It would be a long way from Sunday to Wednesday. We were 19 students, 4 supervisors, 10 canoes, 35 kilometres, 7 portages, 1 experience.
We set out.
We left it all behind. A complete escape into ourselves. Our own energy transformed into movement.
As the black flies gathered, so too did the expressions of transformations.
For many of these students who travelled the rivers and lakes, it was there first time setting course in this manner. Sure some of them had camped, but “really pansy camping,” as one of the boys told me. Few of them had left their security behind and had ever left themselves so vulnerable. And it showed.
A student who is known for being “the tough guy” who many teachers ‘warned me’ about before the trip, often asked for guidance and support. He was left in situations unfamiliar, where he asked for help to set up his tents, help to pry a few leeches from his feet, and he was left to talk openly about his relationship with his father.
Typical social hierarchies never left when nature is involved. And sure enough, on the last day, after battling the high winds and very precarious paddling, it was the entire group of 23 people who were hooting and hollering as we each found our own success.
The trip was magnificent.
It made me reflect on how I respond and react to fearful situations, like the student who stood on the dock half-way through a tough paddle uttering expletives, refusing to get back in the boat. His anger was his method of dealing with his fear. After letting him bluster, he got back into the canoe and championed on. Do I put my back up when I’m confronted by my fears and when I take a risk? Are students’ reactions to school-related fears met with discipline, rather than understanding?
It made me reflect on time and space. Giving ourselves the time to connect with each other, away from social norms, allowed many to explore parts of themselves that are often kept hidden. You can’t hide yourself in the trivialities and mundane nature of the day to day when you are disconnected. You must reveal parts of yourself. And, it is okay.
Ultimately, after four days of hard work, paddling against a fierce wind into white-capped seas, each student walked out transformed from the experience. Some humbled, some strengthened, some softer, some more connected, this was learning at its finest.
The nature of transformation is that you can often find it in nature.
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