Forging Core Beliefs: 2012-2014
From the Fall after their first Summer on Damariscove Island until the Fall of 2014, Hazel and Joe had a series of disappointing experiences working in the environmental education field. As trying as these experiences were, they can best be described in Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas’ words as “crucibles of leadership.” Bennis and Thomas suggest that great leadership often comes from a place of having a deeply frustrating and dissatisfying experience that molds and tempers one’s beliefs and vision, ultimately driving him/her to lead. Working and learning at several environmental education organizations served as a crucible of leadership for Hazel and Joe in forming their vision for MOS.
Coming from Foothill Horizons with good pay and a sustainable 40 hour work week, Hazel and Joe had set this work environment as their expectation for the field. It was a great surprise to them to learn that Foothill Horizons was an exception rather than a rule. In the various environmental education organizations in which they worked, they learned that the industry standard for outdoor educators was generally a 50-65 hour work week with a weekly stipend that amounted to roughly $4-$6 per hour--well below minimum wage standards. When questioned, one of their supervisors explained that “educators are exempt from minimum wage laws.” Another supervisor at a different environmental education organization that did not pay most of its staff justified the long hours and low or no pay by saying that the organization's mission had to always come first: only after the mission had been satisfied would they be concerned about staff wellbeing. These truths of law and culture deeply troubled and frustrated Hazel and Joe but served as a lens to focus and intensify their vision and dedication to MOS.
As a result of these trying experiences, Hazel and Joe shifted their attention from purely environmental or science education. They wondered: “how can we as individuals, organizations, and communities work to ensure the wellbeing of ourselves, one another, and our environment?” They realized that MOS needed to focus on resilience education to answer this question. A central tenet of MOS’s mission of resilience education would be acting as a demonstration site for personal, organizational, and community resilience. Hazel and Joe knew that this guiding principle of role modeling had to start with fair wages and working hours for all MOS staff.