The power of "just because"

Acknowledging the value in the seemingly simple experiences

By Graham Vogt, Assistant Head of School, Academics

On Tuesday evening, after yet another full day at RLC, I joined a group of faculty and students for a sunset paddle. With gentle strokes in easy conversation, lots of laughter, navigating some wind, exploring the shoreline in and out of bays, it was a reminder of the transformative powers of our lake and the endless level of experience it provides. It was also a reminder of the importance of simple activities, the ones that are relatively unplanned and unstructured and not intentionally wound through the curriculum. The kind of activity we explore and offer, just because.

At RLC, we can offer these experiences all of the time. It is indeed a special value proposition that in order to access canoes, paddles, life preservers and water, we simply walk a short distance along a trail. A teacher at RLC can provide these experiences on a whim, free of intensive planning and transportation and logistics and paperwork. Similarly, a student at RLC is free to follow a compulsion to swim, paddle, ski, skate, sail, hike, etc… with relatively little obstruction; there is always a willing facilitator among a group of highly certified and qualified educators.

In the context of a school, it can sometimes be challenging to keep the importance of these simple experiences in perspective. For instance, we tend to favour experiences intentionally wound in curricular outcomes. While the curriculum is essential and needs to be consistently honoured, there is also a lot to be said for experiencing “just because.” Prioritising joy and laughter has a lasting and positive impact on learning. By not planning specific outcomes, we are perhaps more open to the experience itself, and the unintended yet often powerful learning that is revealed. In general, by stepping away from the regular flow, and the pressure and demands that can characterise school, we are also building perspective, more clearly contextualising our overall growth, and recharging for the ongoing challenge.

On Tuesday evening, after the canoe was  placed back and I returned to my “duty” in Brock House, many of the tensions, frustrations, and concerns of the day had washed away. In short, I returned from the paddle a better version of myself. I can’t help but to think that if an entire community is consistently finding these opportunities to experience “just because,” then the overall impact is exponential.