Sorry I've been busy, teaching busy so that's a welcome change. I love teaching and this is kinda different. The Same that I'm teaching Bushcraft, but Different in that I'm teaching troubled youth.
I received a call asking if I could teach last minute, I was free that weekend so why not? Then I got the details, small group about 8, if they could all make it. Even Better I love small groups. "Oh and they can't touch anything sharp" Sorry what was that? I thought you said they can't touch anything sharp or potentially dangerous. Welllllll....... now I need to think.
I showed up to find three young men, all with city clothes on Dr Dre Beats on there ears and walking in city work boots, timberlands they say, but they didn't look ready for timber work. They each had a mentor, to help them in the bush, and then there was the group Leader. So 7 that's my lucky number! We shook out and went over to the site for training it was a balmy -20C and I looked forward to starting.
So first impressions are hard to shake, but I thought no one gives theses guys the time of day, they are troubled youth, been in the correction system already, I'm not gonna do that. One of the guys, was super keen to help his father had shown him lots of the bush, and he was eager to show me he could do this survival stuff. Another guy from Nigeria wasn't sure what to do but he stayed in the middle of it, the last guy had his Beats on and didn't give a shit if I was there he wanted to get warm and go home.
First bushcraft trick start a fire in snow and bad conditions, I showed them how to feather stick, and why we lay the fire the way we do and within minutes had a fire, this helped the guy from Nigeria the most, you see, he was tough and his feet were on the way to frostbite, I pulled out a spare pare of wool socks warmed up his toes and he was in!
The day went well, though that last guy was hard to reach when I let him play with fire and a ferro rod he was happier. The first guy was still a help and proved that more during day 2.
Day 2 was a bit more of the outdoors and the organization had brought in a person to work on the teams spiritual side. Our 2 subjects mixed well, because for me, the bush is my church, and I feel a connection there so the task at hand was to get these guys to feel it too.
The outdoor guy from day one was happier and more keen to get his hands dirty on day 2, the cold feet guy showed up with winter boots and was much happier, the third guy was a no show, and well I can't say I minded too much.
Anyways this group of young men were polite to me, and used their manners and showed me respect, not exactly the type you think of when you think of youth at risk. Never once did I right them off, even the third guy that wasn't into it, never interrupted and was never rude, he just wasn't into it, till we played with fire of course haha. So I guess my point is this, don't be so judgmental, you may miss something really good.
So I got the call again, same idea, but this one was in the Youth Correction Facility. I wasn't allowed to bring in anything but a memory stick with my lessons on it. This would prove to be my most challenging class.
I've taught some of the hardest men in the country, when I was back in 1PPCLI they are the best the Canadian Army has to offer, and these guys don't put up with shit, but teaching these kids inside those walls took some work and planning.
First what do you teach a kid that can't go outdoors and try it? but what do you teach a kid that's done somethng bad enough to be hear? I couldn't go over knife skills, no fire, no shelter, no bushcraft...... Or could I? So I put together a powerpoint, and videos and stories, lots of stories. I had 6 teens that had been wrote off by someone, but they wouldn't be by me. I thought if I could get one maybe two that would be awesome.
Well you never know what's gonna catch a kids interest, on day one, it was the Bear Awareness video, all these teen were first nations and I think they had a connection to the bear, a fierce predator but not too much unlike ourselves. They could have shut down and napped for 45 mins and not one of them did, they were engaged and ready for questions I asked.
Day 2 I was allowed to bring in cat tails to make natural fiber cordage out of, and these guys were all in! There were a couple of guys that had done this with family members before, some guys had never seen a cat at all, and one even wanted to lay down on them because they looked like the bushbed mattress I showed them the day before.
This group of young men had issues, you know they came from a bad place but for 2 days I got to help them see the woods as a place to explore and have fun. Will it last? I don't know? But I hope so, because if they get out of that correction facility and they stay out, or even stay out for awhile longer because of the stuff they seen in those 2 days I'm pretty proud of myself. I look forward to working with this group again, it's the challenges we look for as an instructor, and the rewards are always followed by those challenges.