The drive to Zuni is 10 hours long and involved the following:
* seven high school girls in a large silver van with me at the wheel
* several games of Catch Phrase
* two 5-hour energy shots
* one giant bag of trail mix
* four mixed CDs
* one Starbucks frappuccino
* two hours of me playing word association games by myself to stay alert
* one stuffed turtle
* three accidental honks when I'd rest my head on Herbert Sheldon the Third, said stuffed turtle, who sat on my lap the entire way home.
Let me explain. First, yes, yes it was awkward crossing the border when the man asks if I have any animals in the car and I glance down at Herbert and say, "Only stuffed." But Herbert's more than just a stuffed turtle; he's a pillow pet and he's wonderful and his existence is one of the many things I learned about from the fabulous high schoolers who went to Zuni.
I'm reminded almost on a daily basis that I am no longer "hip." I made a reference to "Shooter McGavin" the other day and the high schoolers hadn't even heard of Happy Gilmore. I get it. My movie references are outdated.
So I figured a week in tight quarters with 16 high school girls would make me a little bit, well, "hipper." My education began when I started the van and noticed that almost every single girl had a pillow pet. I had never even heard of such a thing.
kinda creepy, isn't it?
When we stopped at Wal Mart, they convinced me to get my own and I chose Herbert: the turtle who looks like a cranky, bald, old man. Though I'm not the snuggling type, I still wake up clutching this turtle. Dotty was not a huge fan at first but I think he's growing on her, or sitting on her. Whatever.
Aren't her t-rex arms and giant belly adorable?
The high schoolers on this trip were amazing and they taught me a lot more than simply about the existence of pillow pets and Crunchwrap supremes.
They also taught me how to ride a rib stick which is no easy feat. It involved a lot of me holding on tight to a girl for support as I screamed and ran into walls.
Speaking of feet, they taught me that not only are TOMs cool, one should bring a TOMs flag wherever one goes.
Yes, I bought a hiking stick because I'm just that cool.
They also introduced me to the game they call "body body" which I've now also heard called, "murder in the dark." They peer pressured me into playing even after the first game when I thought I was going to have a heart attack as several students stalked me in the dark and I sprinted through the dark gym screaming bloody murder and begging them to stop. Sounds fun, doesn't it?
And they taught me how to super glue the "fins" onto the rockets they made with the middle schoolers.
Only they didn't teach me that well since I glued my fingers to several of the rockets.
On the last day they launched the rockets hundreds of feet into the air and then tried to chase them down and catch them.
It was fabulous.
I glanced at the instructions sheet for building rockets and was beyond confused but the two boys on the trip did a marvelous job teaching 14 seventh and eighth graders how to build them. Only one rocket didn't launch properly and that was because he had used chewing gum to attach one of the fins. Pretty sure it was because I was the one who had tried to glue his fins on.
They also made wooden cars with them which they raced on the last day and taught them how to belay up walls and tall trees. I don't really know if "belay" is the right term but it sounded familiar and google said it has something to do with climbing. My point is: kids were harnessed in and climbing crap like crazy and having a grand ole time.
There were several times on the trip that I thought, "Wow, I have no idea how to do that." These high school students were marvelous teachers and though they were on the trip to teach the Zuni students, they taught me a ton as well.
Observing them for a week, I learned about a simple faith. Sometimes my faith becomes a "heady" thing. I think and think and over think some more until I'm dizzy and ready to puke. I want clean, neat answers to all my theological questions and God just won't give me all the answers I'm demanding. But then I watch these kids in worship.
And they blow me away.
Two of the girls brought guitars and song lyrics and led us in worship each night. It was one of my favorite parts of the day. I'd watch them sing, so clearly in love with the Savior, free from any of my puzzling questions and doubts, and I'd marvel at their devotion.
We ended each night singing "I love you Lord" and were pretty much convinced we sounded awesome. We probably didn't. However, it was heartfelt worship and I think that's what made it so beautiful. Because it certainly wasn't because of my vocal chords.
Another lesson I learned from the students wasn't a fun one. It was a lesson in humility.
Who likes learning about humility? Answer: no one. It's never fun and I'm always a little bummed when the pride is my heart is exposed that I didn't even realize was there.
I've been doing this teaching thing for seven years now and though I continually make confessions and admit I have a lot to learn, I figured I knew a lot more than these kids about teaching. And yes, I probably do know more about classroom management and scaffolding a lesson plan but these kids showed me that my way is not the only way and is often not the best way.
That's never fun to learn. I'd watch them put together a lesson and think, "I know a better way." But then I'd watch them execute a lesson plan brilliantly- better than I ever could and I was forced to swallow a big ole spoonful of humble pie.
Let the record show: I HATE humble pie.
But I ate a lot of it at Zuni and I'm healthier for it. Here are some pictures of them in action:
I LOVE this kids' face
These students have a seemingly endless supply of energy and hope and hunger for life and adventure. They are compassionate and optimistic and oozing with talent and passion. I love that I get to work with them and learn from them. Case in point: one of the girls is a very talented artist and drew a cartoon of the whole team. I made copies and then made my student aide color mine for me.
For the record, I do not typically wear long, red, formal dresses. Only when I fly kites in a Katie chain.
See, these kids are freakin amazing.
As it turns out, my four year old nephew also has a pillow pet. (How a four year old is even hipper than I am, I do not understand.) His pillow pet also happens to look like a cranky, bald, old man. He chose the turtle. So what they always say really is true: Great minds think alike and turtles make for awesome pillows.