In early June, I had the opportunity to participate in a week of reflection, rejuvenation, and environmental education at Land Between the Lakes. About 20 teachers and others involved in environmental education came together to spend time living in community detached from our digital lives. (We were somewhat shocked to realize that there was only one spot in the camp that had any cell service–and it wasn’t good service, at that.) We spent an entire week exploring nature, reconnecting with our artistic selves, and building relationships. The goal was rejuvenation so that we could return to our classrooms in the fall refreshed and ready to make a difference. Here are a few of the lessons that I learned through this experience.
Knowledge, though important, is fleeting, but relationships last. This week was led by one of my former college professors from Murray State University. While I’m not sure I can tell you any of the “facts” about education that I learned in his class 15 years ago, I do remember the relationship and the person. Those memories are one of the reasons that I chose to attend this workshop. As I left the week, I wasn’t focusing on all of the knowledge that I’d learned through the week; I was celebrating the relationships that had been built. The knowledge from the week was important, but the relationships mattered the most. This same idea holds true in our classrooms. What we teach is important (though students may not remember it past the test), but the relationships we develop are what last.
Ideas take time, and writing requires work. Part of our workshop involved experienceing nature and place so that we could write. I’ve always sought to be a one-draft writiter. I don’t like revision, and the poems that I draft rarely get a second look from me. As an elementary teacher, that was not how I taught writing, but it was my personal method. This week provided time to think about ideas and to revise written works. Through that, I realized that ideas take time to develop and often can’t be produced in final form in one quick draft. I realized that the more drafts I make of a poem the more likely I am to find the best version of that poem. Why hadn’t I realized this prior to camp? The answer lies mostly with time. In the life of a teacher, there is little time to sit around reflecting, writing, and revising. However, in a camp setting, surrounded by nature (and removed from the distractions of cell phones), reflecting and revising were much easier to accomplish. I’m sure that if you take a couple of minutes to reflect on this, you’ll see how it applies to your classroom as well.
People remember stories. One of the highlights of the week was having Bob Valentine from Murray State University entertain us with stories around the campfire. What he taught us was that people remember story. If we can connect the important things we wish to teach to stories, then our students will remember them. I think we probably all learned this somewhere in undergraduate work, but hearing it again (as a story) reminded me of what I might have forgotten.