Confessions of an over-packer Hi, my name is Sarah, and I am an over-packer. I can’t help it, really. Before every trip I lay in bed and make mental lists of everything that could possibly go wrong. It might rain, so I’ll need a rain jacket, and five extra pairs of pants, and two more pairs of shoes—even though I’ll only be gone for the weekend—because maybe I’ll end up stranded in several torrential downpours and the feeling of a wet jean sets my teeth on edge. I’ve tried fighting the urge, to quell my fear of the unknown, to be spontaneous or courageous, or whatever you minimalists do to get through the day, but I always lose. The desire to plan for every scenario, realistic or absurd, wins. So on Friday I boarded the bus to the CL retreat at Discovery Village with a suitcase, my work bag, and a tote full of CL journals and tried not to make eye contact with anyone. We started our day greeted by thievery, (monkeys have incredibly dexterous hands), and ended it with a discussion of what CL journals should look like. As a new teacher at CIS, it was nice to see and hear what CL is supposed to look like for our students and to talk about what makes CL work as a program. We put together our own teacher journals so that we could reflect in the same manner our students do, and we threw around possible methods to help kids get more out of their reflections, in hopes that students will learn to reflect honestly and meaningfully on the experiences we have during CL, rather than just feel like they are ticking off boxes on a checklist. Going into this retreat I didn’t know what to expect from the weekend. As teachers, we ask our students to do a lot in the classroom. We ask them to share new skills before they’ve mastered them; we ask them to think and write creatively in a compressed time frame; we ask them to present things they might not be proud of at that specific moment in time. We ask them to do all of those things, but we as teachers don’t always do those for them every day in the classroom. And that’s what this weekend forced us to do: step out of our comfort zones and do what we expect our students to do for us every day. For some of us, that zone of discomfort involved yoga brought to us by an incredibly flexible and mindful Mr. Morton. As he reminded us throughout our session, yoga isn’t about being good at it or finding new Instagrammable ways to contort your body; it’s about finding your breath and moving, and if you do just that, you’re doing yoga. By the end of the retreat, we left feeling like we had a better understanding of who we were as a CL team and what our goals were for CL Day 2. I left for NCC feeling more confident in my role and more aware of what CL looks like in CIS; I was also aware of just how heavy my suitcase was and how much of its contents were utterly unnecessary for this trip. As the year goes on, I hope that CL not only pushes the students to challenge themselves, but that it helps me to live more in the moment, to be more mindful in a way that does not give me stress hives. I think that CL will help us all be more courageous, whether that’s repelling from buildings, hiking the Himalayas, or facing unknown scenarios with fewer clothes than you would normally pack, and I very much look forward to what this year has to offer.
On September 9th, Ms. Tamara organised an overnight CL retreat for teachers at Discovery Village, near Nandi Hills. After a morning of teaching, 14 middle school teachers boarded a bus and headed for the hills... for bonding, learning, sharing and planning. A buffet lunch and fresh air greeted us at the eco-resort, and then we got to work. We began populating our Terra Books teacher journals with CL rubrics and checklists. (The retreat was designed to have teachers experience what students go through in CL, and that includes cutting and sticking things into a journal!) Ms. Kells and Ms. Tamara gave us an introduction to project-based learning (PBL), the model that all of our CL projects will follow, and the evolution of CL at CIS. We spent some time discussing the evidence of learning and the importance that it be a public product, and familiarising ourselves with the entire PBL cycle. After sitting and talking it was time for some movement. We headed to an open green space with Baba, our facilitator, who had us chanting, jumping, dancing and getting both collaborative and competitive in rounds of "Do what I do, Say what I say", "Pass the ball", "Rabbit, Wall, Archer", "Human Knot", "My neighbours who...", "Multiples Game" and "Face in, Face out". The games must have put us all in a silly mood because Mr. King showed up half-way through the activities and we sang him a raucous happy birthday even though it wasn't his birthday. Everyone was ready for some coffee and pakoras after that... Throughout the day teachers who barely have time to say 'hello' to each other between classes had the opportunity to get to know each other better and enjoy everyone's company. As the sun set and it started to drizzle, we gathered on one of the cottage porches and looked through CL journals from all grades, reflecting on CL Day 1 and discussing the journaling process and how it could be enhanced. We selected a few entries from each grade to be showcased at the CL assembly. We ended the day with a nice dinner, and chatting and laughing into the evening. The next morning we had our coffee and headed back to the green space with our yoga mats accompanied by Mr. Morton, who had come all the way to Discovery Village to facilitate a peaceful, invigorating and challenging yoga session for us. After a yummy South Indian breakfast, we got to our most important task of the retreat - reflecting on past CL projects and planning for CL Day 2 (with Environment as the theme). Everyone contributed their ideas for the day from bat boxes to soap making, ideas were developed, connections were made, and at the end of it all Ms. Tamara had a draft list of projects and teacher leaders. Just in time, too, as a bus full of new patrons were arriving through the gates, hollering and hooting to loud music.... We packed up, thanked our gracious hosts, bought bird-watching books, and headed home, happy and fulfilled at the end of a successful retreat.