That just about sums up the journey I have been on. As a teacher of 20 years, I can honestly say that -- if I have learned one thing in this maturing process -- it’s not about me. Maybe I’ve also learned that it’s not so much the destination as it is the journey.
Full of the fire and brimstone that my high school teachers instilled in me, I set off on a career where I was driving; I was in charge, no one was getting away with anything. The more structure, the more discipline (or my misguided perception of discipline) I could employ, the better teacher I was, right?
Something gnawed at me, though. I knew there was a better way, but I thought I would be seen as weak. After finishing my master’s degree and experiencing several classes with Dan Creely – including a wilderness camping/fishing trip – a light, a fire, began to burn. Could this be the answer? In my heart I knew it was.
A few years later, while teaching at Carl Sandburg High School, an opportunity arose when our previous superintendent earmarked referendum funds for a climbing wall. Physical Education teachers from Andrew, Stagg and Sandburg schools joined forces to convince our curriculum council, administrators, and school board of the importance of a formal Challenge Education elective for juniors and seniors. The curriculum would include teambuilding, kayaking, and a wall climbing component.
I knew this would be awesome stuff. I also believed I was ready to take a back seat, ready to learn from the students by becoming a better listener. Most of all, I was ready to change my focus from “I” to “we.”
When I come to school now it is with excitement and anticipation; most of all it is with passion. What we are doing is making a difference. I believe the students’ experiences are transforming them and changing them forever. I save our journals and just reading through a few of them I can see that experiential education does make a difference. I am more empathetic, have a stronger interest in my students and, consequently, have a better relationship with them. They are accomplishing more intellectually, spiritually, socially and physically than I have ever encountered in my career.
Not all kids who enter the class fully comprehend what is occurring in the process. That’s OK. Someday they will understand and it will be a significant moment. I still need plenty of work on my patience, my “bag of tricks,” and meaningful processing. However, my awareness of my own weaknesses and of the students’ needs are two areas where I have made significant changes.
That’s the beauty of Adventure Education: everyone I’ve contacted – fellow staff members, articles I’ve read, folks at seminars or conferences, former instructors – are willing to help. All I have to do is ask. It’s a beautiful thing. So, if some guy comes up from behind and starts asking “How do you do that again?” or “Where did you get that?” – who knows, maybe it’ll be me!
PEACE and thanks for listening.