This is Part II of a two part series about the Outward Bound Educator Program. If you missed Part I, you can return to the home page and read more about the topic there.
Weeks after the Outward Bound Educator Trip I am still reminded of the many lessons that I learned. At the end of the trip, there is a commencement ceremony that is held where they reveal to you that although you are a part of the Outward Bound program during the trip, it is not until you have lived the entire experience that you are truly outward bound. Although I wasn’t entirely clear on what that would mean to me a few days or even a month after the trip, I am starting to realize the utility of the lessons that were conveyed.
I am continuously reminded of the connections that I made and the lessons that I learned through the the course of the 7 day expedition. I continue to remind myself the importance of perspective taking and the impact that it can have on our mindset. I am brought to a realization of the impact that openly appreciating others for the gifts that they bring to the table can have. Although it can be difficult to do when my schedule seems to be packed beyond a reasonable limit, I continue to allow myself time to be present in the moment even if my presence is only fleeting.
Last week, I detailed a variety of reasons that I think educators should think about taking the time to be involved in an Outward Bound Educator Trip including pushing your limits, embracing new experiences, and building community. Here are a few more reasons that you should consider taking the 7-days out of your busy life to experience Outward Bound:
For those who have not done an extended stay outdoors, there is a lot to be said about the character building that happens when you set your mind to doing something and staying with it. We ask our students to be gritty and persevere through challenging situations. What happens when we are the ones who are being asked to get gritty while spending days without the common luxuries that we are afforded in the comfort of our homes? Depending on the weather, even the most outdoor-savvy individuals can be pushed to their limits. Although the weather on our trip was nearly perfect, I have spent many days on trail where rain and storms were the only type of weather known. When you are forced to walk more than 10 miles in wet shoes, squishing with each step, you find out a lot about how you respond to challenges.
Even with beautiful weather the Outward Bound program is very intentional in creating character building experiences. On the first day of the trip, they send you up a tree with a person that you just met in order to complete the high ropes course. You are asked to set a goal for yourself. If that goal happens to be just getting to the top of the ladder and looking around, that is fine. For all in our group, the goal was to finish the course. My partner and I decided that we would be the first ones up the tree. I got to the top of the tree and stood for the first time on the taught wire— my knees shaking like Olive Oyl before Popeye comes to the rescue. I immediatly realized that this was going to be more difficult than I first thought. Once we got to where the two wires come together to form one, the real challenge was on. We began easing our way towards the end of the course. Then it happened— a misstep and my partner fell. This is the moment where true character is built. Do you stop there or do you dig deep and decide to keep going? We laughed it off, buckled down and made it to the end of the course. Through the Outward Bound experience, you find that you can get through nearly anything with a positive attitude, a light-heart, and an upbeat group of people.
We live in a world where at any given moment there are hundreds of things that are competing for our attention. Whether it is the next things we need to do for work, the bills we have to pay, or the constant buzzing of our cell phones we constantly have things calling us out of the present and just enjoying what is going on in the moment. The 7 days that were spent on the Outward Bound trip gave me a chance to disconnect. My cell phone was left in the car. Although it was difficult to let go of it, not having it was a welcomed relief. I wouldn’t be called to think about the happenings of the outside world. I could spend my time thinking about the beautiful day and the sounds of the paddle entering and leaving the water. I could enjoy the sights of the herons wading through the water, the eagles diving for food, or so many other beautiful things without feeling the need to reach for my phone and post a picture to Instagram. My mind was free to be in the present in the moment of now. This is a luxury that we are seldom afforded in our day-to-day lives. Recalling what it is like to be completely present, I realized that I need to build in times during my day that I could simply be free from the hustle and completely in the moment. This hasn’t been easy, but spending that time on the river made me realize the value of disconnecting— if only for a moment.
When you set out to spend a week with complete strangers, you realize the value of being mindful of others. Each person in the group is intentionally bound to the other. The food and supplies are shared. The responsibility for putting up and taking down camp is one of the group, not the individual. Each with varying levels of outdoor experience and differing personalities, we are called to be mindful of another’s perspective and to trust the others to hold their weight. We each will surely have our high and low points throughout the week— times where we are feeling energetic and excited and times where we are feeling downright exhausted. In order to continue to have a positive group experience, we must be mindful of what the other members of the group are feeling and respond accordingly. The surest way to create conflict is to be unaware of the feeling of others. No matter how hard we try conflict can arise, but we can significantly reduce those conflicts by being mindful of others’ emotions.
I was fortunate enough to share a week with people who were very mindful of the group dynamics. 3 days into the trip, we were waiting for the ‘honeymoon’ phase of the trip to fade. It never did. I think this speaks volumes to the level of positivity and recognition of others that the group shared. Although personalities and perspectives of the world were far reaching, we found ways to connect as people which were also opportunities to learn.
In the early moments of the week when things are going well, you are making deposits in the bank for if and when things start going awry. Each positive experience you have with another person is just one more deposit in the bank to be used later. We can take this same concept of relationship building and apply it to our interactions with our students. It is unrealistic to think that throughout the course of the year, we will not have a bad day or a student will not have a bad moment. That is why it is so important to form strong, positive relationships with our students and their parents/guardians and maintain them throughout the year. I will detail this concept in further detail in a future blog post.
If you are teacher looking for a good way to unwind for a week or so in the summer, the Outward Bound Educator Program is a good place to look. You don’t need to be an experienced in the ways of the outdoor. All you need to bring is yourself, some clothes, a positive attitude and an open-mind. You will get an opportunity to unwind in safe space and learn what it’s like to be completely present in the moment. Along the way, you will have a chance to meet some new and interesting people. Learning is done through experience and reflection. You might even learn something new about yourself.