When I first started this project, I anticipated that my fear heights would be an issue, but I did not realize how much I was scared of falling until I was up on the wall and looked down to see that I was 7 feet off the ground. I did not always have a fear of heights. When I was a young child, I would climb up trees and other high places. I was fearless and would climb whatever I could find and vertigo did not exist for me. This all changed when I was 10 years old I had a nasty fall from a height of 4 feet from a tree branch. I tried to do a leap and catch a branch like a graceful gymnast but ended up slipping on the grip. I landed on my back on foot thick layer of foliage which helped soften the fall, but I still banged my head fairly badly. I remember the moment very clearly as it seemed to pass in slow motion. I did not recognize it at the time because I was too young, but perhaps my body realized that this moment might be my last. After hitting the ground, I told myself to never climb again. I stayed true to my word and refrained from participating in any activities that required physically facing heights. I have no issues with flying or going over bridges in a car, but I cannot look over high ledges or climb ladders. When I am looking down from a height greater than 10 feet, I get weak in the knees and physically sick. The idea of falling takes a grip of my mind, and I slink away from looking over the ledge. I almost forgot about this when I first started this project, but every session to the climbing gym brought the the feeling of this memory back. This was probably one of the reasons (among many others) why I had such a hard time completing this project.
I learned that the best way to overcome this fear was to actually not think about it. I just focused on accomplishing the goal at hand by visualizing and looking at where I wanted to be on the wall. I did experience some vertigo and fear when I looked down, but eventually I learned to not look down. I know that sounds like an overly simplistic or stereotypical approach, but it works! I just told myself to not look down and keep going forward. "It's going to be okay. I'm going to make it. I can reach the top." I mentally repeated these simple mental mantras to push out the fears and negative thoughts that would otherwise paralyze me and lead to my eventual fall.
But these learning experiences would only be possible if my professor challenged me to complete it and if my wife supported me to get it done because another huge challenge was actually getting myself to go each week. I come home exhausted and spent after a day of teaching, and the last thing I want to do is physical exertion. I was able to stick with the schedule thanks to my wife who attended each climbing session with me. She was the one who took pictures, supported me with each climb, and pushed me to get out of bed and into the gym (both figuratively and literally). Physical exercise has never been a huge part of my life, and I never learned to like it because I found working out to be dreary and boring. These climbing session have begun to change my mind a bit about how I feel about exercise. I know I should work out more, but bouldering is actually fun enough to trick me into doing it again. While the 20time project has reached it's conclusion, I anticipate continuing to boulder on regular weekly basis especially during this summer as I intend to sign up for a couple's membership as soon as the funds are available.
Overall, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this learning experience. I definitely struggled to complete it and overcome my fears through this process, but it has been worthwhile. I see great value in conducting 20time projects in my own future classrooms because the type of learning it produces is something that is worthwhile to pursue because each experience is unique yet personally enriching. As much as I learned how to boulder from this process, I also learned so much about myself and how to face challenges. The actual experience of how to take on different climbing paths and developing climbing technique was almost secondary to what I learned about myself in the process. This type of personal self-reflection and introspection was a true genuine process that was anchored in a real experience. More than ever, I believe we need this type of learning within the classroom space so that the educational experience remains relevant to the student. As I continue my path toward becoming a teacher, I look forward to conducting 20% projects in my own classrooms.