21 May 2010

Tearing Down Walls

It’s one for the Army this past week, as the warrior in me and my Soldier family taught me something for which my teaching experience was inadequate.
“In our week at Army boot camp we have improved our leadership skills, learned the importance of commitment to the group, and most importantly, developed the sense to prepare ourselves physically and mentally for whatever the future holds.
My high school students wrote the above about the special course I helped teach this past week.

“I will always place the mission first.”

It was a “Week Without Walls,” an experience unique to the network of schools that employs me. For five entire school days, students attend classes outside the walls of the traditional classroom and school. And they go beyond the walls built up by their own experiences and perceptions.

“I will never accept defeat.”

My group of 24 students chose Army Boot Camp to prove that they had the physical strength, emotional resilience, and mental toughness to go through just a little bit of how United States Soldiers train.

“I will never quit.”

This post is dedicated to the 24 students, who looked and moved beyond their own walls and became warriors.

“I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

Warriors because they have decided to live by the Ethos that guides the Soldier. Through Army training, they have a new focus on their mission—to do well in school, graduate, and go on to college.

They didn’t accept defeat, and articulated how victory is a mental exercise that is achieved when one insists on being victorious, no matter the odds or barriers.

They didn’t quit, and some of them learned for the first time how that feels.

Their comrades—schoolmates, community peers, and family members—now have a battle buddy who will not give up on them and will be there to pick them up when the going gets tough.

It was inspiring to me, as a teacher who has often been critical of Army training methods, to see how the Way of the Warrior touched these kids in a manner that their school experience couldn’t.

More than anything, it was a week that tore down the walls that I had built up.

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