Teachers learn during Outward Bound training
Those first few days of kindergarten can be tough ones, and now three teachers at Delaware Ridge Elementary say they know exactly how young kindergartners feel.
“It really did put me in the shoes of a student,” said first-grade teacher Molly Dykman of the Outward Bound course she and teachers Jennifer Rockers and Natalie Ball took in June. “It put me into perspective to what my students were feeling on their first days of school.”
The teachers say they are better able to empathize with students struggling at school because the Outward Bound course, which was from June 14 to June 21 in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, was one of the most difficult, and most rewarding, challenges of their lives.
“It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but the most inspiring,” Ball, who teaches third grade, said. “I learned a lot about myself that I never thought I could do, and that’s the inspiring part.”
The course, which was paid for through a Fund for Teachers grant the three teachers were awarded earlier this year, consisted of such physical endurance challenges as rock climbing, low-ropes and high-ropes courses and a canoe adventure that lasted from Monday afternoon to Friday morning, where Ball said she discovered some physical strength she didn’t know she had.
“I was really surprised I was able to carry an 80-pound canoe on my shoulders,” she said of the times the three would have to travel with the canoe without the aid of water and a paddle.
On Thursday of the canoe trip, the three teachers were required to do a solo camp night, where they each camped in separate areas all by themselves with nothing more than a bug net, a mat and sleeping bag and a protective tarp.
On that night, Ball, who said she had been fearful and apprehensive about this challenge all week, surprised herself even more.
“You know, it was amazing,” Ball said. “I thought I would be really bored, and just scared. I just spent my time writing and drawing and before I knew it, I was falling asleep. It went faster than I thought it would go and, looking back, it wasn’t that scary. It was just a really neat time to reflect and it wasn’t that bad.”
Now that they are back, the three teachers plan to utilize what they’ve learned to not only build a low-ropes course at the school, to be completed in the fall, but to also put together a family camping trip for the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders and their parents in September. All three said they felt they would be much stronger teachers after this experience and, as Ball said, have an even greater bond as friends.
“I think we built a bond that cannot be even described,” Ball said. “When you’re in that environment, it would be really easy to get stressed and frustrated. But, in turn, we supported each other rather than getting frustrated with each other. We understood each other’s struggles.”
A favorite memory from the trip for Dykman was the high-ropes course, which she described as a “something I’ve never before done in my life moment.”
As for Rockers, who teaches first grade, she said she couldn’t put her finger on just one favorite moment.
“The whole experience,” she said. “There really was no best part.”
She said she definitely recommends an Outward Bound course to anyone willing to take on the challenge.