Over my teaching career I have been extremely fortunate to attend many school trips that are not only outside of my subject area, but also completely outside of my comfort zone.
I have been to Spain, Austria, France, Germany and many other UK based places of interest. I have been involved in amazing memories and created bonds with many colleagues that I will hold on to forever.
Most recently, from Sunday the 3rd to the 9th of October 2016, I led on a residential trip on board the Queen Galadriel thanks to the amazing support of The Cirdan Sailing Trust. Without them organising over £12,000 worth of sponsors, this trip simply would not have been possible! Also, without the crew on board; skipper Huw, First Mate Jelly and Bosun, Charlie. These three were simply amazing!
This ‘trip’ or residential is a gruelling 7 night residential where students sail, cook, clean and live together on board the 100 year old, two wooden mast beauty of a ship.
The idea is to bring students on board that would benefit from interacting with their peers, learning a new skill, being taken out of their natural, daily environments and so on. We chose extremely carefully and decided to take our Premier Pupils, (pupils entitled to the Pupil Premium grant), students with an EHCP, (Education Health Care Plan), and PD (Physically Disabled) students. We also took some of our LAC, (Looked After Children) along with some students who have transformed their behaviour over the last year. A total of 13 students were selected along with one other member of staff. (A big shout of to Mr Oakley, without his humour, organisation, support and guidance the trip could not have been as big a success as it was!)
Prior to attending the trip we explained to each student individually why they were selected and what we hoped they would benefit from the trip. We did not tell them who else is attending so they could not base their decision to attend on simply whether their friends are going too. We did not give much time between giving out the letters and asking for their return. This was again intentional, many students have turbulent lives, things can change quickly, therefore, forward planning can sometimes be detrimental.
Anyhow, the whole point of this blog is…
…to give an enormous shout out, a humungous thank you, a behemoth salute and a massive virtual hug…
…to all those educators who give up their time to organise, risk assess, gather, cajole, chase and repeat all those tasks before any trip.
Then for those staff who have to be on duty 24 hours a day, who have to play both mother and father for those students. For those very teachers who stay up late to patrol, who then get up early full of enthusiasm and for those teachers who effectively give up their entire week to dedicate it to students.
These educators then have to catch up on all their emails, work at a double rate to make deadlines. Then potentially deal with having decisions made for them in their absence. For those very teachers who have to catch up on the missed class work during those cover lessons, who will have to pay back the covered duties and thank all the staff who were kind enough to step in for them.
But why? Why do we do it?
Do we enjoy the mental overload, the occasional lack of gratitude from the parents on the students return, the students getting angry if we ask them to go to bed, or the lack of sleep, space and privacy? Do we enjoy coming home knackered beyond all recognition, having to maintain the professional attitude constantly and being in charge of so many souls for so long! I will definitely say, no, I do not enjoy that.
But, I do enjoy these trips because I do it for them, the students. I do it to give them an experience they will never forget, to build memories that will last forever. I do it so that I can smile by filling a gap in those students lives that they may never experience otherwise. I do it because I care. It is done because that is what a teacher does. They love their students and want the best for them.
So, once again, thank you from me to all those teachers who help, support and organise and or attend these trips. You could be the one thing that helps shape and mould a young person in the right direction.
On board the Queen Galadriel, spending many an evening with the crew, especially the Skipper Huw, I asked for feedback. I asked him what does he see from a non teaching perspective, that I could work on, improve on, help me to become a better teacher. Huw, helped me refuel, refill and validate why it was so important for me to attend these trips and not delegate the responsibility to others. He simply said
…the students may not know how lucky they are to have you as a teacher, but they will do.
His kind words, from somebody I barely knew, uplifted my fear of returning to work to such a mountain of catch up! Thank you Huw, thank you to the crew too. Thank you for letting us know what we do is worth it. Teaching is a very lonely profession, feedback about what we do is usually shaped into a lesson observation or a quick learning walk. Having others provide guidance and support is refreshing. Especially for me as a member of SLT, who is simply just expected to be good.
Finally, to those that use the lines such as, out on a jolly, off for a break, slacker, or off school on a break, I have never been on a jolly which involves that level of work, care and commitment. I am pretty sure no other teachers have either. So, do not be negative, be supportive, be helpful, as the teachers who organise these trips, will rarely, if ever do it for their own benefit! Sure, they may enjoy visiting the country, the landmark or the point of interest. But, they enjoy it because it is their subject being demonstrated, or their vision being exampled. I am no fan of sailing, I do not enjoy being sea sick, however, I know my personal gripes outweigh the benefit to the students. Thats why I would resent being told I am off on a jolly.
Oh, and one last thing, I call them mate, bud, lad and several other terms of endearment! 😉 But, I would not want them calling me mate, or by my first name or any term of ‘endearment’. Sir, or Mr Ali is enough and just fine. I have never found that calling any of my students mate or a nick name has stopped them from listening to me or indeed respecting the rules. Maybe this is for another blog…