I’m going to do my final mission post today. I was excited to sleep in, but I woke up right at 6; my body must have thought we were going out on the boat again. I checked in for tomorrow’s flight with a heavy heart. I’m going to miss everything about this experience—the people, the places, and the things. Everyone knows that my ultimate plan is to move down here and work in, on, and around the water. This week gave me a taste of what that’s like, and now I want it more than ever.
I’m thinking about all that I’ve learned and experienced this week and processing what I can take back to my students. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- Work hard always. Of course, I always preach the value of hard work. It’s what’s gotten me everything I have and everything I’ve been able to do. I prepared in the weeks leading up to the mission. I did all of my readings, brushed up on my fish ID, and did some further readings about Aquarius, saturation diving, and sharks. During the mission, I observed and listened, I asked questions, and I followed directions given to me by the experts. This week was no “vacation” by any means. We worked hard every day, had to put in long hours, and had to fight through fatigue to get the job done. And it was worth every second.
- Be patient and flexible. We can’t control the weather or nature. The weather definitely cooperated with us this week; we had gorgeous days with great diving conditions the whole week (except for the day with the strong current), but nature did not necessarily act in our favor. This study needed sharks, and we only got one “real” shark (nurse sharks didn’t count). The science team acted accordingly; when the transducer didn’t work, they deployed BRUVS, and when they didn’t work, they chummed. Never once did they break down, get angry, or give up. They simply analyzed the situation, considered their options, and acted out a plan.
- Be a team player. This team was made up of some very different people from very different fields. The science team had to accept this group of teachers, one being an English teacher. The teachers are all very different. I’m the only high school teacher and the only one from a public school (and definitely the only one working for a school that sits at the poverty level). Because every member of the team was focused on the task at hand, we came together as one. The teachers were scheduled to help with data for an hour each night. We stayed 2 ½-3 hours each night to help the team. Note: The team accepted my English-ness so much they wrote poetry with me one day! I have to admit, that is one of my favorite moments of this week.
- Protect our environment. The work that we did this week is just one small step in the race to save our oceans. Living in an ocean-less state, I am very aware that the vast majority of people in Pennsylvania and other land-locked states don’t give a second thought about ocean conservation. I’ve always called the ocean my first and only true love. Divers are different; we have a love and appreciation for Mother Ocean, but I’d like to help raise awareness when I get home. I have a few plans for how I’m going to do that already. The teachers have also decided to have a “reunion” and do some coral restoration together
- Never stop dreaming. Who ever thought that a small town girl from Ebensburg, Pennsylvania would have the chance to visit the world’s only undersea laboratory (less than 700 people have done it since 1987!) and work on a science mission in the Florida Keys? Keep your eyes open for opportunities because they’re out there; you just have to want them and work for them.
I really can’t say enough about this experience. I’m so very thankful to Aileen, Ashtyn, Andy, and Alain (Wow… just realized all of their names start with A!) for seeing something in my application that prompted them to choose me. I hope that I’ve lived up to their expectations, as they have far exceeded mine. This week has been life-changing for sure and will forever live in my heart. We have one final get together this evening, and it’s going to be so hard to say goodbye. At least we will see each other again soon!