I arrived in New Jersey today, leaving the sweltering temperatures of Atlanta without a glance behind me. By plane and auto I sped north, during which time I slumbered the sleep of the well-traveled, so when I stepped foot on campus, it was the first time my eyes were truly open today. And what an awakening.
I couldn’t help but feel, as I looked out on the verdant quad stretched lush between the girls’ and boys’ dorm buildings, transported to age 10, when I arrived at camp, massive suitcase bouncing behind me and pillow clutched safely to my side. That familiar eagerness, that anticipation, that faint worry, that hesitant happiness all settled somewhere between my heart and my belly button like an expanding lead balloon. Will they like me? Will I be accepted? Will I have fun here? Will I learn anything? Will this be worth it? What have I left behind? The same questions my 10 year old self didn’t even know she was asking resurfaced this afternoon with a mighty nostalgic tug.
I reflected a bit. Why did I feel this way? My answer arrived without much trouble. Truly, I don’t think I’ve been as completely “on-my-own” since I was 10 years old. And so, I am firmly out of my element and have landed squarely in the place of all learners. It’s just been a while since I’ve really felt like one.
I am attending what some might think of as teacher [boot] camp. This camp is not for mentally out-of-shape teachers. There are no derelicts here. No, this is a camp for I’m-so-in-shape-I-could-be-a-marine type teachers. I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not I belonged.
As I settled in, unpacking my bags, testing out the b
rick like qualities softness of the bed, setting up the nuts and bolts of my computer wares, and taking a preliminary stroll around campus, I started to notice other attendees trickling in. Each of their faces wore traces of the emotions I had been feeling earlier. Worry, anxiety, eagerness, happiness. We all were 10 year olds once again.
Later tonight, I met many teachers, with whom I hope to continue to learn and grow even after teacher-boot-camp finishes. All of us are here, not because we think we are the best, but because we want to learn, because we want to grow, because we want to have fun, and because we want to make friends.
Tonight, as I head to bed, excited for what tomorrow will bring, I’ll try not to get homesick :), and I’ll remember my lesson from today: true learning makes you step out of your comfort zone, and this can be uncomfortable in the best of ways.