I love the outdoors.  I love the adventure of pushing myself to the limits of my endurance and strength in the hopes of reaching some distant peak or isolated lake.  The feeling of standing on some high summit surrounded by jagged mountains of rock and ice is breathtaking and indescribable.  However, even though standing on the top of a mountain is amazing, over the years (and some not so pleasant trips) I have learned to find enjoyment in the journey and not simply the ‘summit experience.’

In many ways there are similarities between hiking and teaching.   I have the destination ‘peak’ of what I want to accomplish (and who I want to be) as a teacher, but I can only get there by navigating the roots, streams, and other mundane obstacles on the trail.  There are no shortcuts (no getting dropped off by a helicopter 5 feet from the summit) and no gondola rides to the top (think ‘Grouse Mountain’).  Although I have met some teachers who are trying to teach with the absolute bare minimum output required, most teachers love what they do, and as such, put much effort into doing it well.  But to stay stuck in the trees forever is discouraging and demotivating – we need to gain altitude.

I love the point on the trail when the trees start to break and I can see where I’ve come and my destination starts to materialize.  The air becomes cleaner and cooler and other peaks and vistas come into view.  As a teacher, this is where I want to be.  I want to know that I’m not staying stagnant or worse, losing ground.  Although there are many more obstacles to overcome between the summit and I, being in this place propels me forward.  The crazy part of mountain climbing is that when you’ve reached the peak there are a plethora of other peaks that are still waiting (and calling) to be climbed – and so the journey never really ends.  I suppose it’s questionable as to whether there is ever a true ‘summit’ in teaching or only a series of high points along the way.  And perhaps the ‘summits’ have less to do with us and more about the people that we impact along the way.  Regardless, gaining altitude is necessary for both climbers and educators alike – to inspire, motivate, and continue moving us forward.