Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Outside our Comfort Zone

 "Solo" - we enjoy the woods, write about our experiences, ponder our existence.
 A team building activity - how many nails can you pile on the one sticking up?  Winner was 13!
Rock climbing takes us outside our comfort zone.

    My Schmardies are so lucky - we are an Expeditionary Learning, Outward Bound School.  The pictures above were taking during our "Winter Voyage."  We went overnight to a camp for some winter team building and learning.  You can see that we didn't have a whole lot of snow (February in Colorado!), but some great learning took place anyway.
     Gifted kids generally do pretty well academically.  They know the "answers."  They don't always shine at physical activities, and once they figure that out, they quit trying.  That's their perfectionism at work.
     When our "Discovery" classrooms were placed at our school, it was supposed to be temporary, to fill this school as it grew, waiting while another school was being built.  We were supposed to stay for 3 years, and then move on to the new location.  So our students at first didn't go on the "Voyages."  (Our Adventure Ed overnight trips are called Voyages.)  But many of them had siblings who were not in the Discovery classrooms, and they did go on the Voyages.  Soon our students were wanting to go too.  Our 5/6 Discovery teacher and I got together to compare notes.  We liked this school!  It was challenging our gifted students in a way that a "regular" curriculum could not.  The Adventure Ed piece not only includes Voyages, but also rock climbing in the gym, and survival studies and techniques, among other things.  Our students did the rock climbing during PE, and what we noticed were students going outside their comfort zone.  One day the first year I heard one of my students say, "My goal was to get to the top of the rock wall.  At first I couldn't do it, but today I did!"  My 5/6 colleague and I kept hearing things like this over and over from our students.  We both had experience with gifted kids, and this was new.  Perseverance is a character trait for our school, and we were seeing it with our students!  In spite of their perfectionism, they were willing to keep trying.  The spirit of the school promotes personal best over competition.  And our students were thriving.
     We put it to our Administration, and then our SAC (School Advisory) committee.  Could we stay?  Could we have a home here?  We really felt like we belonged.  That was new too - in my previous experiences, we were considered an oddity, something to be "put up with," or at worst, laughed at or scorned.  I often heard from other teachers that I had the easiest job, because my kids were smart.  But that wasn't happening here!  The school motto is, "We are Crew, not passengers."  We were definitely part of the crew!  SAC agreed with us, and had to put on a presentation for the district.  The district officials were amazed.  Generally schools were happy to pass the gifted kids on, for a variety of reasons.  In fact, our 6th graders had been at 3 different sites in just a few years!    It was unprecedented, but the district approved it.  And here we are, 5 years later.  Still growing (including me!)  Still thriving.  Always Crew.  Happy to be outside our comfort zone.


  1. Okay, now this post got to me. I am a little teary reading this. :-)

  2. Awwww, you made me laugh Jill! It's wonderful to be part of something we can be so proud of!