Freaky Friday

Five things I learned while switching places with a teacher for a week at Outdoor Lab.

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Jean McClelland

Jean McClelland, Staff Writer

Students in Jefferson County have the incredible opportunity to attend Outdoor Lab, both as sixth graders and as high school leaders. After having such an amazing experience at Outdoor Lab as a sixth grader, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a high school leader.

I had no earthly idea what I would be in for.

After nearly 12 years of my life being a student, I was handed a set of note cards outlining my class, given a few hours of training, and then before I knew it I was being called “Ms. McClelland” and teaching Archery and Physics to sixth graders. I was often surprised with what I found on the “other side” of education.

  1. Teaching takes an ungodly amount of patience.

Wow, does it take patience. Kids do really, really annoying things. This is really, really annoying when you’re trying to teach kids something that they might need to use later in their lives. By the end of the week, I was absolutely fried. Somehow, whenever you’re handling kids, you find these magical reservoirs of patience within yourself that you had no idea even existed, and that patience is tested over and over.

  1. It takes a lot of guts to teach.

Most of the time, no one thinks about the amount of courage it takes to stand up in front of a group of people (who may or may not want to cooperate with you) and try to engage them with new information (that they may or may not want to learn). You have to act like you’re not nervous even if you are, because otherwise, no one will take you seriously. Teaching involves a whole new level of self-assurance and confidence that I’ve never had to exercise before.

  1. Students (and people in general) don’t give teachers enough respect.

I left my own life and responsibilities for a week in order to help make sure the kids had a great week and learned a lot, but a lot of them didn’t seem to realize that. Some of them tried to suck up to me and/or just blatantly disrespected what I was trying to do: teach them. Teachers sacrifice a lot of their lives to try and give students an education, which ultimately helps dictate what the future looks like. A lot of students don’t realize that teachers are working for them in order to help, not against them.

  1. Teaching reveals different aspects of yourself.

Since you have to present yourself in front of people, often things come to the surface about yourself that you weren’t previously aware of. I found out that I have to put forth more effort to be nice to people when I’m tired, because it really affects how other people perceive you. I also discovered that I have a real passion for physics. Teaching requires you to be more self-aware, and as a result you realize what your strengths and weaknesses are.

  1. Teaching is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

I had one of the best times of my life up at Outdoor Lab. One of the best moments was when I helped this really shy girl shoot a bow and arrow for the first time, and she realized that she was capable of doing more than she thought. The beauty of teaching is that you learn while receiving the gratification of helping other people learn.