Unplug’d 11

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 12.17.36 PMDid you ever go to summer camp? Do you remember the bus ride home? Everyone is quiet, reflective, sad to be leaving. And then the unavoidable tears as final good-byes are said.

Why does this happen at camp and yet not after conferences in hotels, nor after traveling with teams?

What is it about the environment of summer camp that concretes bonds so strong you want the moment to never end?

I ask because I just spent the weekend camping with some of the best mentors there are. Even though I was stunned like a deer caught in headlights for most of the weekend I am going through the same feelings I faced at the end of every summer of camping as a child.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 12.17.54 PMUnplug’d was a weekend adventure for 37 Canadian educators (K- post secondary). We began the adventure at Union Station Toronto taking the train to South River where we made our way via bike or hike to the off-the-grid resort Northern Edge Algonquin (NEA). While at NEA we worked in small groups to write and edit pieces discussing what we believe matters in education. The remainder of the weekend was spent telling stories while swimming, canoeing, relaxing and eating. These stories were powerful examples of all things important in education. Often moving us to tears we found common threads and values in our stories, solidifying bonds between the educators.Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 12.18.42 PM

On that reflective bus ride home I started to think about how I ended up there. I’ve always valued innovation and networking in education, but how did I end up collaborating with THIS amazing group of educators? Then I remembered. It was because of Rodd Lucier. I had been stalking twitter for awhile following educators. Then a few years ago he asked a question on twitter that grabbed my attention. When I get passionate about something, I break free from the comfort zone of watching things go on around me. I was enraged enough to answer him (not enraged at him, just about the topic of discussion). Then began the prompts. “Put more info in your profile so we know who you are”. “You need to share that with other people”. “See, I told you good things happen when you share”. And, of course, he was right! 🙂 The more I shared, the more connections I made. The more I learned. The more comfortable I became taking risks in my own learning. Confident enough to participate in the discussions. Thank you Rodd.
At times during this weekend my natural instinct to sit back and watch came back. I wish I asked more questions. I wish I asked a lot more questions. I also avoided telling my story on camera. Reflecting back on Rodds words “good things happen when you share”, I’m going to tell my story here. This is the story of how I came to believe that supportive relationships are the foundation of learning. Learners require many positive relationships in their educational career. Supporting folks in the way Rodd and many others have supported me in taking some risk.
Jacs unplug’d 2011 story by jaccalder

The funny thing is, many teachers believe we have little control over the things that can “cause” students to be unsuccessful in our classes. Yet, we have control over the one thing that has the biggest impact on their success – our relationships with them.

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*keep your eye open for the release of the writing produced this weekend

17 Replies to “Unplug’d 11”

  1. Thank-you for sharing this story, Jaclyn. The students you spoke of in your story were clearly in “their zone”, passionate about backcountry canoe tripping (I can relate:) ). I love the reference to how they looked out for you. Very sweet, and a testament to your connection to them.
    What also stood out, is the role that the typical leaders (their peers) played, as they stepped back, and let these boys lead. That’s an important skill for any leader to master. Step back and listen.
    Great lesson.

    1. Thanks Heather,
      I hadn’t thought of it from that point of view. I agree, it’s very important for leaders to step back and let others lead. Similar to teaching. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  2. I had the pleasure of hearing this story the first time and I am so glad that you took the time to record it. It touched me then as it much as it does now. I hope that over time you will share how your community is so much a part of your school and its curriculum.

    1. Hi Lorna!
      I will certainly write a post and tell some stories of how the various schools I’ve worked in have involved the community. It is so near and dear to my heart I would love to share it. Thanks for the prompt! All the things we’ve done seem so small and insignificant among themselves, but after watching/getting your response to some of my other stories about community involvement I realized that they add up to quite a lot.
      A couple years back I wrote this letter to our local paper about community school partnerships: http://teachercalder.ca/2009/12/19/community-schools-are-where-its-at/

  3. Hey Jac,
    What a thoughtful post here Jackie. What resonated most for me was your emphasis on relationships. “Learners require many positive relationships in their educational career”, you said. And I think that we all got an authentic taste of that, didn’t we? You also mention that our stories, are what made us find the common threads, and find those connections. It certainly helps to seen the power of connections, not just between people, but between stories too. That is what gave many of us the fuel.
    Jackie, I saw you sitting and thinking and watching and you seemed totally and fully engaged, but you pointed out that you tended to “sit back and watch”, wishing that you asked more questions. I wonder, aren’t we all in different places when it comes to sharing and asking? Don’t we all have different comfort zones and readiness levels? I wonder if it was the “sitting back and listening” that gave you the desire to share openly now?
    Do we sometimes need more time to process these conversations. In this case, the time, the technology and the connections let you do so – and many others of us.
    Would you have done anything differently next time?
    Thanks for sharing.


    1. Hi there Zoe,
      Thanks for the comment 🙂 I was certainly 100% engaged. I may often seem distant and disengaged, but it is rarely the case. I just think instead of talking things out. So yes, I agree – different readiness levels and processing times for sharing just like our students. As for what I would do differently next time? haha, to be honest, likely not much knowing myself… I would however, try to ask more questions and specifically ask to hear more peoples stories (from other groups).

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I had the pleasure of hearing the short version on the last day as we ate lunch and regret not spending more time with you over the weekend. Too little time. This post fills in some powerful details.

    I’m so glad that you started sharing and that we connected at the Edge. Yes, there is something magical that happens at a summer camp. People connect in ways that they don’t when they are in their routines, when they are in an institutional setting. I lived it at summer camp as a child and later returned to work on-site and up north leading canoe trips. I think the more we depend on each other and work together, the stronger our bonds are. I need to process this a bit more, and to think about that group of boys you worked with, but I wanted to respond to your post now and let you know that it resonated with me too.

    Glad we “glamped,”

    1. Thanks Tom,
      I agree – too little time. I hadn’t understood your connection to tripping until that last day and wish I could have heard more stories. I read somewhere yesterday, among the mass of media we have all created since returning, that canoe tripping was your “nirvana”. I completely understand this. Working hard all day for everything you need (shelter, food, travel, water) builds bonds like no other. It is also the perfect balance between small group silliness and conversation and the quiet reflection that comes only with pure exhaustion. Conversation is never forced, silence is valued, stories flow naturally. The risk involved in canoe tripping requires that you trust or learn to trust each other knowing that you need them and vice versa.
      Here’s a thought – educator canoe trips :). Sharing our stories.
      Thanks again for the comment!

      1. Yes, I know exactly what you mean about the team bonding that occurs on the trail. I loved watching the groups I was guiding come together over 5-7 days in the bush. Love the smell of the first fire, coffee, mist on the lake.

        At the closing circle I mentioned that I felt most grounded soloing a canoe. To combine that experience with a pan-Canadian summit on education, to connect with such caring and passionate educators was … well, … nirvana, ….

        Few other unpluggers have talked about a canoe trip. I’d love to try that with a small cohort of 8 or so. My only proviso – I want a cedar-strip – unless we plan on shooting some rapids 😉

  5. I am one of those that admire from afar and learn so much from others sharing. A goal for this up coming year is to share more – in my school,PLC’s, my blog and twitter (the best PD anywhere).

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Tara,
      You’ve made my day 🙂 Thanks. I checked out your class blog. Awesome! When you share this upcoming year, will it be on your class blog, or do you have another one you share on? If so, please send me the link on twitter @jaccalder. Thanks! Look forward to hearing more about your classroom and your students blogging adventures. 🙂

  6. I loved hearing your voice when you were telling your story Jac, thank you so much for sharing it so that we could all hear it. I also appreciated reading the comments and conversation that flowed from your post.

    Relationships do matter and listening, sharing and connecting are what nourish relationships and deepen them. I’m thankful for connecting on the weekend and getting to know you better after getting to know you online. It’s the connections and relationships that we have online that will keep us motivated and moving forward until the next time we get to meet face to face. 🙂

  7. Jaclyn,
    It has been wonderful to see you discover the value in sharing your voice over the past 18 months. Your story of a community of student learners, mirrors what I saw in evidence at Northern Edge.

    Beginning with your participation at the UnPlug’d welcome desk, you modeled the acts of your students in ‘looking after one another’. I hope the first hand connections will continue to fuel your learning and your sharing for many years to come.

  8. Jaclyn,
    Thank you for sharing your story here. It was great to finally meet you F2F.

    I can totally relate to the bus-ride home after summer camp. My bus-ride from “youth camp” down Highway 69 back to Sudbury each day was 30 minutes. And I remember spending those 30 minutes thinking about all the adventures I was part of that day, and couldn’t wait to be back on the bus in the morning again. I must say, that’s exactly how I felt leaving the Edge. When we were travelling back from the Edge (by truck), none of us were eager to turn our i-devices back onto the networked world. I think we were trying to savour each and every moment together without the distractions.

    Thank you for sharing a part of you with us. Our online connection will be stronger because of it.

  9. Jaclyn,

    I loved reading and listening! I was most touched by your reflection on space. What is it about the encounter with natural space that affects us so deeply. Is there something about the answer that could be brought to life more fully in our schools, or will this always be a “retreat” type of experience?

    Enjoyed reading this, and have enjoyed your comments since!


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