Worlds to Discover

Baker, Oregon (courtesy of flickr)

Their first field trip in two years, and a day that I am called to substitute for the eighth grade Language Arts teacher—my first time in her room. I am not accompanying the students as a chaperone, though. I am staying with those “left behind” with students who, for what ever reason, will not be attending a local theater company’s performance of Tarzan.

The day has a carnival-feel, “organized chaos” as the amazing school secretary describes it—a lot of moving parts, the wheels on the bus, the kids on the bus, the bell schedule. Flexibility is the name of the game, and the Oregon Coast offers us a beauty of a day. I get permission to take the kids outside. Wonderful for us all.

It’s in the next period following that respite that the seventh graders from yearbook, students who have already seen the play in the morning, come to class. I have been told that, even on a regular day, they have great freedom, so phones can be out, and snacks, and goofy behavior. I know the seventh graders, have subbed the most for them this year thus far.

When I ask a generic, “Does anyone have any plans for Spring Break?” one girl I know by sight comes over and begins: “We’re going to my uncle’s ranch in eastern Oregon to help him. It’s calving season.” She describes the different requirements of “helping him out.” Her entire family will be involved in the process—the branding, the vaccinating, the birthing. “It’s a busy time on the ranch, and my cousins are still too little to be of real help—but they’re there, too, because real soon, they’ll be out riding herd like me.”

The teacher in me asks, “Do you ever write about this?” She tips her head, looks at me, and considers, “Not really, not much.” She continues, tells me about taming her mustang, and her involvement in 4-H raising her own calf that she hopes to show in the county fair in August.

While school has been central to my learning, my life, she makes it clear: School is not the only place to learn, but today, once again, it offered me a wider world, a lesson in living.

5 thoughts on “Worlds to Discover”

  1. I’m glad you were able to get the kids outside for a short while. What an interesting story that the student shared. Perhaps you will have inspired her to write about it.

  2. Thank you for writing this reflective blog. It sounds like your day of substitute teaching offered deep insights into the expansive nature of learning. Your anecdote about the young lady heading to her uncle’s ranch beautifully captured your thesis. Learning expands beyond the school walls. I appreciate you making me think deeply about big ideas. The photo drew me in.

    1. Thanks for reading. Photos are a great addition, and I have to remind myself to practice what I preach: always check usage rights!

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