Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nature Name: Champion of the Sun

Most beautiful moment of peace in the mountains

This is going to be poorly written. I know it, and am sorry. Maybe I'll edit tomorrow but no promises-- I'm so behind on posts and just want to be up-to-date, and this is my last one for the night!

It still is incredible to me that our big 4th grade field trip is taking our students to Switzerland for a week. The trust that must take for our families is so huge, and it really does reap amazing benefits. Last year it was one of my favorite weeks of the year, and this year was no different. 

So much joy!
I've been struggling a little bit because there are so many times with this group of kids that I'm just like, "UGHHH WHY DON'T YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THIS!?!?! JUST FIGURE IT OUT!!!!" But since I don't want to scar them for life with memories of a verbally abusive teacher, I just keep that to myself and sweetly and calmly say things like, "What independent step could you take?" or "How could you be a problem-solver?" What I need to keep in mind is that the students I'm comparing them to are end-of-the-year-4th-graders, and these are beginning-of-the-year-4th-graders, and I need to give them a break. 

This week away at camp has such an amazing effect on the students, and they gain so much independence through natural consequences. The examples I give might seem small, but they really are huge for these children. Each morning we go up to the lodge for breakfast before heading out for the day's activities. If a child forgets something, they have to go back down to camp and get it. That will happen about 10 times for each child the first few days: coats, backpacks, water bottles, hiking boots, indoor shoes, etc. are left in rooms and need to be retrieved. If they're forgotten after they've left for the activity, well, they don't have it for the day. The first few days are full of many trips up and down the hill but by the end of the week, everyone remembers what they need. Before dinner each night, the kids have an hour of free time to play with their friends, shower, read, write in journals, or spend time the way they'd like. The choices they make in this time show so much problem-solving; one room set up a shower schedule so nobody missed free-time each day. Another boy spent Wednesday packing so that he wouldn't have to the next day and could spend his last day stress-free. Little things like this truly make an enormous difference in these kids, and I absolutely love seeing them change and grow over the course of the week.

They're not even posing. This actually just happened. I love 4th graders :)

Relaxing after a challenging hike, while the group hops
back and forth over the France/Switzerland boarder
My absolutely favorite part of the week is the hike. Our fourth-graders were split into four groups, with two groups hiking each day. I went with a different group on both days, and met up for lunch and the second half of the hike with the other two. It's not too far of a hike, but takes a while with 10-12 kids in tow. They bring sandwiches they've made themselves, and we picnic halfway through the day. Along the way the kids learn songs, pick flowers, find perfect hiking sticks, learn about the plants that they're seeing, and form new friendships. The most incredible part of the hike comes right after the steepest climb; we hike from Switzerland to France. It's a struggle for many of them (not going to lie, for me as well), but on both days I watched the most athletic little ones rush up to the top of the hill where the border was and cheer on their classmates as each one made it to the top. We played a game where everyone stood in a line in Switzerland, and the counselor would yell "Switzerland" or "France" and the kids would jump back and forth from country to country. It was so amazing!

I take it back- my favorite part is the bond that I develop with the kids throughout the week. These are definitely called "Bonding Trips" for a reason! Being able to see them outside of the classroom lets me see them in a whole new light- their personalities shine as they hike to the top of a mountain and take in the beauty of nature that surrounds them. We say that their counselors become the teachers and teachers become the parents, and I feel like that's pretty accurate- we take on the comforting, hand-holding, nurturing role that they need while away from their parents, and it creates a trust that carries back to the classroom. The learning environment at school is so different when we return. They bond so much with their counselors too- one of my little boys was so sad to be leaving that he couldn't even participate in last day activities; he just wanted to cling to the wonderful lady who had been leading him through the wilderness for the last 5 days! Our week in Torgon is amazing, and we are all so lucky to have it. 


  1. A good teacher will always stay with you. I still remember my first grade teacher...she was a great lady who taught me stuff outside the school things...the made me figure out how to understand people, and what it meant to be be a good friend and funny thing, I rememeber better her teachings on how to be orginize than the ones my mom gave me. A good teacher always leaves her mark and stay with you for years to come...specially at such young age when little stuff you learn helps you build the adult you will be. I am surprise to see how many people are eating or whatever and just throw the litter on the first grade teacher insisted and made me rememeber that "all trash has a place, don't just throw it to the street, if you don't have a garbish bin nearby, store it in your pocket" and such a small detail and for me it kind of defins part of my character. Stuff like the ones you told are very important!

    And the views as just amazing! (loved the cow really looks like a floating head :-)

  2. hi jesye! i found your blog while searching for italian expat stories and it is amazing! the places you go and sights you see are just astounding. i studied abroad myself in siena (highly highly recommend if you have not visited yet!) and every day i think of how much i want to go back! reading your blog to me is like a reminder of the life that could have been. we have so much in common from our foreign adventures down to the love of always sunny (love the title of this post :) ) that its very inspiring to know that someone so similar could take the plunge and do this. i hope you don't mind my intrusion but i'm learning so much from you and after each article, feel so inspired to muster the courage to do this myself. i look forward to reading the rest and hope that you enjoy the rest of your time in milan!


    1. Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for your comment, you made my day! Siena is amazing! It would be so incredible to spend more time there!!