May 202013

Last week, I had the great pleasure to work on staff at Boy Scout National Camping School. Along with two other staffers, I was responsible for teaching a class of sixteen participants how to run a safe and fun ropes course program. We taught everything from theories and concepts to safety procedures, standards, and paperwork. The participants in our class left the week with not only a certification card, but also a sense of accomplishment and readiness to lead their respective programs at their summer camps. As I watched them all go their separate ways, I couldn’t help but think back to my first time at summer camp.

There was one staffer who I remember in particular as being incredibly crazy and funny but also sincerely kind and patient. He had just been through the National Camping School ropes course class, and he is the one who first introduced me to the ropes course program at our camp. I still remember the exact moment during our session when I decided I wanted to work for him and “learn the ropes”, if you’ll pardon the bad pun. I went on to work at that camp for five more years, and I succeeded him as the ropes course director, which meant I got to go through the course at National Camping School myself. I developed a deep love of the program and the effects it can have on groups and individuals.

In my time as a director, I can remember so many staff and scouts who I helped. Some learned merit badges from me, some went on to be leaders at that same camp, their councils, and their communities, and some are still my best friends to this day. If you consider that all of those scouts were affected by me, and I was just one of the scouts affected by that staff member, and he was just one of the participants at his NCS session, that’s an almost unfathomable ripple effect. So, almost six years later to the day, as I watched the class I had just spent a week teaching and befriending reluctantly leave an incredible week to return to their camps, I thought about the ripple I had started, and I wondered in that moment just how many scouts I would have indirectly affected by the end of the summer. Scouts and staffers who I would never meet, but who would go on to do great things because I taught their teachers.


After a week and a realization like that, returning to my daily tasks at Athens’ Own brought on a strange reflection: That although I have a similar position here as a teacher and a leader, I don’t really feel that same ripple effect. It might be because I started near the top, and didn’t get to experience as much of the outer ripples, or maybe because I haven’t been here as long, or that it is much harder to imagine the effects I might have from here. I certainly don’t think there is any less potential here. In fact, I think there is more. I have the potential to help shape an educational system which could help countless students and communities. But right now, it seems like the way our program is set up, there are some problems, and it isn’t producing the results we want, and the ripples are getting lost somewhere.

With this reflection, as well as some other feedback from the team during my absence, Constantine and I have decided to take a step back, and to take a critical look at how we are teaching our interns. We need to find a new way to expand education and to improve how much and how well our interns learn and apply their knowledge. Starting from scratch again today, we are going to try to improve our plan to find and use the best possible resources to give them the best possible educational experience, and to help them develop their own passions, desire to learn, and their own infinite ripples.

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