Unique ExperienceWalking 5,000 miles across America from Delaware to California. Currently 1,350 miles in, AMA!
Dec 25th 2016 by Sneakrow • 30 Questions • 664 Points
Well I'm gonna be the first to ask the obvious- why did you quit??
Constantly. I use trekking poles and the sound of them tapping on the ground always goes at the same rhythm of the song, getting it into my head.
I felt (a) unprepared, (b) underqualified, and (c) unsupported.
(a) The majority of the knowledge I gained during my time in college was of no use to me whatsoever. Most of the focus was on early childhood students and my professors all told me (us, I guess) that all we had to do was trust our students and be there for them and everything else would fall into place. When myself and others in my cohort in school would ask about more 'refined' behavioral issues (for lack of a better term), they'd shrug it off and say "Just do this and you won't have that problem." Everything was so idealistic for them and it became obvious later on how out of touch with teaching they were. So when I landed my job, I was naïve as could be and was overwhelmed from the second it started by student behaviors, shifting policies within the district/state, and the sheer workload.
(b) Beyond just not bracing for a realistic classroom setting, my school was a full inclusion setting, meaning kids in special education attended general education classes as often as possible. I love the system and think it's the way to go, but I had almost no realistic education for how to approach moderate/severe disabilities as a teacher. I didn't really know any of the available accessibility technologies or techniques for actually getting the major points across. Even assessing a student with severe disabilities was an enigma for me. I reached out for help from various sources, but each person told me so many different and conflicting things that I never managed to get it right.
(c) In the two weeks prior to the school year, I discovered I wouldn't have curriculum for my students. That's, like, a big deal. It's the road map of what you teach, and when/how to teach it. There was no mentor from the district that was promised when I was hired earlier in the summer. There were no textbooks or class novels. I had to work in the librarian at my school to apply for a state grant just to BUY THE PREVIOUS YEAR'S NOVELS, as I was then going off of that curriculum. My principal was letting all the 'rough' parents walk all over her when she was supposed to be a barrier between them and us teachers. Upper administration in the district had very little concern for any of my grievances, too, as there were a number of seat swaps in the headquarters and policies changing just as rapidly.
I never claimed to be a great teacher and I do blame much of my hardship on myself, but I was certainly never given an environment to thrive in.
I work in Arizona. Which district, or region?
Nothing out of the ordinary.
I have heard Mountain Lion screams at night but nothing has bothered me as of now.
I was working in the northern portion of the Phoenix metropolitan area. I'm hesitant to say which district, but it was one of the larger ones.
My guess is you were in Peoria Unified if so they are the lowest paid of the districts and the worst off with staff and support.
Maryland by the Potomac River, Southwestern Ohio, and Southwestern Indiana is when I can recall
I was not, but I'm familiar with that district. I was paid very low for a first-year teacher, even by teacher standards. What's truly terrifying is that I know for a fact I was making more money than people who had been at my school for years. #thisiswhatnofundinglookslike
This is so bad ass. I wish I had the balls to just get up and do it.
How old are you? And what sortve opprutinuty did you see that you knew to jump on this? Was it spontaneous?
Thats how they are brining people in nowadays in Arizona. Teachers now are taking a year off and then coming back so they can get paid more since raises are non existent or if anything they are 1 percent or less. That is one of the problems in Phoenix, schools are underfunded yet we have so many districts all with administration overhead sucking up what little money there is.
I am 27.
As far as the opportunity goes, I had no obligations to tend to at this particular time in my life; my apartment lease was up, no car payment, no girlfriend or children. I sold EVERYTHING I owned (aside from one small box of sentimental stuff that I left with a family member), rented a car and had a buddy drive me to the Atlantic Ocean where I started in Delaware.
Exactly. They need to attract people with competitive (lol) salaries by paying new teachers more, but then there's no money left to pay the veteran educators with. But if you pay the veterans better and the newbies less, you'll have an even larger teacher shortage than we currently do.
And every time a budget override gets struck down or an education-benefiting tax increase fails to pass, everything gets worse.
How did you find a good (safe) route to take? Are you largely taking back roads, trails, etc?
BTW you should track your route on strava
I'm a school bus driver. I get to hang out with each group of kids for around 20 minutes in the morning and afternoon. So pretty much I just get to hear their goofy stories, tell dad type jokes,offer quick advice...then drop them off for the day. It's pretty great (I certainly don't do it for the pay).
I can't imagine how the teachers stand up there with so many eyes on them all day every day and be expected to teach.
Hope you find a better niche in the system.
Edit: Though the benifits and paid time off can't be beat.
I am following the American Discovery Trail, a coast to coast route that links together as many State and National Parks as possible on one continuous trail.
It does veer towards backroads and actual trails as much as possible, but sometimes US Highways must be followed, given the current location.
I use the ADT as a guideline for the most part, but sometimes I will take alternate routes on Highways to ensure I will hit a resupply point.
That's what subbing is like for me. I get to spend one day with a variety of different students and impart the best of what I've got to them, then I move on to the next school.
What was the most concerning part of your voyage so far? Like any tight spots, close calls, etc?
Good luck to you and Merry Christmas! I'll be sure to follow your journey on Facebook. (Thought of a GoFundMe?)
I've been teaching ~25 years. Still feel unsupported, unappreciated by my admins, yet don't want to leave because I went into teaching to teach. I just have to find other ways to do what I must.
Thank you! Merry Christmas to you as well!
So far my biggest concern is breaking down my tent in the morning during the winter months. It's very hard on my fingers as they tend to go numb pretty quickly, but once I start walking I can heat them up just fine.
As far as close-calls would be crossing the Old Iron Bridge in Leavenworth, IN. The flooring of the bridge had been removed and is just a rusted frame 30 ft above a river. I wasn't able to loosen my hip belt or take my phone/wallet off my persons which made crossing much more intense.
Yeah, I feel you. I love teaching still, but most of the job isn't that. I get that all jobs have bullshit to wade through, but calling the job "teaching" is almost false advertising.
Subbing for the current school year is doing me a lot of good, though, I think. I get a chance to show up, teach, and leave. Good day? Coming back. It's been giving me a lot of motivation to take some hard looks at what I really did all of this for.
How many pairs of shoes did you use already? If only one then what shoes are you using?
No education does what you ask, anymore. School maybe gives you the time and freedom to figure out your calling and sells you a small amount of relatively temporary credibility to establish yourself in a career. The idea that anyone is prepared for any particular job after college is naive and never explained to kids. College helps you by exposing you to higher levels of thoughts and ideas, but it is not a training facility and never really was. Trade schools did what you are asking and they rarely exist anymore.
I am still on my first pair of boots and the tread is getting very low.
I am currently using Merrell Ridgepass Mids(I think that's the name).
That's fair, to a point. My professors in college weren't too helpful as described in the topic post of this specific thread, but it was almost like they were giving us misinformation because of how long they'd been out of the field. They were all older people who taught only as recently as ten years prior, with a few having only taught in the 80's-90's. I can think back to so many questions we asked and the answer we got was so outdated that almost nobody teaching today feels that way.
I get that college isn't trade school, but the learning curve for teaching versus nearly anything else is so steep that the majority slide back down and say "Well what the shit, hill?" That's my biggest concern. There needs to be total reform of the public education system, but it also needs to start at the source: where our teachers come from.
fuck that other teacher. had they never thought maybe the kid was not fed well at home? that very well may not a behavior issue, but an issue of abuse.
Not the greatest pic, but I took this a couple of days ago.
I will work on a list and better picture in the next couple of days and place it in an edit!
It wasss... a complicated issue with that kid. Mom in prison, dad just starting to get it together because of it but still sort of a tool, stepmom being a breath of fresh air for both of them, etc. None of us thought he wasn't receiving enough food from home (largely because he always brought a lunch and never once indicated to any of us that food was an issue). I'm not saying it wasn't possible, but he also had issues with stealing things even when he didn't need them. It's a 'survivor' mentality. A lot of kids from rough backgrounds pick it up during times when they DON'T have anything, and latch onto anything they can.
I think my colleague was more just pointing out that he was stealing in the first place and not insinuating that, because it was food, he's hungry.
Oh man, you should have gotten the titanium spork. I've broken so many of those plastic ones while backpacking and then I have to miserably eat oatmeal with my hands.
Did you talk to any current teachers in your state before deciding on being a teacher?
I got that spork for free :) I would like to upgrade to something that weighs less sometime in the future when I can weigh my ounces on a scale.
Not directly, no. But we (my college cohort and myself) all knew the common grievances going into it. We also knew that there are good schools and struggling schools, good districts and struggling districts, and that we could choose where to end up.
Of course, that didn't prepare for just how polarizing the difference between an affluent school and a Title I school is.
How early into your college career did you commit to going into teaching?
I wanted to move out of Michigan and wasn't sure as to where. I had the opportunity to do this and jumped on it.
When I started college, I was a Music Education major. That came out of my own uncertainty of what I'd do with my life and the fact I was musical all throughout grade school. I did this for a couple years as I grew disillusioned and jaded with my lack of personal accountability in those beginning years. Once I kinda got my shit together around my junior year, I realized I didn't want to be a music teacher and made the switch to Primary Education (as, in another post here, I explain why I always admired the idea of being a teacher). It the took me three years between making up for lost ground and starting a new program, but then I student-taught in what was technically my sixth year, and graduated in that December.
What do you do for shelter and sustenance? Do you use electronics, and if so where do you charge them? If this costs any money, how are you financing it?
What did you expect from the job and how did your experience contrast?
I have a 1-man tent: Alps Mountaineering Lynx 1.
I eat four meals a day with two snack breaks which is as follows:
-Breakfast: Instant Oatmeal with a Pop-Tart.
-Brunch: Granola bar, Instant Oatmeal, Trail mix.
-Lunch: Flavored Tuna in a Fajita wrap. -Dinner: Pre-boiled Rice packet with Gravy packet.
Food costs me $4/day averaging around $120/ month.
I use my Cell Phone and Vaporizer for electronics and charge them using a 20,000mAh external power bank which I charge at gas stations, restaurants or random outlets that I see.
The average cost for this kind of trip is around $400/month which covers any extra luxuries or amenities.
I was looking for an outlet for my creativity, personality, and passion for helping children gain knowledge and an understanding of the world around them in a safe but realistic environment. I expected to take a group of humans and give them the tools they needed to be successful as they transitioned into a traditionally tumultuous time in their lives.
I think I still followed through with that mission statement for the vast majority of my students, despite how the school year went. You can probably read the other responses and get a fair sense of how it all went down.
So I have a friend who is in his 3rd year of teaching 9-12 earth sciences. I asked him what the worst part of teaching is and he said it's dealing with people who don't want to learn because it reflects badly on you. Do you agree with this or is there something worse? Besides pay of course.
Honestly, I didn't train at all and I paid the price. Had a lot of blisters in the early weeks but after about 4 weeks I was able to walk from Sunrise to Sunset.
If I were to give any advice from what I know now, I would say to do calf exercises and walk to the grocery store with a hiking bag, stuff your groceries in it and walk back every day for a few months.
Absolutely. My worth as a teacher to the state was almost solely based on the test scores of not only my own students, but all students at my school and even within my geographic area. I had a number of students whose parents were rather vocal about their distaste with teachers/schools and were very, ehh, anti-establishment in general. So when their kids strut into my room, refuse to learn, and any sort of sense I can get into them is instantly deleted when they're picked up, how is it remotely fair that my credibility as a professional is based on their test scores? Or how about my student who came to school the morning after being taken into Child Protective Services because his mom almost died from a crack overdose? The last thing on their mind is "being a good test-taker," yet that's where my job security lies. The system is horrendously biased against students with less stable home lives and, therefore, against teachers in lower income areas. So it's no wonder the state has trouble filling these positions and keeping people there for longer than 5 years.
I think I'm hypocrite. I love being a loner, at the same time I hate not being surrounded by at least a few people. I think overall I would struggle most with just not having a person by my side, even if we didn't talk at all.
I worked in an affluent school at the beginning of my career and I saw the parents do that as well. They made crazy demands
That's how I am.
But I also like to go at my own pace without having to worry about slowing people down, I take a lot of breaks and require a lot of coffee in the morning before I start breaking my tent down.
That's rough. We never had issues with physical violence against staff, luckily, but I know it exists in certain areas/schools. There WAS one time when the principal came down and pulled a regular troublemaker out of class (rough background; it was hard to blame the kid) and she spoke with him out in the courtyard. With all our doors open as it was nice outside, the kid abruptly shouted, "FUCK THIS SCHOOL, THIS IS BULLSHIT," right in the principal's face, then stormed off into the bathroom. That kid got a one-day in-school suspension and that was it, all because our principal was a pushover and was afraid to deal with the [admittedly awful] parents. But that was her job, and she didn't do it. So that kid committed student-career-suicide and got a light slap on the wrist.
It's so terrible to be in a position where your administration, your lifeline and shield, doesn't protect you. But hang in there. Mad props to you for sticking it out. Those kids need strong people in their lives and you're going to make the difference where your administration can't.
What was the worst thing that happened to you on the job, whether from a colleague or student?
Yes, I am doing this for myself. I thought about getting a charity set up for when I hit 300 miles, but decided against it since I didn't start the trip for that cause.
A kindergarten teacher had a student who bit her multiple times, but the coup de grâce was when the same student went into the restroom, smeared his own shit all over his shirt, and the ran back into the room slinging it around the air over his head. Yeah; that happened. The mom's reaction was basically just "lol boys will be boys," so that was great.
Luckily, I never had it so rough. I did have a student with severe anxiety and social trauma who regularly screamed out across the room and nearly kicked the door down in blind rages triggered by almost nothing whatsoever. He threw stuff around the room, but never at another student or myself (not intentionally, anyway). One day he just decided his chair and backpack looked better in the fountain outside. He didn't last very long.
So you couldn't cut it. There are lots like you and the few like me who survive get to deal with the mess you leave. Your thoughts?
Idk if I can agree with this statement :x
Southern Ohio is plagued with foothills, up and down up and down up and down lol
Mess? I inherited a mess and still got those kids out the door with test scores above the district average and social skills ready for middle school. So you're welcome for that.
Maybe you have me mistaken for someone else.
You seem eager to blame those who walk away from a broken education system instead of actually identifying the problem. I value that you stay and appreciate your personal sacrifices for the greater good of society, but please do not belittle me or others in my situation just because we wanted a different job.
Any interest in bike touring? It's similar logistically to what you're doing, with the stealth camping, etc., but riding a bike is so much nicer than walking with a backpack. More freedom walking, though.
Actually yes! Earlier in the trip I had been brainstorming what to do after California and have considered possibly biking from Washington state to Florida if I could manage to get everything in place.
You're about to finish your journey but you see Texas Rattlesnake himself standing in your way. So do you:
A. Take a Stone Cold Stunner, but finish your journey
B. Turn around and don't get Stunned, but don't finish your journey?
If I had just walked 5,000 miles you're damn right I'm finishing it with a bang.
I'll bust out my Macho Man voice "YOU AINT GOIN NO WHEEEEEERE!"
Did your mama ever tell you that "Life must be like a box of chocolates ...? Sorry man couldnt resist
Nope. But someone's mama told them that once and I did what he did.
I could give you a thousand answers on why I'm doing this. But the one question I keep asking myself is why didn't I do this sooner.
It's an amazing experience so far and wouldn't trade it for anything.
Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois (current), Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California.
I've got two friends who completed the ADT a couple years ago!
Have you realized you want bigger shoes yet?
Did you plant water in the drier parts of the country?
They planted jugs of water in Nevada or something like that and marked it by GPS.
That's awesome! If they've done the ADT, then I have probably heard of them. I did a lot of research prior to starting and have still been researching ADT hikers.
Haven't had much concern with my shoe size, but that's because I wear a half size up and always have :)
I haven't been in any areas yet where water is scarce, but Nevada and Utah have been my highest researched states, hoping I can get some form of truck support or have some family bury water out there. If not, I'll probably end up getting a cart to push instead so I can carry a much larger quantity of water.
They did for 2 months.
Now, I hardly have foot pain, and if I feel a hotspot forming I know how to spot it, and immediately tend to it.
I think it's still a bit early to say. But I definitely now know what it's like to be stared at by everyone and every thing.
I still don't know what word to use here but "humbling" would probably fit.
Are you by yourself? If so, do you get lonely? What do you do to occupy yourself?
I am by myself for most of the time.
Usually I just lurk on Reddit, or play Hearthstone if I have a full charge on my battery and service.
If I can't do that, I'll either draw or just go to sleep, I usually walk until sunset so that my time is occupied.
How much harder do you think it'd be to be vegan on this expedition?
I do not know much about following a vegan diet, but it's not too difficult to find food on this trail as there are towns regularly.
The only difference I would see is an increase of daily cost for food.
I shop at Dollar General damn-near exclusively, so if you can get vegan versions of the list I provided in one of the earlier answers from DG, I'd say it shouldn't be much of a concern.
Just throw out your expectations of quality if you have any :)