The Things You Worry About

What we worry about changes over time. I used to worry about everything. Especially as a principal, worrying was what you got paid for. I thought I had to see the consequence of every action five stages into the future. Still, I got surprises on a regular basis. Some things you just could not see coming.

I still think a lot about my suspension. That was my biggest surprise.

Was there any way to foresee this? How could I have discerned the thinking of my accuser and my employers? Why do I still think about this?

This is still a post for the future, I haven’t thought of a good way to write this one yet.

Tomorrow I am going to Montreal to visit my mother. I am worrying about this.

How crazy is this? I am worrying about visiting my mom. What is happening to my world? This is the person who raised me, looked after me, listened to me, always cared for me.

Now she is alone.

The stalwart of our family has died. Our wonderful, beautiful father. We are certainly moving on, but what is life like for the partner? This is difficult to imagine.

My mom is far away from here and she doesn’t pick up the phone. Although I think about her every day it is difficult to connect. Again, how crazy is this? You can’t connect with your own mother?

Yes, and this is a constant worry, but not something I can talk about to my mom.

The things you worry about when you are retired are different.

I have been pretty critical of my former employers, I think the criticism was fair and it had to be done by someone who was on the inside. Still, I worry now about being on the outside because I have gone beyond the corporate tent in my comments.

At some point you just have to be honest, and if that puts you on the outside that is fine.

However, it is a totally different matter when you look at family. How do you do this when the old reliable structure has crumbled?

This worries me. This is unscripted territory that I just need to plough through. Many of my friends will read this and it will resonate – I hope.

We worry because we love.

A Virtual Tour of the Ausangate Region – Climb for Kids!

Welcome to Rainbow Mountain Cusco Journey through an undiscovered land of wild desert landscapes, snow capped peaks, herds of alpaca, and arrive at the ultimate destination – The “Rainbow Mountain” hidden deep in the Andes. Throughout your journey you will pass through a vibrant green valley with the impressive Ausangate mountain towering in the distance. You will experience first hand how locals live in the mountains and even have a chance to speak with them. As you get closer to the Rainbow Mountain you will begin to see the first signs of the colored minerals that formed the painted hills. Your guide will explain what makes up the existence of the “Rainbow Mountain”, and finally with one last push you will hike up to a vantage point that gives you a 360 degree view of the beautiful landscape that makes up this sacred land.

Trip Advisor

For the past week, I have been featuring photos that I received from the wonderful people at Merit Travel, the people who are organizing our Christie Lake Climb for Kids! adventure planned for August 2018.

The photos are truly amazing and most are shots that I can’t find anywhere else. Even the locations like this shot of the Red Sand Pass are unsearchable on Google. To me, this is a good thing. It shows how remote this area is. Even a recent Netflix documentary we watched called Peru: Tesoro Escondido had no mention of Ausangate or the Rainbow Mountains.

We are certainly trekking into territory that is remote and obscure. That is great!

I have also found some amazing 360 images on Google Earth using a feature I didn’t know anything about called Photo Sphere. Take a look at the Google Earth shot of Ausangate Mountain below – each of the blue dots are Photo Sphere shots taken around the mountain. The shots are spectacular and all are done in 360. They make up a beautiful virtual tour of the Ausangate region.

The arrows point out some of the Google Photo Sphere shots.

 

Here is one of the Photo Sphere shots. Unfortunately, I can’t make it 360 in this post.

I would give this a try. While this is a remote area, there are easily 30 360 images you can take a look at that are most likely a part of our upcoming trek.

A great way to dream away wintery days!

Climb for Kids! Today’s photo – do you see yourself here??

Nevado del Inka

I am continuing to post photos from the Ausangate region of Peru. This is the area we will be travelling in during the Climb for Kids! trek in August, 2018. There is also lots written about these treks so I am including snippets of what I am reading along with the photos.

This is a very exciting enterprise and we are now four spots away from having a complete group. If you love what you are seeing and reading maybe you should be coming with us!

As we approach the reddish sandy formations of the Nevado del Inca, the impressive views of the glacier on the southern side of Apu will inspire us as we hike.

Today we will enjoy one of the most spectacular parts of our trail, leading us through mountain scenery with multicoloured strata, featuring reds, yellows, ochres, greys, blues, etc. This stretch is an excellent opportunity to study these geological wonders and admire the unique beauty of the landscape. It is also the ideal place to observe the gracious wild vicuñas that can often be found in these isolated spots.

excerpts from Camino del Apu Ausangate

The Huampococha Tambo (Tambo means ‘resting place in Quechua) occupies a magical location, at an altitude of 4,800 m.a.s.l. (15,748 ft.). This lodge offers a panoramic view towards one of the most beautiful landscapes which encompasses the lagoon that bears the same name, and the snow-capped Mount of the Inca, meanwhile it rests at the foot of the Apu Callecalle´s foothills.

from Andean Lodges

These pictures continue to speak for themselves. The more of these I see the more exciting it gets to realize that we will be trekking through this beautiful countryside in just a few months.

a photo from the same region as the first picture. Imagine starting your day with this view!

Remember – now only four spots left!

Climb for Kids – A photo per day!

I just received some stunning photos of the area we will be going to this summer in Peru. They are too good to keep to myself so I am going to start posting some on this blog.

As I post more photos, this edition of the blog will get better and better. Maybe we will even pick up the four or five additional climbers we need to get this terrific adventure going!

Here is today’s photo:

The Ausangate trekking circuit goes through some of the most beautiful landscapes of the Cusco region. The five or six days of this itinerary goes around the Ausangate Mountain –  Awsanqati in Quechua – along with hot springs, and pristine turquoise blue and red lakes.

OK, maybe a second photo

Our first Lodge is located in the Uyuni Pampa, at an altitude of 4,368 m.a.s.l. (14,331 ft.). It is a valley with meadows, furrowed by the ice-cold waters of the Quencomayo River, and a grazing place for a great number of alpacas from the community of Chillca. From the lodge, there is a privileged view of the snow-capped Mount Jatun Jampa; an Apu (Sacred Mountain) visible at the end of the valley.

from Andeanlodges.com

More to come!

Christie Lake Climb for Kids – Looking for You!

Hello

Everyone!

We are now on the final push to complete our climbing team for our 2018 trek.

You may be interested or you might want to let others know, especially at your own schools.

We are organizing a trek through the Ausangate region of Peru – the Rainbow Mountains – for August of this year. It represents a great personal challenge and opportunity, and also a means of raising money for one of our favourite organizations, Christie Lake Kids. We are hoping that “Climb for Kids” will be a regular event through the years. It is one way for us to give back to an organization that has done so much for our own children and community kids we have taught. Our son, Liam, has just been appointed Assistant Director of the organization.

Especially if you are in elementary school you probably have kids who benefit from Christie Lake programming here in Ottawa.

Trekkers will pay their own expenses and will participate in reasonable, individual fundraising and in two community pub parties, largely organized by Christie Lake. Some proceeds from these community fundraisers will go toward trekkers’ travel costs. We are providing training and access to discounts at an outdoor/expedition shop.

We have a Facebook page, Christie Lake Climb for Kids, and lots of info. I have included an attachment with the basic information and a wonderful video from a recent traveller. For anyone interested, there is an info. session/dinner at our place on February 8th.

Have a great weekend and thanks for listening,

Paul

 

 

The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health in the World of Education

There is a stigma attached to posts on mental health. People are afraid to deal with mental health issues. On Twitter, there will be lots of ‘likes’ and maybe a few retweets, but seldom is there anything else.

So I don’t expend much attention will be paid to this post – too bad.

The stigma surrounding mental illness is a big problem especially for principals and superintendents who actually witness many people suffering from mental health issues – teachers, students, parents. They have no training in this area and I think, tend to be less than empathetic. As a principal, I know we seldom discussed these topics and any form of distress was easily seen as a sign of weakness.

As a principal, I had an advantage. I have first-hand experience of the impact mental illness can have on an individual. I also had nine years of experience working as a guidance counsellor before I became an administrator. I easily saw more people in distress as an administrator than I ever saw as a counsellor. At least I knew what these people were going through. Most administrators do not and that is not a good situation.

I witnessed this deficit at all levels of senior administration with one notable exception.

The work being done in the  campaign is really important and I am looking forward to participating in the #Ontedchat twitter chat next Wednesday, January 24th, at 8:30 PM. This would also be a great topic for a Voiced Radio podcast!

I hope other people, the people who are in positions of responsibility listen to this podcast – they really should. The stigma surrounding mental illness needs to disappear. The fear needs to disappear. People need to step up and do much more to support those who suffer.

Empathy – We Still Have a Way to Go

 

We are coming up to ‘Bell Let’s Talk‘ on January 31st. This is a day to have an open dialogue on mental health issues in Canada. That’s a very good thing.

Twitter is not always the best forum for discussions on important topics like mental health. I have already seen people ‘like’ tweets about the importance of reaching out if you are someone in distress.

It is so easy to ‘like’. It is much harder to sit there and be present with someone who is really struggling. As someone who has suffered from mental illness in the past, I know people need more than a retweet.

I am happy that this topic is reaching beyond the shadows and getting some publicity. I am seeing people like Chris Nihmey and Laurie Azzi who are doing really important work on social media getting out the message that people need to talk. This is essential and I think their work could actually save lives.

What we need is more people entering this dialogue in a really meaningful way. I remember what it was like to be a struggling educator with serious mental health concerns. I did reach out to people when I was suffering from debilitating anxiety. In all cases, at work at least, my efforts to reach out were rebuffed.

In one case that I have written about before, I told a superintendent that undue stress was a trigger for anxiety. Incredibly, my honest admission was ignored.

Very fortunately for me when I reached out at home, I was understood and loved. That has made all the difference.

I learned a lot from my own mental health struggles and I am better for what I went through. I do however struggle with those in places of authority who are still unable to be empathetic when it comes to the people who work for them.

I have never called out the superintendent that was so insensitive to my own admissions and I won’t do it now. I only hope that they have learned something in the past few years. I hope they have learned a certain degree of empathy.

I am adding a Twitter Moment to this post. It is part of an incredible conversation on Twitter on the need for empathy amongst educators for educators. There are some pretty stark posts included here. I really hope that by writing these tweets, people have found some healing and understanding.

Good that there is a day of awareness. We still have a lot of growing to do.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The IWitness Challenge: Make the World Stronger than Hate

I don’t usually post from one blog to another, but today is the exception. This is such a good learning opportunity for students and educators I just had to put my Discovery Education post on this blog. If you are an educator, I really encourage you to examine this creative opportunity.

Educators have a powerful opportunity to educate and inspire students to make change now.

The 2018 IWitness Video Challenge, created by USC Shoah Foundation and in partnership with Discovery Education, provides an actionable way to promote equality, challenge bias, discuss tolerance, and engage students in a service-learning project that inspires action.

I Witness Viseo Challenge

The people in charge of developing partnerships for Discovery education are to be applauded. At a time where hate and divisiveness are part of our daily dialogue, Discovery Education is showing true leadership by encouraging the opposite – hope. They are doing this in the best way possible, by putting out a challenge to young people, the ones who will create a better world sometime soon.

This is not a partnership I know anything about.  All the more reason to write about it here and learn with all of you.

The USC Shoah Foundation is an incredible organization and they offer a wonderful teaching tool for students and educators. The Foundation is linked to the Institute for Visual History and Education which is dedicated to making audio-visual interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides. It is the perfect partner for Discovery Education.

The contest calls for community action in a similar way to the newly launched STEM Connectseries. Discovery Education is again showing their unique ability to go beyond their own walls to reach out and link the classroom with the outside world.

In this contest, students will listen to testimonies of survivors and witnesses of genocide and become inspired to counter hate. They will complete research-based and standards-aligned activities, culminating in a community action project. To compete in the Video Challenge, students will document their work in a video essay, which will share their message with the world.

I Witness Video Challenge

When I see things like this I truly wish I was back in the classroom!

There is more being written recently about banning cell phones from classrooms and the addictive effects of social media. I can see how this will go, with more calls from people who really don’t understand social media for its banning in schools.

Incredible contests and partnerships like this really need to be promoted so that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Social media using curated resources like Discovery Education can empower and transform our students and then, hopefully, transform a society that is suffering from way too much distrust and negativity.

Prizes for students reach as high as $5000 scholarships and participating schools are eligible for grants up to $2500.

It is really easy to sign up for the video challenge. The steps are outlined here. As always with Discovery Education partnership projects, there is an excellent teacher’s guide that you can see and download here.

I hope you can sign up your class for this unique challenge. We need more hope and we need to push back and create beautiful things!

 

The Proust Questionnaire for Educators

Last night we tried something a little different for our Voiced Radio broadcast – First Hand Stories. Heather had the idea of doing the Proust Questionnaire for educators. You may have heard of the Proust Questionnaire on CBC Radio. The real questions are below and are certainly more meaningful and weighty than ours. But, our last broadcast was a bit heavy so we wanted to do something light.

The idea behind the original questionnaire was to reveal your true nature. Could our edition reveal the true nature of the educator? I’m not sure, but I have included our 15-minute broadcast below so you can decide.

Our Proust Questionnaire for Educators 
  1. Indoor or outdoor duty
  2. Keurig or drip coffee maker
  3. Online or paper assessments
  4. Whole summer or stretched out in increments
  5. Mr. D – funny or not funny?
  6. Hockey or soccer?
  7. Blogging or podcasting?
  8. Bluegrass or jazz?
  9. Staff meetings in the morning or after school?
  10. Favourite month of the school year?
  11. If you were a school mascot what would you be?
  12. Muffins or doughnuts at a staff meeting?
  13. What superhero would make the best teacher?
  14. Snow days – good or bad?

If you want to see the originals you can see them here.

On Becoming Groundless

When near the end of day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been, or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of darkness.

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”

You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.

Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here in your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

from: “To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue. Pub in 2008 by Doubleday.

I wanted to start this post with all of John O’Donohue’s piece on groundlessness. To put just a portion of this great piece in this post would be an injustice.

It is a good time to write about groundlessness. Not just because of the time of year where everything is blurred by indistinct light and frigid temperatures, but because being groundless is a quality of the human existence.

We don’t always understand the necessity of becoming groundless and it certainly makes us uncomfortable. But, being uncomfortable and feeling the ground shift beneath our feet is an essential ingredient we need if we are going to learn and grow as thinking human beings.

As for me, I think I have a few reasons for feeling groundless.

I am a year into retirement. I have gone from someone who was totally engaged in my job as a school administrator to someone who is now cut off from my former community. I feel that what once gave me value has disappeared. This is OK, I think that I made the false assumption that being an education leader gave me some value and importance. This can be wiped away very quickly, especially if you are someone who was a bit of a fly in the ointment.

While it is a difficult decision to cut yourself off, I am convinced it was very wise to take this step.

I am in the process of remaking myself. It is very hard to do, but I am learning in the process. Writers and philosophers like John O’Donohue and Pema Chodron believe that we learn best in the times of discomfort or even crisis. I truly believe this. We need to go through the times where the ground is not steady, where our reference points are blurred.

To avoid doing this is to avoid learning and experiencing.