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Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 81 Hard Conversations? Take a Hike!

October 2, 2017

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I recall when younger that when my father needed to have a frank conversation with me he would sometimes invite my fishing. We’d be out in the canoe on Cook’s Bay on Lake Simcoe with our fishing rods in the water for half an hour or so before he’d say;

“There’s something I wanted to talk about …”

Now, for the most part I wasn’t a rebellious teen and these conversations were more focused on “bad news” or big changes rather than my own behaviours. Nevertheless these conversations were always easier for him and for myself when we were outdoors. We were both less worried about interruptions and able to we stare out to the water as we had those frank heart to hearts.

It’s important to note as well that we fished often. We did not go out just for these hard conversations but all the time. If it was the only time we’d go out I’m sure an invitation to go fishing would have been something I would have avoided after a time or two. Luckily, I grew up in a family where being outdoors was almost always the answer and this very occasionally meant for those hard conversations as well as for every other reason (and sometimes no reason at all).

I’ve followed suit. With my own kids and in my profession I’ve promoted the concept of restorative practices and hard conversations in an outdoor setting. I’ve mentioned this before in posts and speaking engagements such as why I believe the campfire is the perfect 21st century learning tool. There is something about being able to discuss issues around the ambiance of a fire that allows a person to be open and honest with others.

As someone who sees the impact of restorative practices while working with youth I feel it is all the more enhanced when we take those conversations out of “her office” or “his classroom” and into a shared peaceful setting.

The same thing goes with walking side by side down a path. Both conversationalists trekking towards a dual purpose destination of both location and purpose.

Hugh McPherson, a retired principal who was my predecessor in my current role once told me I had a “plum” position. He said; “Rob, when you have a disagreement with staff –  you don’t say, ‘come into my office’ – instead you say, come for a walk on the trail with me.”

And he was right – by the time we’ve done a loop on the trail we may not agree – but we do understand each other better.

Once more though it’s important to note that we have those treks as staff to design program, share successes and learn about our own natural world. This way a walk with “the boss” is not something to fear.

So you’re challenge this week as educators is to give this a try … rather than have those hard conversations over a desk or in other confrontational settings … allow the outdoors and the natural world to help relieve the tension, at least a little by providing some fresh air thinking.

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