I lost my watch…

Over a month ago, I lost my watch.

I know, that sounds ridiculous. A grown woman loses her watch, then feels as if it is worth a blog post to be pushed out to the world.

Trust.

This is not just any watch. My husband gave this watch to me as my “adventure watch”.

Still not convinced it is important?

Well, let’s see about changing your mind here. In August 2017, a big piece of news was dropped in my lap; life-altering. That is no exaggeration. You see, I applied for an award with grant money attached for professional development. I had to write several essays about my teaching philosophy, pedagogy, and plan for professional development. I poured my heart into those essays. I pitched this lofty idea to do field science as a professional development experience. Not just field science, but joining an expedition team to the Peruvian Amazon to study thermal river systems. A year ago I was notified that I won the award and associated grant funding. A few months later I applied and learned I was selected as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic. This November, I will head to Galapagos on expedition. This all happened in a very short amount of time, two field expeditions for this elementary school science teacher. I must tell you that my husband and I have two children aged 5 and 7 which meant a bit of a hardship when I leave on these expeditions. I also decided to head to Peru two weeks before the field expedition to do solo trekking, immerse myself in the culture and history of the area as well. That meant, one of my expeditions would be a month long during the summer. I knew that these expeditions were what I wanted to do, but as anyone in a relationship knows, this will affect more than just me. I have to say that I had and still harbor feelings of guilt for pursuing these opportunities, and those that I will in the future while they will sometimes take me away from my family.

I married a saint. Although the reality of what a month away from my family would mean for him, my husband has and will always support my crazy ideas. Even those that take me away for periods of time and cause him a bit more stress in carrying our family along in my absence. That alone makes him a saint, but what’s more was the gesture of this watch. The one I lost.

I came home from school one-day last spring and Michael (my husband) presented me a simple watch with a light green fabric band. He told me that it would be my adventure watch. With tears in my eyes as I type this to you all, ironically, this is the exact reaction I had when he presented the watch. That seemingly small gesture was a physical manifestation of his support for my expeditions. He knew what these field experiences meant and he knew what the future would hold; many more. His support is paramount to my ability to complete these expeditions and those that will follow. This is just the beginning and this watch; will be there all along the way.

And it was. Until I lost it.

In the month I spent in Peru solo trekking and in the field, this adventure watch and I shared so many experiences. There was a day in the Amazon where I realized the stench. I assumed it was just me — or the collective smell of our field team. No. It was the watch. The adventure watch. Every adventure so far on expedition was harbored in that fabric band and boy, were my collective adventures stinky. The great news was although in the jungle, our base camp was on a thermal river. That meant the high temperatures were perfect for boiling out the stench of my current expedition. Off to the water I went, I fixed the fabric band upon a stick and drowned the stench for quite some time. I was not taking any chances here; the smell was quite embarrassing I’ll admit.

I love that watch.

I lost it and it was wearing away at my heart. That watch represents a lot. It did not just remind me of the time, it was a companion for me, a symbol of support, a constant reminder of my adventures past, present, and future. Losing it consumed my thoughts. Not a day went by that I didn’t think of my watch, try to remember the last time I had it, and literally say to Michael, “I really want my watch.” He grew so tired of hearing that, he ordered a new one on Amazon, although I told him I just wanted THE ONE that I had.

This watch carries so many stories, so many memories, oftentimes these stories are told in my classes or in this particular case, a blog post.

Thinking about my watch, or lack of said watch made me realize the role storytelling has in my teaching style. I pride myself on exposing students to field science experiences for each discipline of science we study and within those field experiences, I weave my own stories. These stories serve as anecdotes to what they are doing, what they are experiencing, and the memories they are creating as scientists in the laboratory or field with me. I am willing to bet that I tell at least one story in every class. Most often, an object we are using whether it is a data collection probe, piece of protective clothing, the Shipibo bracelet I wear every day or my watch. . .that I used to wear every day — objects will spark the story that enriches the experience we share together in the field or laboratory. Losing my watch did not necessarily lose those stories, but it lost the impetus for them. It was not there to remind me of a story to share. Storytelling is so integral to my teaching that losing this artifact literally dampened my teaching. Something was literally and metaphorically missing for weeks on end.

I found my watch Monday, and needless to say, my whole demeanor changed. It sounds incredibly silly, but the energy I was spending on thinking of the watch and trying to find it was now released and able to be concentrated on something else. I felt a little lighter in class and in the field with my students, many stories returned and I felt a little more settled.

You see, when you lose a part of you, whatever it may be, an object, a person, the ability to participate in something that partially defines you, it does take a toll. It has an effect.

Storytelling is an incredibly powerful teaching tool. Without my watch, one of my stimuli for storytelling, I lost a little of that power in the lab.

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Becky Schnekser

Becky Schnekser

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#ExpeditionSchnekser #OutdoorEdCollective #BoilingRiver #EducatorExplorer she/her #scitlap Founder @OutdoorEdColl National Geographic Grantee