Snow day! Snow day! When we have one of those, we do snow angels in celebration. When we have two in a row, we can barely stop ourselves from jumping out of our skin. Snow days are often great days to do nothing…but someone forgot to give this memo to the students on the Education Discipline-Centered Trip, though. The David School, where they are serving this week, had snow days on their first two days there, yet our trip participants spent this time doing anything but nothing: shoveling snow (all the more difficult because the county ran out of salt!), sorting book donations, working in the wood shop, and organizing and updating the books in the library. With the snow cleared, they had their first day at school today, helping the students hit the books during Be Excited About Reading Week (BEAR) and leading the students through games like "Simon Says" at Our Lady of the Mountains School.
A basic truism about the education profession is that teachers need to be learners too, and the Education trip participants have truly been able to be both during this week of service and solidarity. On the one hand, they have brought a much-needed infusion of skill, expertise, and energy often lacking at the school, which operates on a shoestring budget (negligible tuition, dependent on donations) and whose staffing is therefore minimal. Thus, for example, faculty trip adviser Kristine Allen brought her expertise in children's literature to bear on "leveling" the book donations in the library (i.e. assign a recommended age/reading level to each book). In addition, faculty adviser Kelly Demers and history major Leah Merullo are harnessing their skills in helping the history class to put on a play.
At the same time, however, the Education trip participants are going out of their comfort zones to gain experiences and grow as educators in new ways. For example, students concentrating on Secondary Education have been serving at Our Lady of the Mountains, an elementary school, while those concentrating in Elementary Education (i.e. most of the trip group) have been helping out in the classes at The David School, which serves high school students. This strategy of deliberately seeking new challenges has stretched these students' skills and broadened their integral development as educators. More importantly, their work at an understaffed, cash-strapped school in an Appalachian community has schooled them in an array of educational challenges they had not seen in the Northeast, while strengthening their conviction that education is an essential human right and the key to individual and communal flourishing.
It's only been a few days, and yet the Education trip participants have both learned a taught a lifetime's worth of lessons. That seems to be the power of education: every lesson counts, and every lesson can last a lifetime. We certainly hope it does for our students, and that this week's experience of learning and growing inspires a great leap forward in awareness, wisdom, and compassion.