So yeah! I don’t work for the circus anymore.
My days, which used to be filled with scenic painting, making moulds, and dressing in black to run show tracks…. Are now filled with keeping kiddies safe in the wood, cooking over fires, leading backcountry hikes, and helping teens feel better about themselves and life in the woods.
I work in the woods for a week at a time. So my week looks something like this:
Tuesday morning I wake up at about 6:15 in the morning. I have some coffee and drive about an hour and a half to work. Every Tuesday we have an in service which lasts for a few hours and we go over what is going on for the week.
Then I head out into the field. We spend most of Tuesday going over the previous week with the staff shift that is coming out of the woods. Then for the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday we stay in the same location with the kids and their therapist comes out and has one on one sessions with them.
She sets some objectives for both them as individuals as well as for the whole group. And then for the rest of the week we facilitate the kids both getting their assignments done as well as working the program. For the group that I am currently working with days generally include: breakfast, lunch, diner, a daily NA or AA meeting, camp breakdown and setup, and a hike. Hiking is a big componenet of the program and the kids hike anywhere between 1-9 miles a day though for the most part it’s usually 3 or so. The kids carry everything they need with them on their backs. Another big part of the program is bowdrilling. Which means using primitive tools to create fire.
The main idea of the program is these kids for one reason or another hav lost their way. They are either into drugs or sex or whatever… they are not doing well and have lost themselves back home. So we take them into the woods and they stay there for about 10 weeks or so. And while there they don’t have phones or social media or any of that stuff… and they learn to do things for themselves. If they don’t make breakfast… they don’t eat breakfast. As staff, we facilitate their activities and keep them safe, but we actually do very little for them in the way of chores or anything like that. So they become relatively self sufficient out there and they focus on what they need be it NA meetings or trauma issues or what have you. And they leave the woods stronger and more self assured people. Many of them will go on to a therapy based boarding school while some will return home.
So basically while I am out there I try and keep everyone safe. I try to engage and build rapport with kids that don’t necessarily want to talk. I try to set a good role model for my students. I try to hold firm boundaries. I try to practice empathy and compassion even when dealing with the most frustrating of students. And I try to take one day at a time. One week at a time. And one kid at a time.