I awoke to the warm sunlight brushing against my face; the calm ocean that sang me to sleep is now loud and lively. I open my eyes and gaze out of the window. I go down the stairs to see the smiling faces of my cohort, my new family, greeting me in the way that I missed so much.
For four wonderful days, this was my life.
The Catawba College West Teaching Scholars paid for the newest cohort to go to Wrightsville Beach, NC this past weekend. We enjoyed and Eco Tour of Masonboro Island, a visit to the wonderful Wrightsville Beach Elementary School, where we had a fun and unique experience kayaking on a marsh, and several team-building activities at our wonderful house!
While on the bus to the retreat, I had no idea what to expect; I honestly was a little annoyed that I had to live with some people that I hardly knew for the next for days. Yes, I knew some of the people fairly well, but, for the most part, I had no idea who these people were, what they liked, and if they liked me. In reality, I was a little afraid.
Upon arrival to Wilmington, we were divided into three groups. I wished and hoped that I was in a group with the people within the cohort that I knew well. Alas, I was not. I was in a group with people that I knew, but knew very little about. With my knowledge of the city, I led us through Wilmington, I was my group’s personal tour guide; our first stop was Coastal Cupcakes on the corner of Princess and 2nd. I did my happy dance, and we bonded over the cupcakes. We trekked through the historic district of Wilmington, walking past Gothic-style churches, through local shops, and down the river walk. One of the store owners was a retired educator, and we made connections with her; we talked about the different grade levels, the rewards of teaching, and how we wanted to pursue the noble profession. After eating lunch at a local restaurant, we ended our time in Wilmington by sitting in front of the Cape Fear talking about ourselves and our experiences.
Paradise. Paradise is the only word to describe our house. I roomed with someone that I knew fairly well. Our 4th floor room had a perfect view of the ocean. (The house had SO much closet space!!) After unpacking, I went directly to the ocean to get into the water; It had been a while since I stood in the beautiful Atlantic and felt the soft sand beneath my feet.
Following my reunion with the sea, We decided to watch The Emperor’s New Grove; education majors love The Emperor’s New Grove. What happened next? I got to cook. Visiting the ocean, Emperor’s New Grove, and cooking in the same day? YES! I hadn’t been this happy in a long time. (Yes, I did organize the kitchen….) While my group was cooking, the other scholars, Dr. Truitt, Dr. Lucas, and Teresa (Weddington) talked about the house and what it means to be a leader. After enjoying the Hot tub, two other scholars and I re-watched our childhood (the Master of Disguise) while the others watched a scary movie. I ended the night with a lovely conversation with my roommate.
The second day began with an Eco-tour of Masonboro Island. It was difficult to control my excitement as I climbed aboard the pontoon boat that would take us to the Island. We walked across the fiddler-crabs, over the dunes, and through the beach, learning about the flora, fauna, and geographics of the island. After searching for seashells, we returned to the house, where the second group prepared lunch. Following lunch, a small group of the West Scholars, primarily arts education majors, decided to walk to the pier North of the house. The duration of the walk lasted approximately 2.5 hours.
We sang The Little Mermaid, to be specific “Under the Sea,” did handstands, laughed (a LOT!), found a shovel, and had an unfortunate encounter with a bird. By the time we got back, the next group was cooking dinner. After eating, we had several activities. Dr. Truitt had us trace our hands on large pieces of paper; we wrote our strengths on our left hand and our weaknesses on our right. Dr. Lucas read The Parable of the Pebbles. We were given two ‘gems,’ each one representing a flaw that we have that can become polished like the gems in the parable. While the other scholars were changing into their bathing suits, I stayed behind and had a lovely talk with Dr. Lucas, Dr. Truitt, and Teresa about my goals, dreams, and desire to be in a classroom. we shared our thoughts, memories, and feelings towards the education system. After the conversation, I knew that I had made a very good choice by picking Catawba for Education. Once again, we ended the night with the beautiful hot tub.
Bright and early the next day, we all got up and made the short trip to Wrightsville Beach Elementary School. The school is a small, unique learning environment where the students are immersed of the area’s culture. At the school, we met Cissie Brooks, the school’s counselor and marine science coordinator. Cissie is so passionate about what she does; she made me believe that if I do what I love, I will be happy. She gave us a tour of the school and we observed teachers in action.
fterwards, we went on a kayak excursion on the marsh beside the school. None of us capsized, but my partner and I got stuck on a sand bar and lost track of the group; we managed to catch back up after a kayaking adventure of our own. We then went to Independence Mall for Lunch. Not satisfied with the clothes I was wearing (I had forgotten to bring a shirt to change into after kayaking), I immediately went to the JC Penny sale. And yes, I rode the mall train. After returning to the house, we had several team-building activities on the beach. The activities included a game called “Willow In The Wind,” in which a person in the middle of a circle of people closes his/her eyes, falls, and is “passed around” the group. The game allowed trust to be developed among the members of the cohort. In another activity, we had to walk forward as a group without breaking contact with the feet of the people beside you. The last activity was called “helium stick,” in which we formed two lines facing each other, and then laid a small diameter dowel rod on the group’s index fingers; the objective was to lower the stick to the ground. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get the stick to lower with the entire group participating; the stick would only rise, hence the name “helium stick.” Later that evening, we had an open discussion of things we liked and things we didn’t like at the elementary school, as well as our personal thoughts and feelings towards the retreat. After the discussion, we were split into groups and were given some common household/office materials. Our objective was to build the tallest tower that we could, and have it stand up to “wind.” After about seven minutes, each group had their towers finished. My group won, and it was pretty great (hair-flip). We ended our night with an extended curfew and one last time in the hot tub. Another scholar and I tried to watch Clue, but we were too exhausted to continue watching.
The final day, we awoke, packed, and left. The bus ride back to Catawba consisted of sleeping, small conversations, a movie, and more sleeping. The moment I stepped off the bus, I realized that it was time to return to the real world. Saturday morning, we got on the bus as strangers, but Tuesday afternoon, we stepped off the bus as good friends. The amazing retreat allowed me to connect with people that I would have never thought would befriend me; it also took the existing friendships that I had among the scholars and strengthened them. Years from now, I’ll look back at this one perfect weekend with the beach, new friends, the gems, and the amazing memories that we’ve created. Thank you, West teaching scholars, for making a difference in my life. I love you with all of my heart. See you in class.