In my role as an instructional coach, I’ve worked with teachers across all spectrums of experience and style. I can’t say that I have a favorite “type” (variety is the spice of life), but right now I’m having a lot of fun watching the evolution of my brand new teachers. In the fall, they had so many questions, and so many tears. One of them even shared this graphic with me:
Ten years ago, I was charged with teaching 6th grade for the first time, and I can vividly remember these feelings. When they said, “You get to spend a week at Outdoor School with your students,” I wanted to run and hide in a hole. An entire week? Sleeping on a bunk? Eating camp food? Singing songs? No, thank you. My (very patient) teammates can attest that I HATED Outdoor School, and made my misery well-known…for several years.
The thing is, I like my life. It’s just the way I want it to be. Having grown-up living in joint custody, where I schlepped my stuff from house-to-house every few days, I developed a keen sense of what I wanted in my adult life: STABILITY. CONTROL. COMFORT.
If you grew up consistently sleeping in one bedroom, eating out of the same fridge, and taking the same route to-and-from school everyday, you’ll never know what it was like to basically live a vagary lifestyle of unknowns. Now, I want to eat the same, bland breakfast everyday; marathoning The Young & the Restless afterwork; play video games in bed; you get the idea.
So a couple weekends ago when I was being dragged around Barcelona with 49 other teachers on zero sleep and strange food, I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” Most everyone else seemed pretty content to let someone else decide when and where we went, what we would eat, when we would go to sleep; but I kept finding myself sneaking away from the group, and at one point I ditched them to go running and eat salami from the supermarket. (It was a very freeing moment).
There’s a misconception that I am so particular because I’m high-maintenance, or inflexible. That’s not it at all – I grew up constantly experiencing change based on the whim of my parents. In fact, that has made me so incredibly flexible in the workplace (which I think my teammates can also attest to). So when they said, “Go to Outdoor School,” it wasn’t that it was cold and muddy and the bunk was hard as a rock and the food came out of a can or the camp staff are insanely perky at 6am – it was that I had no control.
That being said, I know that I can’t hide in my shell for the rest of my life. I signed up to take my students to Greece in the summer (with a teammate who will help calm my anxiety) because HEL-LO it’s a free trip. At the same time I was thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?” in Barcelona, I also thought, “Look how far I’ve come. I can do this.”
The kicker? Even though I’m no longer teaching 6th grade, I volunteered to spend a week at Outdoor School in place of a teacher who has an infant at home. An entire week. Sleeping on a bunk. Eating camp food. Singing songs. And I’ll probably enjoy it.