Friday, June 15, 2012

One of the very best things I have ever done with my students so far....

Hello my friends!
     I hope you read my previous post on the blind chic that ran the Spartan Race because at the bottom of the post, I hinted at what this posting would be about....
     This past weekend we had our first Outdoor Education program. I hope everyone remembers that I am not a one woman show here but am part of a great team of people that make some crazy ideas a real possibility. This was part of a brain child from Justin Haegele with a very talented teacher, Beth Crescenzo, as our fearless leader for Outdoor Ed. Chris Bub, Greg Schultz, Kevin Butler and Lauren Andersen rounded out our teaching team. I had to name each one of these individuals because this was a weekend with several events that I will always treasure and remember as a teacher. 

     We took 9 awesome students on Saturday (10 on Sunday) out to camp loaded up with tents, an inflatable kayak that became our fire obstacle, duct tape, sleeping bags and of course, s'mores ingredients. We taught the students how to pitch tents and about Leave No Trace. This first day was pretty fun as we watched the students teach each other talents, give Leave No Trace presentations and overall work well with each other. 
     In between all of our OE work, we practiced obstacles. Obstacles? Yes, obstacles and running! On Sunday, June 10, 2012 my amazing students ran the New England Warrior Dash with 9 fantastic guides!! Don't know what a Warrior Dash is? It's a 5k obstacle course race and it is something that many people don't think legally blind teens could do. I wanted to prove them wrong. 

We trained for a few months. I thought carefully about selecting the students as well as matching appropriate guides for them. I had to pitch this to our agency director and parents. I reviewed the obstacles and consulted with one of our mobility instructors. Warrior Dash (Red Frog Events) was even gracious enough to speak with me several times over the phone about obstacles and allowed me to come to the race site (with Greg) and do a preview of the obstacles. We practiced a lot on Saturday. We did a lot of pre-teaching of obstacles. The students had to really open up about their vision and any possible limitations. 

We ran our Warrior Dash together as a team. We ran only as fast as our slowest person. Our shirts were a message to the world about blind people. Our shirts read (on the front): Blind warriors don't just survive, they dominate! And on the back, You were just passed by a blind person! HOW AWESOME!  My students ran that race yelling blind pride and I have to admit, there was more than a few times that a tear caught my eye. I was just SO PROUD of them!!

I was proud of them because they were accomplishing something that a lot of people, maybe even themselves, didn't think they could completely do. I was proud because they successfully completed each and every obstacle. I was proud because they knew that they were accomplishing something great as a blind person. 

They opened up and shared their vision impairments. We had students that had recently lost their vision as teenagers. We had students from tough neighborhoods and rough life dynamics. We had students that are moving forward with their lives knowing that there are ways around their visual limitations despite those frustrating moments. It all sounds a little cheesy I suppose but when I think over my 10 warriors and this experience that I feel quite privileged to been part of, I realize how much I was changed as a person that day. I became a better person and a better teacher because I learned a new and very valuable lesson that it really isn't about what you see, it's about what you do (Camp Abilities CT motto--I knew it was a good idea when we started CT but now I feel it in the very marrow of my bones).
      We came up with warrior names that we wrote on our arms the day of the race. I guess I could keep typing more but to be honest, the only thing I really want to say over and over is that they crushed it! (And know that there is a giant smile on my face as I think about it).
     I hope the Warrior Dash race is something that my students hold on to for quite some time. I hope it continues to empower them as I know that day it truly had. 

We had four additional guides with us in addition to our OE teaching team, Patty & Brant Fahle and Adam & Sarena Sharp. How could we have run this without them? Each of them provided such valuable guidance and added so much to our team. 

I am sure that I will continue to have moments that I will always treasure with my students. If you couldn't tell, I just love these kids. They truly are some of my best teachers. I am a better teacher for them because of who each and everyone of them are. Better yet, I really am a better person because of who each and everyone of them are. 



I can't wait for the next experience.....

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blind Race Athlete Kicks Spartan Race trash!

I read this blog post from a woman who completed the Spartan Race. Do you know what a Spartan Race is? It's an obstacle course race and it is quite a challenge. I am doing my first one this August and I have been training for it for forever. I read this woman's (who is legally blind) post and I loved her attitude and her Spartan accomplishment. 
Check it out:

Well done Heather! I am proud of you!!

11 of my students, myself and 9 other guides are running the New England Warrior Dash (another awesome obstacle course race!) this coming week. Make sure you check back because we are all going to blog about this amazing adventure we are doing. It's part of our first ever Outdoor Education class. I'll keep you posted!