Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Learning, On Vacation: The First Lesson

Last week, we were on a mid-winter, planned-supposedly-to-save-fuel-vacation-from-school.  We left in a puff of smoke as the guns filled with deicing gases did their jobs to make take off safe.
We landed in "another world" where the sunshine burned our necks and happily stripped off layers to reveal short sleeve shirts!

We hiked a long, long, long time to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on day one.  Then, we hiked a very long, long, long, long time back to the rim at the top on the next day.  I have so, so many small moments (posts) to share about the trip (It's a good thing we are on the edge of SOL month) but with re-entry into life challenges and stacks of mid-term papers to grade, I will share just one small "learning" from our many hours of hiking.

Do you remember those "bad girls" from HS? You know the ones who "put down" those of us who were less than perfect?  The ones who said things to make themselves look/feel better? Well, guess what, they are still out there.  They are still in the Grand Canyon.  Let me explain.

So we were halfway up on our return 10 mile trip up the steep and treacherous canyon when we met up with a forest ranger named "Betsy."  My hiking partner had sprained her ankle on the way down and we were taking our time. Slow and steady had been our motto.  We had taken our time on the way down, too.  We were keeping a slow but steady pace, at least in my opinion.

 "You don't look like you are going to make it," she said behind a mask ostensibly to keep the dust out of her face.  "You should plan to stay at the rest stop near me," she said, "you'll never make it out at the pace you are going. I will be back in 3-4 hours to check on you and find a tent.  You will never make it out at the pace you are going"

We really were taken back by her comments.  We did the math and made some plans as we ate a focused lunch.  Then, one of our bunk-house-mates,from the night before, who was also headed out of the canyon, on the same trail, and eating lunch nearby commented, "You are listing to the left, that is not a good sign. I'm concerned for you."

We took their words and comments under advisement, but we also searched our own hearts and souls.  Yes we could make it, ONE FOOT, and THEN THE OTHER, was the way out of the canyon and back to our old lives.  We headed north through the long and seemingly endless switchbacks out of the canyon and into the world of shoe-wearing-souvenir-buying-Grand Canyon sunset observers.  It took us a bit longer than others, but we made it, one step at a time.

The lesson, one of many I took from the Canyon, is this: Our words are mighty powerful weapons. We can use them to encourage or discourage, praise or purge, support or discourage. While the images of the Canyon are etched into our memories, Betsy's words will not be forgotten either.  Truth be told, we probably pushed ourselves to prove her wrong!

I will never tell a student he/she is half done.  I will ask them instead,, "How are you doing? Can I help you in any way?"  I don't think the IRS will let this one slide through (so I won't bother trying to take a tax deduction for the trip), but I really did learn something(s) on vacation! Just like in the Tortoise and the Hare, slow and steady wins the race.  We made it -one foot and then the other, one switch back and then another, all the way to the top as the sun set on the Arizona desert. We made it in spite of the words that were used as weapons, one foot and then the other, before the sun set on the canyon.


Michelle said...

Well, she didn't sound too encouraging! I'm quite surprised! Trying to be a know-it-all? Perhaps she thought she was being helpful? We'll never know for sure, but bravo to you two for pushing forward! Slow and steady was the right way to go!

Cathy Skubik said...

"You don't look like you are going to make it," she said behind a mask ostensibly to keep the dust out of her face. " Oh, that is good. What was her mask really about? I love that! I really enjoyed this post- it spoke to me. That voice is always there isn't it? The one that says we can't, maybe from the mean girl, maybe from our own insecurities. And the other one is there too. The one that says first one step, then the other. The only way to go. Thanks for the reminder.