RFSD News: Roaring Fork teachers go Outward Bound | PostIndependent.com

RFSD News: Roaring Fork teachers go Outward Bound

Rob Stein

Rob Stein


Community Coffee Hours with Superintendent Rob Stein will continue this year. Morning coffees will be held monthly at 7:30 a.m. Mark your calendar for the coffee hours in your community:

Sept. 12: Carbondale (Bonfire at 433 Main St.)

Oct. 3: Basalt (Saxy’s at 104 Midland Spur)

Nov. 28: Glenwood (19th Street Diner at 1908 S. Grand Ave.)

Dec. 12: Carbondale (Bonfire at 433 Main St.)

Jan. 16: Basalt (Saxy’s at 104 Midland Spur)

Feb. 27: Glenwood (19th Street Diner at 1908 S. Grand Ave.)

March 13: Carbondale (Bonfire at 433 Main St.)

April 17: Basalt (Saxy’s at 104 Midland Spur)

May 22: Glenwood (19th Street Diner at 1908 S. Grand Ave.)

All are welcome to come share ideas, listen and enjoy a coffee with Rob — the first cup is on us. Rob habla español.

Earlier this month, I drove up to Marble to listen to the end-of-course debrief with 16 Roaring Fork teachers who participated in the Outward Bound practicum course for educators. Their enthusiasm for and commitment to fostering a sense of crew in the district was inspiring.

Since I had completed a one-week Outward Bound course earlier this summer on the Green River, I could identify with their experience. As Roaring Fork Schools teacher Michael Logan said during the final night of his practicum, “Crew isn’t something we do: it’s something we feel; it’s something we are.”

Two years ago, the Roaring Fork Schools adopted crew as a program in all of our schools. Crew is a dedicated time in the day to focus on character skills, social-emotional learning and academic goal-setting. This year in the Roaring Fork Schools, our big crew goal is stated as “crew all day long.” This goal is intended to imply that we want to increase the sense of belonging in our schools at all times.

Being a crew doesn’t just happen on Outward Bound courses or during scheduled crew time in school. It’s an enduring commitment to a set of principles, and to one another, that adds meaning to our lives and helps us get through hard times.

It’s especially poignant that the Marble base camp, right in our own backyard, was the birthplace of Outward Bound USA more than 50 years ago. Outward Bound had been founded in Gordonstoun, Scotland, during World War II by Kurt Hahn. Hahn, an educator and philosopher who fled Nazi Germany, was tasked with creating a program to help the youth of Scotland survive the travails of war by learning to stretch their own limits and to rely on one another.

As Tap Tapper, a veteran of the storied 10th Mountain Division in World War II and one of the first Outward Bound instructors in the United States, used to say, “Outward Bound is when you are pushed to the limits of your own endurance, and your first instinct is to help the other guy first.” That combination of personal optimization and interdependence is still what we want in our schools today.

A lot has changed since those early days of Outward Bound. The first female instructor, Marlene Manown, a young schoolteacher in Glenwood Springs, was hired in 1969 when Colorado Outward Bound went coed. She still lives in Glenwood Springs and is a familiar presence at the base camp. Courses are a lot safer and, some would say, cushier than they used to be. The base camp, which was renovated in 2015, now has running water and hot showers. Sadly, people rarely use words like “indefatigable” or “intrepid” or quote romantic poet Alfred Lord Tennyson’s lines “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” like they did in the old days.

But that indefatigable and intrepid spirit lives on, and the lessons of Outward Bound are as relevant today as ever. As the Roaring Fork Schools educators recalled their experiences in the field, they told of persisting up mountain passes, finding compassion for one another’s struggles and using teamwork to get through their days. They laughed a lot, unselfconsciously acted out silly skits and sang songs. They came back fired up to share their experience with fellow teachers and to find ways to spread the feeling in their schools.

The term “outward bound” defines that moment of departure when a ship sets off to sea, so it is a fitting metaphor for the start of a school year. This year, we truly hope to be outward bound in our schools — to stretch our students in their learning, to develop their character as well as their minds, and to create a sense of belonging and confidence that we are there with them and for them. We will not leave them behind.

Rob Stein is superintendent of the Roaring Fork Schools.