Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Connections and Reflections

The first weekend of our TTEC cohort in Ft Royal, VA was great.  A drizzly Friday made for a good first day to be spent mostly indoors, learning about the program and each other.  As the only high school teacher of the group, I felt a little out of place at first, but quickly remembered why most of my teacher friends are in elementary schools.  They're really friendly, and know how to work collaboratively.  I think that's what gets lost in schools sometimes as students get older.  We want students to collaborate on projects, but we don't always model that well for them in high school.

I thought I knew what I wanted in my curriculum, but the sessions with Betty, Karen and TTEC alumni threw a monkey wrench into that - in a good way.  As the only teacher from my school, and my district, I realized that I need to capitalize on what's already going on with my school, and expand it.  We already do a lot in terms of sustainability, but I don't know that it's always clear to the students why we're taking these actions.  After reflecting on what I want to do with this experience on our Saturday hike, I realized that I need to take one of these sustainability issues and make the connection to the A.T.  As we hiked, I wished my school was closer to the Trail, or any real nature besides a few street tree boxes and a landscaped courtyard.  Some members of my cohort can see the Trail from their school, or be on it in under 30 minutes.   The connections still need to be made with students, but how great to have that kind of access to the Trail, or some nature within a short walk of your school campus.  

Hopefully, I can see if there's a way to get students on the Trail at some point, but in the meantime, I need to be thinking about what resources the A.T. provides my community, and how I can help students to reflect on our dependence on it, and appreciate these benefits from a distance.  We are starting a partnership as a Monarch Sister School with a school in Mexico. Surely, if we can get students interested in Monarchs in Mexico, we can get them to see the beauty and natural wonder that's on the A.T., 90 miles to the west of us.

My photos are snapshots that remind me of the idea of interconnection - which is what I'm left thinking about after this weekend.  The Chase, was in the lobby of the dorm where we stayed at the Smithsonian - Mason School of Conservation.  It caught my attention because it's a lot of things.  It's funny, maybe a little violent, but most importantly, it's part of the natural order.  We all need resources, and provide resources to others.  We are connected, in good ways and less desirable ones too.  Making these connections with students is part of what I enjoy about working in a high school.  It's where the protection of childhood meets the truth of the world they're inheriting.  

The second is a sketch from my pocket journal - thanks, Betty - that I did during our lunch break on the Trail.  It helped me to visualize the connections I want to make between different people at my school, in my district and the larger A.T. community.  In my head, that list was starting to feel crowded and exhausting.  Putting it down on paper in a simple way, might not make sense to anyone else, but it helped me to relax, take a deep breath, look out over the skyline and realize I wasn't alone in my efforts.

Written by Mike Cruse

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North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

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Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald