I fell in love with the outdoors just weeks before my 21st birthday. I was required to take a course titled PED 308: Outdoor Education for Teachers. The purpose of the course was to not only teach outdoor survival skills but important affective qualities that successful teachers must have. The situations that the course puts teacher candidates in are often unfamiliar and therefore stressful – this causes these individuals to display and hone affective qualities that successful educators must possess.
Growing up in suburban Long Island, just 45 minutes east of New York City, my outdoor experiences (besides distance runs in Connetquot State Park and spending hours on summer days along the sandy shoreline) were very limited. I was excited about the experience but never could have dreamed how it would change my life.
While many of my peers were dreading spending two weeks without any connection to the outside world, eating camp food and going a few days too long without a shower, I couldn’t wait to see what the class had in store for me. I learned to canoe, kayak, climb mountains, properly pack my backpack, orienteer, set up camp, and most importantly, the importance and necessity of disconnecting.
I took this class in May/June 2013. I returned this past summer, to spend the first two weeks of August 2016 giving back to the class that taught me so much about myself and about what I want out of life. I returned to Raquette Lake, NY to see a few familiar faces, such as Rob, the camp director, Ian, the intern assistant director, a few friends from my college years who have returned as instructors themselves, and many new faces. Spending two weeks away from home, after having only been home for 40 hours between my return from Canada and my departure for Camp Huntington, was not always easy but it was an experience that I will remember and cherish for a lifetime. I spent hours grading work, participating in icebreakers, organizing first aid kits, cleaning equipment and sharing my past experiences with the students. Additional hours, 5 nights and 6 days worth to be exact, in the wilderness with my backpack, 7 other people, and a massive smile on my face.
After spending a week in camp, as a Teaching Assistant, educating Junior and Senior Teacher Candidates on hard skills and important knowledge regarding the rules of the land, I was paired up with Bre, a lead instructor, and 6 male students. Although some were more eager to get out there, there were others that we worried may not complete the full 5 nights in the Wilderness. We planned for 8 high peaks, 5 of which I’ve hiked on my own time and three new ones that I was eager to conquer and add to my list of completed 46ers. Our students ranged from 6 plus feet tall to a mere 5′ 5″; football players and fraternity boys alike. To say we all came from a different place in life is an understatement… but we all had one major goal in mind: Survive and make the best of it.
We spent long days on the trail, playing various games and learning about one another from both our unspoken actions and our words. We enjoyed celebrating our accomplishments at each summit and peaceful time away from one another during our 15-minute’ summit solos’. We survived disagreements, nights without dinner, ‘shinjuries’, bee stings and aches and pains. We lost some sanity on our hottest day and a water bottle from the highest point in the state of New York but we gained a whole lot of pride and self-empowerment. We sang countless country songs as a group and were sung to sleep each night by a talented member of our party. We spent our nights sharing a lean-to, giggling at the stars and recapping on the days’ often comical events. We spent early mornings having conversations with a distant Owl. We became a family of explorers, some with more passion than others, but all with a mutual understanding and respect for each other and the great wide world we are backpacking through.
Reasons Why You Should Teach What You Love
- You become better at it. Because I had to teach others skills such as canoeing, orienteering and packing a backpack, I became better at them. Sometimes, no matter how knowledgeable you are about a topic, you find yourself taking shortcuts that in reality probably make your life more difficult. By going through and teaching my students what they need to know in order to be successful on their 5 night extended backpacking trip, I practiced what I preached and found that I became better for it.
- When you love something, it shows and this inspires. Passion speaks volumes. Think about all the people you can inspire by simply sharing with them what you know about something you love? For example, I love backpacking and hiking mountains. Unfortunately, there are many places that are in need of some environmental conservation efforts due to individuals’ lack of knowledge regarding appropriate behavior in these places. By sharing my love for these natural places, and my knowledge about how they should be treated, it educates others on a topic that they may need or that they may share with someone who needs some enlightenment on.
- You’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do. This statement couldn’t be more true. I love what I do, as a physical educator, coach, and an outdoor educator; yes, every job has its frustrating moments, but the good certainly outweighs the bad. I never dread going to work and am so lucky that I make a living doing something I love every day. And even if teaching what you love isn’t your full-time 9-5, it may just be something you get to look forward to; a nice break from the day to day.
- Networking. Think about all the people you meet? Not only are you meeting other professionals with the same passion and drive as you but you’re meeting students who are interested in what you love. These students may be willing to help you with future research, projects or pilot programs. The instructors you teach alongside are not only professionals in a field who may be able to help you get your name out there but they’re also lifelong friends. Next time I want to go hiking and I my go-to hiking partners are unavailable, I have 5 people I can call whom I met through teaching outdoor education.
- Who knows what doors might open for you. Do you have a desk job that you hate meanwhile traveling is something you love? Start a travel blog (lol), post webinars on planning adventures/vacations, start marketing for travel gear and other travel companies… you never know what opportunities might rise up to meet you! In my case, I’m hoping to one day teach Outdoor Education in a gnarly area other than New York and/or be an adventure tour guide. I can’t do either of these things without the experiences I receive from teaching Outdoor Education. So for now, I’ll keep my hopes up and continue to teach what I love in the high hopes that it opens great big doors for me in the future!
I LOVED teaching outdoor education this summer up in Adirondack Park. The people I met taught me so much about the great outdoors and allowed me to share my passion with them. I hope to return again this year as long as it doesn’t interfere with coaching Cross Country because unfortunately, our full-time jobs sometimes have to come first.
Enjoying some of these stunning views? Check out my page Adirondack Park for more information on specific mountains and towns to visit!
An Adirondack Mountain Guide is in the works as well!