The Head’s Tales: Challenge by Choice

Last week, I informed my 84-year-old mother that I was heading off with a group of SMS girls to learn how to sail on the Tall Ships in Victoria during Outweek.  My mother’s response was one of surprise and delight when she stated, “Cathy, you have participated in so many adventures since you became a member of the SMS community!” She's right – I have travelled to Costa Rica and Kenya on service trips (a significant feat for someone who hasn’t done much travelling); participated in Strathcona Outweek activities (overcoming my fear of heights, water and maybe some creepy-crawlers); and now heading out for a four-day trip on open waters to learn how to sail.

Her comment made me reflect on how privileged I am to have these opportunities and, even though I am over 50 (no need to be exact), I have learned I can still learn, stretch and even push myself to do things I never thought I could do. It never occurred to me that, as the Head of School, I too would experience Challenge by Choice, and benefit from the goals of our Outweek program. 

Throughout Outweek, our girls are encouraged to participate in activities that are just beyond their comfort zone or might not be available to them outside of school. Students have the support of their peers to try new things, and they can look to their teachers/supervisors as role-models as they lead by example and try activities they themselves might not be so comfortable with or skilled at. 

Overcoming your fears is is an important skill. When we are provided with a safe environment to take risks, learn from our mistakes, and keep trying until we get it, we build our capacity to embrace new opportunities for exploration in the future. The other great thing about extending student learning outside of the classroom and into the outdoors, is that new student leaders emerge and have the opportunity to shine and to demonstrate to their talents and interests. 

Given the stories that the girls share upon returning to SMS, I believe every one of them experiences the benefits of Challenge by Choice and comes back stronger, more capable and empowered. And, of course, so do the staff.

“Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves. Although at times they may feel alone in their quests, at the end their reward is a sense of community with themselves and with others.”        

- Carol Pearson

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