The start of my journey and why I'm writing it all down...
I've been working on my Forest School portfolio most of today and I re-read the question “Summarise your own personal development and learning during the Forest School training process and explain how this may inform your own wider practice”. Keeping a learning journal was not something that was emphasised very much on our training and I'm not really one to keep a diary, so it was something that I sort of put to the side and decided not to worry about.
As I continued to work with the PRU, I realised that my interactions with the kids were really adding to my learning and development significantly, particularly because it was in synchrony with my research for my portfolio. As I was reading about topics and concepts, I was and am witnessing it take place in real-world situations. So really, it was only a few weeks ago that I decided I needed to write it all down. But now, here I am about 6 months into my training and I have no journal entries from the start of my journey and I now realise that's a shame! Particularly because I love documenting projects with before and after photos due to their effectiveness in showing you how much has been achieved or changed. So why didn't I think to take a 'before' snapshot of myself in journal form? Perhaps it's due to my aversion to writing! (which obviously I am working on overcoming). So, instead I've decided to do a bit of a reflection now because at least late is better than never they say! Right?
So here goes – I started training in September 2015 and I was chomping at the bit to do it. I started helping my colleague, Sarah, with home educated Forest School group in September 2014 and had absolutely loved everything about it.... eventually. I remember feeling a bit at a loss when I first started helping because when the children were busy engaged with a project, or playing a game, I remember feeling like, “But I'm not doing anything... what do I do??”. I was struggling with the adjustment of going from the 'teacher' role to that of a Forest School helper. And I wasn't very good at it.. I can reflect now and realise that my discomfort was purely due to my own insecurities of wanting to feel useful. I had not learned the skills of how to be useful at Forest School, which are very different than how to be useful when teaching a group of 30 students about habitats or rivers like I was accustomed to! But after my year with Sarah and the home educated group, I was sufficiently 'Forest-schooled' and I was hooked.
Work eventually agreed to send me on the level 3 training and two of my colleagues were approved to train with me. We were all very excited when we went off to our first module in September. I remember feeling like I just wanted to take in and absorb as much as possible. To use a metaphor, I felt like I had learned to crawl working with Sarah over the previous year and I was desperate to learn how to walk.. run!.. no walk... I know these things take time. The three of us really enjoyed our holidays.. err.. I mean training modules from September to December and we all really felt lucky that we had as much experience with Forest School already as we did. We were some of the few people in our training group who had helped with a Forest School before and were actually currently still doing so at the same time as our training! It was a blessing because it helped me understand and retain information much better since I was applying it every week. As exhausting as it was, I also loved how much the training days made us think. It really felt like we were tearing apart the structures (educational and societal – big stuff here!) that we had all taken for granted to be 'right' and the 'way things are done', analysing them, critiquing their effectiveness, and then piecing things back together to create a better way than before. An incredible process – probably the best thing I have learned to date. That is true independent thinking, something I had most definitely not been taught in school and now realise is such an important skill for life.
From what I can remember, I felt eager to learn from the very start, a bit nervous, but also confident that I was capable (I kept reassuring myself). I remember feeling apprehensive about leading my pilot sessions and grateful that they were so many months away. And, although it has been a lot of work (I've read more books in the past 6 months than I had read in the previous 3 years since graduating university!), I have loved every single second of it. I feel like I'm in the process of an awakening where I am obtaining a true capacity to accurately measure and understand the world around me in a way that makes sense to ME, not just because someone else has said it is so. And this is something I am keen to apply to every aspect of my work and personal life too. So.. needless to say, it has been an inspiring experience so far, one that even still I feel is in its infancy, and I look forward to all that is coming next. (And I promise to make more journal entries from now on!)