223. Inside the packages is a folder with a cover letter, my resume, and an 8-page concept paper that outlines an after-school program that I'd like to pilot beginning in January 2010. The after-school program uses theatre to teach innovation, product development, and entrepreneurship to 6th grade students.
The journey to the concept paper was a long and winding road:
Early Summer of 2008
Began to consider how I could build an on-line innovation kit for kids
Changed jobs and got involved in an at-work volunteer program with Junior Achievement of New York. Wondered if I missed my calling and should become a public school teacher.
December 5, 2008
Volunteered for a day-long program at M.S. 223 in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx. Felt scared, responsible, and at home, all at once. I taught economics for a day to 7th graders. I got more of an education than the students did that day. Have been thinking about those kids every day since.
May 17, 2009
Started building my first draft of the concept paper, initially named "Innovation Workbook". It was terrible. I was afraid to show it to anyone because I'd thought they'd laugh at the idea. Put my fears aside and kept working.
June 3, 2009
Wrote the first draft of a mission statement, or what I termed "A Reason for Being". It was awful, though I began to think that I might be on to something.
Began to talk to some friends about the concept. No one laughed; they got very excited about the idea and that got me more excited. They had great ideas. I used all of them to build a better concept. My friend, Liz, offered the idea to make this an after-school program rather than try to build it in to the traditional curriculum.
July 4th weekend, 2009
I started sending a rough draft of the concept paper to my friends who offered their ideas and were excited about the project. I knew the paper was terrible but the idea was getting better. My friends offered more help, more advice. The concept kept getting better.
July 23, 2009
Named the project Innovation Station while laying on my couch, unsuccessfully trying to take a nap. Decided to use short theatre scripts as a way to communicate the material.
Early August 2009
While reading the book, Eiffel's Tower, decided to feature famous innovators throughout history as part of Innovation Station.
Continued to revise the concept paper, did more research. Many friends suggested I dig into data to prove the need and value of my program. Was startled by the statistics I read about after-school programming and public school education in inner-cities. Kept shopping around my ideas and taking any and all suggestions. Wrote 8 full drafts in total.
September 15, 2009
Heard about Bronx Charter School for the Arts. Researched them and thought they may be a good fit for Innovation Station. Put them on the very short list with M.S. 223.
September 22, 2009, afternoon
Made a few last minute edits, and dropped the proposals in the mail to M.S. 223 and Bronx Charter School for the Arts in the hopes that one of them will be the pilot program location.
September 22, 2009, evening
Waiting. Hoping. Nervous Excited.
My friend, Jamie, went to the post office with me to put the packages in the mail. I adore him, even though he can be a little curmudgeonly at times. He is exceedingly generous with help, advice, and contacts, despite his rough around the edges personality. It comes from being so brilliant and highly educated. He is one of the friends I count on to keep me grounded. I try to add more whimsy into his life. "So what do you do now?" he asked. I hadn't thought of what I'd do now; I guess I have been worried that I'd just edit myself to the point of being paralyzed. I never imagined myself sealing up the envelopes and dropping them in the mail. I guess I was worried that I'd never figure it out. "I wait," I said to Jamie.
This morning, my old friends, Fear and Self-ridicule, were back with a vengeance. Maybe this was a stupid idea. Maybe it would never help anyone. Maybe no school would ever be interested. Who am I to think I can write curriculum? I began reading and editing again. And something truly miraculous happened. As I re-read the proposal, I got more excited. I began to think that maybe, maybe, maybe this was the beginning on the a life-changing road for me. Just as I was finishing the proposal, I thought "this might be the beginning of something really exciting. I just might be able to help some kid who's facing the same circumstances I faced when I was that age." And with that thought I sealed up the packages and headed for the post office.
Fearing that I'd have a last minute panic attack, I quickly put the packages under the slotted window for the postman to grab and stamp. There was no turning back once he tossed them into the bin. And away they went, into the abyss of mail, on a very simple mission to try to make a difference in one kid's life. I ran for the door and never looked back. I had to get on with my beginning.