- Before leaving my teaching position, I was a primary school teacher for more than 10 years.
- During the pandemic, I decided to homeschool my own children.
- I ended up taking a job at an experiential school and was excited to teach again.
I thought I would never go back to teaching because of the current tumultuous climate. I had taught for about a decade, taken time off to raise my children, and then decided to try adjunct teaching. Then the pandemic hit, so I decided to homeschool my own kids for a year. And at that time, education changed dramatically.
During the pandemic, teachers were under even more pressure with the difficulty of teaching via video. Critical race theory, which is mostly taught in law schools, entered the discourse and some parents were vocal (and often angry) about what their children were being taught – despite the fact that the program had not changed.
The flaws in the education system were also exposed. Teachers are often micromanaged, for example, based on their building or district administrators.
After a year of teaching during the pandemic, my teacher friends were exhausted and felt disrespected and exhausted. So, instead of trying to get back into education, I decided to try to make do with my freelance career more and teach a few classes at the local community college under the extended education program, where I would mainly teach retirees.
Everything changed when I came across an experiential school
But after scouring social media, I noticed a job posting for a learning specialist at a local high school in the woods along the shores of Lake Michigan. The setting was idyllic. I knew the school population was small and the curriculum focused on experiential education and love.
So I followed my instincts and took the plunge. Within two days, I was offered the job. Instead of dread, my enthusiasm grows. I knew it wouldn’t be easy as no teaching job is, but I had a feeling I was going to help make a difference in children’s lives – and it wouldn’t just happen within the walls of a physical school.
At Leelanau School, you’ll find our students wearing waders and observing the slimy inhabitants of the river that runs through campus, instead of learning biology just from a book. Students create land art with sticks, rocks, moss, etc. They collect honey from beehives, ride mountain bikes on trails, bake cookies to learn about math, read at outdoor bonfires, practice fly fishing, and more.
We all use nature to feel better
In my own classroom, when I find that students are having a particularly rough day, it’s not unusual to just take a walk on the beach or in the woods. It allows all of us, even me, to breathe deeply, come together and reset.
When I say school is all about experiential education and love, we start our mornings enjoying a meal together as a community. We give positive shouts to students and teachers and then do some kind of physical activity in the morning to energize us for the day ahead.
It’s not perfect, of course. When you get a group of teenagers together, things are bound to go wrong. But it is this love that allows us to go through this ordeal together.
As a teacher, it’s refreshing to see my students experience their education instead of feeling like passive observers. I’m sure they’ll remember what they learned because their hands were involved.
And with the love and mutual respect mixed into these experiences, I’m willing to bet it will forever mark their hearts.