Wild at Heart: The Subtle, Yet Striking Connection between Raw Hunters in the Wild and Teachers

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Ok. Figuratively speaking…I’m sure stranger things have been compared right?

I recently watched a “hunting” video (of all things) that a friend forwarded to me. This friend, a hunter himself, simply sharing his passion, sense of fulfillment and glimpse into his wild hobby. Admittedly, I would not be telling the truth if I said I was chomping at the bit to watch it. Quite the opposite was the case and after staring at its’ subject line for a day in my inbox which read “This was the video I was telling you about,” I apprehensively clicked…p-l-a-y.

Leery of its content, not certain of what to expect, but hoping that I could stomach it in its entirety for the mere justification of at least relaying to my friend that I had indeed watched this piece that was important to him. Expecting a wild, cold, manly, grunting, blood-thirsty, hunting documentary, I braced myself for the next 20 plus minutes I’d never get back. Check that one off the list I thought.

However, as I slowly swallowed my predetermined reservations and let the unexpected heart-felt, passionate words of the hunters’ collaborative account of their soulful journey sink in, my mind and heart instantly softened recognizing the echoing chords of the striking similarities to the work we as teachers do each and every day as we too pursue our passion, our livelihood, our hunt.

Ugg -the admittance of this connection alone (between wild hunters and teachers) I realize makes one appear, well, nuts, to say the least. But then to turn around and attempt to synthesize its connection…in written form, is just certifiable. Call it what you will, but these incredible warriors of the wild practiced merciless, laser-focused determination and skillset to discover common trends between two things: their love of familiar western style hunting and hunting in their home in the wild, rugged woods of Pennsylvania.

Within the first minute and a half of the video, these incredible words of wisdom were brought forth from the mouths of these wild hunters, “Why couldn’t we take the skills we’d learned hunting the west and apply them to our hunts at home?” Continuing, they added, “With all our hard work behind us, it was time to put our theory to the test.” Those words took me directly to the words and the work of Calkins research and philosophy which concludes…everything we teach and learn should be transferrable to another time and another day. Yes! I thought. This is exactly what we want for our students. It’s why we work so hard to foster reciprocity between reading and writing across the content in the learning lives of our students. To read and write with the same recognition that exists in our English Language Arts literary lens in science texts, in social studies texts, and even in math! Why not? Isn’t that what we are constantly trying to help our students recognize through authentic modeling and application of these skills, common across the content…from one subject to another, just like these hunters?

Although I haven’t researched this, I’m fairly certain that hunting in the wild west can be vastly different than hunting for Whitetail Buck in the east, just as it seems reading and writing about a science or social studies text can encapsulate vast differences when compared to a literary novel, slice of poetry, or memoir for example. Nonetheless, the brilliance of strategically attempting to conceptualize the concrete and intensely innate similarities of the process, structures and tactics involved in the craft of hunting to a totally different landscape is purposeful and productive work to say the least. It is hauntingly and affirmingly evident that this same congruency also exists within the efforts we as teachers make in trying to create seamless fluidity of learning across the school day for our students.

I recently taught a unit in information writing which focused around six structures of organization:

  1. Pros/Cons
  2. Compare/Contrast
  3. Cause/Effect
  4. Problem/Solution
  5. Types/Kinds
  6. Parts

These six structures were explored at length in reciprocity in our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade ELA reading/writing workshops utilizing a social studies current event theme related article on Hurricanes. Slowly…but surely, shortly after this immersive study of structure occurred, sightings of synthesis and coagulation of similar thinking transferred to science classes when addressing global warming concepts, in social studies when utilizing current events of all types, and in its purest language arts roots when analyzing and interpreting pieces of narrative literature. Alas, transference of skills and practice and common language married in fluidity of purposeful and authentic application throughout the school day, not just in designated classrooms, on designated days, related only to designated subjects, designated teachers, and designated texts. Alas…a glimpse of harmony was spotted. Aha moments of excitement from teachers who internalized this process were noted. Now, please don’t misunderstand the message here, the war on block schedules, and isolated closed content classrooms is not in any way shape or form won…but there is definitely progress towards this powerful transition of unearthing. Experimentation and trial application is a buzz in pockets among teachers in the building. It’s invigorating! It’s contagious!

In the case of our hunting warriors, they spent an entire off season “putting boot leather on the ground” so that when hunting season opened, they were ready. Isn’t that exactly what we as dedicated teachers do? Passionate teachers, just like these passionate hunters, participate in workshop labs with students and colleagues, seek and attend professional development, read professional literature, design, test, discuss, and reflect upon new curriculum, and meet collaboratively with colleagues pouring over data and anecdotals and co-constructing responsive next steps in teaching and learning. Essentially we do exactly what these men of the wild woods do –ready ourselves for our open teaching season!

As this documentary continued to play, it unfolded the secret to their hunting success: passion, drive, and sheer persistence to achieve their ultimate and mutual goal – the Whitetail Buck. At one point, I found myself actually hanging on to the edge of my seat, cheering (come on guys, you can get one)…and sending up silent prayers that this endearing, strong, and strategic hunter would ultimately snag his prize. To draw you further into the moment, it was the last day of archery season and only 2 out of the 3 hunting heroes had “racked-up” no pun intended, their prize. Now, you might assume that the confidence level of this 3rd deerless hunter would be diminishing by now…crushed, and to some degree it was fading, but never gone, never defeated. However, considerably more important to note was the underlying, felt sense of support and genuine empathy and good will from the 2 prized hunters towards their fellow hunter. The 3 warriors hunted, grew, celebrated and struggled in a tightly knit pack. Each prize won was a success for all, each struggle was a struggle to attack as a pack. Each pack member clearly owned the ups and downs and causes and consequences of their fellow hunters.

Having viewed this, has also brought me to arrive at this additional summation, hunters hunt in a pack. Teachers hunt in a pack. We rely on each other to grow, to learn, to succeed. If we are growing, our pack must be growing too. If our students are growing, the students of our pack must be growing too. That collaborative ownership is a lesson not left unnoticed in the success of the hunters’ journey. This band of wild brotherhood offers much to emulate. They commenced their journey with these wise words, “Looking back on this past season, it is very evident that the harder you work at something, the greater the reward. We are blessed with an unforgettable season, and a new obsession for chasing big woods bucks.”

So fellow pack members, I ask you to reflect upon this line of thinking:

What’s your current open season looking like?

How does your pack function when one or more members are off-course?

When struggles occur, how does your pack attack?

What skills has your pack taken and applied to another day, another content area, another time in the learning day of your students?

During your off season, how do you and your pack prepare for the open season?

-Val Piccini

2 thoughts on “Wild at Heart: The Subtle, Yet Striking Connection between Raw Hunters in the Wild and Teachers”

  1. Val,

    I LOVE this! My hubby is a hunter, and I love to support him in his dedication and persistence as he and his friends enjoy their sport. The patience that they exhibit while sitting in a tree stand or blind for hours, the cooperation that they demonstrate while putting on drives to try and “push” the deer toward one another so that they can get a shot, and the true happiness that they show for one another when the prize is gotten makes me smile. ANYTHING that we undertake in a passionate, willing to learn fashion can provide skills that can transfer to other areas of life. After all, the key to life-long learning is to never stop taking what and how you have learned and applying it to your life in new ways.

    As for my season, well, it is going and it is slow and it is another year of discovery, trial, and error. I truly adjust my teaching to how my students are performing and the interest in what we are learning. I have to exhibit the patience of hunters while giving my students time to research and learn and write, I have to drive them once in awhile so that I can push them toward a level of learning and “get them” engaged. Yet, most of all, I need to recognize what season they are in so that the lessons I design speak to their needs. I am in awe of what some of my 7th grade “babies” figure out when simply given the time to explore and talk about what they have explored. For example, after reading articles in Scope magazine about lions, trophy hunting, and cub-petting, the students had very strong opinions and interests . . . so, I opted to do an argument support essay. Although it is a tough road trying to reinforce the NEED for evidence, I cannot hold back my smiles or high-fives when they “bag their hunt” – the EXACT piece of evidence that supports their reason. So much of teaching research and writing is teaching that they both take time and rarely, if ever, will you find exactly what you want or write a perfect piece on the first try.

    Thanks, Val. I love this comparison. 🙂

    P&L,
    Lisa

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    1. Hi Lisa,
      I love your thinking in the last lines of your response regarding the rarity of writing a perfect piece on the first try. It reminds me of William Zinsser’s reflections in his book, On Writing Well. He concludes that the essence of writing is indeed rewriting. He says that the biggest mistake we can make as writers is to toil over a piece for months… alone…in solitude. His philosophy, “The writing process begins when you show your first draft to people and start getting feedback.” Working in a pack is a wonderful thing! Hope to see you in January at the WIU for my Close Read/TDA workshop!
      -Val

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