Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tip of the Hat

So after almost 9 blissfully adventurous months of scuba diving and traveling - without a job, without a home, and mostly without a care in the world - I have pulled the emergency brake and done an incredibly fast maneuver in a new direction.

I accepted a job. I agreed to relocate. I made a massive commitment. All in the span of about 2 weeks. In the realm of my career experiences, I'm used to preparing for a new job over the span of about 8 months (recruitment to actual start date) and then having an relaxing and rejuvenating Canadian summer to mentally prepare. Packing, shipping, moving and setting up shop all take a tremendous amount of energy. What has unfolded over the past 2 weeks and led me to this new role, is a very different process than I'm used to. It is all new territory for me - unlike anything I've ever done in the past - and yet so clearly something I have always wanted to do.

My new job is with an organization called the JUMP! Foundation. My first JUMP! experience was at UWCSEA teacher orientation week back in August 2012, where we participated in a community building day for a staff of 60+ people. It was like adult camp - icebreakers, get-to-know-each-other challenges, team bonding and visioning for the year ahead. Some people liked this more than others, but overall I found it quite engaging and was particularly interested in JUMP!'s social entrepreneurship angle. JUMP! is a non-profit organization that has established JUMP! Development, using a percentage of its income from running programs in International Schools to provide similar experiences for youth in areas that have been affected by economic, environmental or social turmoil in countries where partner schools and organizations have extensive experience. Pretty cool. The facilitators who ran the JUMP! program for us on that day were all very inspiring and interesting people. Little did I know that later that year, I would work with JUMP! again on 2 occasions. Once for the GIN-SING Conference outdoor education middle school welcome event hosted at the Dairy Farm in Singapore and then again for a Grade 6 Community Day. My path continued to cross with different members of the JUMP! team well into my second year at UWCSEA. From a second staff orientation day, Junior JUMP! Facilitator training for some of my students, another Grade 6 Community Day and then to the EARCOS Teacher's Conference in March 2014, which connected me with JUMP!'s executive director, Justin Bedard. I told him I was taking the following year off from teaching and that I had a background in Outdoor and Experiential Education and the rest is history!

No. Just kidding. A lot of stuff happened between then and now. Mostly, I got to know some pretty amazing and courageous people in the Gili Islands of Indonesia. Oh, and in October and November I did a couple one-off leadership development programs as a JUMP! facilitator in schools in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. 

Back to this story. So a few weeks ago Justin asked me to consider applying for a very interesting role at JUMP! Recently, a new partnership has developed between JUMP! and an International School in Singapore with an aim of constructing a holistic Experiential Education Program, including curricular mapping, year-long lesson planning and off campus expeditions for Grades 6 through 12. This type of program building appeals to International Schools that do not have their own Outdoor Education department but would like to provide more than just "camp" experiences for their middle and senior grade levels. It also appeals to schools that strive to place value and emphasis on personal and community development, service learning, ecological literacy, sustainability education and global citizenship.

So off I went to Singapore to meet with the members of the school there and observe and help facilitate visioning stages of the project. The energy and enthusiasm for this project was high. Next, I followed the team up to Bangkok to continue my interview process, meet the Bangkok Hub members and see their working environment. A job offer was made after a community interview that included JUMP! team members in other countries via Skype. It was the first time I've ever been interviewed by an entire team of people. After a some emotional and careful deliberation, the week culminated with a signed contract on Friday. There promises to be a lot of learning and growth in the next few weeks and months, as the responsibilities of the role itself are not areas that I am particularly experienced or practiced in. As a Partnership Manager I will be based in Bangkok with some time spent on-site in Singapore. As well, there will be expedition planning throughout the South East Asia, conducting site inspections and building partnerships for the week-long expeditions that will run in the next academic year. Collaboratively, I will help hire a team of people to run each grade level program and manage and facilitate the relationships with teachers, administrators, service providers and organizations in numerous locations. I will travel to countries I have never been to, as well as revisit places that I know and love. I will meet amazing people and learn incredibly valuable skills. I will work with students and educators and global change-makers to explore a field of Education that I am passionate about, without a desk or a four-walled classroom (and without the luxury of an International School calendar).

After a tough week of decision-making and the start of accepting the major lifestyle changes to come, I am feeling pretty stoked about this new learning journey. A good friend and fellow OEE graduate responded yesterday with the following sentiment, "You really came into Outdoor Education from a different angle than everyone else I know, which is awesome!" 

So this is my tip of the hat to new adventures, taking risks and always learning. Wish me luck!

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