I spent last week hiking 40 miles or so of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Because we have zero experience and were hoping not to get eaten by a bear we worked with Wildland Trekking who provided us a guide and a group to hike with. (You can read more about our trip on my Exponential Impact blog.) For four days Nick Weaver helped us navigate our trails and in the process I learned a number of things from this 24 year old.
As a backcountry guide Nick’s job is immense. It’s multifaceted and requires a significant amount of competence as well as skill in working with people. Over the course of our trip we forded many different streams. Some you could rock hop, others had old log bridges, and several needed to be crossed with rushing water up to our knees or thighs. Since we were deep in the backcountry any fall on a slippery rock could make it difficult to get the needed help. On every single crossing Nick reminded us that we were not finished until we were on dry land. It was easy to focus early during the water crossing but the greatest danger was often getting careless as we neared the end. Nick’s words reminded me that seeing a project to completion is true success. It’s easy to focus early on, but getting safely across means paying attention to detail all the way through.
In addition I was often reminded by Nick that slow and steady was the way to go. I wanted to accomplish our daily mileage and was tempted to power up hills and rush down the other side. Nick reminded me that the trip was much more of a marathon than a sprint and taking care of my body today would pay off on the trail the next day. He also reminded me to stop often and recognize the views, the waterfalls, the amazing array of trees, and wildlife.
Nick showed me that if you speak with passion people will listen. Throughout our trip Nick pointed out the different types of trees, what was old bear poop and what was fresh bear poop. He explained the history of the area and how the Smoky Mountain National Park was formed. When Nick talked about the history I was really interested. When he talked about the trees I could have cared less. But, Nick was so excited about each tree that his excitement was contagious. I couldn’t help but pay attention and by the end of the trip I was pointing out trees myself. Nick’s passion for the area and all that it entails reminded me of our great teachers. No matter what they teach their passion makes all the difference.
Finally, talking with Nick showed me yet again that preparing our students for their future is critical. In talking with Nick he stated that most in his generation just can’t imagine working for one company for 25 or 30 years. They’re entrepreneurial and Nick himself is working to secure a patent for an idea related to outdoor equipment. We have to prepare our students to think critically, to be adaptable and collaborative. They’ll need to navigate a work world that is much more project driven and will be less and less corporate. Those who produce will reap the rewards but there will be very few jobs where just putting the time in will provide income. Nick will do well in this world but it’s our job as a school district to help all of our students learn and grow the skills needed for the future. (Check out Tony Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills.)
I spent last week in the woods but along the way I learned a lot from a 24 year old.
- Trent Bowers, Superintendent