Sunday, November 1, 2009

Learning to Fly

Look outside your window and you'll see the trees turning vibrant shades of rust. The days are getting shorter, and the weather colder, the air brisker. It's already the first of November, and the days are flying by. Cohort A just finished the second week of solo teaching with Emerald Heights Elementary, a local school in Silverdale that brings sixth graders every year. It was a great week for the Cohort A graduate instructors--the dynamic that accompanies teaching older students brought a heightened level of excitement as the week began on Monday morning.

My role was that of the school liaison, which means that I was in charge of logistical planning for group activities throughout the week. Acting as liaison is a great change of pace from field instruction, and it offers a host of new challenges, as well. The week began by opening Friendship Circle with introductions and then lunch, which included brief lessons in recycling and composting, two practices that are key components of all meals here at IslandWood. After a quick review of schedules, rules and other logistics, we introduced the students to the IslandWood experience with a rousing rendition of the Banana Slug song. I donned the banana slug costume, to the amusement of 101 laughing, excited sixth graders. The remainder of the afternoon was spent distributing rain gear to the students. As a life-long Mid-Westerner, I'm quickly learning the importance of good rain gear here in the Pacific Northwest.

Throughout the rest of the week, my liaison duties varied from filling water jugs near the harbor for student fill-ups to facilitating the evening program, Ecosystems Challenge, and leading morning Friendship Circle meetings. Each day I led songs and brief lessons for the entire group of students, a task that at first seemed a little daunting; but as the week progressed, I found myself eagerly awaiting the responsibility of leading the morning Friendship Circle songs and facilitating the debrief discussion during evening programs. By the end of the week, I had become surprisingly comfortable in front of large groups.

As it always does, the week ended with Wednesday night campfire. For the students, this is seemingly the long-awaited, much-anticipated apex of the entire week; for the moment it is announced early in the week, the buzz about skit-planning can be heard throughout the field groups and within the students' lodges. It was a great show, with plenty of amazing performances by students and grad instructors, alike. There was no shortage of smiles and laughter, and the evening ended with the routine slide show of photos taken during field instruction. The kids love this part, as it highlights them as the stars of the show and serves as a reminder of their incredible accomplishments during their time here at IslandWood.

The grad instructors ended the week with a pumpkin carving party graciously hosted by our very own Emily. It served as a relaxing and fun night with our fellow grads, and one in which creative juices flowed freely in the spirit of Halloween. There was great food, amazing music and an array of exquisitely-carved pumpkins. After a long and tiring but rewarding week, it was just the R&R we needed.

This was a great week, and we look forward to many more to come. Our time here is just beginning, and there's so much more yet to unfold. In the words of a wise soul, "my golly, there's something incredible going on here."

Stay tuned for more!

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