“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” -E.E. Cummings
Though E.E. Cummings did not complete an Outward Bound course, and was perhaps never acquainted with an Outward Bound Instructor, we have no doubt that the “someone” he refers to could very well be one of ours. After all, who better to reveal that “deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust” than the dedicated Instructors who lead Outward Bound learning expeditions? Indeed, that “someone” must be one of us.
What does an Outward Bound Instructor look like?
Outward Bound Instructors are wilderness experts and specialists in their field. At a minimum, they are certified as Wilderness First Responders, Wilderness Advanced First Aiders, or the equivalent. Additionally, each Instructor completes rigorous trainings specific to the course areas where they instruct – which means they participate in intensive, hands-on learning sessions on how best to teach kayaking; rock climbing; mountaineering; sailing; rafting and canoeing.
Beyond the certifications, Outward Bound Instructors possess years of outdoor experience – and some of the most impressive technical skills in the industry. These are individuals with the risk management and technical skills to tackle the Pacific Crest Trail in the dead of winter. These are they kind of people who practice competitive wildwater kayaking; who volunteer in international disaster areas; and who, in their off time, teach Tactical Casualty Care classes to police and firefighters.
Many Outward Bound Instructors are also educators who teach at pre-eminent educational institutions across the country, and who possess Masters degrees in Education, Outdoor Education, Psychology or Environmental Sciences. These educator-Instructors bring with them not just technical skills, but significant expertise in group facilitation, instructional techniques, cutting edge learning theory and classroom management.
Why do Instructors choose Outward Bound?
When we talk to Instructors about why they choose to work for Outward Bound, many of them refer to our powerful expeditionary learning framework. They reveal that their first encounter with Outward Bound’s impressive learning outcomes and well-defined design principles occurred – not in the outdoors – but in the classroom. Many Education and Environmental Science degree programs include Outward Bound in the curriculum – and use it as an important reference point for the efficacy of experiential learning. For our Instructors, Outward Bound represents the most deliberate, well-documented, most effective experiential learning approach in the industry – and so it is only natural that the Outward Bound philosophy is the one they want to learn and apply.
What does it take to be an Outward Bound Instructor?
The Outward Bound Instructor is a special kind of creature. Identified by Backpacker Magazine as one of the toughest jobs out there, the Outward Bound Instructor role has a reputation for being – well, hard-core. According to Backpacker Magazine, Outward Bound Instructors must possess “a blend of technical know-how and sophisticated people skills.” And their fitness must be “above and beyond [their] students. [They] can be tired at the end of the day, but [they] can never be at the edge of [their] own limits… after all, they’re the guide, the teacher, the mediator, the chef, and sometimes the doctor.” In addition to their technical and people skills, Outward Bound Instructors carry with them years of experience, a long list of safety and technical certifications, and plenty of trainings dedicated to their specific course area and expedition type.
What Are the Benefits of the Job?
Although the work is undoubtedly strenuous, most Outward Bound Instructors think of their roles less like jobs – and more like privileges. They are honored to be a part of their students’ skill-building; to contribute to their personal growth; and to observe their successes, big and small. And, they are happy to be working in the wilderness in a manner that is consistent with their own values and priorities. Outside Magazine recently rated North Carolina Outward Bound as one of the Best Places to Work in 2015. “When they’re not leading wilderness trips, at the crag, or running rivers, they might be found attending a professional development climbing or paddling day to hone their skills,” Outside Magazine writes. “Staff come back to headquarters for regular ‘Work Weeks,’ periods when the team commits to the upkeep of the surrounding forest. Plus, this company likes dogs and encourages staff to bring canine companions to the office.”
How does someone become an Outward Bound Instructor?
Clearly, Outward Bound Instructors must be hardworking and qualified; committed and passionate. But how does one become an Outward Bound Instructor? First things first, you’ve got to love the outdoors. And you’ve got to be truly excited to work with students of all ages and life circumstances – for long stretches of time. Got both of those? Then it’s time to get some Outward Bound experience. Many of our Instructors are first exposed to Outward Bound practices and principles as students on Outward Bound expeditions. Whether they enroll on their first Outward Bound course at 12 or 21, these initial courses often have a formative impact on our Instructors’ career choices.
What does an Instructor Development Course consist of?
Prospective instructors often enroll on Instructor Development courses as an important next step on their career track. These courses are intended to help students learn the Outward Bound philosophy, to give them practical experience using and teaching wilderness skills, and to lay the expeditionary learning framework that makes the Outward Bound model particularly effective. Many Instructor Development courses include a Wilderness First Responder certification – required at most outdoor education organizations and wilderness programs. Outward Bound offers Instructor Development courses throughout the country, from the Colorado Rockies to Alaska, in the great Northwest, in California’s High Sierras, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, and along the coast of Maine.
What does the Maine Coast & Appalachian Mountains Instructor Development Course look like?
Situated in one of the most rugged, beautiful, and spellbinding course areas in the country, the Maine Coast & Appalachian Mountains Instructor Development Course is a 50-day, intensive practicum that stretches along over 200 linear miles of the Maine coast. As students travel through the endless rivers, bays, islands and forests of the Maine coastline, they gain valuable skills that help prepare them for careers in outdoor leadership.
The landscape is impressive. Spruce-covered islands that were once the peaks of prehistoric mountain ranges dot the ocean. Indigenous Abenaki camps and pre-colonial fishing communities serve as unique rewards for a long day’s work. And Maine’s cold, nutrient-rich waters mean students confront a wide variety of animals, including sea birds, harbor seals, porpoises and whales. The Maine landscape is stunning – there’s no doubt. And it serves as an excellent backdrop against which the real learning occurs.
How is the Maine Coast & Appalachian Mountains Instructor Development Course structured?
The expedition starts out by re-familiarizing students with the wilderness skills their students will need – and urging them to think of how the “crew not passengers” approach might help their future students acquire skills. Additionally, students are exposed to – and practice – a variety of de-briefing and facilitation styles. As they take turns leading group activities, students start to understand which strategies are most appropriate, and for which situations. Structured reflection sessions such as journaling, one-on-one Instructor meetings and group discussions help each student process what they are learning – and afford the chance take notes.
The length of this course – 50 days – allows for plenty of time to gain expertise in a many activities and course areas. Students become experts on sailing a 30-foot sail boat, canoeing on both flat and whitewater, backpacking and rock climbing. They also spend several days conducting service projects and learning about ropes course management. At every step, prospective instructors enhance their own technical skills, but also think about how to teach these skills – safely – to a group of students. One of the most important aspects of the course is the Wilderness First Responder certification – the standard level of expertise in backcountry first aid. The 80-hour curriculum involves completing practical skills, case studies and scenarios designed to challenge students’ decision-making abilities.
Finally, at the end of the expedition, after much hard work, laughter, sweat and tears, students have the unique opportunity to apply hard-earned skills to real-life students. During the final teaching practicum, prospective instructors plan, deliver, and assess an all-day lesson for a youth organization within the local Maine community.
What happens next?
After a rewarding and invigorating 50-day Outward Bound Instructor Development course, many students go on to apply for outdoor industry jobs. Some Outward Bound Instructor Development graduates apply for Outward Bound internships – a great way to start learning the ropes of the organization – and getting familiar with the tight-knit Outward Bound community. Some start out at outdoor summer camps; wilderness guiding companies; wilderness therapy programs; or in outdoor leadership roles. Still others use their Outward Bound experience as a jumping-off point to earn Masters degrees in Outdoor Education, or use their WFR training as inspiration to become paramedics or other emergency personnel. Some Instructor Development grads lead outdoor education programs at their schools – or start outdoor programs within their communities.
But, we have to admit, our favorite is when they become Outward Bound Instructors. Armed with skills, experience and educational principles, they go on to be the “someone” who shows a student that they really are valuable, capable and worthy. When they become one of ours, they empower countless students to believe in themselves. They teach their students, in the words of E.E. Cummings, to “risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
The Maine Coast & Appalachian Mountains Instructor Development Course is open to ages 18-30, and begins on September 13, 2016. To sign up for this life-changing expedition, go HERE. We’d love to have you join us.
For information on other Instructor Development courses near you, visit our Course Finder.
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