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The Disinclined Educator - by Claire Adams, Fall EEIP Intern, 2016

Posted by lindsaybarden | Oct 24, 2016

The Disinclined Educator

"You know, Honey," my mom said one Saturday afternoon in early June, "you would make a great teacher." My first thought was, "Yea right. Maybe I can handle one-on-one tutoring in college, but elementary age kids? I'm not so sure." I was in the process of editing my cover letter for the environmental education internship program, while still internally contemplating whether or not I would be a good fit for the position. But I decided to send my application in anyway. As most recent college graduates can attest, I was getting tired of answering the, "So, what's next?" question from every friend and relative. My most common answer was "grad school," but to be honest, I was not entirely sure where I wanted to go or what in particular I wanted to study. And gaining a little diversified work experience in my field of study couldn't hurt. Little did I realize how intriguing my mom's words would become over the next few weeks.

The last twenty minutes of my drive to Au Sable were an inside tug-of-war between being glad to be back but also being nervous about the weeks ahead, not knowing what to expect. I had spent many summer days gaining valuable knowledge and making lifelong friends while taking classes, but the campus is much emptier and quieter in the fall, requiring me to readjust to the change of atmosphere. During training week, I took some time daily to quietly journal and be alone with God, delving into the personal reasons why I accepted this position. Having been away from school for almost ten months and working outside of my field for that time, I was feeling under qualifies and anxious about my ability to effectively teach and connect with the student, never feeling distinctly called to teach before. I never saw myself standing in front of a class, teaching a group of students inside the same classroom year after year; it's just not what I'm passionate about.

But I was limiting my scope of education to the traditional classroom setting. Having been exposed to experiential learning, through field trips in elementary school and taking Au Sable summer courses, I should know better than most that learning can happen anywhere. And you can never fully exhaust the opportunities to learn. While I am teaching the kids in the woods or out by the pond, their energy and excitement allow me to realize how valuable experiential learning is, especially at a young age. To be allowed to touch insects and plants, to see and listen to birds, play intentional games, and go hiking on trails in the woods teaches the kids more than expected, just from being tangibly exposed to the subjects of the day's lesson. And it's amazing the kinds of questions that kids will ask. They notice the little things that often escape the busy minds of adults. Tiny flowers, algae in the pond, mushrooms, and patterns on leaves fascinate them and their curiosity helps remind me to notice the minute details around me as well.

Since I graduated from college, I have kept telling myself that I want to do something great with the passions and abilities with which God has gifted me. I thought that meant I would have to be at the top of my field, constantly making breakthrough discoveries and publishing articles in prestigious scientific journals. But becoming famous and popular does not necessarily mean that you will leave a great legacy. It is when doing work which you are most passionate about that you will make the greatest impact both to yourself and others. And that doesn't mean making a huge salary or being nationally recognized for your work; your value lies in God and He will bless you when you are fulfilling the calling He has placed on your life. This internship has started to show me that environmental education is work for which I am truly passionate.