This week I had the delight of visiting the Year 4 girls at their camp in Portsea. I watched them embrace various aspects of camp life, compete beach challenges, take to the flying fox, the high ropes and the giant swing, supported by their encouraging Year 8 mentors and teachers. Next week I will head down to Neerim South to join the Year 7 girls as they have opportunities to get to know each other better and face some challenges together on their camp. Meanwhile, the Year 9 students are preparing for their 10 day interstate trips which are scheduled to take place in June.
In the lead up to camps, there is often trepidation – nervousness about being away from loved ones, concern about sleeping in a different bed, worries about being left out of a group or fear about a particular activity. Once there, the experience can take girls (and staff) to the edge of their comfort zone and provide times of uncertainty and discomfort. These feelings are absolutely normal and this is why we have camps!
On Tuesday I attended webinar delivered by American Psychologist, Lisa Damour. If you haven’t heard or read her work, I recommend it to you. Her recent book, Untangled,offers a particularly cogent insight into adolescent girls. During the session on Tuesday, Damour reminded us of the difficulties that come when we create an expectation that as we should be happy and comfortable at all times. As adults, we surely know that life is just not that simple. The reality of being human is that we will encounter scary, upsetting, challenging and difficult situations. There will be times where we need to spend time with people we don’t know well or even that we don’t particularly like. Sometimes, we will have to do things that we don’t particularly want to do. That is life. So the best gift we can give to our young people, is not to always try to smooth the path, remove the challenge or extract them from an uncomfortable experience. Instead, we can try to equip them with the skills and dispositions they need to navigate the challenge. We can normalise the feelings of apprehension and nervousness and express confidence in their capacity to complete or overcome what lies before them. Camp provide the perfect opportunity to do just that.
On Year 4 camp I was thrilled to see girls who had been trepidatious about attending throwing themselves into the experience. Students who had never stayed away from home managed the overnight component and were incredibly proud of themselves. Girls embraced a number of firsts – whether it was navigating a high ropes course or trying a sausage roll. Each one of them will have internalised the fact that they are equipped to manage difficulty, that fear is normal and does not need to be debilitating and that they can embrace new or challenging experiences with the optimism that they will emerge unscathed. These are just the things that will assist our girls to thrive in the adult world and in the years that lie ahead of them at school and that is just what we want them to do!
Ms Elisabeth Rhodes