RESPECT is valuing the ideas and humanity of other people.
Respect is a topic that permeates everything we do in the Trojan Outdoor Experience program. Originating from the Latin word respectus, we can find definitions that tell us it means to hold something in high regard; the giving of esteem to something or someone; or an attitude of deferential appreciation. As adults we use the word frequently, almost flippantly, but at Trinity Valley School, our faculty discusses the idea of respect daily as we attempt to guide our students toward being mature, thoughtful and gracious global citizens.
TOE helps to take this simple word from a concept to a reality as our kids get to experience it, see it and truly learn what it feels like to give and receive respect. Pervasive to our program is the principle that we want to make the students slightly uncomfortable in order for them to stretch, grow and learn about themselves, their peers and their environment. That stress or discomfort can be found hanging over a hundred-foot cliff, sleeping shoulder to shoulder with classmates in a boiling-hot tent, drinking funny-tasting water or even just leaving Mom and Dad for a few days. And as you can imagine, everyone handles that stress and discomfort differently, which is where the idea of respect changes from a theory to a living, breathing core value.
You see, as the toughest kid in the grade shows genuine fear on the edge of that cliff, and sometimes will break down and cry, and maybe even chooses to unhook from his harness and not participate, we all have to live that word we so often throw around. We have to respect that person’s intense fear or discomfort, even though to others that cliff is "no big deal." We have to respect the student’s privacy and space as he is usually embarrassed and needs to be alone a few minutes to collect himself. We have to respect him later back at camp by not poking, prodding or making fun of him. One of the best parts of our trips is the idea that all of us are going through these different levels of stress and discomfort in various ways, and everyone gets so many opportunities to improve his own personal respect quotient.
We cannot trivialize a student's fear. We, as the adults, have to model for the students empathy, care and respect. As you might imagine, sometimes we have to pull a student aside and help him see how tiny comments, gestures or jokes can harm our respect for each other. But the beauty in these lessons is that we learn to really appreciate our peers with a powerful new form of respect. Everyone on a TOE trip does eventually confront, deal with and oftentimes overcome that specific fear. Combined with the sense of community that is created from receiving genuine respect, these challenges help grow us by leaps and bounds.
Little surprises me anymore on our trips, but I am constantly amazed at how well our kids treat each other. This is a testament to how strongly our faculty and parents have taught the concept of respect before we toss the students in the crucible of a TOE trip. In our daily lives, we often wonder how respectful or accepting our children are, but I have something wonderful to report to you. Your kids are incredible! They show profound respect for each other and truthfully care for their peers when facing tough situations during our adventures.
One of the pillars of the TOE program will continue to be to learn, understand and live true respect for our peers, for ourselves and the environment...and it is an enormous privilege that I get a front-row seat in watching our students nurture and grow such an important and profound core value.
- Blake Amos, Director of the Trojan Outdoor Experience Program