Lessons learned while climbing Kilimanjaro

On Mt. Kilimanjaro, we climbed for 8 days, usually 6-8 hours a day, not including the 16-hour summit day.

That gives a climber lots of time to think.

Now that I am back in Canada, I am trying to put together some of the lessons I have learned while on the climb. There are several I am mulling over now, I am sure there will be more later.

First, take risks. Its a short life and it is very easy to get caught up in the comfortable routine of everyday life. I sincerely believe that you need to be looking for the risks out there that will make you a stronger person, that will help your school, that will enhance learning and that ultimately will stretch you out of the comfort zones we all enjoy too much.

For me, I needed to get out of the destructive cycle of work and I needed to challenge myself physically and spiritually. In some ways, I needed to find some way to cleanse myself from the corporate education world. Bitterness and cynicism were seeping in and I needed a totally new challenge to break a destructive cycle. Climbing the highest mountain in Africa seemed to be the ticket.

The Barranco Wall – looking down

If you are not taking risks, what are you doing? What are you waiting for? Why are you wasting your time waiting for something to happen – nothing will unless you make it happen.

Second, your body is your vehicle. I have taken part in some challenging physical ventures over the years. As a youth, I planted trees in the mountains of British Columbia. Later, I ran marathons and more recently, I took part in bike touring events stretching over two days and over 300 Km.

What I learned from these experiences and again on Kilimanjaro was that without a well-maintained body I was going nowhere. I trained hard for six months to build up my muscles and lung capacity, I was careful about what I ate, I drank up to 6 litres of water every day on the mountain. All of this because I wasn’t going to make it if my body shut down – it was the only way I was going to summit.

This is a great thing. We really don’t have to depend on our bodies very much. We may appreciate them more when we get sick, but generally, we live a pretty sedentary life and we make few demands on our bodies. It is liberating to turn your focus on your own body and see it as the only vehicle that will help you reach your goals. I appreciate my body more now and am committed to keeping it in good shape to be ready for the next challenge.

Tough morning of steep climbing on the way to Shira Camp

Third, what is your social mission? We are all connected and many of us in the Global North are very privileged. So when choosing a venture or a project, ask yourself what is the social good I am creating as part of this project. For us, this was easy, each of us was connected to a charity through the Dream Mountains Foundation.

If I ever do this again (I can’t believe I just wrote that), I will do it because the expedition will allow me to give back to the community – in my case the Sens Foundation.  Everything we do is social and everything we do should have some social good attached to it. When I worked at my last school, all our projects were designed around the idea of helping students and families that did not have the same opportunities as most of us enjoy. All of the Dream Mountains charities try to address this imbalance.

Finally, listen to people who know what they are talking about. As a principal, it was easy to disregard the advice I received from many people. Part of this was plain arrogance, part of this was based on the fact that I didn’t always receive very good advice that could help our students and our school – very few people at the district level had a good understanding of the roadblocks to progress that existed for our children.

So, it is important to discern. Who has valuable advice. Who is motivated to work with you to make you and others successful? This is a challenging process and you may be disappointed – many times over. Having said this, there are good, wise people out there who will work with you and will ensure that you are successful.

On Kilimanjaro, we had three people like this – Shawn Dawson, Kristi Johnston and Jason Colley – our Canadian guides. Each of these people consistently gave us all important advice that prepared us for this incredible climb and that protected us on the mountain. I can’t say I always liked their advice, but they were right, they were experienced and most importantly they knew how to lead people – a very rare commodity in my opinion.

I can say I listened to them, I took their advice and I have immense respect for all three of them. In your own ventures and work, try to seek out people like this, people you can really trust who will not let you down.

If you are a leader, try and do this yourself. Don’t disappoint the people who work with you. Strive to give them advice that will empower them and help them grow.

Make sure they make it to the top of their mountain.

Our Dream Mountains Team at the beginning of the climb

23 Days Until Kilimanjaro!

Every week, I have been putting out an e-mail note to the wonderful group that is supporting me.  Here is the text of my latest note.
There are now 23 days until our group leaves for Africa!
some of the group on one of our training treks in the Gatineau
We have all our gear and the training continues to go well.  This past Sunday I climbed ten sets (31 floors) in a new time – 1 hour and 51 minutes.  This may not seem all that interesting, but for us this is huge.  The only way to prepare for this climb is to get in the best physical shape possible.  There is no way to prepare for the lack of oxygen at the higher altitudes, you just have to work on what you can control.
heart and respiration rates on the stairs
We all continue to fundraise, which to me is the truly unique feature of this experience.  We are now over $165,000 for this year and over one million raised since 2011.
Many of you have contributed to this total and I thank-you for being active participants in this wonderful venture.
Together, we have raised $8695.00 for Rec Link and the Sens Foundation.  Well over the new goal set at $8000.00,  thanks to some really generous recent donations.
All this money goes to kids, so if you haven’t donated yet please consider making a contribution on my fundraising page.  You will automatically receive a tax receipt from Canada Helps for 2017.
Recently, I have been working on learning Adobe Premier Pro and have a new video out that shows some of the training we have done this year.  I will keep working on my film-making skills over the next few weeks.  You can see our latest video, Trekking to Kilimanjaro here.
 
This video will be added to our ESRI Story Map that also contains a 3D map of Mt. Kilimanjaro which we hope to use to show our progress up the mountain.
layers can be added to this ESRI map so students should be able to track us up the mountain

This is what tracking looks like – here, a variety of hikes in the Gatineau


For teachers who are part of this list, I hope you will have a chance to follow us through the Story Map starting March 30th.  I will be posting photos, video, text and our route to the Story Map whenever possible.
Thanks to my technical assistant, Liam McGuire for helping to make this possible and interesting for your students.
The link to follow me live using the InReach tool is https://share.garmin.com/PaulMcGuire
Currently, the page looks like this.
When a student clicks on one of the waypoints on the map, they will receive information on elevation, latitude, longitude and bearing.
I am really looking forward to sharing all this with you.  This is a venture we all will take part in.
 

34 Days to Go!!

Now we are getting close!!

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This is the 3D map I will be using to track my progress on InReach – the map should get updated every day of the climb.
 
34 days until we depart for the climb and $820.00 away from making it to our goal of $8000.00 for Rec Link. That’s just $24.11 a day to make it! If you haven’t donated yet – please click below and make a contribution to help kids here in Ottawa.
 
Here is the link:  http://bit.ly/2bwIrnT
 
Here is the link to find me on the mountain using the INReach site – https://share.garmin.com/PaulMcGuire
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Either way, this will be as interactive as I can make it – if you follow the journey, please make sure you are a true partner in this venture by making a donation for kids in Ottawa.
 
Really looking forward to sharing this with you and at the same time making a significant contribution to a really effective agency here in Ottawa
 
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You don’t climb without support Blog Post # 9

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As I get ready for our big fundraiser for the Sens Foundation next week and look beyond this to the Kilimanjaro climb, I decided to write those who are supporting this great effort.  To date, we have raised $4385.00 and over 70 people have signed up already for next week’s event.  Here is my note to them.
Hello everyone
You are receiving this e-mail either because you have donated to my Dream Mountains charity – the Sens Foundation or because I just want to keep you informed on our progress as we get ready for the Kilimanjaro climb at the end of March.
First, to all those who have contributed, I want to thank you so much for your support.  We now have raised $4385.00 and have sold 75  tickets for next week’s fundraiser/retirement party.
You can still get tickets by going to our ‘donate now’ page.  Everyone who donates $25.00 gets a ticket and a tax receipt from Canada Helps.  Here is the link
There is still time to donate, even if you can’t make it to the gala, we are aiming at reaching $6000.00 for Rec LINK (through the SENs Foundation) before the end of next week.
I have also been working hard on a few sites that I hope will help tell the story of the climb.
First, there is my blog that I am using more as a journal on preparations for Kilimanjaro.  It has a new look and a new title to better reflect the current purpose for the blog.
I also have two story maps, both have their strengths, and I am using both as a way to tell our story as it unfolds.  Both get updated weekly and they act as a running record of the Dream Mountain experience.
The first is Our Canadian Kilimanjaro Journey – a story map from ESRI
The new one is from Sutori, a great new tool.  This one is simply called Our Kilimanjaro Journey
This one includes an on-line forum so students (and adults!) can ask questions about the trip, training or anything else that people may be interested in.  This is very new to me, I hope this is one way to engage students.
I also have a site called Kuula where I will be putting photos from my 360 Theta camera. There is not much there now, but I will add more photos, especially as we climb Kilimanjaro. You can find this site here.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me.  I hope to see lots of you next week at our fundraiser – January 27th at Fatboys in the Market.
Paul

Time to Go to Work! Blog Post # 3

Every Sunday, I try to read Brain Pickings. I used to read this to find something I could add to my staff blog. That is over now, but I still need to write and share. This quote from Marcus Aurelius seemed to be a great way to start as we all head back to some form of work.

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At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

Marcus Aurelius – as read in Brain Pickings

Now is my time to redefine what it means to work.  This is my first day without a formal ‘job’ in over 31 years.  How I will define work will have to change.

There is plenty of ideas to fill the gap – no problem.

First, I pledged to do 31 posts in 31 days.  This was to be the first real posting day, but I snuck in a few earlier.  There is also the great challenge put out by AJ Juliani to blog for 30 days. Signed up for that too #30daysblogging.

That could be enough work to get me started, but I have also taken on a different challenge.  I will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with a great group of adventurers at the end of March.  I am doing this because I need to break out and take on a physical challenge.  The climb also allows me to raise money for the Ottawa Senators Foundation – a group that does amazing work for our kids here in Ottawa.

my logo for the climb
my logo for the climb

No pressure, but if you want to donate to my charity (goal $6000.00) you can give on-line here.

This is my main work for the next three months.

I will also work on learning and reflecting on what I have experienced as an educator over the past 31 years.  The more distance I get from my conventional job the easier – I think – it will be for me to reflect, learn and of course write.  This blog will actually help me to focus my learning.  There are so many directions I can go in now that I am finally freed from my daily work obligations.  This blog may help me to focus on a few learning goals that I can move through over the next few months.

For today, an eight-kilometre hike in -30 C conditions.  A good start, I think for the first new day of learning.

Climbing Kilimanjaro Post # 1

As my first of 31 posts in 31 days, it makes sense to start with future plans.  This blog is names ‘Teach Talk’ and this has been my main vehicle to write about education issues and projects.  This really is no different, the trip to Kilimanjaro will raise money for kids in our school neighbourhood, helping them to get involved in recreation programming in their neighbourhood.  I also plan to use different forms of communication technology to reach back into the classrooms that I can link to.

So, here is #1 – the beginning of the next adventure.

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Hello Everyone!!

In 95 days, I will be setting out on a brand new adventure.  I will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with a wonderful group of Adventurers led by Shawn Dawson.

I am writing this post for a  variety of reasons.  Some of you have already donated on my fundraising page – thanks so much!  I am already at 48% of my goal of $5000.00.  All this money will go to the Sens Foundation and then directly to Rec Link – a wonderful organization that supports kids and families in the Dalhousie, Ottawa Center West neighbourhoods.  I want to thank all of you for helping me get half way there!

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For you and all future supporters, I created this email group so I can let you know how the climb goes.  I have invested in all sorts of communication technology that I will use to connect to students in schools.  My main platform to tell our story is produced by ESRI and you can access it here.  This is a work in progress and I want to publically thank ESRI for all the wonderful support they have given me.

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Finally, I am looking for your support.  You can join us for our January 27th (Friday) Gala Fundraiser Retirement Party (see above).  Tickets are $25.00 and if you register on-line, we will get tickets to you and you will get a tax receipt!

This promises to be a wonderful night with live music and a great silent auction.

Many of you have supported me on past projects like the Aviva Community Foundation – you are a great, dynamic group that in the past has allowed me to raise $140,000.00 for St. Anthony School.  Now, I would love you to join me on this great adventure and contribute to a really important organization.

Thanks so much for reading this and for your support!!

 

Paul