Friday, September 11, 2009

Letting Go / #2

Last night was our first night without our 11 year old son, eight more nights to go. I thought I'd share a letter from the principal emailed to the parents because it really describes how I was feeling. We parents, are feeling all the conflicting emotions described so well in his letter to us. As difficult as it is to let go, we have complete confidence in his teacher Karen and her colleagues and while we are experiencing considerable anxiety we know that this trip can not only transform our children's level of self-confidence, it will build a unique bond with the people they will be sharing the next two years with.

I will add the letters up dating the parents from the principal as I receive them...

His itinerary includes!
Parc Jacques Cartier
Saint Simeon
Gaspe Peninsula A ferry across Saint Lawrence River Whale watching!
Basecamp Parc Gaspesie Hiking climb Mont Ernest Laforce & Mont Jacques Cartier

(First letter) Dear Parents,

I am in daily contact with our junior high students and both Karen and I thought it would be helpful if I sent everyone a daily update. I’ve spoken to Karen both last night and again this morning. They set up camp about an hour north of Quebec City last night and enjoyed a picture perfect evening watching the sun set over the river. This morning they were treated to a catered breakfast and were getting ready for a day on the water in the new wet suits and kayaks. They will have a catered supper later today. This allows them 24 hours to get used to traveling before the attempt to both travel and prepare their own meals.

I know this is a big step for a lot of students and a lot of parents. I’m lucky enough to have had three girls...two of which went to KMS and now two of whom are off on their own. As a parent I know how gut wrenching it is to say goodbye. When I dropped my oldest daughter off at Humber two years on Labour day I found a fruit store that was open and bought fruit because my daughter had no food on a holiday if a 21 year old couldn’t find a Subway in Toronto. I realized I was just buying the fruit so I could go back to the residence and make sure she was OK. She was absolutely fine. Just like we leave toddlers at the classroom door when they are two...and we must someday drive away from them...the adolescent trip is a watershed event for all of us. Not all children are ready to let go at the same time...but what I know from experience is that children often surprise us at their maturity and determination when we give them real life opportunities to demonstrate to us how strong they are.

Karen French has been doing this for over 15 years. We could not ask for a more experienced or compassionate person to have our young people travel with.
I’ll continue to send daily emails to everyone to keep everyone up to date. I told all the students when they were leaving that they may well learn more in the next nine days than they have learned in the last nine months....and that the lessons they learn are the kind of life lessons that are invaluable.

Another Letter(Sunday)...
Dear Parents,

Karen checked in again both Saturday night and again early Sunday morning. They have had another meaningful day before packing up and getting ready to head further up the north shore. The students took turns jumping into and “eddy” before being “saved” by other students further down the river who were waiting with ropes and floaters. What great experience, I thought, actually practicing how to save someone. Who knows when that life skill will literally be a life skill.

Karen mentioned that at this stage on the journey now the students have “settled in” and realize they still have several more days together. As we all know when we travel something happens at the midpoint that tells you “it’s more than half over”. They are not at that midpoint yet and that’s the value of longer keeps students in the moment and focused on the tasks for the day...rather than...oh in two days it’s over.

Karen also noted the dynamic this year is so much more valuable...with our grade eight leaders comforting the odd student who needs support. We are lucky to have someone like Karen who is willing to give up nine days with her own family and is driven by her own commitment to the program. As she keeps reminding me “our students need these opportunities to grow and mature and be given real challenges to solve, that’s what this trip is all about.

You’ll hear from me all again on Monday. We have been blessed so far with absolutely perfect all campers’s heaven in good weather...and something else in bad.

Another up-date Tuesday, just as I was becoming a tad nervous...

Dear Parents,

Karen called this morning. The students have arrived at the Chic Choc mountains as planned and were preparing to climb Mont Ernest Laforce today. It’s definitely turned cooler in the past 24 hours but everyone is still in good spirits. They found the Gaspe quite breathtaking and were amazed at how wide the St. Lawrence is at that point. I’ve been up both the north and south shore to “the end of the road” several times and you really do feel like it’s another world.
Karen will check in again tomorrow.

Count Down to Home begins is evident in this letter...(Thursday)

Dear Parents,

Karen checked in last night. They had just finished climbing the mountain and were rewarded by seeing a herd of caribou. With the temperature dropping I asked Karen if everyone was able to stay warm and she assured me that even the though the temperature was as low as zero during the night they all had good sleeping bags and were wearing lots of clothes to stay warm.

I’m sure at this point they are looking forward to their own beds and a home cooked meal. Correct me if I’m wrong...but they will return with a new appreciation of “home” and the comforts provided by the adults in that home.

Their last real day is today when they will come back to Quebec City and have more nights camping below the old city. When they study the early settlers camping along the St. Lawrence as they worked their way inland..they will have a good sense of what it must have felt like.

We expect them home about 4 pm tomorrow.

Last Update Heading Home (Friday!)

Dear Parents,

The last night of camping was relatively uneventful. Today the students just pack up and head for home. We are hoping they will be in by 4:00pm.I will touch base with the group once they actually depart. This will give us a better sense of their actual arrival time. If it’s going to be significantly different I will be sure to email everyone.

I’m sure everyone will be glad to be home...which was one of the objectives of the adventure. There will be lots of time to talk and for the students to digest their Odyssey. All that’s really important when they arrive is for them to know we are all glad they are back and that just finishing is a major accomplishment.

I know for almost everyone, this is the longest they have traveled with non family members...and it may well prove to the longest adventure of their life outside their immediate family. It will remain a peak experience for years to come...and when they contemplate a high school or university trip for a week to Europe in a few years they will just smile and say...”no big deal...I did a much more challenging trip back in grade seven & grade eight....and what...we are staying in hotels...sweet.”


Jonathan Robinson

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PhilipH said...

What an amazingly considerate principal teacher. It is always a worry when your children are in the care of another, especially for the very first time. It is both reassuring and comforting to get a daily update as promised.

BTW, could you do me a favour? How does one create a link, such as the one you did for Quebec? Each time I place a URL in a blog it is not a 'clickable link'.

Regards, Phil

Angelina said...

Thank you for dropping by today. I was really pleased to get his reassurance and will be looking forward to the daily up-dates.

If you go to the edit page, highlight the word you would like to link and then go to the link button on the top left side of the page (your cursor will when you pass over the icon say "insert link" click on it. In the dialogue box it says enter URL - put the address into this box. Then click ok. I hope it works for you.

PhilipH said...

Many thanks for your answer to my question re linking. Most kind of you.

DUTA said...

Daily update!? That is Something.
And what a cute, sweet boy you have! May God bless him and protect him!

Angelina said...

Thank you Duta.

When I woke up this morning my first thought was, I hope he was not too cold last night, I think it dropped to 8C. But it is going to be 25C today, a nice camping day.

Anonymous said...

When I read this I first thought how interesting we both posted about this same topic. But then I realized it's the start of a new school year and many parents must be experiencing the same thing. Thanks so much for posting the letter from your principal. It actually comforted me!

Angelina said...


My thoughts exactly when I read your blog post.

The principal is a wonderful compassionate teacher. We've learned that not all private schools are not created equally, and should have kept our son in Montessori.

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