As teachers we renew our credentials every five years. But we need a much deeper renewal. Many of us get worn down by the pressures we face, and the inadequacy of our schools to meet the needs of our students. We often work in isolation, and lack support for our own creative side. We spend so much time nurturing others, and often there is no place where we are nurtured. The Tomki Center will be a place to heal the healers.
The goals of this center:
• Live in harmony with the space
• Restore the spirit and courage of our educators
• Inspire creative artistic expression
• Unleash and explore innovative ideas
• Build community among participants
• Provide space for focused collaborative work on educational issues or projects
The Tomki Center is to be an occasional gathering place for small groups (a dozen or less) of creative teachers. A cluster of small cabins will sit at the edge of a meadow, nestled under Douglas fir trees. The largest cabin will be an octagon 28 feet in diameter. Inside this cabin will a warm kitchen and a large round table for conversation, art, games and shared meals. Along the walls are beds that transform into casual seating during the day. Windows on one side face the sunny meadow, and on the other side, the ferns and tree trunks of the forest. Electricity will be limited to what we gather from a couple of small solar panels, and used mainly for lights in the evening. There is no cell phone service, TV or internet.
A few hundred yards down the road lies Tomki Creek, and a swimming hole that is eight feet deep and a hundred feet long. The Tomki feeds into the Eel River, and is a salmon spawning ground. Bear and deer roam during the days, bats and owls rule the nights. The property is ten miles east of the nearest town, off the grid, at the end of a dirt road in the heart of Mendocino County, about three hours north of San Francisco.
Over the past few months work has begun to make this a reality. In the past month, my teenage sons, a couple of their pals, and my partner joined me for several four-day long work parties up at the site. We worked with a local builder who is very skilled and energetic. We ran about a thousand feet of pipe around the hill to a spring, and connected it to a 2600 gallon storage tank, so now we have running water and a shower. And over the past two weeks, we laid an eight-sided concrete perimeter foundation for the main cabin.
My hope is to spend next summer actually building the cabin atop this foundation.
I have shared this idea on a Facebook page, which has more information and photographs. If you are interested, you can sign up as a “fan” there to get updates.
What do you think of this idea? What would a teacher’s retreat look like for you?
(all photos by Anthony Cody or Randi C., used with permission)
The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.