My family is quite odd in many ways. Odd in the sense that we do things quite differently than most. One thing that we do differently, is that we do not put much time and effort into holidays and birthdays. I am not talking about Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Christmas, etc. What I am referring to are holidays such as Father’s Day, Anniversaries and National Dog Day or whatever the current trend in marketing is.
It was with surprise that my kiddos (daughter/son-in-law and son) got me extremely wonderful Father’s Day gifts. Sometimes we do that sort of thing, but most of the time we don’t.
My daughter and son-in law gifted me a great book entitled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. This has proven to be a wonderful gem in only a week of reading it. Originally written as a guide for elementary school aged teachers nearly a century ago, I believe most anyone would find it most useful and full of information.
One thing struck a positive chord with me, nearly as soon as I opened it. In a section entitled “I don’t know”, Ms. Comstock details how as professor of biology at Cornell University, she had no problem at all telling her students that she did not know something. She went further to say that she always used such situations to to say something along the lines of “I don’t know, but how about we study it together and determine an answer together, then we will both know.” To say that resonates with me is an understatement.
At Nature Reliance School we have never pretended to be something that we are not. That sometimes goes into two entirely different directions.
- We never pretend to have knowledge on a topic when we don’t.
- We remain humble, and at the same time we don’t feign ignorance either.
It is a hallmark of what we do, and our community of students and supporters have gotten on board with it all.
I regularly follow other outdoor schools as a means of getting ideas on their methods of doing things as well as a way of learning and educating myself. It is unfortunate to see other leaders in these types of schools purposely being braggadocious and developing cult followings rather than developing people to be strong on their own.
I taught incredibly physical martial arts training for over two decades. It was always my goal to develop students who were better than me. It was a risky endeavor. To consistently teach people to be better than you. The risk is when they no longer need you, do they continue to support you or do they go on their own.
Survival, tracking, and similar outdoor training are much different. While yes, I would certainly love to have a large school with branches, or groups of students all over the country. However it is more important to me that I develop them as people, not as a cult following. Sure I have gear pieces that I recommend and ones that steadfastly encourage others to get. But, I certainly do not want, for example, someone to use a knife that I love, when it doesn’t fit their hand properly. I want them to find a knife that works well for them. To have that attitude, I sometimes have to tell my students, “I don’t know, but let’s figure it out together.” Or sometimes point them in the direction they need to be going, and leave it up to them to learn and figure it out on their own.
Personally this, “I don’t know” attitude has continually helped me to grow as a teacher and a student. If I do not know something, and it is important for me to know. I find someone to teach me, if one is not available I figure it out on my own. One teacher told me many years ago, “If you are not growing, you are dying.” In that regard I simply keep coming up with answers on things that….I don’t know.