Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beginning

by Stacey Ebert / Sep 08, 2017 /

For decades, I had a first day of school. Elementary, middle, high school, university, and then teaching high school; late August meant a ‘close’ of camp, early September meant the ‘unofficial end’ to beach season, and then it was back to school. That new outfit, that new backpack, and the jitters of what’s to come all became rolled into one - a first day of school. Amidst all of the crazy and looking forward to the unknown, there was a new beginning. Does everyone have this? How does this ‘beginning’ foster itself for those who don’t have that ‘back to school’ scenario? How do we cultivate that good beginning feeling on a more regular basis? How do we bring that educator eye with that excitement for new amidst the tolerance for the ever-changing unknown to the everyday?

With the endless conversations from state education arenas stemming towards more state testing, less time off of school, and even many going to a full year school system, it’s hard to keep track. The year ‘round schooling is destructive to the summer camp industry, yet allows for longer holiday breaks in between those consistent months of school. The traditional school year leaves time for those summer camp expeditions and a longer 8 week ‘summer’, yet some educators feel kids are away from the ‘traditional learning process’ for too long and could forget what they’d retained in the previous months. And what about those families who choose their own path towards education? The ones whose children create their own start and end, who excel in that pause in between and a need, or want a more fluid, free and creative space in which to fly? How do they continue to regularly cultivate that beginner spirit? Enter travel.

Learn something new in a new setting - Okavanga Delta, Botswana. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beginning
Learn something new in a new setting - Okavanga Delta, Botswana

Travel brings that ‘beginning’ feeling around far more often than once a year. It doesn't have to be a full year excursion to immerse oneself in another country (although, I’d jump at another chance to do just that), it doesn't have to involve first class tickets to fly to the greatest museum in that major metropolis, nor does it have to happen at any particular time of year. Those light bulb moments are more attainable than we believe, and we are without question capable of facilitating that beginning awe without the assistance of calendar milestones. Plan a new outing, enroll in a new course, go to a new meet-up, or set your sights on a hands-on interactive day at a new location - all of these involve that bit of anticipation, an opportunity for knowledge to organically quench the thirst of the day, and an ability to either allow it to continue for an elongated process or bring it to an end when necessary. Travel yields unlimited education. Travel crosses paths with those ‘traditional schooling’ worlds blasting open the minds of all without ever mentioning a need for number #2 pencils.

Attempt a new feat - walking the 39 miles in the Avon 2 day-Walk to End Breast Cancer. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beginning
Attempt a new feat - walking the 39 miles in the Avon 2 day-Walk to End Breast Cancer

The year I traveled around the world, I wanted to be certain that we were going to be some place new for my unofficial ‘first day of school’. It was my first non-school first day of school that I’d had in multiple decades. I recall listening often to that conversation among many retired teachers when they’d come to pay a visit; they made sure they had some place to be on that first ‘first day of school’. Although I was far from retirement, that day ‘without school’ was weird, unnerving, and incredibly awesome - we wandered the city of Madrid taking in renowned stadiums and palaces, gardens and boat rides, and ate amidst thousands of new friends in the middle of a city plaza. There were no books, no laptops, no tests, nor shoes necessary - but we were most certainly students getting a priceless education flung at us from a city, its people, and its culture. 

Try something new - eating paratha in India. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beginning
Try something new - eating paratha in India

Travel is education without ever knowing you’re learning. Travel is new beginnings, continuous global understanding, and constant uncovering or unpacking new information. Travel provides that big picture thinking, breeds those imperative soft skills, and consistently utilizes the hard ones. No question is too small and no wondering ever unnecessary. Whether you’re planning the details of your Machu Picchu trek, booking train tickets on the Euro Rail, or figuring out where to eat lunch on your US National Park road trip, you’re learning. Whether you’re roaming the stalls at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, hiking Uluru in the Australian Outback, or interacting with a member of the southern African Himba Tribe, you’re learning. The blend of people skills, soft skills, and hard skills are imbedded in every step of travel. Rarely are there age limits on the life lessons gained and no matter the post code, all types of learners and learning is welcome. 

Wear something new for the first time - flynets at Uluru, Australian Outback. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beginning
Wear something new for the first time - flynets at Uluru, Australian Outback

Whenever it happens - there’s something about that beginning. There’s a closure to the previous and an enthusiasm for the next. How do we encapsulate that magic for the duration of that year? How do we find the right mixture of joy and nervousness, wonder and speculation, interest and eager for the rest of the ‘school year’? What can we do to encourage the youth to focus on the good part of the ‘new’ and learn to accept the other stuff that comes along? Travel. Travel leads to strong personal development, encourages questioning, challenges traditional thinking, forces critical understanding, elevates conversation and flings its guests amidst hundreds of levels of the unknown and uncontrollable on a daily basis. Travel is those first weeks of school all rolled into one. 

Visit a place you only saw in the movies - Field of Dreams, Iowa. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beginning
Visit a place you only saw in the movies - Field of Dreams, Iowa

Whether you’re RVing across a continent, flying in for an adventure, or seeking the new amidst a familiar backdrop, travel enlightens the soul and helps to develop the learning spirit. For those who have experienced that traditional education beginning in September or January, there’s that official start to another year. If we harness that spark and invite it into each of our lessons throughout the year, we can have that start of something new again and again. There can be the promise of that new beginning when searching for lightning bugs, or that same magic can ignite when we find our first geocache on the other side of the world. Maybe it rears that beautiful head when beginning to learn a new language, shopping in a supermarket in a foreign land, or finding courage to try something we’ve long feared. Forrest Gump may have ‘peas and carrots’, but we have education and travel. The two fit together, blend perfectly, and enhance the likes of each other. When mixed well, learning explodes with a flavor unlike any other.

Have a new experience - making damper in Australian Outback. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beginning
Have a new experience - making damper in Australian Outback

One of my favorite teenagers starts high school this year. I asked her how she was feeling about this whole situation, and the once shy little girl who has grown into this confident and strong young woman told me she’s a ‘little nervous but excited’. Those butterflies are all part of the process, and this young thirteen year old illustrated it eloquently. Throughout the year, I hope she and you can find that new beginning feeling again and again. Add travel to the educational repertoire, channel that inner explorer, and build the best global curriculum imaginable. Young or old, free thinker or textbook learner, first time explorer or long time voyager, the student in each of us will thank you. Enjoy your next ‘beginning’ - I know I will.

Find a new trail - southern California. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beginning
Find a new trail - southern California

 

 

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.
 
Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.
 
 
 
All photos courtesy and copyright Stacey Ebert

 

 

 

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