Title: Lead Instructor, Course Director, Whitewater Paddling Specialist
Years with North Carolina Outward Bound (NCOBS): 5
What inspired you to become an Outward Bound instructor? Did you know before you went on your Instructor Development Course? I started my first year at NCOBS as a proud intern. At the beginning of the summer, well-seasoned instructors Lark Gardner, Mark Wulff and Sara Morrison, led a two-week expedition into Pisgah National Forest for myself and seven other interns. I had no idea what I was in for at that time, but ultimately, I was inspired to become an instructor thanks to those three individuals. At that point in my life, I had never even seen anyone do what they did, and I knew in my heart, in my very being of beings, that it was good and valuable work.
After my own student experience, I was profoundly impacted. I knew that I wanted to be able to facilitate that same transformative experience for future students, so I began my journey to becoming an Outward Bound instructor. Serendipitously, I was given an opportunity to participate in the 50-day Outdoor Educator Course, instructed by two other fantastic educators, Brian Arnold and Lindsay Ward. These individuals pushed us through challenging terrain, encouraged us to build strong healthy relationships, asked us to be vulnerable and trust one another, kept us safe, taught us to believe in magic, and showed us how to love nature, each other, and ourselves. It was a life-changing experience for me.
What was the most challenging part of that 50-day course? The most challenging aspect of the Outdoor Educator Course (OEC) for me was learning how to speak up and assert my ideas when I felt they were valid. Our instructors did a phenomenal job asking us as individuals to step outside of stereotypical gender roles and intentionally make space for each other to speak. As one of the more quiet and timid members of the group, it took a lot of patience and encouragement from my peers, but eventually, I found my voice and recognized that one need not be loud in volume to be a good facilitator, what weighs much more heavily is confidence in your word.
Did you come out of that course with skill sets you wanted to work on? When I completed the OEC, I felt that I had a good foundation of interpersonal skills, but I knew that my technical skills needed further attention. As a result, I made a personal commitment to focus on my whitewater canoeing, having been inspired by the technique and grace of other paddling specialists on the Outward Bound staff. If someone wanted to become an outdoor educator, what are some things you would suggest they do to gain more experience? First and foremost – go on a course! There is no better way to conceptualize the type of commitment required by this unique and fulfilling type of work. Any written job description for “Outward Bound Instruction” is inherently lacking, because you simply cannot express in formal writing the experience of cooking in the rain, cheering a crewmate up a steep climb, putting on wet river shoes in the brisk morning, seeing a crewmate’s posture change after receiving positive affirmation. There is a magic in the Outward Bound experience that must be lived, not observed. So first, sign up for a course! Sign up for a scholarship! Apply for the OEC! Know that there is absolutely no shame in having the curiosity and drive without technical experience. If you practice honesty, integrity, and compassion, then there is always a place to learn and grow at Outward Bound.