Recently, my husband and I plunged the depth of the Grand Canyon, beginning at the Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim. We didn’t go as far as we wanted, but went as far as our provisions would safely allow. You can expect then, that our next trip will find us going deeper and farther than before, until finally one day we reach our goal- the North Rim on the other side of the Canyon.
Hiking deep into the Canyon takes preparation. You just can’t decide to stroll down to Indian Gardens, the lush green oasis-like campground about halfway between the Colorado River and the rim, and come back out. To arrive at this destination, and indeed to go farther, requires planning and training.
Time of day is critical, so that you’re not fighting the intense heat of direct sunlight—not to mention the strenuous 4.5 mile ascent that makes “Buns of Steel” seem like a cake walk— and on some trails you may need to cache water to avoid dehydration on the trek out. The rocky, uneven path requires the proper footwear and perhaps a pair of walking sticks. Hiking deep into the Canyon requires planning and training.
But, the glorious scenic hike down is worth every dime and time spent in preparation! If you're wiling, you can experience sights and sounds that only a relative few of the world’s population will ever encounter. Or, you can remain along the rim where it is safe, and requires little to no preparation.
Now, don’t get me wrong, even along the rim the vast view of the gorgeous Canyon, and its arid display of color and light will amaze. But once you’ve gone below, the safe rim experience pales in comparison to the wondrous adventures within!
During our recent trip, I glanced back up at the South Rim from the shale mesa of Plateau Point, about 6 miles into the canyon, and I couldn’t help but think about my teaching practice.
Every year, like hiking the Grand Canyon, I have a choice. I can stay along the rim or I can go below.
I can play it safe or delve deeper into the content and find ways to make the curriculum relevant to my students so that they can make real-world connections that prepare them for a larger, global community.
I can play it safe or be an approachable professional (sometimes an oxymoron) who knows her students and risks the emotional vulerability of authentic relationships that fosters dreams, as well as shoulders concerns— in hopes of one day making a lasting impact on some of them.
I can play it safe or challenge my students, beyond their comfort zone of academic complacency and sense of entitlement, and even risk the ire of their well-meaning parents in order to empower them to think critically, communicate effectively, and value the power of collaboration.
I can play it safe; or I can enrich the curriculum, risk getting my feelings hurt, as well as advocate for my students' to think well for themselves.
And in the grand scheme of things, the treasure found below the rim of my teaching practice is so much more rewarding than playing it safe!