Pandapas Pond

August 30, 2009 at 10:28 pm (Thoughts on the Profession) (, )

eggleston view

There’s always some skepticism, at least for a guy like me, inherent in any activity designed to bring one into honest reflection through group-building exercises. Such “canned” experiences, for better or for worse, immediately cause suspicion because, unlike “true” or “deep” moments of epiphany, our field trip, and, by extension, our experiences, weren’t purely organic. They didn’t just “pop up.”

I’d love to report that I’m a changed man, that I’ve been to the mountain top, and everything has changed because of it. I can’t. But, even more importantly, neither can I say that I haven’t learned. Indeed, as I reflected for this blog post I made a conenction that is just as important as anything we discussed at the pond. And the lesson is this: I am wrong to put such strict limits on important experiences.

What I mean is, as a pre-service teacher, why am I doubting the efficacy of a well-planned and “pre packaged” lesson designed to teach a point? I believe that I can reach students, indeed, impart critically important information, by skillful preparation. Why then should I doubt the ability of a different lesson, just because it took place outside and was designed to give us resources to craft a teaching metaphor? No, I don’t believe we can enforce a catharsis. But, upon reflection, I think that I renounce my smug inclination towards dismissal of activities like our field trip. This is an unexpected lesson for me, both personally and professionally.

(By way of disclaimer, I will add at this point that I didn’t have a bad attitude about the whole thing. I would describe my mood at the time as “happily skeptical”)

Now, about empowerment. This is another word I’m skeptical of, mostly because it seems like its always used by people who clearly don’t project power. But, obviously, the lesson I learned here speaks a lot to the concept of empowerment, or, as I prefer to say, confidence. Confidence, specifically in the teaching profession, is invaluable. This is true cheifly because at any given time you’re in a class with 25-30 merciless adolescents who can smell fear and taste blood in the water.

This asks the question: how can I build confidence? And one way is experience. I think our activity was designed to model that to some degree. The discussion after our hike was one of the things I liked most about our field trip because, as we were asked to create metaphors for our experience, my group came up with a statement praising the value of “faith” and “risk” in the profession. I think this kind of mindset, the willingness to take sensible risk, will pay big dividends in the experience/confidence department.

Finally, though I didn’t know it at the time, while we were meeting in the upper parking lot, a man walking his dog just across the street from where we were was stumbling across the bodies of two tech students. Clearly, since we didn’t know, this didn’t effect our experience at the time. But as I look back, given our proximity to the site of such evil, our carefree walk in the woods takes on a new, almost simple, light. I don’t know what this means, but I thought I should comment on it, since we’ve been encouraged to share “any other thought” we might have had.

See you next time.

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