It’s back to school for the year and as always, due to the beautifully warm weather, it's one of the most popular times of the year for outdoor ed trips. It's also prime snake season and given the fact that Australia has the world’s greatest collection of deadly snakes, including the deadliest and second deadliest that can kill you within an hour, if you're bushwalking or camping, it's one risk that seriously needs to be addressed.
Australia has around 140 different species of snake and about 100 of these are venomous. Yes, we do indeed have the most poisonous creatures in the world. However, out of all of these, only a few are likely to inflict a wound that could kill you. These include, but are not limited to the Inland Taipan (Fierce Snake), Brown snake, Tiger snake, Death adder, Black snake, Copperhead and Rough Scaled snake.
Each year in Australia, there are around 3000 snake bite injuries, of which 400 - 500 casualties receive anti-venom. A fact is that snakes don't always envenom their victims and more often than not, it's a dry bite. However, you must assume if bitten, that every bite is venomous and treated as such until otherwise proven. Also be aware that baby snakes are more likely to inject a massive dose of venom into you if they bite, as they don’t have the maturity to decide to venom or not to venom, that's the question on all snake’s fangs.
A fatality as a result of a snake bite is quite rare. It's roughly between 1 and 3 people out of the 3000 who receive bites year that will result in a fatality. Around 60% of recorded deaths in Australia have been due to brown snake bites; the remainder are generally shared out amongst the inland taipan (world deadliest snake), the tiger snake (super aggressive) and the death adder (scary name).
Therefore, how do you manage this risk? Well for starters “DON’T TOUCH SNAKES!” With the exception of the tiger snake, most snakes aren't aggressive. By leaving them alone, you've basically managed most of the risk involved. I've encountered countless snakes over the years and I've never even come close to getting bitten, because they tend to make a fast getaway. However, when provoked, poked, prodded and picked up, they do tend to become quite responsive. The fact that most bites occur on hands and wrists when people try to capture or kill them, should say something. Stupid people have a tendency towards picking snakes up and boys in particular find that they can't resist the temptation and on average more young males get bitten than anyone else. So again, “DON’T TOUCH SNAKES!”
To highlight just how docile they can be, one of my colleagues last year was setting up a shelter when a red belly black snake slithered over his foot. He stood still, possibly frozen from the initial shock and associated fear, and the snake just continued on its way, not even noticing that my colleague was there. If you're hiking, ensure everyone is wearing sturdy footwear and heavy long pants and/or gators. The fangs on Australian snakes can't usually penetrate through these materials that prove great protection against the fangs. The one snake bite casualty I dealt with had been hiking in reef sandals and been bitten on the arch of her foot after stepping on the snake. Had she been wearing hiking boots, she would never have been bitten.
Signs & Symptoms:
With everything, no matter how well you try to prevent these things, people still get bitten. (If only we could leave the stupid people at home). Most bites that occur when out hiking, occur when someone accidentally steps on them. The pain has been described from being struck by a baseball bat, to being like a stick flicking up at you, to people feeling nothing at all until they start showing the signs and symptoms of envenomation, which include headache, tingling, stinging, burning or abnormal feelings of the skin, feeling anxious, tachycardia (increased heart rate), irregular heartbeat, nausea (feeling sick) vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, dizziness, breathing difficulties, problems swallowing, muscle weakness, confusion, paralysis, coma or death in the most severe cases. You may also see redness around the area of the bite and residual venom. However, it's possible that you won't see two clean fang puncture wounds and so rely more on the signs and symptoms.
To treat a snake bite wound, use the pressure immobilisation method. To do this, lay the person flat and do not let the victim move or walk anywhere as this will increase the pace at which the venom travels through the body. Take a compression bandage (preferably a snake bite bandage if you have one in your kit) and apply pressure directly over the top of the bite. The bandage should be firmly on and not so tight that it restricts blood flow. Snake venom travels through the lymphatic system, not the blood stream and so the compression bandage slows this process. If you have a second bandage (which you should), start at the toes, or fingers and apply the pressure bandage all the way to the top of the limb. Use another bandage each time you run out and then test the toes or fingers for capillary refill to ensure it’s not too tight.
Once you have the entire limb bandaged, immobilise that limb. If it's a leg, tie it to the other leg. If it's an arm, splint or tie it to the body. Basically, just make sure they can't move it. Then get them to professional emergency medical care as fast as possible. To be clear, this is just a general overview and for accurate up-to-date first aid advice, check the Australian Resus Council’s Official Guidelines
It's important to be aware that snake bites can cause a severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis in some people. If you're treating a snake bite and someone has an anaphylactic reaction, treat it in the same way you would any other anaphylaxis as it becomes the priority and then apply the pressure immobilisation bandage.
Whilst snakes are a risk when out and about in the Australian bush, the most important thing to remember in the effective management of this risk is, “DON’T TOUCH SNAKES!” Happy summer camping season!
Teaching is hard work. Sure you get great holidays, but they’re both well-deserved and absolutely essential. Having said that, why is the first week back after a break so exhausting? If you work for a school that’s anything like the schools for which I’ve worked, most of the term you’re running at a supercharged pace. Usually this pace during term time is ok, however, for me, the start of every term is particularly taxing and I put it down to compulsory meetings about absolutely nothing.
There's nothing more boring and draining than sitting in a pointless meeting listening to someone rubbish on about strategic plans for the department. In my experience, these have been nothing more than pointless time wasting activities in which nothing is achieved, or if something is possibly decided as perhaps a good idea, the good idea is deferred to a committee or held off until ‘later.’ Everybody at the meeting knows that ‘later’ means never! So why is this?
The failure to achieve anything at all is completely counter to what teaching is actually about. Teaching is about everyone learning new things and about getting things done. It's about moving forward, about improving oneself and growing! So why is it so hard for this to happen within a school? As educators, we should be at the forefront of innovation and making things happen. Yet the overall culture of schools tends to be hell-bent against new ideas and innovation.
The sad fact is that the majority of the education system in Australia is still stuck in the 19th century. Principals who should have retired when Mr Squiggle was still drawing his upside down master pieces just keep hanging on to what worked ‘back in their day!’ Well their day has come and gone and now with Australia falling behind Kazakhstan’s educational standards, something has to change. But if the top down approach isn't going to work, who's going to change it? Well you have to! If there's ever a time to get to and do something, it's now! Every time you have a good idea that could improve the education of your students, then make it happen. You might get told no five times, but don't give up.
If you really want to make something happen, then it's up to you to find a way to do it. It's time to be bold and push the boundaries. Too often I've seen teachers spoon feed kids the answers to everything just so they get results, but this shows a complete lack of innovation and is ultimately damaging to the student. Sure they might get a good result on one thing, but then they become dependent on the teacher giving them everything. The same goes the opposite way. The teachers who are prepared to spoon feed their students everything, are the same ones who put road blocks up to new ideas and innovation. You know the ones I'm talking about because someone's name had just popped into your head.\
On staff development days, they're the ones ready to kill off all good ideas because it's uncomfortable to them to try something new and something different. After all, they've just got back from the holidays so they couldn't possibly do something new so soon. They're great with the excuses! However, anything worth doing comes with challenges. To achieve great things, you need to be bold and it will feel uncomfortable, but it's so worth it.
To kick off this new academic year, don't give up on your bold ideas. Make them happen! No matter how grand the challenge might be, you can find a way! After all, it’s about developing the best educational opportunities for your students, through which you can help everyone to achieve great results.
I’ve been reading a number of articles lately which have had a common theme about where education is headed. Given the number of theories on how people learn and retain information best, it always strikes me as odd when experienced educators, usually in management positions, suddenly think that more time in a classroom equates to greater results for the school.
Whilst this might work for some students, what’s the point of having a cohort of super intelligent and well educated doctors who have the bedside manner of a pathologist? Many big companies pay people like myself large amounts of money to run team building and leadership programs for their staff, because they don't have the capacity to effectively deal with people, work as cohesive teams, adapt and problem solve! Just as an aside, if you are from a big company and you have a large amount of money to give away, I’m more than happy to run a corporate team building weekend for you!
If this is what more and more organisations are looking for, why then is it so hard for schools to see the value in what outdoor education does? I can’t for the life of me work it out! Many schools have outdoor education as a token gesture annual year level camp. More often than not, they also get someone else to run it for them. The problem with this is the fact that activities in isolation don't add up to the long-term benefit that a well-structured outdoor ed program can deliver and it's these long-term benefits that make all the difference to the overall educational experience.
The whole point of modern education should be to provide students with a dynamic skill set to tackle the challenges of life, not just academic, but social and emotional as well! This is where outdoor education comes in. Forget about the specific activities for a moment. Worrying about this can be a distraction from the wider picture, so instead think about what emotional and spiritual goals you want to achieve from your programs. Be specific with it too! Do you want doctors with a good bedside manner? Do you want trades people who can setup and run their own enterprises? Do you want kids to be honest, responsible and functional members of society? Or do you just want a number so the principal can feel good about themselves? Anyone can get an academic result. To be honest, it's probably one of the easiest things in education. Yet producing independent, innovative, determined and compassionate young men and women is a far more difficult challenge for educators.
Briefing The Kids Before Kayaking
The world however, needs young men and women to be equipped with far more than a university entrance rank. By only focusing on academics, you're actually setting kids up for failure and failure is something modern adolescents aren't very good at handling. I’ll talk about the lack of resilience in kids today in another article, but for now I’ll stick to the point. You need to provide more than academics and a token gesture of a year level camp each year. Outdoor education needs to become an integral part of your school's program and culture.
What should you do about it? Well, for starters, the school needs a director of outdoor education, one who's experienced in developing and delivering innovative, sequential learning programs that link together and increase the challenge that the students must face as they progress through the years. Then allocate time throughout the year to challenge students in their social and emotional growth through outdoor activities. Better still, look at a longer term year 9 or 10 program. Let's be honest, these two years could be a complete waste of time, so you may as well do something constructive with them, rather than just let them tread water until they're a bit more mature. There's some awesome long-stay programs being run around the world, so check them out and see how you could shape the lives of your students with something like this. If all else fails, at the very least, link every year level camp to real social and emotional outcomes so that teachers can work towards achieving them, not just ‘getting away’ for a week.
The whole point of outdoor education is to push kids outside their comfort zone and to challenge them. It's not until we begin to feel uncomfortable about something new, that we actually start to develop and grow as individuals. It's this emotional and social growth that becomes invaluable to the child’s overall education. The more they're given real opportunities to deal with the reality living with others, working as a team and reflecting on their own life and actions, the more balanced an individual will be.
Forget the insane drive for academics at all cost. Whilst it produces some pretty numbers that everyone can go ‘ooooh and ahhhrr’ for about five minutes, all of this is often meaningless and easily forgotten. Whilst it helps the principal make out that they're doing a great job, it also produces crappy soulless lawyers, crooked politicians, rubbish doctors and rude tradesmen who don't wipe their shoes at the door.
Outdoor Ed is more important than ever to help develop real life skills for each and every student. Don't leave leadership, team building and resilience to someone else. It's a vital part of education for young men and women so they can lead healthy balanced and wonderful lives.
As we’re in the middle of the Christmas holidays, what's the plan? If you're a teacher, you have the amazing opportunity to have a block of six or seven weeks of holidays. Have you been planning for this all year, or has it suddenly arrived and you have nothing planned at all?
Either way, it's about time you went on an adventure. I don't mean going to the beach or Bali, sitting there reading a gossip mag, having a swim and getting a tan. It's time to do something new and amazing! Get out of your comfort zone and experience life!
Why is it important for you to make time for an adventure? Aren't the holidays just about rest and relaxation? Well they could be, but then again, too much pointless R&R is just boring and it will turn you into a boring person. There’s plenty of boring people in the world, so don't be one of them. If you're willing to push yourself, look for new places to explore and try new things, it opens a world of opportunity and as a teacher, isn't that what you're basically helping others to achieve?
What's something that you've been wanting to do for ages? So many people put off their dreams for some mystic retirement period, but why not live it now? Why not challenge yourself? Why not book something today and leave tomorrow? There are so many exciting possibilities. It's simply dependent on your making that decision to go. There are more opportunities than ever before to search for and discover unique things to do. Just fly somewhere and explore towns, areas, new things (As a side note, always check the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs so you're not going into a live war zone. Most people want to actually return from their adventure).
To throw a few ideas out there: Learn a new skill! Last year I did a diving course. It's got nothing to do with what I teach, but the experience of it was beneficial. Travel to another town, state, country! Experience different cultures, their foods, their traditions. Get another job! Try working in retail or hospitality over the break. It's some extra money, but at the same time it's learning other skills that will help you teach and could help get you a promotion too.
No matter what it is, trying something new can be extremely reinvigorating and will not only help improve your own life. Having your own new adventures and life experiences will make you a better teacher. The more you're exposed to the diverse activities, jobs, cultures and places of the world, the more you can be in tune with how to teach young men and women to be able to thrive in the world. Right now, go out and find something new, challenging and adventurous to do.
Back to School can conjure up feelings of joy for parents and trepidation for teachers. It's hard to miss all the wild excitement for it, as five minutes after the post-Christmas sales finish, the back to School ads appear. So what are some considerations for heading back into a new academic year? From a teacher’s point of view, I'd love to see kids coming back having had an awesome break, feeling reinvigorated for their next year of learning with one or two goals in mind for what they want to do. So how can you achieve this? Most kids have no idea what they want. The same could be said for a lot of adults too, but you never know what someone wants until you take the time to ask them.
Whilst the cliché idea of the New Year’s resolution is nothing more than a notional way people feel good for a day or two before they go back to their old ways, goal setting with your kids is completely different and is an excellent way to create a positive and proactive start to the year.
Take some time in the holidays to spend a day one on one with each of your kids. A special day out with mum or dad. Do something fun and then ask the child about what he or she would like to achieve this year. What do they want to achieve academically, sports-wise and for their personal interest? What excites them? Is there anything that worries them, or anything they might see as a barrier this year? This can be a great and informative goal-setting exercise and you might discover interests that your kids have that you never knew.
This sort of one on one family discussion can quite often be missed due to the busy nature of our lives, but it can create focus and lead to other great conversations with your kids throughout the year. It's really important you make the time about them. It's not what you want them to do or achieve this year. It has to come from them. It's about what they want to achieve. Your task is to tactfully frame the conversation and provide the opportunity for your kids to think about the idea of setting goals.
Having a healthy and proactive mind goes hand in hand with having a healthy diet and being physically active. So coming into the new year, set the scene for your kids to get the most out of 2017! Spend some time, set some goals and together you can look back as a family on the many proud moments that come from this. Have a wonderful and prosperous 2017!