Vol.#5: The NCCAT Experience

As Volume #4 mentioned, I attended NCCAT in Cullowhee, NC the last week in June with the other Kenan Fellows. Kenan asked us to write about our NCCAT highlight  for our third post to our Kenan Fellows’ Blog. Here’s my response.

 

I’m what you call “indoorsy.”   ~Jim Gaffigan

I hesitated long and hard before submitting the survey about paint-balling and whitewater rafting. In fact, I was on the list of Fellows to which they’d had to send the survey a second time. This was not because it had slipped my mind. However, Paul Cancellieri finally put it this way to me:

“Do it. When else will you? And…it’s where the memories will be made.”

This turned out to be ingenious advice.

Honestly, the scariest part for me about paint-balling was signing the waiver. “Possible serious injury and death.” I read this and glanced around. We’re all signing this? Seriously? Well, okey-dokey.

As each paint-ball scenario went on, I got better at knowing my strengths and weaknesses, and in which way I would best serve my team. (We initially played in the woods, then moved to a little city built just for this, with cars and three-story buildings.) I much preferred the city’s required strategy over the unpredictability of the forest. I’m sure this says lots about myself, and could go on here to analyze it.

falls0001_1-e1337353864916However, the prompt for this blog assignment asked for the NCCAT highlight. I’ve already discussed my Top Ten Tech Takeaways, and individually and as a whole, they are an invaluable, amazing highlight. But looking at the experiences outside of those classroom-altering tools, what was a highlight for me? That would have to be jumping the rock.

For starters, I was certain I was going to fall out of the raft. In fact, if I hadn’t grabbed poor Robin, I know one time that I definitely would have. Our guide, whom the rest of the Fellows all knew by his lack of rafting attire but we came to know as “Dan”, was really great. (Dan was in a black Speedo.) Caroline jumped in and went for a swim at one point, and Dan was teaching Kristine to steer as our guide during much of the trip. Tammy is an experienced rafter who’s conquered class five rapids before. And nothing seems to bother Kenny. I was certainly the most nervous “fish out of water” in our raft.

When we got to the jumping rock, it looked pretty high even from the ground. I’d decided against it. I watched many of the fellows jump off confidently, and many others hesitate. I started to consider doing this. Then, I saw Ryan G.

Ryan went to the edge…and stopped. He paced. He shook his head, as if to say, “Oh, hell no!”. Then, people stared to cheer him on. From my perspective back on the shore, I would say it looked like he was probably not going to do it, but for the encouragement of his fellow Fellows. We cheered as he finally screwed up his courage and jumped.

Ryan just did this. I can do this. *deep breath*

As everyone started to head back to their boats, I nervously edged up to the top of the rock. Holy mackerel, but it’s high. Again, my resolve wavered. Then, like with Ryan, I heard some of the Fellows, and then more still, start to cheer me on. I looked back and saw wet Fellows who had met this challenge. I saw Lisa H. had jumped, and was smiling. More Fellows started to cheer, “You can do this!” “Go Erica!”

I jumped.

I heard everyone cheer all the way down. The water was so cold, it seized all my senses on impact. When I surfaced though, they were still cheering.

Dan had us spinning like a washing-machine as we went over the class-three falls, and I didn’t fall out. I didn’t grab Robin. Something within me had changed.

We are all going to have experiences in this adventure that will be new, and difficult, and even scary. But, the rock taught me we also have each others’ backs. We are each others’ support, encouragement, and example of success. Pride grows from expecting more from ourselves than we thought we ever could accomplish…and then rising to the occasion.

So, what was the highlight of NCCAT for me? That it was the perfect storm of experiencing confidence-building adventures, acquiring new tech tools for the classroom, and cultivating powerful professional contacts and amazing new friends. The power of this storm will surely reshape the landscape of myself as an educator and a person.

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