As a teacher, my job is to help prepare students to become strong adults capable of meeting their own basic needs and ready to participate in, and contribute to, a connected global society. To accomplish this, students need to learn academic content and twenty-first century skills, but just as importantly, they need to develop traits and learn behaviors that will enable them to apply their knowledge. By addressing students’ needs while simultaneously developing strengths, teachers can help students develop the courage, confidence, and character necessary to continue to learn, adapt, and grow long after they leave our classrooms.
I believe this because I was exposed to three different Cs at a young age. When I was in kindergarten, I joined one of the first Daisy Girl Scout troops in San Diego County and was immersed into a world of cookies, camping, and crafts. Over the years, I earned many badges and developed friendships with the girls in my troop. However, the most significant impact Girl Scouting made on my life began during the summer following third grade when my parents dropped me off for my first session at Camp Winacka.
At camp, I was embraced by young and energetic college students whose purpose was to simply put the girls first. My counselors built our schedule based on a list of girl-planned ideas--even accommodating outlandish ones like hosting a medieval jousting tournament. During our session, we developed courage as we shook our way across the monkey bridge. We developed confidence as we shot bows and arrows. We developed character as we sat in magic circles to share compliments and discuss interpersonal challenges. We were gently encouraged to try new things--including snacks like boob fudge--thanks to our counselors’ challenge-by-choice philosophy. At night, the entire community came together for all-camp events and traditional campfires. On my last night at camp, I hugged my friends around a campfire as we reflected on the experiences we had just shared.
I was fortunate to spend eighteen more summers at Camp Winacka and its sister camp Camp Whispering Oaks. Camp inspired me to be a teacher. I wanted to help create memorable experiences for young people. I wanted to help them try new things. I wanted to build authentic relationships. I noticed that campers eagerly learned and cooperatively worked together without any of the plans, rules, and formal roles present in school. I wanted to make school more like camp.
I have spent the past seven summers teaching summer school instead of singing, hiking, and sleeping under the stars. But every year, my classroom becomes more like camp--even though my learners’ hands now hold Chromebooks instead of canteens. I put my students first. I build supportive relationships. I work to provide autonomy while simultaneously guiding them to engage in challenging tasks. I understand that relationships and experiences are necessary to help students develop the courage, confidence, and character necessary to become strong adults.