It takes a village…or a metropolitan area

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At the end of last school year, I reached a point of teacher burnout that I never wanted to experience. Throughout the year, exhaustion reared its head in different forms:

  • I lost hair (don’t worry, Sugar Bear Hair brought some of it back)

  • Gastrointestinal issues leading to an endoscopy and a diet of almost exclusively grilled cheese and milkshakes 

  • Mental lapses (like blanking on names 😑 and forgetting to put my car in park)

For the past three years, Amelia and I have been hustling to get Erase the Space off the ground, teaching full-time, and going to graduate school in the summers away from the lives we share with our respective spouses. We were stretching daylight where we could and cramming work into any crevice we found. Phone calls or quick meetings filled the cracks of time in our days. Friday nights were spent writing to meet a deadline or finishing emails to make sure everything was in place for Erase the Space events. Most of those meetings were at Cup o Joe in Clintonville. This coffee shop served as a base of operations for Erase the Space from 2016-2019. It is where we imagined, argued, and built the work of Erase the Space into existence. 

It is also where we met with many of our community partners. 

The connections we made with people who shared a passion for the work gave me the fuel I needed. I finished the school year with some help from my friends at OLHS (shout out to Christa and Al) and Erase the Space pulled off four classroom exchanges (eight different classrooms, over 200 students: shout out Angela, Ris, Dan, Mackenzie, Beth, Chase). Our writing intern (Kellie Jones!) from Ohio State helped us solve a research mystery. We met with future board members and potential donors.  Though many of these meetings took place after a full work day, I was always left invigorated. It could be that my usual order (no matter the meeting time) was a chocolate chip scone, a Nantucket Nectars apple juice, and a Buckeye Mocha with an extra shot of espresso. 😁 Teacher burnout is some real shit and I will write about in a later post. But this post is a love letter to the people of Erase the Space.

I had lunch with a friend this Wednesday afternoon. Fariha Tayyab and I have been involved in nonviolent communication for a couple of years and usually have quite a bit to talk about when our paths cross. We swapped teaching stories and talked about our various ongoing projects. The collaborators in our projects became the focus of our conversation for the next hour.  After going through a litany of connections and projects, we both were awestruck at how much work was being done—how many people were mobilizing for change in one way or another. Then Momo Ghar understandably kicked us out of the counter seats we monopolized for two hours. 😬

Erase the Space is built on community partnerships. It is because of the people of Erase the Space that it is possible to pull off our first ever kickoff event for the beginning of the school year. It’s small business owners allowing us to set up tables outside their establishments on the South Side. It’s the experts at the Kirwan Institute (shout out Glennon Sweeney and Brittney Butler) collaborating with us to create a meaningful journey for our students to embark upon together. Oh, yeah, and the entire event is a student idea from last year’s exchange between South High and Olentangy Liberty HS (shout out Debby, Goodie, Franki, Luis, and Zi’Kyea). This work turns from thought to reality when community is created and coordinated. When we weave a web of responsibility between us and our many connections across difference, the work has the potential to collectively transform the city of Columbus. Students and teachers. Parents and children. The energy to take the next step comes from our connections with each other.