Admira Koničanin is an assistant professor of Sports and Physical Education at the State University of Serbia, in the study program for Biomedical Studies, Department of Sports and Physical Education. She works as a professor of physical education at the Gymnasium and Technical School in Tutin, in the Republic of Serbia. In the field of sports and physical education, she has written 80 scientific and professional papers that have been published in international and world journals. President of the Mountaineering and Skiing Association ‘Beleg’ from Tutin, where a large number of children are included in the mountaineering association. Member of the reviewer and editorial board for the magazine ‘Special Education, Rehabilitation and Inclusive School’ Association of Defectologists of Montenegro-2020. Member of the Association of the Best Teachers of the Former Yugoslavia. Within the EduBalkan education platform, she actively participates in the networking of teachers in the Balkans, because she believes that networking empowers teachers in breaking stereotypes and prejudices about other peoples, which is not a rare occurrence in this area.
Modern life, due to the accelerated pace and excessive amount of stress, is slowly taking its credit on human health. Staying indoors for long, sitting and eating unhealthy food, endangered the health and life of modern man. It is known that a little atmosphere of peace in the forest makes a person think about the meaning and purpose of life. It all started with easy walks in nature. When I look at our children in primary and secondary schools, those children hardly know how to walk properly. Deformity of the spine and cervical spine occurs because every child between the ages of 11 and 15 spends at least some five to six hours with technology. As an educator and physical education teacher, I can say that I encounter these deformities of the spine and neck every day, and precisely for these reasons that I have stated. Look around you, the streets, public transport, behind the counter rows, the dining tables. In restaurants and parks. In school desks. And even in the most intimate places, such as the toilet or bed.
What do you see? That is right: the screen of your android, tablet, or laptop And now turn off the screen, find your reflection in it and try to go back to your childhood, when you made friends in parks and schools, or at least as a regular family activity in raising children. Remember the indescribable sadness when the voices of our mothers, as soon as the first lights on the street came on, called us to go home. Hey, how long those nights were! Who would wait for the next day, when we would gather again in the green yard in the basement of our building? Indians, cowboys, rubber band jumping competition, conversations. Friendship and friendly quarrels. We were children, we did not have smartphones and Facebook profiles, and we were happy. In the years that followed, the whirlwind of the modern age sucked up everything that had hitherto been considered a normal and desirable phenomenon in society, an elastic band, a ball out of the children’s hands, shoved androids into their hands and convinced them that they would ‘play’ even better there.
Games have turned into digital violence and irresponsible behaviour. Children are often selfish, spoiled, and they choose their friends according to what clothes they wear and which phone model they own. And society and socializing have lost their original value and meaning. Among the hundreds and thousands of ‘friends’ online, we have never been lonelier.But it is still not too late for our children. Turn them to nature and mountains.
Hiking has become my lifestyle in recent years. Being in nature is priceless, walking through a dense forest, listening to the chirping of birds, enjoying the greenery, trees, grass and flowers, walking on the ground, stone, overcoming obstacles on the way, climbing until the sea view bursts. Every moment in the mountain is etched in the memory, fills the soul with pleasure, and does well to your condition. In any case, it strengthens health! I do not know when I felt that mountain call. I think it has always been in me.
But let us go back to the beginning, to the place where it all started. Childhood.
My childhood was happy and carefree, imbued with frequent stays in nature. My first steps towards the mountain were on skies. As a five-year-old, I started skiing and competing. That adrenaline, the fight against time always challenged me. Two years ago, I joined the Mountaineering Ski Association ‘Beleg’ from Tutin, of which I am now also the president. Tutin, my hometown, is an excellent starting point for discovering the beauties of Serbia and the Balkans and my further mountaineering training. From experienced, older members, I absorbed advice, learned, and soon hiking became my way of life. In addition to looking powerful and dominant and providing incredible natural beauties that are in their embraces, the mountains, in cooperation with Mother Nature, selflessly give essential life lessons.
The sooner we realize that not all classrooms have four walls and that our education and life experience relate to only one small segment of comprehensive, planetary knowledge, the sooner we will become open to new lessons and absorb knowledge more efficiently from a mentor we didn’t even recognize until yesterday. Not everyone’s goal is to climb to the top. The goal is movement. Keep in mind how important exercise is to stay healthy. The goal is to take care of yourself. Keep in mind the wisdom of life: Be yourself first! A traveller who set out on a journey without taking an important item with him has no choice but to procure it on the journey itself. That is how my roads lined up, conquered peaks, thousands and thousands of meters in height. However, as is always the case, nothing is achieved all at once. Everything was step by step, patient and brave. I teach that to my students too.
Aconcagua place ‘where condors bend their wings’
My childhood dream is slowly coming true. Listening to the song El Codor Pasa performed by Paul Simon, I had no idea that one day I would have the opportunity to see the condor, to watch the condor’s flight, to enjoy the beauty of Aconcagua. Aconcagua is the place ‘where condors bend their wings’. I have conquered the highest peak in the world if we do not count the Himalayas. This mountain asks you to push the limits of your abilities. ‘It is exhausting physically and mentally for hikers and simply pulls you with all its weaknesses and limitations.’ When we find ourselves in nature, in this case on the mountain that has the last word, only then do we realize how small we are.
When a man returns to nature, he shakes hands with himself. A sense of spiritual satisfaction that transcends the need for the material will change your children radically. Down in the city, I saw ‘important’ people in armchairs, whose egos are bigger than the mountains themselves. But the ego does not seem to survive at altitudes above 500 meters above sea level. A director in an armchair or a worker at a kiosk—we are all the same in the mountains and the joy of meeting again in these wonderful places is mutual and sincere. And that is a big lesson I am talking about to my students. I cannot say that I picked up all the knowledge and wisdom. On the contrary, I am still a student, but I started to notice the mountain as a teacher and to adopt the advice it broadcasts. Positive thoughts give us strength and push us forward, and anticipation brings only impatience and disappointment.
In the mountains, everyone is equal.
There is no place for status symbols. Already by who extended his hand when it was necessary to cross the rock, and by how many smiles and the same feeling of happiness he caused the same reason—say, the view from the top. Friendly ties will become unbreakableAnd now double that feeling in children, when, on the way through the mountain, they share food, water, go through the same effort and together reach the goal—the top of the mountain.
Students will become more responsible
Hiking requires discipline, both body and mind. Instead of sleeping until noon on the weekends, and then moving from lying down to a sitting position behind a computer or console, they will learn to get up early, and first, pack their hiking backpack on their own and go to bed on time.
Violence in schools will decrease
Maybe a ‘brave’ statement, but I believe it is true. Hiking is an activity that to some extent eliminates the need to be more powerful in relation to another and to overcome it. If the goal of hiking can be determined at all—it is not even necessary to reach the top of the mountain but to enjoy the landscapes that surround us, by overcoming natural obstacles along the way, but also our own weaknesses.
Students will learn to make the right decisions at the right time
The mountain has the last word, and its laws must be obeyed. Sometimes bad weather will deter a team of small mountaineers from reaching the top, and they will learn that it is not a defeat, but on the contrary—the ability to make the right decision that will not endanger their health, and when they grow up for some ‘more serious’ climbs in life.