That this post should have been uploaded in September of last year is an interesting story itself. Shortly after we came down from Black Tusk and were all into our new routines of classes and homework, Michael Simmonds asked me get something on the blog. This was, after all, the first time IPS students had ever reached the summit of the old volcano. No small achievement. I had already spread the news widely by sending our slideshow and our boasts to colleagues around the globe on my both my and the school’s Twitter network. They were impressed and not a little jealous of this tiny school of ours. You guys, they said, understand what schooling is really about.

I thought we had some good press, so to speak–my Twitter reach is xxxx–and we had moved on to all the other things we do here. But Mr. Simmonds reminded me later (more than once, I have to admit) that all the locals here probably missed the story and certainly anyone who came to our website and blog would never know now what the graduating class of 2010 had done that no graduating class had ever done before. That was worth bragging about again and again. He’s right of course (it’s his only annoying habit.) So here I am, at last, chagrined, writing the post.

What all this illustrates is that we–Mr. Simmonds and I, and very likely you–have very different ways of connecting to the world, at least online. Mine is primarily through Twitter; Mr. Simmonds prefers email and the school’s web page. But what’s ironic, is that all this is about a story that has nothing to do with social media, networking or, especially, virtual communities. Of all our out trips and adventures at IPS, the fall hike into Garibaldi Park is the one that takes us farthest away from the “grid” and into the very real, very solid and very raw wilderness.

The hike itself was physically and mentally demanding. Black Tusk challenged the students’ characters and called on them to draw deeply on their personal resources. To make it to the top xxx metres above sea level they had to confront their fears and admit weaknesses in front of the guides, in front of me, their teacher, and perhaps hardest of all, in front of their peers. The experience leaves anyone feeling exposed. And so, now that I think on it, it’s a little odd to speak publicly at all, let alone online, about a very private moment like this one. It’s one of the great perks of my work that I get to be with young people, like our Grade 9s, when they take that step and risk being themselves, unguarded outside the family home, for perhaps the first time.

These are my last weeks at Island Pacific School and so maybe this is, after all, the right time to reflect on the first weeks of the school year. What I saw on our climb to the top of Black Tusk are young people who even under stress can find the wisdom to know that however frightening the ascent, they will learn by it and so it is worth the attempt; the courage to face real danger; the integrity to acknowledge their limits; and, I’ll add, the humility to ask for and take help. We get a rather gloomy picture of our world from the media. I have a number if friends who despair the future. But what I see, and they don’t, is the generation that will inherit that future and frankly I am filled with great hope.
Brad Ovenell-Carter
Asst. Head