Thoughts on saying “no” (in OEd).

One of the questions raised from this weekend’s MA in Outdoor Education course was “Do you allow a young person to say “no” to an activity? Challenge by choice!”

I listened to my fellow students articulate their opinions with strong justification for their decision(s) as to why they would allow a young person to fully opt-out but I wasn’t convinced with their arguments.

To explain the terminology: Challenge by Choice is a concept in which people are empowered to decide whether to participate in an activity. The leader and others in a group are expected to respect anyone’s right to sit out or to opt for a personalized level of engagement. (

I was quite adamant against it, but after reflection, I’m not so sure now.

Firstly, there are the practical and safety considerations of young people not fully participating and sitting out. If there is a financial commitment, then this would be wasted and thirdly (but not lastly), how do they know if they’re not going to like an activity unless they experience it – had they tried it before, then they might fail (in this instance) to learn that situations are often very different from one another!

Whilst I agree young people should be allowed autonomy over decision making, I am conflicted at the thought of fully ‘opting out’ at such a young age (under 16 years old).

  • Firstly, there is the argument of experience and ‘trying anything once’. Who knows? you might like it…
  • Secondly, there is the argument of resilience. Everyone will experience unpleasant moments at some point within their life, maybe a situation they can not avoid, this will help develop their understanding of their resilient levels.
  • Thirdly, learning occurs more robustly if the young person has control and choice over the experience. If they don’t learn to make their own decisions and gave confidence when (and how) to say “no”, what issues will this cause in their future?

On the other hand,

  • Firstly, what will that experience contribute to their self-actualisation? Will it be positive or have a detrimental effect?
  • Secondly, resilience can be developed from many areas within our lives and experiences, does it need to be done outdoors?
  • Thirdly, if the student doesn’t know what they are supposed to learn, then they can learn misconceptions…

I’ve still not found a conclusive answer that satisfies me. It wasn’t until adulthood when I realised just how I could draw from the experiences as young person and apply to adulthood – for example, I was never allowed to ‘opt-out’ of activities whilst in school despite how much I protested (I had to do them, then the detention afterwards for refusing!) and I felt this put me in good sted and created a more resilient person with the mindset that difficult situations often don’t last long. Sadly though, it made me very compliant to authority and others of influence, even when their motivations and viewpoints were not aligned with mine; I felt I wouldn’t have been put in situations had I developed, at a young age, the ability to strongly refuse – this was a lesson I learnt within my thirties instead.

However, I can see why the choice to fully opting-out is not always appropriate. Had I be given the choice to do so, I feel I would have been lazier and without a motivational attitude to areas of my life I enjoyed experiencing in my youth because I was forced to partake in them. I felt my youth was more colourful and adventurous than it would have been otherwise…

So, back to the original question, “Do you allow a young person to say “no” to an activity? Challenge by choice!”

I think, whilst on the long drive home from university, I came up with a woolley conclusion for myself – I would allow them to fully opt-out if I felt it was detrimental to their well-being or development (always a tough judgement call) or no learning would occur at all by them participating. Also, if I felt their participation would cause risk to themselves or others in the group.

I certainly would adapt the activity to be inclusive within reason… however, my first choice would be “everyone partakes” in some form. After all, for a young person, they are often fortunate to experience an adventurous activity for a fraction the cost an adult might. Whilst they would have no interest in the financial cost of things at their age, they certainly will as an adult!

So, no to them saying “no” really within reason. Sometimes parts of our life are decisions we can’t opt-out of, we can certainly try to change them but often we need to draw on resilience and strengths learnt whilst young to participate in the complexities of adulthood (boo!)… at least, from my perspective and experience, it certainly feels that way…

– Just Joanne

Can you ever go back?

Can you ever go back?

Can you ever go back to a familiar place after a long experience away from it?

Can you ever go back to the same routines, same faces, same streets and alleyways?


It feels surreal to be back home in a house after all that has transpired in the past ten months. Much has changed, a lot has stayed the same but overall everything just sits uncomfortably with me right now. It’s all too familiar, yet different…

I know this is the process of grieving for loss that I’m currently experiencing and there’s much to grieve for – independence with the van, the freedom to chose my sleeping location, the vanlife quirks and challenges, the discovery of hidden areas in deep woods, on sandy beaches and on steep mountainsides, the new locations I found… yet the feeling of not having progressed when in actual fact I’ve progressed further than I would have expected myself to do so when I was younger is lingering within me.

I’ve just hit reality with a bump; the washing needs doing, the carpet needs hoovering, the dog needs walking, the adult politics need sorting, the bills need paying, a job needs applying for, a car needs to be obtained and the demands of the family need addressing. Adulting isn’t the romantic adventure of childhood dreaming we all once thought it would be… the time spent in North Wales did give me that opportunity to step away from ‘adulthood’, just for a little brief while. It was liberating.

The chapter is over, yet the story hasn’t finished.

I know over time these feelings will dissipate as I find focus elsewhere and I’m grateful to have had those 10 months to myself but I can’t help but think that I will go back to the ‘Cinderella chores’ dreaming of wearing those glass slippers again and longing for that freedom from ‘adulthood’ some more!

For now, I’m smiling because it happened, and I’m grateful for those that helped me every step of the way!


– Just Joanne

Amazing people

I think there’s a lot of people who I have felt honoured to know and who are amazing individuals in their own unique way; from the determined runner who runs 10k easily daily and had built themselves up to that level even if running isn’t their sport but they keep at it; the academic who just keeps expanding on their knowledge and dedicates their time to developing others because that’s their passion; to the parent who, whilst they had dreams of an adventurous life, put their children first to ensure they had the best start in life and stayed in the 9-5 office life.

Yes, I’ve met a few extraordinary people in my life and I will go one about some more – to the mother who stayed in a loveless marriage so her children had a home; to the man behind the till, no matter how horrible people were, still greeted everyone with a hearty smile and a hello; to the administrator who doesn’t know just how wonderful she is because every day she accepted everyone as they are, even the ones that caused a lot of frustration!

The dedicated teacher who spends their evenings and weekends creating the most wonderful resources and lessons so their students are fully prepared for their exams and enjoy their education; the woman who judges herself against others and can not see how wonderful she is and how much joy she brings to others- if she wasn’t that way people wouldn’t tell her their secrets (they know she can keep them!); to the student who knows all the answers but lack the courage and conviction to believe in their own abilities and finally; the father who just has the biggest smile when he speaks about his family and children, there’s so much love there and he’s proud to show it!

Yes, there are amazing people in this world. They can’t often see how amazing they are but others can spot it. I think I will do more in this life to tell people how amazing I think they are and how I’m grateful to know/have known them well.

-Just Joanne

Size of the fight in the dog

What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog. – Barry McGuigan

I certainly don’t have the fight in me any more right now. When someone shows they lack integrity and instead shows you how self-centred and inconsiderate they are, you have to question how much fight you have in you to deal with it. Is it much simpler to walk away sometimes?

I like upfront and honest people, not those that would see me waste my time and effort for an outcome they have influence over. That just makes me feel like a puppet; strings pulled, a head full of wood and a heart that doesn’t beat, just unnecessarily dancing for someone else’s entertainment. What a joke.

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength. – Arnold Schwarzenegger

I have my values and I have my limits. I stood up for something that I objected to and made a lot of noises and others made noises with me; people agreed the situation was unjustified and inconsiderate of the opinions of young people but what was the result? A change in the closed mindset of the protagonist causing said issues? A consideration for those affected by poor decision making? A sterling effort made to ensure the continuation and prosperity for all? Pfft, no! Harassment.

That’s one thing you learn in sports. You don’t give up; you fight to the finish. – Louis Zamperini

I learnt very early on in my youth to take control of the “fight“. That I, in some unconstricted way, can choose to keep going or to end it on my terms. So, I ended this on my terms. I learnt long ago that there are people out there who won’t stop until you’ve faced humiliation, until you’ve been removed from the “situation“, until you’ve been truly beaten and the pathetic shallow “victory” can be theirs. Then they’ll move on to the next person, then the next, then the next, then, eventually when there’s very few left, wonder where everyone has gone. They crave the chaos they cause, without an empathic consideration for those affected by their damage.

Sometimes, you get tired of fighting. I think you just sort of come to this realization that yes, that you will get tired, but that doesn’t mean that you can give up the fight. – Jesmyn Ward

At least I know I didn’t sit idly by. That I said something. I tried to do something. I went to the higher ups, the “powers that be“, but sadly, they too showed themselves to lack integrity. Where is the faith in our leaders, when our leaders won’t listen? I pity this world when the voices of young people are not considered anymore. We’re striving to be the generation that empowers the youth when really, we still consider ourselves to know what’s best for them…

So, I’ve given up something I’ve loved and loved for a long long time. Time, effort, energy has been spent in this but right now, I can see that in this situation it is better for me to walk away, no longer allowing the “puppet master” to manipulate and try to control; it’s wearing, especially when you know they won’t give in. You’ve become their focus, their target and eventually, you’ll become their “victory” when they decided where you’re to be in the game of theirs.

I think it’s a dangerous thing for anyone to have power over other people. – Jesse Ball

The one lesson I have yet to learn and accept in this life is, whilst respect for others may have been diminished by their attitudes, opinions and actions, I shouldn’t let that deter me from doing what I enjoy. Of course, it leaves a sour taste and a weakness of the stomach, but I need to get over their agendas, their self motivations and their falseness to find the love again in the activity. I am stubborn in the sense that I won’t return to something or someone if faith and respect is lost, even if that thing is just a small part of a bigger picture. That is when I know I’ve truly lost the “fight“.

No matter what it is, pick yourself up and go on to the next project. – Shelley Duvall

What I do know and can do, is start again elsewhere. I have done it several times before, why should this time be any different?

So yes, life has certainly been interesting of late. I just need a rest from it all. Picking myself up just seems to be getting harder and harder to do.

So it’s like starting over again, but I look forward to the challenge. – Lee Majors

-Just Joanne

In the moment

I sometimes feel that the universe has a way of telling me things. Today, whilst on a course (see other post), I was told by a gentleman to “always say yes to every offer you receive, as who will know where it’ll take you?” “live for the now” and “be the person you want to be“.

Then, later on, I was told to “stop looking at the end point and worry about what’s happening in the moment. Don’t rush.”

Suffice the say, that’s always been a problem of mine… jumping from one thing to the next and being worried about the end goal and missing the enjoyment of the journey getting there. One of the cooks at placement told me a few days back not to worry so much “the world will still be turning, so not need to rush. If you’re late you’re late.

I was also recently told to “slow down and be late for your own funeral”!

So all these words have resonated with me. I have been trying to fill up my time lately with so much stuff that some of it has become meaningless to me. I’ve let go of things that I previously used to enjoy because of a perceived failure of reaching that “end goal” that the journey getting there was the most important bit and I’ve forgotten that. I won’t get this time back.

So yes, I think the universe has really wanted me to know and reflect on these things.

I’m going to stop counting the weeks left of this course and try not to worry about what’s next and break these bad habits. Right now, I’m just to be pleased and grateful for the opportunities given and enjoy them whilst they last.

Just Joanne