I have just come back from Year 9 camp. This year was a little harder than most, I was certainly feeling my age while doing our 3-day hike and it was clear to me that I was no longer one of the fast hikers. I would regularly trail the pack of 15 teenagers who were walking at a breakneck pace, my joints were sore, my feet were sore and my back was sore. Then came the camp outs, setting up camp in the wilderness areas of Woodford is a sight to behold. I love coming here each year with my Year 9’s, but this year was cold, so very cold. I thought I was prepared for it. I meticulously planned how I would handle the cold, but it was all for naught, as temperatures dropped into the low single digits and I froze. I did not sleep well. I did not hike well. For me this year camp was a struggle but it was a worthwhile struggle.
Camping and hiking has been a regular part of my life from the age of 13. For me it is an escape and adventure that my soul needs every now and again, and I am all too aware of the challenge that a 5 day expedition campout is for some of my students. While some students thrive, some have poor attitudes and decide not to make the most of it, it’s all part of the school camp adventure, but my thoughts were with a particular student this time round. Over the past two weeks we have had a new student start with us at school, and what was particularly unique about this child is that he had been home schooled all his life. His first day at school was hard on him, his parents tell me it was a battle to get him to come to his first day. I can only imagine how daunting the experience was for him, as he stepped out of his home to attend a school with over a thousand other kids. Fast forward two weeks later and he is now going on his first camp.
I placed him in my group, so that I could keep an eye on him and because I knew that the other students in that group were perfect for helping him come out of his shell. On the first night he pulls me aside for a quick chat, and the tears are running down his cheeks. He is missing his family, and it occurs to me all in one thought, not only is he attending school and camp for the first time, this is in fact the first night he has spent away from his family. My heart broke for him and I immediately sympathised with him. I love going on school trips, but I hate leaving my wife and the kids. I count the hours to when I will see them again, and honestly I spend most of the time with a deep longing to see them, but I have learnt to deal with it, this boy was taking his first steps to discovering who he is, outside of his family.
Worth the fight
Romans chapter 5, verse 4 tells us that we aught to glory in our suffering, because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope. For some people camping and hiking is clearly a special type of suffering, but camping was not the issue for this student. I sat with him on the second night, tears streaming down and he was adamant he wanted to go home. We were now on the precipice of a moment that was going to make or break this boy, together with his father who I called on my mobile phone we encourage him to persevere. I have had the pleasure of teaching many impressive students in my time, students who were smarter than I can ever hope to be, students who are more capable and talented than I, but it was the strength of this student which will stand out as a memory for a long time. Today he completed his first school camp, his first 3 day hike, his first night away from his family and completed his first fortnight of school. What he went through was a literal baptism of fire and at the end of it all, he stood a little taller, a little more confident and I could see that perseverance through the fire had changed him.
Nothing good comes easy
A lesson for me in all of this is never to look down on the experience of others, for me hiking and camping comes easy, but it is all too easy for us to call someone soft if they struggle through something we find easy. Haley and I walked through the fire with struggles that our twin boys went through at birth, but I know our faith and character is stronger for it, just because we went through something hard though, doesn’t mean we can’t be there or support someone whose experience was seemingly less stressful than ours, no, we all experience our sufferings differently, and no matter how small or large they may seem to others, they are real to us and we should always be ready to support those who are going through their own battle and help them along the path of perseverance.
I never looked down on this new student for his moment of crisis, instead I encouraged and I supported him, soon he realised anything good in life is hard fought for and that great things don’t come from a place of comfort. Iron sharpens iron, bushfires bring new life, but we will only grow and reap the rewards if our minds are set on pushing through the struggle.
Jarred is an HPE and Mathematics teacher on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he is married to Haley and has three beautiful children Chelsea, Nathan and Ryan.