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: Photo of the Day Ausangate Mountain

Ausangate Mountain by Peruvian Mountains https://www.flickr.com/photos/55373852@N03/

 

Ausangate mountain itself is considered a holy mountain (or mountain spirit) by local Peruvians and is the deity of Cusco. Since pre-Inca times the mountain has been a place of worship and offerings and this tradition continues today.

Ausangate Trek – Complete Guide to the Highest Trek in Peru

I think our trek will be dominated by Ausangate Mountain. We hike around the mountain and at 6372 m, we trek to its base but we do not climb it. It is one of the highest mountains in Peru and is certainly a challenging technical climb.

It is interesting to watch the videos that have been made about the trek around Ausangate. This is high altitude and you can hear this in the videos. Breathing is laboured and trekkers take it slow.

The passes on the trek are beautiful and daunting as you can see in the video below. The highest, the Palomani Pass is at 5200 m.

One big difference from the video above is that we will be staying in tambos or lodges which will be great after challenging days trekking. The video is good however as it gives a more gritty look at what the trekking will probably be like.

There is no question that training will be essential for this trip. Referring back again  the Complete Guide:

The trek is classified as grade C which means the trek is fairly long and many sections are at high altitude. You’ll need a good level of fitness and stamina as you’ll be trekking over many steep sections in which the altitude changes significantly over a short space of time.

Thanks to Merit Travel for many of the beautiful images over the past few days. The trip is coming closer every day and it is great to see more of what we will be experiencing as a group this August.

If you are reading this and want to come on the trip, just write a comment on this post and I will get in touch with you.

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!

 

Who Monitors Education in Ontario?

Trustees have a fundamental duty to rebuild the essential democratic linkages between citizens and board employees, who are in essence public servants. How to do that, is a fundamental question to all those that aspire to elected office.

Four Questions Ottawa Citizens Should Ask Before Voting for Their New School Trustees

Education is political and to forget this can lead to fundamental problems on how the system is run and managed in Ontario and other jurisdictions across the country.

In an excellent post this week, Four Questions Ottawa Citizens Should Ask Before Voting for Their New School Trustees, Dr Dragos Popa from the University of Ottawa has laid out four challenges for people running as public trustee in the 2018 Municipal elections. It would be a very good idea for all candidates to read this post and come up with clear answers to his challenges.

The public takes education for granted in this province. Unless you have a child in the system and even if you do have a child in the system, very few people have any sense of how public education is managed.

Even at the provincial level, there seems to be very little political will to seriously look at governance issues in public education. It seems that politicians and the public, in general, have surrendered up public scrutiny of the system to school board officials mainly because education is best left up to the experts.

This is a mistake and can lead to serious consequences. Dr Popa correctly points out that schools are nowhere nearly as ‘user-friendly’ as they should be. There is not the sense of public accountability that is more in evidence at the different levels of government. School officials are able to act with impunity because they know their actions are seldom challenged in the forum of public opinion.

To be fair, our education politicians are at a disadvantage. Years ago under Mike Harris, public education trustees salaries were discontinued, replaced with an honorarium as low as $5000.00 a year (The Fewer Schools Boards Act and the Toronto District School Board: Educational Restructuring 1997- 2003). School authority trustees are paid an honorarium at the same rate as was paid on December 1,1996 (Good Governance Guide, Ontario Public School Boards’ Association).

The problem with this is that politicians paid an honorarium cannot be expected to put in the time necessary to act as independent arbiters of school board staff policies and decisions. When it comes to governance issues in Ontario they simply do not play an effective role.

This may sound overly harsh, but it is not a criticism of the people who basically act as volunteers in the management of education in Ontario. I have worked as an unpaid board member before and I know that over time, a board member will become a ‘captive’ of management staff, the people responsible for supplying board members with the information they need to do their jobs.

This is a problem. Trustees are at best part-time employees of their school boards while the people they are charged with monitoring are full-time officials charged with maintaining a system that largely benefits these officials.

There is little public accountability in this system and there seems to be little interest in changing this dynamic. In fact, in a Globe and Mail article by Caroline Alphonso written in 2014 and updated in 2017, attempts by public school trustees in several school boards to raise their honorariums were reversed by the provincial government (Ontario orders school board trustees to cancel pay raises).

This leads me back to the original post by Dr Popa. He is correct in offering up important questions for new trustees to consider before the election, but do we have a system that actually encourages the necessary independence to actually challenge a system that is no longer accountable?

Is this a system that is truly public and accountable? Can we do better than this?