Last week I went on a three day river trip but not with the typical river posse. Beer didn't come on this trip and curse words never left my mouth. Words of the latest and greatest pop songs were being sung in unison.
Through Alpine Quest Sports (located in Edwards and Vail) Sean Glackin, Matt Paula, Anna Fischer, and myself took students and two teachers from Vail Mountain School on a multi-day river SUP adventure. A program where the highschool students choose an outdoor adventure activity (SUP, Inflateable kayaks, hiking, flyfishing, etc..) for three days before jumping into the school year.
At first I was nervous. I've never considered myself a "kid-person". I don’t know what I can and can't say...am I too casual? Am I too serious? I seem to go with one or the other, with no happy medium. I get this weird, "I hope they like me" feeling, like I'm back in school myself. Maybe it’s because of my feelings of inadequacy throughout my grade school years.
After the first day on the water...I knew all I had to do was be myself. It amazed me how well these kids communicated and how self-aware they were. I would forget I was interacting with highschoolers. Not one complaint was uttered and the air was filled with laughter.
At the end of each day the two teachers would conduct group discussions. The students discussed the impact of technology on our interpersonal relationships and communication. Another night the upper class-man gave the lower classes advice on their upcoming year. It was an astounding thing to listen to, I could not remember an experience from my school years that was as constructive and positive.
Vail Mountain School is “…enriched by athletics, independent projects, service learning, in-depth intraterm classes, winter hut trips, outdoor education, and Ski Fridays. We believe teachable moments are everywhere and we are bound neither by belief nor government mandate to teach in only one way. One size does not fit all, one size fits one.”
I believe if more schools adopted this structure our society would be in a much more stable and effective state. I feel as though I was cheated as a child. School wasn’t a very positive experience for me, it wasn’t the type of environment in which I thrived, and there were never any measures taken to change that. If you didn’t fit into this teeny tiny box you were left behind.
I thought about my time in grade-school quite a bit in those three days. It was easy for me to skirt by and not get involved in the classroom. I rarely remember any of it except the times I wasn’t in class. I would ditch school regularly to go push around on my skateboard. I couldn’t bear to be inside, listen to the teacher drone on, and mindlessly take notes. It made me crazy!
It was in my Sophmore year that I left my school and began homeschooling. I couldn’t find my place in the public school system. And I probably missed out on a lot because of it. But this allowed me to work while I was going to school and snowboard/be outside regularly…this was when I was my best self. I learned quickly how to be self-sufficient.
Seeing these kids gave me so much more hope for the next generation. And I wish for this shift in teaching methods to continue to spread and eventually become the societal norm. I loved being part of these kids first experience with SUP on the river and can only hope it was as enriching for them as it was for me.