Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Building Bridges to Nowhere

Black Forest, Colorado

A number of years ago,
Sunrise got a new principal, Eric,
and he took our staff 
to La Foret 
for some team building experiences.

La Foret is a conference and retreat center
located in the beautiful dark ponderosa pines 
of the Black Forest near Colorado Springs.

Prairie Bluebells
Mertensia lanceolata

We had to do things 
stand on the top of telephone poles,
climb big trees, 
and walk on tightropes.

This was a source of considerable angst 
among those of us who did not like heights!

Hanging on for Dear Life!

I managed
with a lot of tears,
and the help of
incredibly supportive teammates.

We also played games and completed some problem solving exercises. 

One such problem solving exercise my team did 
I'll call Building Bridges to Nowhere 
(since I can't remember the actual name).

This exercise involved getting a team of seven or eight people 
from a base out to the last of
a series of three wooden islands built in a large meadow.

The facilitator gave us two long narrow boards 
which we then had to use to get all of our team 
from the base to the farthest wooden island.

The challenge was to do it
without a board
or any team member's foot
touching the ground.

The facilitator was there to observe our progress.

Well, with a lot of giggling, shouting,
and close hugs on skinny boards,
we made it to the last island!

The facilitator gathered us around her on the ground for a debrief.
The gist of the conversation went like this:

F:  I have facilitated this exercise many times, and I have never seen anything like this.

T:  Damn!  Not only are we gooOOD, we are original!
      High fives all around!  ^5!  ^5! ^5!

F:  I work mostly with corporate groups;
     although I worked with at least one high school group.                
     You are the first elementary teachers I've had the opportunity to work with.

T:  Woop!  Woop!  ^5!  ^5!  ^5!

F:  Corporate participants always begin by sitting down and making a plan.
     You didn't even have a brief discussion.
     Let alone make a plan.
     You just grabbled the boards and started piling on them to the first island.

T:  That's how it is when you're elementary teachers!  You're always working on the fly!

F:  A group of executives will appoint a leader
     who will direct each team member on what to do.
     You did not have a leader.

T:  We're all in this together!  Woop!  Woop!  ^5!  ^5!  ^5!

F:  You were supposed to get to the last island without anyone's foot touching the ground.
      Says she, giving you-know-who the LOOK.

Moi, Thinking:  It's not like I fell on the ground!  
        I pulled that foot back on the board as soon as I felt a whisker of a grass blade!

T, Looking at moi.  You did your best!  That's all we ask!  ^5!  ^5!  ^5!

Moi, Thinking:  I love my teammates!  
         We have each others backs!
         No corporate backstabbers here!
         ^5!  ^5!  ^5!

F.  Now engineers are interesting.
     Not only will they make a plan and appoint a leader,
     they'll carefully examine the two boards,
     measure them, and
     discuss how to use leverage, force, and momentum
     to achieve their goal.

The Plan

F, Continuing:  I'm not sure any of you realized the two boards were different lengths.

T.  What?  
      (The team grabs the boards and stands them up side by side.) 

      OMG!  They are different lengths!  Who knew?
      (Looks are exchanged all around.   ?  ?  ?)

      "Hey," says one, "We made it to the last island!  
      That's what we do!  
      We elementary teachers get it done!"
      Woop!  Woop!  ^5!  ^5!  ^5! 

F.  I'll grant you that.  
     It may have been ugly,
     and you didn't follow all the rules,
     (looks at moi),
     but you all did pile onto the last island - 
     quite noisily.

T/F:  Smiles all around.
        A successful problem solving exercise!  
         Woop!  Woop!  ^5!  ^5!  ^5!

Now you, patient reader, 
may wonder where this is all going.
This is the perfect analogy 
for my blog and me.

I am an intuitive, daring 
elementary teacher (retired!)
who does not hesitate 
to leap into the unknown!

That's how I started my blog,
and that's how I lost it!

I spent a lot of fruitless time
trying to find it.
Elementary teachers love
natural consequences!

I am now ready to confess where I found it:

Open gmail.
Go across the choices to MORE.
Click on more.
Scroll down to Blogger.
Click on Blogger.

Le voilà!
My blog!
Oh là là!

I could save myself a lot of grief if I looked a little before I leaped,
maybe channeled my brother, The Engineer, more.

But that is not my nature.

Fortunately, as I've gone through this process of learning to blog,
Some super people have had my back.

Many thanks to Sophie Doodle, Ron, and Jim!
Ever-patient and ready with answers.    and

And to the EP-guy
who has never failed to have my back in thirty years,
Über thanks!

Even though he did say to me,
when I was writing The Sinking of the HMS Bounty,
"You might as well write about a shipwreck,
since you are one."

I had been neglecting a few things.
I was in the flow!

Love you, Babe!


  1. This sounds like an episode of work...yah/nah...just get in there and get it done attitude. This was so much fun to read...I can see you guys scrambling over each other to get to the end....laughing, screaming, cajoling, encouraging and dragging. Team building is usually in a boring room with everyone sitting around staring glassy-eyed at the commentator...but heck guys head for the hills and have a good romp! I'd love to try that but need to get in shape first. sweet to link us deserve HIGH 5's yourself....^5 ^5 ^5 and keep them up!

  2. Thanks, Ron.
    After trying to figure out what blog code ^5 was for several weeks, I decided to use it. Sophie ...^5 is a great username. Did you make that symbol up? I'm a shameless thief in the name of creativity! What's so fun about blogging is that you can throw the grammar book out and play with language, images, font, and color.

    Now I have to scramble! My Apple 1:1 is bearing down on me! Have a good one!

  3. Next!....he's always ahead of me...with which I am very comfortable.

    Being a retired school teacher myself and having taught elementary children, particularly those individuals who learned differently from the rest, I can SO relate to this post Louise!

    I think the 'journey' is much more important than the 'destination', especially for children (and their teachers!). Corporate folks have their ways of doing things which is not always successful and came to a head I believe in 2009 or so. So much for planning things to death!!

    Louise, thanks for the mention. I have to tell you that Ron was elated when he 'found' you on FB. He loves reconnecting with people from his childhood/school days. I had no clue who you were but am getting to know this very witty and intelligent 'miss-placed' (lol) gal from the 'valley'!

  4. It's all about the journey - or at least what you learn while getting to that destination. I'm sure you and I could tell each other some funny teaching stories about teaching!

    I wasn't made for the corporate world. I gave it my best shot. What I loved was well sitting - I did very well with roughnecks and drilling. But the office :( I had a blast on the rigs until I got married, and my hubby wanted me around more. Well, I wanted to be home more too!

    It was fun to reconnect with Ron and to start getting to know you.

    I'm sitting in the apple store waiting for my 1:1 to start after getting my external drive checked out. I haven't been able to back up in about two months, and I was sweating bullets over my photos! AOK now!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.