Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward

by Stacey Ebert /
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Nov 06, 2023 / 0 comments

It’s November: the time of full speed ahead. The holiday break is in sight, but there seems like there’s always more to do, more decisions to be made, more work to be done, and needing to have a more focused approach. Whether you feel like huddling under a blanket in your self-sufficient pillow fort or forging ahead with the force of a bullet train, sometimes the world doesn’t give us a choice—and the only thing left to do is the next right thing. 

What that is is anybody’s guess. It will be unequivocally different for every single one of us. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward
What’s your path forward? Do you know yet? Have you felt it in your bones since you were five, or does the tilt-a-whirl of life have you changing your mind a zillion times and believing that the job you might want or profession you crave doesn’t yet exist? Perhaps you’re up for following in someone else’s footsteps, fighting a cause larger than your own, or throwing caution to the wind and letting the Universe send you signs to give a clearer picture knowing you can always change your mind. 

Regardless, there is a path forward for each of us, even if we can’t see it yet. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward

Traditional schools propel us through thirteen years of curriculum, content, and collaborative efforts, yet oftentimes a direction for beyond graduation remains fuzzy. Some will head to further schooling, a military option, a job, or a GAP year; some will finally feel like they have the freedom to breathe and ditch the construct of education to be or do whatever sets their soul on fire. Others will leave that school cocoon and feel like a fish out of water. 

How can we ensure that our next generation has the tools to find their own path forward?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward
Every student comes to their educational space with their own experiences, background, culture, baggage, and lens through which they see the world. It’s our job as facilitators, guides, and educators to ensure that their spirit and spark remain throughout their entire journey and that they have access to support along their path. 

Every child deserves equal access and guidance to fulfill their deepest dreams and head in whatever direction their heart desires. 

This time of year is critical for juniors and seniors. For those gearing up for that further educational journey, it’s the time of standardized testing, essay writing, gathering letters of recommendations, and more. There’s lots of movement, stress that comes in waves, and a whole host of obligations constantly on their minds. And that’s, of course, on top of the usual hustle and bustle of teenage living, family needs, requirements, and whatever insanity is going on in the world at large. 

How can we be that safe space, that guiding light, that source of support and sounding board for whatever it is they might need? 
Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward

While some schools have finally added volunteering or community activism as part of a graduation requirement, it’s not even in the wheelhouse for others. While some schools are now stepping forward to include financial literacy, international relations, life skills, public speaking, and global environmental studies, for many students, these areas are quite literally foreign. 

These young minds continue to develop, evaluate, reevaluate, wonder, and dream. As guides along their growth path, it’s up to us to be a positive influence along their journey. 

Consider a backpacker planning a long thru-hiking journey; it could be Cheryl Strayed and the Pacific Crest Trail, John Muir on his quest for nature, or any of the thousands who annually grace the Camino de Santiago. They research, plan, purchase, pack, and think of their journey. They lay out the items they think ‘might’ be needed, include a few of those ‘just in case’ ones, think about access and resources along the way, reevaluate, ask questions—and whether they think they’re ready or not, take what they can carry and plow ahead. 

Along the journey, they meet people who help, support, guide, share, commiserate, and even teach them. There are learning and lessons, a main path and a zillion trails that wiggle and feed in and out. 

Their success is not measured at the finish line, but rather in the doing and experiencing. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward
While we might not all be thru-hikers, in some way, we’re all a part of that larger trail picture. At times we’re the travelers, the guides, the helpers, the cheerleaders, the caretakers, the kind souls, or play host to a myriad of other roles. We’re part of a bigger picture beyond the trail, just like those students, teachers, and community members. 

For each one of us, the adventure looks a little different, but the people and experiences we meet make all the difference. Along the way, we are forever changed.

There are many paths that you can travel. 

Some have road signs, some are back roads, and some don’t yet have fully forged paths. You don’t always have to know the destination to get moving.

Growth is in each and every step. 

What paths will you travel on your journey? It is completely up to you–but, unquestionably, you never have to walk it alone. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward

Guiding lessons for the path forward

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Curate your map

When I started traveling, I carried a paper map. We took ideas and directions from books and literally wrote them down on paper to guide us. There were pocket-sized books to translate local languages. Today, those maps are in the palm of our hands, we can ask SIRI anything, and Google Translate helps us navigate multiple daily interactions. Your map is yours to develop. It can look like one thing today and years later, something completely different. 
Consider where you wish to journey and how it feels when you dream about it. Do you already have, or can you create a support crew? Can you follow your gut? Are you getting your advice from someone who would never choose that path, or have you found trusted guides who share a similar mindset? 

Your path may be fuzzy, but it’s that inner sense of direction that’s often clear. Perhaps it takes a while to find it (sometimes it’s decades in the making) or realize it’s actually yours to listen to, but it’s always there whenever it is you’re ready. 
And sometimes, when you’re not sure about your why or your direction, perhaps the clearest answer is, why not? Whether it’s a detour or a path, there will be guides, experiences, and lessons that become a part of you. You don’t have to have it all figured out right now. It’s okay to take the time, change it up, do it afraid, or begin again. 

You are the cartographer; the map is yours to create. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change” ~ Albert Einstein
Develop a plan for potholes, roundabouts, and weather events

In school and in life, there are times when a pivot is vital. It’s the good stuff like having to get work done ahead of an adventure, or shifting a schedule around because a friend spontaneously shows up in town. Sometimes it’s those other things, like not being able to attend the senior prom, missing out on the big game, life struggles, or world traumas that change the course of everything. 

Channel that thru-hiker mentality: plan for what you can and set your mindset to knowing when met with those rain delays, bumps, or disasters, you are adaptable, capable, and you WILL be okay.

Companies rebrand. People reevaluate. Change happens. It’s in our adaptability, resilience, perseverance, grit, determination, and how we respond that enables us to navigate the world around us. 

Watch, learn, listen, pause. 

Sometimes you’re the resource, sometimes you’re the learner, and other times knowing what and how to outsource for experts, tools, or support is the game changer. When you’re out there living and doing, the messy stuff amidst the good is bound to happen. Bakers burn cakes, athletes get injured, flights get cancelled, and people change jobs. 

It’s what we do when those things happen that change the course of our stories. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward
“Stop asking people for directions to places they’ve never been”
~ Glennon Doyle

Know where to go to ask for directions

In the before technology times, our resources were books, humans, and experiences. While today we have access to the Internet at large, it takes skill to know how to ferret out the helpful and authentic stuff. 

At school there are guidance counselors, social workers, teachers, crossing guards, coaches, nurses, mentors, staff members, classmates, and friends. 

In life, there are kind strangers who cross our paths, public servants who protect and serve, healers who soothe, the wisdom of the ancients, and the medical experts of today using Tik Tok to communicate with the masses. It’s all available, but the truthful and valid can often be hidden in the overwhelm of propaganda, falsity, and click-bait.

Harvard-trained psychologist and life coach Martha Beck talks about finding your north star and becoming a wayfinder. Her books and courses quite literally teach about sense of direction and those who wish to help guide others on their journeys. 

Moana’s Maui reminds us that wayfinding is “seeing where you’re going in your mind,” and “knowing where you are, by knowing where you’ve been.” 

Trust your instincts, research your sources, when in doubt, pause, listen…then decide how to act. Know that not everyone out there wishes to help, but the helpers will always show up; it’s up to you to know where to look.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward
“When we are no longer able to change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” ~ Viktor Frankl

Use your traffic spots for deep breaths and music jams

Have you ever witnessed road rage? The driver behind you speeds past or screams in their vehicle when stopped at a red light for a millisecond longer than they expected? You check in your rearview and can literally see the steam coming out of their ears. Sure, traffic stops can be used to vent, but perhaps there’s another viable option to choose. There will always be a light longer than we wish, a storm that holds us up, or a bottleneck on the freeway. 

What if we turned up the music and turned the stop into a dance party break? What if we took a few deep breaths for a meditational moment? What if we did a few yogic stretches in lieu of horn honking and rising blood pressure?
Today, we experience being on 24/7. We’re always connected, the boops and beeps of every technology drown out our own thoughts, and we’re constantly on the go. Whether we need to take those well-intentioned breaks, or life forces us to stand still for a moment, it’s what we do with that time that moves us forward on our journey. 

Rock out to release your energy, realign your spirit, or regulate your breathing. The light will eventually turn green, the traffic will slowly let up, and that stuck feeling will slowly dissipate. Even when you’re stopped, you can ALWAYS move yourself forward…it just might be in a different way to what you initially thought.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward
“The way to find your own north star is not to think or feel your way forward but to dissolve the thoughts and feelings that make you miserable. You don’t have to learn your destiny–you already know it; you just have to unlearn the thoughts that blind you to what you know” ~ Martha Beck

When roadblocks and detours occur, be ready to reevaluate

In my youth, I was a fan of the Rubik’s cube. It’s tactile, colorful, and there are multiple methods towards success. You get stuck, reevaluate, change course, and continue on. Those thru-hikers do the same. 

Trails close, weather turns, an animal blocks your path, water runs low, or snacks grow scarce. Sometimes a roadblock tries your patience, and sometimes a detour is solely a detour. But there are times that that same block or shift could be a complete and utter redirection to a new path. 

It could feel scary, exciting, frustrating, or completely calm; reevaluate, pause, and trust your gut.

Scientists learn new methods. Inventors find new twists to old ideas. Students turn their grades around. Whether due to a natural disaster, war, cash flow, or new ideas, they change their focus. To do so takes patience, courage, deep breaths, and a shift in mindset. 

When you don’t get into your university of choice, the course you wish is full, there’s no time in the schedule to get those grad credits finished, or your wish list pulls in different directions to your bank account, decisions must be made. The Belgian character Tin Tin begins his story as a journalist. While he meets with all sorts of both sordid and kind humans, it’s a ship captain who provides him (and us) with that vision to manage those roadblocks. Captain Haddock, who once was feared, struggled with demons, was captured, and then regained his strength to move forward, reminds him and us, “You care about something; you fight for it. You hit a wall; you push through it.” 

Keep going. Your dreams are worth it.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined” – Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes where you’re going you don’t need roads

Remember Back to the Future’s Doc Brown? “Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.”

Some called him nutty, and others, a visionary. While his flux capacitor is revered by millions, it’s his desire for adventure and discovery that is quite literally unquenchable. Donned in his renowned lab coat, he tries it all and isn’t concerned with convention. 

The real-life Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton exuded a similar perspective. With big dreams, he surged ahead, gathering a team of humans who believed in the expedition and were willing to tackle the unknown challenges that could meet them along the way.

Like those who break glass ceilings, push boundaries, and do what others claim impossible, they charted new territory, blocked out the noise of nay-sayers, and made an undeniable difference in society. 

When the doubts grow loud or you wonder if your dreams are possible, remember these legendary humans who pushed every boundary and changed the game…and we’re all better for it.

The path isn’t always clear. 

You may be nervous, excited, and afraid simultaneously. You can discover unchartered territory, start the trend, and let everyone wonder.

Because sometimes, where you’re going…you don’t need roads.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Path Forward


Please click the photo below for a collection of my Through the Eyes of an Educator columns:

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Compendium


Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at for more of her travel musings.