Root Beer, Rafting and Rooms

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“If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

This quote has several variations, but it encompasses my philosophy to every situation. As a self-professed lifelong learner, I am the person who likes to wonder and ask questions like “why” or “how.” I firmly believe that there is something more to learn and that you can learn from everyone.

Throughout this first week of our Kenan Fellowship together, I have been amazed at the breadth and depth of knowledge that is present in every room, and in every place. During our EdCamp session, my cohort had a wealth of knowledge to share ranging from classroom management to new apps to incorporate into our lessons. It is a distinct privilege to be treated as a knowledgeable professional, and to have training by teachers tailored for teachers.

For example, we commonly refer to STEM as an acronym for Science-Technology-Engineering-Math but this week, I heard it referred to as Strategies That Engage Minds. No matter what subject we teach, I feel that this is our underlying mission as educators. When we support curious and ambitious minds, innovation blooms.

I learned this lesson even on our whitewater rafting trip. Our river guide is an extremely accomplished botanist and as we passed under the branches of a tree, he picked a sample and asked us to identify what the smell of the bark reminded us of. We guessed licorice, Pepto Bismol, gum – but one of my colleagues came up with correct guess – root beer. Our river guide then went into the history of root beer, the oils that we were smelling, and why people used the roots over the bark. This sparked my curiosity and at every break in the rapids, he had something to share about native plants, developments in the area and even hiking trips.

There is always a lesson to be learned from people around us. If we ask the right questions, I feel that we have just scratched the surface of what we as a people, can know collectively. I am excited to share this type of experiential learning and the strategies we have learned with my students.

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