As I left my childhood home and drove back the University of Regina for the last time I was feeling particularly sentimental and reflective. In general, reflections have always been difficult for me but I would like to think, after the practice I have gotten these last few months, the metacognitive process is getting easier for me. As my jeep and I took the journey down gravel roads and highways that would eventually lead to the university parking lot I thought of my own own educational journey thus far and where I hope it continues to lead. In particular I thought about this course and the new path it has taken me on.
When I registered for ESCI 302 I had no idea what to expect. While I have spent plenty of time imagining myself as a teacher and thinking about the kind of teacher I want to be, and I have spent plenty of time outside and would consider myself an environmemtal enthusiast, I had never considered myself as a future environmental educator. For some reason, my ranching background and my love of nature where seperate from my dream of becoming a teacher . That is why David Orr’s words “All Education is environmental education ” has really stuck with me. I needed that reminder that all I say and do as well as all I do not say and do will send a message. I can not be a completely unbiased , subjective entity and my previous, “western way of knowing” assumption that I could be was naive.
In order to realize how this journey has effected me I had to consider where the journey began. And therefore, I was brought back to my family ranch where my educational journey began nineteen years ago. This is where I first began to create assumptions of my world. While I was home this past weekend I went out to do chores with my dad. This is something I have done many times and many of my fondest childhood memories occurred in the front seat of Dads pickup truck. While we were feeding some very cold cows this past weekend my dad said something and unintentionally summed up my new feelings about education. Dad said “I am getting kind of sick of these hay bales. I spend all summer making them and all winter unrolling them.” I think that hay bales can be used as a metaphor for my assumptions about education. I have spent my whole life unconsciously making all these assumptions about education and my roles as a student and my as a future educator. Then in my first year of university these assumptions were very abruptly challenged and I was forced to unroll them and make new ones. Now, this year, in this course I was forced to unroll the assumptions from last year and make more new ones yet again. Like assumptions, sometimes hay bales unroll quite easily. Other times they are so frozen that you need to get out of the tractor and unroll them by hand. Similarity, I have encountered some ideas that were easy to incorporate into my previous ideas while other ideas were much more difficult to accommodate . For example, adopting the identity of a “white settler invader” was easy for me. It aligned with much of what i had been told and while it was uncomfortable to take on such a negative sounding title I felt like it fit. However, taking on the identity of a treaty person was much more difficult for me. I was faced with internal question like how can I be both an invader and a treaty person? Aren’t they contradictory? And how can I be a treaty person when the treaties happened so long ago? Another struggle for me was the idea of finding a balance between hope and despair. For most of this semester I liked to focus only on the romantic side of the environment and of my relationship with the environment. I liked tof focus on my experiences on the ranch with the cows, and the horses and the immaculately preserved native prairie. Because I have had a lot of positive, wonderful experiences and connections with nature that I am so grateful for. Then all of a sudden, I was hit with all this despair about the negative things that are happening and what this will mean for the conservation of our earth. Suddenly I felt really small and guilty and helpless. By the end of the course, I have now come to the conclusion that both of these perspectives are useful and I will need to find a way to balance them.These experiences forced me to unroll my assumptions of my role in our country’s history and future and create new ones.
I have come to the conclusion that like dad who creates bales all summer and unrolls them all winter, I will need to be prepared to create new assumption and beliefs with the goal of finding information that will challenge these. It’s uncomfortable and frustrating and unsettling but also rewarding and necessary in order for me to become the best educator and the best person I can be.
Never, in the history of my educational journey, have I ended a class with more questions then answers until this class. I feel unstable and like I know less about my role as an environmental educator then I knew before this class. Whereas previous to this class I was comfortable with my brief knowledge about the environment and in my ability to portray a subjective eduction to my students, I am now overwhelmed by the immense uncertainty I feel. I now feel like I need to find a way to portray a balance between hope and despair and discover my own biases. Suddenly I feel the weight of the power I will have as an educator and I feel personally responsible to inspire and educate and coddle and expose and influence all my future students. This seems like a daunting and impossible task. I am overwhelmed but I am also inspired.
I am uncomfortable that I don’t yet have any straightforward answers. Because of my assumptions of what it means to be educated I feel like I need answers to these unanswerable questions. However I simultaneously appreciate that these answers are the easily given or found. The end of this class does not mark the end of my search for answers on how to be an environmental educator. This is far from the end of my educational journey. Unlike my drive to the university, my educational journey does not have an end destination. I will not be pulling into the parking lot anytime soon. I have plenty of time to find temporary answers that can be challenged and recreated. In fact, I have the rest of my life.