Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Renewal of Autumn

by Stacey Ebert / Nov 05, 2018 /
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What does autumn mean to you? For me, for years in New York, autumn meant the arrival of crisp air, the changing colors of leaves, homecomings, the impending holidays and pumpkin spiced everything. In San Diego, there’s still an arrival of moderately cooler air, you can drive an hour or so and watch the leaves change yet your fish tacos are just as tasty as they were a few months ago and your flip-flops never leave your feet. Here, summer reigns supreme and that outdoor lifestyle doesn’t change much throughout the year. If you want to pick the pumpkins and eat the wholesome apple pie amidst that autumn feeling, you have to go in search of it all. 

The Renewal of Autumn

With that in mind, what does autumn mean to you? If it’s something that you’d have to indeed search for - would you? Is it a season that you’ve fallen in love with because it’s there or is it worth seeking? One of my best friends thrives most in this season. She waits all year for sweater season, spends weekends canning the fruit from her garden and can’t get enough of hot chocolate, warm blankets and socks. I’m sure that if she didn’t live in a place that had easy access to autumn, she would move to find it. We may be best friends, but this summer fiend doesn’t miss the sneezing season or the falling of the leaves - each of us thrives in a different space. If autumn were your happy season - what would you do to get it? How can you create the good feelings of autumn at any time of year? How do we cultivate a community of seekers who would gladly make the effort of seeking for the joy autumn provides? That renewal feeling, that change in outlook, that shift in focus, that craving of joy - how do you find it?

The Renewal of Autumn

Whether it’s a season, a dream or an educational lesson - how do we cultivate a community of seekers? How do we foster that ambition, that desire to go in search of what makes us happy or better yet, to find that happiness in where we are? How do we motivate our students to find interest in their learning endeavors, nurture a yearning to delve further into their own education and foster the idea that our students become advocates for themselves? How do we take that renewal of season, that rejuvenation of self and bring that newness to our lessons, units, and entire curriculums? Travel! 

For decades, students around the globe have participated in pen pal programs. In the beginning of my teaching career, I too, utilized a pen pal program for my ninth graders. One of my former students (who is now over 30 years of age) received a pen pal from Italy. The two exchanged letters about culture and the lives of teenagers and each was always excited to hear about the goings on in each other’s lives. Who would have thought then that they’d still be in each other’s lives today continuing to travel thousands of miles to see each other and continue their friendship and shared enjoyment of each other’s diverse lives? We never left our classroom, yet somehow the world got a little smaller, relationships grew and a more global mindset flourished.

For decades, students have studied about culture, economy, social activism, vast differences between globalization and nationalist ideals, interdependence, religion, arts, environment, and constant shifts in the global world. For decades, teachers have shown movies, used text books, broken out primary source documents, engaged speakers, invited workshops, handled field trips, shared stories, and some have even managed to take classes out of the surrounding areas for experiences all their own. Travel changes things. Travel shifts the environment, blasts the four walls of a traditional classroom, and engages senses that remain dormant in traditional schooling. Travel invites an expansion of comfort zones, experiences never before had, and ignites passions that may get unnoticed in those traditional curriculums. 

Today, there are multiple ways to encourage connection, curate community, discover anew, and challenge the stagnant. Today, pen pals can instant-message each other, video conferencing is an everyday occurrence, and websites and apps encourage conversation and ease and access to learn new languages. Online and in person communities engage in rigorous discussion, world exploration, and encourage both soft and hard skills needed to succeed in today’s global world. Today there are tutors of all kinds, after school programs, meet ups, classes, and even some of the large parks offer tempting opportunities for robotic fans and rangers, cooks and climbers, environmentalists and engineers, artists and activists, and scientists and the socially-minded. 

Although the ability to leave community, town, city, state, or country is not easily available for everyone, the idea to cultivate a newness, start from where you are, or seek what brings you joy is. Whether it’s making a monthly trip to the library, planning an international adventure annually, or knowing that although you’re happy where you are you might like to explore the opportunities of joy elsewhere - we always have the possibility to begin again. If we share this idea with our students, our children, and our young friends, the spirit of autumn’s renewal is bound to make an impact on their lives. 

I may choose to live in San Diego, where the shift in temperature is minimal and the colorful leaves a drive away, but no matter where we plop ourselves, autumn still comes around each year. Let’s change the game in our classrooms and our communities and invite that spirit of awe, that newness of season, and that desire to discover back into our curriculums and our lives. As the leaves change colors and head for their annual rejuvenation period, perhaps we, too, can share similar experiences.

Actionable ways to embrace autumn

Get outside

Much of autumn revolves around the crisp air, shorter hours of sunlight, changing colors of the leaves, and inevitable shift in temperatures. Take advantage of the daylight hours and the cooler weather. Find a festival, cook different foods, hike, seek information regarding the environment and climate change, enter in a race, play in the puddles, collect trash from the beach, recycle, practice ‘earthing’, and discover how the different times of day affect your moods.

Try something new

Each year there’s another trend around this time of year. Between the beginnings of school and the December holidays, there are shifts. Leaves change colors, Halloween and Thanksgiving invite decorations and treats, and the fourth quarter of the year comes to a close. Get out there and do something new and different. Rock climb, learn a new language, take a new route home, pick up an instrument, make a new friend, try out a new look, or give a new outlook on life a try.

Embrace diversity

Have you ever checked if the same leaves from the same trees turn the same colors each year and fall at the very same time? I haven’t experimented, but I think it’s safe to say that that’s not an all the time occurrence. Give something different a try. Visit a different religion’s house of worship. Eat a different ethnic cuisine. Speak to someone with a different background from your own. Volunteer at a new organization. Share a meal with a stranger. Share your story with respect and kindness - you just might make a new friend out of the experience.

Change something

Seasons change! With each new quarter of the year comes a renewed sense of spirit and purpose. Get out there and change something today. Perhaps it’s building a more positive attitude or implementing a new exercise plan. Perhaps it’s shifting focus away from being busy and on to more purposeful endeavors. Perhaps it’s getting more involved in the community, connecting with an old friend, or signing up for that class you’ve been thinking about forever. With every seasonal change comes a new beginning - start yours today.

Practice self-care

Autumn reminds us to take some time to work on ourselves. Spring and summer leaves fall, all the earlier work in the garden provides a harvest, and some of our animal friends finish collecting their winter needs and head off for some much needed rest. Take a cue from nature and do the same. Weave in that exercise, cut down on the sweets, practice mindfulness, embrace a positive attitude, take some time to work on you - by the next season’s arrival - you’ll sure be glad you did.

Actionable ways to embrace autumn

 

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.

 

 

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