On Outdoor Leadership and Education
I was born 20 years ago into a family of educators. My father is a professor, my mother and two of her siblings are teachers in public schools, and my grandfather was a principal of multiple elementary schools and held a Ph.D. in elementary education. Needless to say, the importance of education has been an intrinsic part of my own enculturation, both directly and indirectly. I always knew that it was an important part of my life, but I was unable align my beliefs with the conventional education practices of the public school system in the United States, and higher education still seemed too formal for my taste. When I learned about outdoor and experiential education as a profession, I was immediately enticed. Education is about more than just teaching the tangible; education is about being a leader that is respected and trusted who helps instill confidence and self-efficacy in his or her students and team, while demonstrating the value of the natural world.
During high school I struggled with my classmates’ and teammates’ lack of confidence. I was looked up to, even as a freshman, simply because I was confident and comfortable with who I was. As a senior and the captain of both my soccer and track teams I used this role model rapport to help build my teammates' confidence, a goal that I work towards with outdoor education. Confidence is one of the most valuable skills for students to have as they work towards their goals and through their professional field of choice, and yet it is one that many people need help to achieve. I have always found, though, that I am the most confident (and happiest) when I am in the field recreating outdoors and under the guidance of another confident and happy outdoor leader, or playing the role of that leader myself. I have also found that the groups that I am a part of experience the same boost in confidence as a whole and as individuals, which is a feat that I believe to be unique to the field of outdoor recreation and education.
Outdoor leaders and educators should be confident, positive, knowledgeable, trustworthy, influential, and respectful of nature, all while projecting these skills onto their students and participants. It is my belief that an expeditionary group, or even class, is a team, and that every member should feel some level of leadership and responsibility toward to rest of the group’s success. It is important that everyone feels as though they possess certain skills and knowledge that is valued by every other member of the team, and it is ultimately the duty of whoever is leading to help perpetuate that reality. The team and community mentality of groups intrinsically strengthens individuals’ confidence, while also showing the importance of making and maintaining strong friendships as a tool for success on both a group and individual basis. When the environmental element is added, teams feel a sense of responsibility for taking care of the land in the same way.
As an outdoor leader and educator I am working towards strengthening students’ confidence as a part of an expeditionary team and post-modern society as a whole through building a strong community mentality and playing off individual’s strengths, all while treating the environment like the limited resource it is.