By Mr Ian Croger (Acting Headmaster)
It was the second day of our Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition. A group of Silver and Bronze level students had hiked down to the Shoalhaven River near Bungonia (not far from Marulan). Ahead of us was a steep four kilometre hike out of the valley to finish the expedition. During our Sunday devotion, I had delivered a ‘team’ talk to the students regarding safety and about the challenges they would face during their ascent to the top. The group then headed up the track with some of the staff and I was at the rear to ensure everybody was ahead of me and that no one had taken the wrong track.
Within 100 metres I came across a Year 9 student who was sobbing. Through the tears and the sobs I
discovered that ‘she couldn’t possibly continue, it was too hard and that I should just have to leave her there’. After explaining that I couldn’t do that and she was too heavy for us to carry her out, she suggested I call the rescue helicopter. She assured me her parents would be willing to pay for the helicopter.
My earlier ‘team’ talk focused on the challenges of the hike being similar to the challenges we sometimes face in real life. At times we feel overwhelmed and unable to deal with situations – it all seems too much. I explained that a steep climb can seem overwhelming and that it is a mental battle as well as a physical battle to complete. The advice to remember is to set smaller achievable goals (small steps), push through – ‘Just Do It’ (I call it the Nike principle) and gain support from the people around you.
I had linked my talk to the devotion, suggesting that in difficult situations we can ask for help and we are rarely alone. In many cases the people that can support us are parents, other family members, teachers and friends. They will walk with us in difficult times. I informed them that Christians believe that Jesus also walks with us. If we accept him into our lives, then He is with us in good times and in difficult times. The problem is we often will only talk to Him when we need help.
Prayer is a powerful way of communicating with God. We may think our prayers will go unanswered or find that the answer we receive is not what we expect. We don’t always understand the bigger picture of God’s plan. Nevertheless, great comfort and strength can come from prayer, the sense that we are not alone and there is someone with us during the difficult times who can share the load.
We didn’t need to carry her or call the rescue helicopter. After a short rest and a reminder about my ‘team talk’ we decided to start together. She was able to complete the hike by:
- Setting achievable goals – we would identify a tree, rock or some other feature 100 metres or so up the track and walk to that point, then pick another feature and walk to that. Small steps and breaking down the huge hill into manageable sections.
- Encouraging her to push through the difficulties and realise she was making progress.
- Sharing the load. We didn’t pray this time but re-distributed her tent to my pack. We walked together. Some way up the hill she caught up with a group of her friends, who were also struggling, and she completed the hike with them. They supported one another – a shared experience.
Her sense of achievement, fulfilment and relief after completing the hike was huge. She was really pleased that she was able to overcome the challenge and finish.
The Duke of Edinburgh program teaches students unique skills, encourages self-sufficiency, develops
resilience and shapes the character of participants. These are all part of life lessons and part of the
‘Second Education’ we offer at the College.
Dr Quarmby returns next week and I will be taking five weeks Long Service Leave.
Thank you to Ms Huxtable who will continue in her role as Acting Deputy Headmaster and to Mrs Reid who will continue in the role of Acting Director of Teaching and Learning T-6.