You should have been near the 13th Street bridge this past Thursday. You would have seen a group of people all dressed in the same type of T-shirts roaming around in the rain, soaked to the skin. They braved the downpour to enjoy the annual Educator Day on the Hooch.
Teachers from both sides of the river converged on the Chattahoochee for three days of learning and networking. The event culminated in a choice: ride the rapids or zipline above them. I was lucky enough to be invited to the river adventures, and I chose ziplining.
So, there I was with a dozen teachers from Muscogee County, Phenix City and Russell County who had also chosen to bind themselves to metal hooks and seatbelt-like straps and zoom across the rushing waters of the Hooch. I watched the teachers act like old friends, despite the fact that many had just met only two days beforehand. They helped each other finagle their harnesses, encouraged each other with verbal doses of bravery, and made one another glad to be surrounded by the calming voices of classroom teachers.
As we climbed the spiral staircases to the taking-off place, I had a thought. This is the first week of their summer break. Why are they here instead of the beach? Why aren’t they enjoying some much-needed, well-deserved rest and relaxation? Instead, they have spent the last two days in classes?
As a teacher myself, I could answer those questions almost as quickly as they entered my thoughts. They were there because constant growth and continued learning are always the marks of a good teacher, and I was surrounded by some of the best.
Learning is like an orb inside which quality teachers circulate. It’s like a nice-fitting pair of jeans and a favorite t-shirt or a comfy couch under a soft blanket watching Netflix marathons. Learning is a comfortable place for a teacher. So, even during their summer breaks, teachers seek out opportunities to professionally develop, hone their craft, or learn the latest and greatest teaching strategy. All the while, whether in the sand or at a desk or harnessed high above the trees, their minds shift to their students, and they ponder and prepare, read and reflect, listen and learn about ways to lead their students toward learning. So, to teachers, learning simply is a part of their DNA.
Remember the “Peanuts” character Pig-Pen? I picture learning for a teacher is something like that, except cleaner and nicer smelling. Instead of dirt and dust swirling around our teachers, a cloud of learning is, so much so that it becomes part of their identity.
Right about the time we began our adventure, the heavens opened and the rain began to fall. Most “normal” people would run for cover, but I wasn’t sharing a platform in the trees with “normal” people. I was standing among teachers — resilient, flexible, adventurous, steadfast, overcome-any-obstacle, face-any-challenge teachers. So, we kept taking the dive and soaring above the rushing waters below.
Some were reluctant at first. Some were more afraid than others. And some took a running leap with total abandon. But everyone took the leap. Everyone grabbed ahold of the harness and jumped. And when we all landed safely on the other side, soaked and exhilarated, we looked at each other with a camaraderie that only a collection of “abnormal” people could have. It was the same sort of reaction we prepare so hard to see within our students.
At one point, a guide asked, “Anyone scared?” He received a collective, resounding response of denial. One teacher even added, “I teach second graders, nothing scares me.”
It’s true: not much scares a teacher. Except maybe stagnation. Because the heart of a teacher is thrilled by the adventure found in learning. Teachers are quite willing to become soaked to the skin if the flood gates of learning are the soakers. And teachers are very much excited to take a leap of faith above a raging river if the landing is cushioned by learning.
Yes, teachers are the epitome of what a small part of us has always wanted to be: adventure-seekers, risk-takers, lifelong-learners. Fearless seekers of new knowledge — these are our teachers, and I am proud to have zipped across the Hooch with them.
Sheryl Green is a secondary educator in Columbus. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.