Fear of Missing School Shouldn’t Prevent You From Attending Outdoor School


Image provided by Camila Mejia

By Ariel Harmon, Reporter

High school is usually indoors and consists of a busywork-filled day. However, there are some ways to spice up your experience. It’s hard to miss the Outdoor School flyers that have been posted on lockers all over Cleveland and every other high school. And if you didn’t see the flyers, you have probably heard the stories your friends have told again and again. They’ve told you how there is a certain magic at Outdoor School, a feeling that comes over you and makes you really focus in the now, in what you are doing in the moment. Not only is there no cell service, (high school student leaders usually give up their phones as to not have access to them for the week), the students who go there are responsible for the management of sixth graders, and those kids can be hard to work with. Hopefully you can remember what you were like as a sixth grader (and how you thought the whole world was against you). Now try leading those children for a week with minimal supervision. Not everyone can do so.

Put yourself in the shoes of the high school student leaders. You just gave up a week of your busy life. And that’s not a week that you will be able to make up easily, with all that work and learning that happened in the week where you were teaching and hiking with sixth graders will be required for you to make up as soon as possible. This means that some teachers will expect you to be able to do homework at Outdoor School, and that is just not possible. There will be pressures from both your teachers and maybe your sports coaches to not do Outdoor School. However when has anything that excites and intrigues you not been hard? The hardest things are usually the most rewarding and Outdoor School is worth doing.  If you believe that you can go to Outdoor School for a week and not be behind in your classes then you are sadly wrong. However, if you think even for a moment of not going to Outdoor School just because you are too frightened of the extra homework load, then you are sorely missing out.

“Outdoor School is an opportunity for an unforgettable experience that leads to growth. Anyone who thinks about going should do it because words can’t describe how great it is. You’d have to be there to believe it,” said Michael Seid, a junior from Cleveland who has gone to Outdoor School for three sessions in the past two years.

Although Outdoor School is open to every student, it is not always possible for everyone who is interested to go. There are a couple reasons for that, the first being that they might not be accepted or there might be too many students applying. The big factor, however, is that some teachers don’t approve of sending their students away for a week to go to Outdoor School. The opinion is divided among teachers. Some think that Outdoor School is an experience that can’t be recreated in the classroom, while others believe that Outdoor School is just an excuse to get out of school for a week.

“I am strongly supportive [of Outdoor School]. I think travel is the best education, and Outdoor School contributes to a student’s learning in more ways than can be done in a classroom,” said Vanessa Hughes, Cleveland media teacher.

Even though they might disapprove of Outdoor School, the teachers have a say in whether you go or not, besides strongly mentioning their opinion on Outdoor School.

“On the form itself it says approve, and I don’t approve of them leaving, I don’t disapprove of them leaving. I can recognize that they are leaving. So give me a recognize box. I get it–they are going to be gone. It’s all puppetry. It doesn’t matter. If their parents say they can go, teachers don’t have to sign off on it,” said English teacher Patrick Gonzales.

Students have some frustrations on the different opinions of teacher concerning Outdoor School, and the way teachers can seem very unsympathetic with the amount of work they are giving you.

“Some teachers definitely gave that feeling that they thought I just took a week vacation off of school, when I was actually taking care of children for 22 hours of the day,” said Camila Mejia, a junior at Cleveland.

Unlike some popular opinions, going to Outdoor School is not just a weeklong vacation. It is a week filled with taking care of sixth graders, teaching them, and taking care of their needs. It is a week where every hour is scheduled and filled. When high schoolers come back from Outdoor School, they are not only bombarded with work, but they also have to get back into the mindset that school work is the main focus of their life. And on top of that, it is very likely that when students come back from Outdoor School, they are more likely to get sick.

Some say that students should have assigned homework for the week that they are gone, but the only problem is that the student leaders have no time to get homework done at Outdoor School. There is less than one hour a day that student leaders are without the responsibility of taking care of sixth graders. If teachers assign homework that the student leaders need to do over the week they are gone, it just can’t be done. There is no time that is allotted for homework during Outdoor School.

“We are trying our best to stay caught up, but it’s hard when you are being pulled in different directions at home and at ODS. Being open to making up work in different ways would help all of the student leaders in so many facets. Thank you for encouraging our leadership and growth opportunities,” said Skylar Deitch, a sophomore at St. Mary’s Academy.

To students interested, don’t give up on Outdoor School just because a few of your teachers are against it. There are ways to get ahead, or to not fall as far behind. Take any reading you have and try to complete that during the bus ride.

There are some students who argue that it is the student’s responsibility to prepare for Outdoor School ahead of time. And they are not wrong, but the responsibility doesn’t rely solely on the student. It never does. The amount of cooperation is dependent on the teachers and their views as well, but it never hurts to try to get ahead or just try to get your teacher on board with your opinions and your reason behind why going to Outdoor School means so much to you.

“Really try to do work ahead of time or make arrangements with all of your teachers beforehand if you are committed to going to Outdoor School or only go for a three day session if you think you’ll fall too far behind. ODS is special!” said Bijou Holiday, Madison High School sophomore.

“I would like to see teachers support the meaningful learning experiences outside of the classroom that can’t be replaced inside the classroom. So many things are happening that are valuable outside of the classroom but this does not mean that we are devaluing work in class,” said Hughes.  

I believe that Outdoor School isn’t just a get-away from school and someone’s normal everyday life. At Outdoor School, students have the opportunity to experience the act of being in charge and taking the leader role in their own life. As a school and as a community in which students are growing up, we should allow and encourage students and teenagers to take a step back and look at all the different options that they have in the world. Let’s not forget that Outdoor School can open so many doors for so many different people.

Outdoor School is not perfect and there are changes that could help better it. Making the week start on the weekends so that the least amount of school would be missed and having planned time to do homework while at Outdoor School (though that might be to hard for the student leaders) could help alleviate pressure on student leaders. However, that is still no reason for a teacher to voice their opinion directly to a student who has their heart set on going. Missing a week of school does not have the same effect on students as missing out on going to into nature for a week and focusing on you without any pressure and stress from outside sources. If Outdoor School is an experience that you are interested in, then you should fight to go. There should be better planning for makeup work, on the part of the students and on the part of the teachers. And to students, if you are going to Outdoor School, make sure that you don’t have school stress hanging over your head so you can enjoy Outdoor School to the fullest.