Thursday, April 22, 2010


"In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught." - Baba Dioum

At what’s likely to be the end of my classroom education--I just wanted to take some time to thank all of the teachers in my life who have not only taught me, but have dedicated their lives to teaching thousands of students. Even when many students don’t want to be taught.

Personally I think I’m a horrible teacher. I love the idea of showing someone something they’ve never seen before—and seeing how excited they can get about it. But somehow the delivery is difficult for me, and just plain awkward and uncomfortable. Maybe it gets easier—but I just don’t think its my thing. But I recently taught a lecture on bird song to a class of college juniors and seniors. Throw up a bunch of pictures and words on PowerPoint and you are good to go right? I spent a lot of time trying to get those words and pictures to really sink in with the students. Its possible that I succeeded because I had a few students relay things back to me on our lab field trip—or maybe I just had the attention of a couple male students in the class (ha!). I also showed them a video from Life of Birds—and if anyone can show a group of Texan hunters how cool non-game birds are, its Sir. David Attenborough! After all, he helped me see the light in my ornithology class.

Science was always one of my strongest subjects in school—with the exception of chemistry. It was usually the natural world that drew my attention. And I had a few great teachers in high school who without knowing it (I didn’t know it either), probably pulled it all together for me. I don’t remember a whole lot from my Earth Science course (sorry Rut) but I know I enjoyed it at the time. But it was outside of the classroom with the same teacher (and others) in a summer class of sorts where I got to learn all kinds of awesome stuff about the Pine Barrens, Delaware Water Gap, and beyond. A beginning to my desire to travel and enjoy the outdoors (I couldn’t ignore Rut’s many beautiful SLIDES of the American west!). I also gained a strong foundation in biology—even in honors biology, which almost drove me to dropping out of a class (looking back, it was a good lesson). The Selfish Gene certainly makes more sense to me now! And finally, a class in wildlife—a subject that’s not often taught in high schools and certainly should be. Yes, the material was important, but more so were the teachers that taught those classes. Thank you.

I've had several great teachers since high school that also contributed to who I am today and my passion for birds and conservation. Even up to my masters degree where a prof challenged me to think about things very differently and every time I left his class I thought I knew less rather than more. They all have a different style. But they also all have enthusiasm for learning and sharing their knowledge—more importantly for challenging others to become better. It has to be one of the hardest jobs in the world.

I hope schools continue to incorporate more courses in the environmental sciences at young ages—more ecology, more hands-on-go-outside-and-see-stuff classes! What if one of the first things we were taught as a young child was how important the living world around us was, and how to take care of it—to make it last? That’d be pretty cool.

And Rut—I’m proud of you for teaching your classes about birds so they know what a robin is! No more “nature-deficit disorder”!

No Child Left Inside:

1 comment:

sara melton said...

When are you off to California? Will you be doing the whole cap and gown ceremony before you head out? And, I take it your defense went well?

I saw that you are advertising my blog...thanks! Until next time!