My grade 8s have a very exciting year end trip coming up! In a few weeks all the grade 8s in our school will head out on a paddling and camping trip, which they have been preparing for since January. Our school is incredibly lucky in that we are situated right on the ocean – some classrooms even have a pretty sweet view – allowing us easy access to the water. Our school is also incredibly lucky to have two very dedicated teacher leaders who have taken on and developed the Big Canoe program over the last few years. Check out last year’s trip!
It’s been an interesting experience hearing about all the prep my grade 8s have been doing because indeed they are not only “my grade 8s” – I share them with my teaching partner, Amy. Most canoe prep days have taken place on Amy’s work days, not mine, so it has been easy for me to be far removed from the program. That said, in the last two weeks our final paddling “training” days have taken place on MY work days and I definitely cannot complain!
Admittedly, most of my work days are filled with meetings before and after school and during breaks, two massive handfuls of behaviour issues, a handful of parent/staff emails to send, a handful of pencils to dish out (because while we can be prepared for canoeing, we are never prepared for math!), a handful of extra photocopying to do…you know what I’m saying? There isn’t a lot of time to kick back and breathe in the glory that is these last few weeks of grade 8 with my students. These last few weeks are precious. Nerves are uncertain and sometimes behaviours come out stronger than ever (and with every behaviour being a form of communication, my goodness…So. Much. Communicating). The end of grade 8 is full of transition days to high school, final IEP meetings with families, ceremony prep galore, wrapping up assignments, report card writing, class party planning, field trips…it’s busy times.
Our days on the water these last few weeks have provided me with one calming thought:
No pencils, no papers, no problems.
During these last few weeks I’ve witnessed my (our) grade 8s work together in ways I thought were unimaginable back in November. I’ve seen the struggling learners be leaders in the canoes. I’ve seen my “usual crew” rise up and build shelters, row in sync with one another, and share chocolate treats with their friends. I’ve seen the more reserved and reluctant students shine brightly as their confidence on the water grows. There is just so much learning that happens out there with 13 bodies crammed into one canoe – we have no pencils, we have no papers, and we truly have no problems. It’s beautiful.
I think, for me, the icing on the cake was being present with some of my students and staff at a recent town hall meeting where our canoe program was presented to local politicians. Three of my students stood up to speak about how the canoe program has impacted them and influenced their learning. Things like teamwork, resilience, creativity and perseverance were brought forward. As I sat in the (very small) audience my teacher heart glowed with pride for these brave, young people who spoke truth about their learning outside of the classroom and who brought the importance of our school’s canoe program to attention with their testimonies.
I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have in store for these incredible kids!