How to Field Instructor
MESD Outdoor School > For Staff > How to Field Instructor > A Week in the Life of a Field Instructor at Eagle Fern Outdoor School
A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF A FIELD INSTRUCTOR
at Eagle Fern Outdoor School by GAIA, Wildlife Field Instructor, Spring, 2000
12:00 p.m.: I arrive on site, ready to unpack my stuff, grab my name tag, and go meet with the staff to get the basic info on the kids for this week. I also make sure I have the white cards of the Student Leaders (SLs) who are arriving this week, and I check my notes and my photos from workshop so that I can recognize my new people when they come off of the bus. We also set up the dining hall (DH) and write name tags for the 6th graders who are coming this week.
1:00 p.m.: The bus with the Student Leaders arrives. I help unload luggage then meet with all of my Wildlife crew at Table 7. This week, we are eating third (each of the field study areas takes turns grabbing lunch). In the meantime, I use the time to have everyone introduce themselves, make sure that new SLs have appropriate names, talk about the schedule for Sunday, and cover my expectations for the week. (My # 1 expectation is that they will do their best to make each day a little better than the previous one. I don't care if they are superstar teachers by the end of the week, but I do care that they try to improve each day.)· I also talk about how they are going to receive evaluations at the end of the week, and some of the things covered on the evaluation form. After we eat, at around 1 :30 p.m., we circle up with the entire staff, and all of the Student Leaders. This is a chance for me to see who else is here this week and what resource they are on. The nurse talks, and Weasel talks, and then we are off to field study training.
2:00 p.m.: Field Study training... I split the group into a couple of parts. The returning Student Leaders go with one Program Leader to get some advanced hike training. The new Student Leaders go with me to either a) get some training on some of the stations, or b) get some basic hike training. It depends on the group, and how long it has been since workshop. At 2:50, the Program Leaders (PLs) go down the hill, so I have about 20 minutes with my kids alone. I cover the daily schedule, the expectations of what stations will be taught each day, show them their mailboxes and hike bags, give them their cue cards for the week, and have them write in their SL journal. Returning SLs write about what they want to accomplish this week; new SLs write what they are most excited about / nervous about for the week. As we walk down the hill at 3:10, we huddle up and everyone states what they personally bring to Wildlife to make it a great week ...some have knowledge, some have humor, some have enthusiasm, some have dedication, but everyone brings something that will benefit us all. We give a group cheer and then head down to the DH where they will receive their cabin assignments.
3:15 p.m.: At this time, SLs are meeting with their Problem Monitors (mentor and supervising PL). The Field Instructors (Fls) are busy with little tasks like: getting the teacher table set up for the teacher meeting (don't forget to put out some name tags, string, and pens for the teachers), writing the names of our SLs on our field study board, making sure the weather box is in place, etc.
4:00 p.m.: The call of BUUUUSSS echoes across the dining hall, as the first bus of 6th graders rolls in. We all run outside and sing the welcome song. Whichever FI is helping coordinate the nurse line is in charge of the first bus. She/fie will give the bus driver directions on 'where to park, and then assign SLs to lead tours. I am in charge of the 2nd bus this week, so I gather my crew together ... I take one returning male and one returning female to be tour guides; I also take one new male and one new female to be "trained" by the vets. The other SLs report to the dining hall where they set tables and then help unload buses. The second bus comes in and I tell the driver where to go; I also find out what school this is. I grab the correct name tags and walk down to the bus area with my Student Leaders. To brief them about leading tours I talk about how important the tour is because it is the 6th graders' first impression of Outdoor School. I tell the tour guides to give the students their name tags and tell them to wear them at all times. On the tour there are two key stops: the nurse, and the bathrooms; if there is no line outside of the nurse· area, they need to go there first. At 5:00p.m. they are to take the students to the campfire area. In between, they should show the students the cabin areas, where resources meet, talk about life in the DH, etc., and come up with a class call. When Weasel is done talking to the students on the bus, I help unload the students and separate them by gender. Then I help out the teacher by being their personal porter. I help carry his/her stuff up to the office building, show them to the correct room, and help fill out the medicine log sheet. Then I gently but firmly usher the teacher over to the DH, so that the teacher meeting can get underway as fast as possible. After my teacher is taken care of, I check in on the tours, and help lead games or whatever else needs to be done. At 5:00, I head to campfire to help out with Stall. We teach songs, talk about life in the DH, and whatever else until the teachers come back and students are put into cabins. Once students are in cabin groups, the FIs go back to the DH and finish setting the tables for dinner, and put away the food and stuff on the teacher table.
Dinner Time: I help get Jump-ups situated at tables, and if I am not needed to be a guest, I look for tables that have two new SLs as guests; I join them to help show them how to properly run a table. During dinner, I find the teacher whose class I am going to have on resource tomorrow. I talk to him/her quickly about how I am coming to the class meeting tonight. .. I need the last 15 minutes of the meeting to talk about field study stuff. Then dessert arrives and it is time for me to do weather ... THUNDER AND LIGHTNING! (my favorite weather presentation) After dinner, I don't have a duty tonight, so I take care of any odds and ends until it is time for me to go to my class meeting. At the meeting I talk about what is expected on all four field studies" The Big 5" or "PERCH"... Participation, Environmental Marmers, Respect, Cooperation, and HAVE FUN! I talk about what to wear to field study, where my field study meets, and what they will be doing tomorrow. I also have my snake with me to get students excited about animals. Each FI has something like that to get students involved and excited about field study. After the meeting, the female teacher walks the girls back to their cabin area. I walk the boys back to the cabin area and help them find their cabins. Then I run down and get some layers on for campfire.
From Campfire on: Field Instructors help seat cabins at campfire, so I try and get there early. I greet cabins as they walk in and make sure they know their cabin call. Once things get started I participate and lead songs as needed. After campfire, I meet with my teacher in the dining hall. We talk about each student in the class, who are the bright students, who are the low ones, who is ADHD (or whatever other labels they have), who are the positive leaders, who will distract others, and who needs jobs on field study to keep them focused. After we talk about the students, I talk about the field study ... where kids will be during the day, where the teacher can help me out the most, and where we meet in the morning. I also talk about my resource theme and what topics are covered during the day. Then we talk about the strengths of my Student Leaders and put students into groups matching them with Student Leaders as much as possible. I have a returning Student Leader who is not the strongest child manager, and since I will be training all day I won't be able to provide her with as much support, so I give her a group of fairly mellow students. In an ideal world, groups usually have 4-5 students each. I rarely go to 6, unless there is going to be a staff member there full time. I try and spread out the positive leaders, and the students who distract each other are separated. After the teachers leave, it is time for the staff meeting. We get key information from the nurse about who has allergies, etc., and then each FI shares specific information they received from the teacher meeting. It is important to be as succinct and relevant as possible during this time. I also sign up for two recreations; the third recreation time I usually don't lead a recreation, but instead use the chance to chop wood for the fire and take care of odds 'n ends. After the meeting, I make up the Student Notebooks for my class for the next day; each FI makes a set for the class that we have on Monday, and we go from there. My notebooks are yellow, because that is the color of the bead I hand out. I also write a note to each of my Student Leaders in their notebooks. Then I collapse in bed.
7:35 a.m.: I arrive on the field, ready to lead flag lines. It is important to get to flag lines 5 minutes early so you have a chance to get everyone organized (hosts and jump-ups on one side; eaters on the other), and get a flag call together. Monday morning flag is also the time to explain how flag works (when to turn in, when to salute, and most important, which direction to turn out), and the expectations for flag (stand quietly and respectfully, no talking, etc.). After flag, I go stand in the guest pool and chat with some of my SLs about their day. I talk about what to expect; I reassure the new SLs that they will have a staff member there with them full-time today to train them, and they should jump in when they feel comfortable. During announcements, 2 field studies sing songs; today is my turn, so I grab my PLs and sing an off-key, but spirited ditty of some sort. As the breakfast dismissal song begins, I run out the door to gather my stuff together and then I go up the hill. Some Fis go up the hill before morning field study; others stay down below. I like going up to my field study area in the morning to straighten up any loose ends, listen to the birds, and get mentally ready for the day. I organize student notebooks by groups and put them into each SL mailbox, so that each Student Leaders can grab their group's notebooks and go. I make sure that backpacks are labeled for each Student Leader's use, and that all of the materials are in place. I glance over my notes from yesterday's meeting, and put comments by some of the student names ... I try not to give away confidential information or use labels; rather I will ask SLs to "draw out" quieter students, "give jobs" to the more active, unfocused ones, and tell them to "give positives" to the students who need some serious TLC and morale boosting.
9:10 a.m.: Field study starts at 9:15a.m.; I try and be at the meeting area a few minutes early to help organize students and get some songs and games (resource appropriate) going, and teach the new Student Leaders what things to lead. Once most everyone is there, I introduce each of the SLs and lead a round of applause for each. Then I call off the groups and the students walk up the hill with their SL for the day. SLs set expectations with their groups for a few minutes, and then discuss with the students some things we might talk about during the day. During this time, I help one of my new SLs with setting expectation and leading the students up the hill in a calm, productive manner. Once the students are settled in the main gathering area, the Student Leaders meet with my PLs to review the student notes for the day, talk about the day's structure (who is hiking when, and what time we need to be back), and hang out. The SLs are also assigned a notebook topic for the day. Meanwhile, it is now the GAIA show on Wildlife Hill as I prepare the students for the day, give them some key vocabulary words and concepts to use, and get them excited for the day and make sure they know what they should know by the end of the morning. After my morning intra, the students go back into their small groups. The SL I am training is teaming up at the snake station with another student leader so that I am free to meet briefly with the teacher. I give all teachers a basic tour of the field study area and show them where to look for various groups. I also give my teachers a SL Observation sheet, with the names of my Student Leaders already filled in. This way, they can take notes on how some of my SLs are doing (for Monday, I have them focus just on the returnees), and also this gives them a way of checking to see if they have seen all of the groups at some point or another. If there is a student I am concerned about, I have the teacher shadow that group first. Once the teacher is squared away, I am off and running to train a new SL and help them through the first day.
11:35 a.m.: The groups gather back in the resource area. I make sure that everyone is back, sometimes tell a Native American story to wrap up the morning, and then have my Student Leaders walk the class down the hill to their cabin. I pick one SL to stay behind and be my "special helper." This gives me a chance to chat with him / her one on one for a few minutes and check in on how the day / week is going.
12:00 a.m.: Lunch time! Once I have washed my hands and put stuff away, I go hang out in the guest pool. After lunch, it is cabin time and I use the time to prepare some odds 'n ends for afternoon resource — somehow, there is always something to be done.
1:30 p.m.: Afternoon field study! Again, I am here 5 minutes early to help out as students gather and lead some games. By the end of the week, my SLs will be taking the initiative to lead games, but for today, I want to teach some new ones. Then we split into groups and head up the hill ... I make sure that every group has all of their students and that we are all present and accounted for. For the afternoon, I help out a different SL, and try and have my PLs rotate as well; that way, we all spend time with a variety of SLs and get a better impression of how the group is doing as a whole. Once again, I lead an intro while the SLs meet with the PLs to cover what they need to know for the afternoon.
3:40p.m.: I have all groups return at this time to start the wrap-up; it takes SLs a few minutes to get things going and to put away all of the gear. Then, while the PLs are running the show for a couple of minutes, I circle up with the SLs briefly to check in and see how they are doing. Then I send them down the hill to the DH; ideally, their feet are in the DH by 3:50p.m.
4:05 p.m.: Field study comes to an end. I hand out to each student the first of those oh-so-coveted beads and a safety pin. I show them how to pin the safety pin so it doesn't block their name or their school, and remind them that these pins "are for resource beads only. They are not for teacher beads or student leader beads, but only for beads that you earn from the staff." When I come off the hill, I bring down my students' field notebooks. I put into the Class's mailbox in the DH so that the Soil FI can grab them tomorrow. Then I go up to the cabin area to hang out, because I am in charge of the girls' cabin area on Mondays during snack time. When the emergency fire drill starts at 4:25 .p.m., I make sure that all cabins are headed down to the parking lot, and then I go join them.
4:30 p.m.: Recreation time! Today I am leading archery with another FI, so we grab the gear and head up the hill. I remember to collect the recreation tickets, and try to return them to their nifty box. Sometimes I forget, and then they get washed; they don't work well after that.
5:30 p.m.: Recreation ends; I walk students back to the cabin areas I remind them not to go in unless their SL is inside the cabin. Then I have about 30 minutes to hang out with staff and catch a breath. I use this time to put together the bead racks for my SLs; they each get a pin with the four resource beads on it plus an extra wildlife bead since they are on wildlife resource. The rest of the beads their cabins have to earn.
6:00 p.m.: Flag! Again, I am here 5 minutes early to organize students. After flag I migrate back to the guest pool, but I notice that no one is around to assign jump-ups to tables, so I do that instead, and then join a table with one of my SLs so I can see how they are doing. During dinner, I again touch base with the teacher whose class I have tomorrow, to let him know that I will be at the class meeting during the last 10 minutes (I don't need as much time tonight because kids should be getting the swing of things). After dinner tonight I am running cleaning teams, so while Weasel is doing the last few announcements, I get everything prepared; I put out the silverware buckets, get a bucket of spatulas, and put fresh water and soap into the rag bucket. Then I run cleaning teams with another Fl. Afterwards, we take out the trash for fun and excitement. I usually have about 3 minutes until I have to go to my class meeting and prepare tomorrow's students. After I walk the students back to their cabins, I again go help seat cabins at campfire.
After Campfire: The teachers and the FIs cruise back to the DH to sweep and mop, which is a good thing because the floor is a mess! Then I meet with my teacher and put students into groups for tomorrow; since I have the notes on her class I can ask about any students who might need special leadership styles, etc. I finish up just as SLs are arriving for social hour. I make sure that food is available for them to eat, then I gather up my crew.
10:00 p.m.: Tonight for the first half-hour I meet with my SLs. This is a key time, as it is the best chance I have to talk about a variety of things to the group as a whole. I award everyone their rack of beads and have them tell me something they are proud of accomplishing for the day. I find out who needs help with specific stations, and I talk about how my job is to help them become better teachers, and to help them with students who make "bad choices." I also find out who needs homework time (they are entitled to take a morning or afternoon off of field study to make up the volumes of schoolwork; however, this is NOT a time for sleeping or showering). I usually end the meeting with a candle pass of some sort.
10:30 p.m.: Social hour time! I love to play games and jump right in to play and lead a game if needed. At 11:00 we send the SLs off to bed and then meet as a staff to review how kids, SLs and teachers are doing. I also use this time to write in the SL notebooks and give them positives and feedback on their day. Then it is bedtime!
I make sure to grab today's class's field study notebooks from the mailbox in the DH before going up the hill. All in all, the same as Monday, except that If I want to visit an SL in her cabin to say hi and play some games with the students, today during cabin time is the best time to do it. It is lots of fun, and I love seeing how my SLs spend the "other half' of their ODS lives. I try and take a shower at some point.
On field study, I spend a lot of time model teaching activities for SLs who needed help. I check in with all of the groups to see how everyone is doing. During· social hour, there is no field study meeting, so as SLs are coming in, I try and talk one-on-one with each of them to see how they felt about the day, how their cabin is going, and give some feedback as needed. I also practice a. song with my SLs that I am going to sing at breakfast tomorrow.
This morning I have to teach weather, so I get out of bed a few minutes earlier to gather up the weather crew. Hopefully today we can predict sun!
Bar-B-Q day! Yum! At lunchtime, I come off the hill and help out in the' DH. The kids are all going to be eating hamburgers and hot dogs on the field. The FIs help put out the special staff lunch in the DH and set a big table. Then we eat quickly and run down to the field by 12:30 so that the PLs can come eat. By 1 :00 p.m. most cabins are done eating and the FIs gather crates and supplies to do the clean up.
I spend recreation time chopping wood. I also call next week's SLs to make sure that they are still coming and to see what ideas they have for their names; this way I can provide alternatives if any of them are straying down the wrong path. Any extra time, I try to spend hanging out with the SLs around the DH, because it is fun to just hang out with them for a while.
After recreation, I teach evening weather for fun and excitement. After dinner, since I don't have cleaning teams, I try and join the Student Leader / Program Leader meeting for a little while. I just watch it from the back and don't disturb anything. It gives me a chance to see how my SLs are doing in the meeting and see another side of them, especially during the icebreaker. I also learn a little more about the "big picture" and what SLs have been told by Program Leaders. I am also responsible for lighting the campfire tonight; I try and remember to bring down some cardboard boxes to help get the fire lit.
At social hour, I spend a lot of time with each SL giving them positives and constructive observations for tomorrow, their last day of teaching. I also practice a song with them, since all four field studies sing at breakfast on Thursday.
During Cabin time after lunch, I get a sheet that lists the names and addressees of all of my SLs. I also pull the evaluations from last session of any returning SLs, so I don't write the same thing twice and I can also see areas that they have shown the most growth. I start writing my evaluations if I have time. For afternoon field study, I have no PLs because this is their time to meet and write evaluations. I tell my SLs that today's notebook topic is "What have you learned from the week?" or something along those lines and that it is important. Then I put a responsible SL in charge of the meeting. After resource ends, I gather everyone up quickly to make sure that all cue cards and notebooks have been turned in.
After afternoon field study, I come down and hang out in the cabin area again. I make sure that all cabins are down at Field Day before I come down. Then I come down, sequester myself somewhere, and write evaluations. These evaluations are important; it is a chance to let students know how wonderful they are doing and give them ideas for next sessions; they are tools for growth and for praise. It is important to write them well and take your time. If needed, I can write all the way through dinner. When students come up from Field Day (usually around 6:00 p.m. or so), I go back to the kitchen with the other Fls and finish setting the tables. We put all the food out so the Jump-Ups don't have to do anything.
Dinner: During dinner, I touch base with the teacher I met with on Sunday night; I ask her if she wants me to do a candle pass with her students after dinner, at the start of the class meeting. She says that she would like that, so after dinner, I take a candle from one of the tables and go to the class meeting. Each FI has their own way of running the candle pass; I start by asking a few general questions like, ''Who was nervous on Sunday?" and "Who has made a new friend this week?" Then I light the candle and ask students to share what memory of Outdoor School they are going to hold in their heart for forever. I really enjoy listening to what they have to say. After the candle pass is finished, I go to the Student Leader meeting to listen to their candle pass. After it is over, I go back to the class meeting and walk the boys back to the cabin area.
Campfire: I grab the bag of candle stubs and go down to campfire. We pass out candles to the SLs at transition time. The Thursday campfire ends with the soil ceremony and lots of cool staff stuff. Afterwards, I go back tot he DH, set out stuff for ice cream sundaes, and deliver my evaluations. I try really, really hard to be done by midnight, otherwise the entire staff ends up getting less sleep. After evaluations are done, the staff meets as normal, except it is really late and we are all somewhat delirious.
Breakfast: I am up somewhat earlier and make sure I am in the DH by 7:15am to grab breakfast and meet with the teachers about Friday Overview. The teachers run 4 stations, the FIs run 2 stations, 1 FI does the timing, and the fourth FI helps out by delivering coffee and tea to the teachers, stringing name tags, running kids to the bathroom etc. At the end of the teacher meeting, a couple FIs go and get the butcher paper, pens, regular paper, and lap boards needed to run some of the stations.
7:45 am: Flag. It is larger than usual because every cabin is there. After flag, I follow Weasel's directions as to which side of the Tug of Fun rope my line should go. Then I help demonstrate how to do (and not to do) the tug with the other staff. As the Tug gets underway, I make sure that the cross cut log is getting notched... this helps the students who are cutting the log. After the tug, we start Friday Overview. Rotations generally last about 13 minutes.
9:50 am: Friday overview ends. Students line up on the basketball court, like they do for recreation. I help gather up the score cards and the Friday Overview packets from the teachers, then the FIs run inside the DH and do Math! We finish adding up the points to see who gets the clear thought bead and then fill out a sheet so that Weasel can read off the first and second places in each category. By the time we are done with this, students are signing name tags. I go join them ... its my chance to pretend I'm a celebrity! When name tag signing is finished, I come back to the DH and finish getting food out on the tables for lunch.
Lunch: Lunch is fast. I eat as much food as possible because it will be a while before I eat again. At 11 :30 a.m., Weasel calls off the names of the students who are in the final Flag and Tree ceremonies. When he calls off the students who are the Tree planters, all 4 FIs stand in front of the DH together. Then we gather the students and off we go. We meet up at Tom's Tree to hand out beads and say a few words, then we walk down to where the tree is going to be planted. As we walk down there, each FI walks next to one of the students and starts discussing the week with them. Once at the site, we divide up into work groups and go off. I spend the time gathering bugs and talking to my student about his week and what he is going to say to everyone at the ceremony. We meet back together and have each student practice what they are going to say. Then we are off to the final flag ceremony. After the flag ceremony, we plant the tree, and then conduct the infamous "hug and walk" to get students onto the buses. I make a point of saying good-bye to each teacher. Then I go sing out the buses!
12:30 p.m.: Cleaning time! I put away any old evaluations that I have pulled from the files, and then I go up the hill to clean things up there, get stuff ready for next week, and lock and put away equipment if there is a weekend group. Afterwards, I go down and help clean the basement, and once that is done, look around for other people who need help. At 2:15p.m., we stop work and hang out with the SLs; I have my crew sign my name tag and I take a group photo. At 2:30 we load up the bus and send them on their way. Then we clean some more until we are done cleaning. After that, I pack up my stuff, grab some grub at the place staff heads to socialize, and head home for some sleep until Sunday when it all starts again!