A Different Kind of Caregiving

SchoolOutdoor School Present

I watch as the sky turns from city glow to deep blue. None of the students stir, and traffic flows by like a roaring river (even this early). Finally the clouds behind the campsite change from vague shadows to glorious pink.

In the quiet of the morning, the stress starts to wash away. For the past six weeks, the students and I have planned for this day, this week. They decided what time they would need to leave school in order to arrive in San Diego by 4 in the afternoon (4 a.m., they said). They decided what they would like to visit and learn about on this Urban Jungle Expedition.

Today we go on a whale watching tour, and visit the USS Midway. Tomorrow, we’ll take in the Living Coast educational center and a beach. Many of them have never seen the ocean before. Wednesday, they will venture out into the city on their “Choose Your Own Adventure Day.” Using public transportation, they will travel to points of interest that they didn’t want to miss. The only caveat? They have a $10.00 budget. (Don’t worry, a staff member will travel with each group). Thursday, they’ll hit the zoo. “I can’t wait to see a lion,” one young man told me yesterday.

Outdoor School Past

For the past two years, I’ve done the bulk of the planning for outdoor school. Sure, they kids had choices about which hike or which class they wanted to take. But I made most of the decisions. I figured they should enjoy whatever I planned and go with the program because I’d done stuff like this before.

The results? We had fun. The kids loved the hikes, activities, and programming. But the trips took forever and kids dawdled at rest stops.

This time, the bus arrived 20 minutes early and everyone hustled through the bathroom lines at the rest areas. Students have told other staff members how much they appreciate getting to make choices and plan things.

Caregiver Lessons

In teacher mode, I’ve forgotten a basic human need. People (even students), like to have input. They like to feel as if their thoughts and ideas matter. It makes them happier about the situation–even if camping isn’t their thing.

And that’s a good reminder for caregivers. How can we involve and engage the ones we care for in the decisions? How can we make it a journey together rather than a journey for? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section!

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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