Bob Sheridan is one of CBFS's Master Educators. He's worked on school programs, Road Scholar groups, homeschoolers, boyscouts and everything in between during his two-season tenure. This week we're honored to feature Bob in our first of many "Behind the Scenes" posts, before he moves on to earn his master's degree back in his home state of Connecticut.
I was asked to talk a bit about the Field Station before I leave here, a kind of reflection on my experience over the last 14 months. I guess the best place to start is to describe what the educators do during our tenure here. If you have already visited us, you have most certainly interacted with an educator-- or at very least someone who used to be an educator. We are the ones who may give a lecture or lead your boat trip in the bay, but we are also the ones who set up your chair before you arrive, and make coffee at 4 am so it's ready for you before we drive out to meet the sunrise; We're the ones who cook a basket of crabs to welcome you to the Eastern Shore, and the ones who made the name tag that you might wear during your time with us. Don't get me wrong - the smiles that we show during programs aren't just plastered on our faces for your benefit. In fact the reason we are all so happy to be here is because we all truly enjoy sharing the experience of sunrises, sunsets, Bills dinners, lecturing about plankton, singing songs around campfires, driving the bus, and helping you find the meaning and substance to the trip that you’re spending with us. And there is one very important reason why we enjoy doing it: we love those experiences so much we made it our profession to share it with other people. Now I could spend time talking about the prep work and paperwork that our job has (and I promise it’s there) but that’s not what gets us energized, just like how those PTS reports aren’t the reason you wake up in the morning. But let’s get into what this job was (and still is) for me.
I wasn’t sure what the culture of the Field Station was until about a month into my job. At that point I began to realize that what I learned in college and one year out of the gate, was miniscule to what these people, who have immersed themselves in the life of environmental education, knew. There is a special attitude that goes into working at a place like the Field Station. Living on campus with 10 other young professional educators, I found that often times the enthusiasm we have for our job carries into our spare time. So while we can breathe a sigh of relief when we complete a successful program, we are all always constantly discussing and investigating the environment around us. It sounds like we never stop being part of our programs because we are always looking at things through that lens. And being there with 10 other people who are all equally passionate, has made me realize that I was blending into a family of fellow Field Station Educators. This idea was reinforced during the 2014 Friends and Alumni weekend. Because CBFS has been around since the 1960's, there have been dozens of people who have shared the position of educator before me, and there will be dozens after me. But meeting people who have done my job and moved on was an experience that I would never trade. That weekend reinforced the familial feeling around this place because people who had my job in the 90's came back to sit around a campfire and bond over equally wonderful and totally miserable experiences that bridge gaps between generations of educators.
Just like any job you will ever have, there are bosses to answer to: someone to remind you that a Friday morning meeting was missed, to scold you for forgetting to float a biowheel, to be disappointed that you forgot to take a sample for Massongo Creek, and even that you need to submit a blog post before Friday. That being said, I want to thank my bosses (whoever it is I have to answer to this week!) for being exemplary at what they do. After working for other organizations and talking to friends who work at other nature centers, I can count myself as one of the luckiest. The mentality of constantly putting forth your best and doing the best you can to provide the best service you can is something shared by people from every industry. But what puts this place above the rest is the care and encouragement they provide. Not only do my bosses want my participants to learn as much as they can while also learning those intrinsic values only a field station can supply, but they insist in continuing the education of their employees. My favorite example of this when one of my many bosses asked, within the first 10 seconds of talking with her, “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?” Right away, I knew they were either looking to get rid of me, or were looking to make my experience here beneficial beyond my time as their employee. These are the bosses that are hard to leave, and I want to thank all of the senior staff for making my time as your employee so great.
This post only focuses on the staff I work with in the ed center, and neglects some of the people who deserve a shout out. The cafeteria staff is chock full of some of the hardest working, and caring people anyone can come across. And if anyone says meal times are not a bonding experience, they need to sit down for shepherd’s pie and corn bread from our kitchen staff. I am ever thankful that I don’t need to keep the dorms clean, and the buses full of oil. Thank you to the operations crew for being so flexible and ready to have the place ready for the groups we have through.
I think those educators from the early 90's as well as the educators today will all say that you will build a family here. It’s hard not to. After only a few months with the new 2015 staff I’ve already made bonds I don’t want to break and have reinforced bonds with old staff which are now deeper and more meaningful than they were a year ago. From top down and bottom up, these are some of the hardest working and most caring people in the world, and if we lost any one part, this place would not be as great as it is. Thank you all for a great year and a half. Just keep working as hard as you do.
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