It’s better together
Having a long, deep conversation with a good friend is a rare treat but when it happens, it is very powerful. It let’s me calibrate my own compass – why do I do what I do the way I do it? Could there be other, better ways, or am I actually - at this moment, with this issue, in my opinion – spot on? It can be slightly painful going through it but having someone who questions your ways in a gentle, honest, well-meaning fashion and who opens your eyes to different perspectives is a real blessing.
Professionally, I realised very quickly that being a Forest School practitioner can be a lonely business. Of course, we run our sessions for groups of people, so we are not physically by ourselves, but during the hours of planning, organising and making decisions we are mostly left to our own devices.
Especially in my early Forest School days, I found some Facebook groups for FS practitioners invaluable and I still use these regularly for certain questions. People on the whole enjoy giving out advice and recount their own experiences. However, the half-anonymity of Facebook can sometimes turn things unpleasant and make some people say things they would probably not repeat face to face.
For me, there is nothing like meeting people in person and just having a good old chat. Just a week after throwing myself into self-employment I took part in the Forest School Association spring gathering, bringing together Forest School practitioners from the whole South West region. It is fair to say that I was a bit nervous to start with, but everyone was incredibly welcoming and friendly, and it turned out to be a brilliant and memorable weekend. Since then, I have been to two more gatherings – they have all been very inspiring and nurturing for me, giving me momentum, new energy and ideas to carry on with my own Forest School venture.
Every six months these gatherings provide an opportunity to come together and share skills, be it storytelling, fire lighting, toddler crafts or learning knots. I really appreciate all the informal workshops which have immensely helped me along in my own practice, but I also really value all the little snippets of information gathered in conversations around the campfire.
The biggest change for me in terms of ongoing support has arrived from a somewhat unlikely source. When another practitioner started Forest School sessions for kids close to my site, I could feel slight panic rising in me – a competitor, potentially stealing my customers, treading on my toes! After about six months, I finally got in touch with her to meet up – one of the best things I have ever done!
Carrie is the one person I call whenever I have a question, when something has happened – good or bad - when I am down and need someone to pick me up, and it is the same vice versa. I have found that we aren’t actually competitors at all but have quite a different client group and that we complement each other very well working together, which we have done numerous times. It is amazing to have a Forest School buddy to chat to, to help me calibrate my own Forest School compass, to question why I do things the way I do and to pat me on the back when something has gone really well. I can recommend it, the journey is so much better together.
The national conference of the Forest School Association will be held in Norfolk on 5-7 October 2018. This year, you can even take the whole family! For more information visit http://fsanorfolk.wixsite.com/fsan/national-conference-2018
The autumn gathering of the Forest School Association South West will take place in North Dorset on 19-21 October 2018. For more information and a booking form just get in touch with me.
Inspired Forest School Training offers get togethers locally in Gloucestershire. Look out for dates in the newsletter or on the Facebook page.