The week of May 19th six of the ten middle school teachers from my school went to Camp David Jr with our 8th grade students for an Olympic Odyssey outdoor learning experience. It was a fantastic week!
Part of our outdoor experience is some hiking. There are some incredibly beautiful places to hike in WA State and we had the best weather I’ve ever seen the week we were there. We had some shorter hikes to get to Second Beach and to view Tatoosh Island from Cape Flattery but we also had a couple of longer hikes. Ozette Beach makes a triangle for a roughly nine and half mile hike. We also hiked the Spruce Railroad Trail along Lake Crescent on Monday to give kids a fun way to get to camp (a misunderstanding where kids thought it was a four mile hike got them rather upset after hiking six and a half miles and getting picked up by our buses so we wouldn’t be too late getting to camp).
We got to hike about 20 miles total that week. I noticed something in those hikes that made me think about the kind of educator I am. There were parts of the hikes where the trails were pretty narrow and since staying on the trail is important for protecting the natural habitat passing was discouraged. When the trails widened or when hiking on the beach the faster hikers led the way and the rest of the hikers settled into their comfortable paces from the middle to the end. I often found myself alone in the middle.
It was quite nice to have the time to hike and reflect and enjoy the scenery, which got me to thinking. Why was I alone in the middle? Where did everyone go? There were high school counselors, 8th graders and sometimes even teachers who were going just fast enough that I didn’t want to keep up with them (or just plain couldn’t!). I was going at my pace and pretty soon I’d look ahead and couldn’t see anyone.
Those who were with me and were walking more slowly than me eventually fell behind so that when I turned to look back, I couldn’t see anyone. That made me think about my teaching career. For most of my 23 years of teaching grades 4 through 8 I’ve often found myself alone in the middle.
I’ve never been quick enough to try the newest and latest thing first. By the time I was making webpages using HTML and having my students do the same, many others had been there and had been doing that. But no one in my school was. By the time I was having students blog many others had already been doing that. But no one in my school was. You get the picture. I was the first, and often only, teacher in my school to do things but not the first by a long shot when I’d widen my search.
It became very apparent when I started using Twitter and connecting with other educators that I was somewhere in the middle, and alone. There are so many teachers doing things way before I do, yet I’m still way ahead of the teachers I work with. I’m not fast enough to keep up with the super fast adopters but I’m still an early adopter because I do jump on faster than many others.
While enjoying my solitary hike it occurred to me that being in the middle like this is actually pretty good. I get to learn from the earlier adopters and those ahead of me. Then I can take all that experience, my own and that of those who are ahead of me, and use it to help those behind me. Being alone in the middle can be pretty cool.
Here’s a pedometer screenshot of the Ozette hike:
Here’s the Ozette hike without the mile markers:
Here’s the Cape Flattery hike: