Sam Harrelson

Into the Wild

As a teacher, there’s something humbling about being with about 150 middle schoolers at an overnight trip with two days full of (real) rock climbing and (real) canoeing and sleeping in cabins.

You’re stripped away of the front of your classroom and your remote control and your ability to write on the board and ring a bell and have assigned seats… all conventions that keep you in power and give you comfort of knowing the plan.

Instead, you’re thrown into a canoe with a couple of students and have to figure out how best to get unstuck from a rock or not hit a pylon with a roaring current and rapids. The stakes aren’t about arbitrary A’s and B’s but real physical impact and safety.

Learning takes on a whole new level when you realize that your guidance to/from students and your teamwork with a group of 12 or 13 year olds can literally change your life in a second for good or bad as you are suspended from a rope 50 feet above a cliff.

I sometimes wonder if Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Pythagorus, Epicurus, Lucretius, Pyrrho etc had it right with their model of education in small groups with no classroom walls or school buildings compared to our four walled system of “instruction.”

Not to live, but to live well…

Posted: 09.08.2012

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