As a School we believe passionately in giving boys opportunities for travel and adventure and this summer boys have been travelling as far afield as both Bala and Bolivia taking part in adventurous pursuits of one sort or another. There is, of course, an element of risk in any such adventure but with rigorous risk assessments underpinning each trip we feel confident that we have done all we can to ensure that such trips go smoothly and safely.
Over the course of this holiday I have been lucky enough myself to do four ‘adventurous activities’ and this has got me to reflect on the value of facing these experiences. The first three of these were on a family holiday in Costa Rica. We started with some white-water rafting. Now, I am not the most confident swimmer so it was with some trepidation that I heard that we would be negotiating rapids for up to an hour and a half. Yet, this time passed incredibly quickly and provided many highlights. It did though bring home to me how lucky I was to have such an expert guide steering the boat from behind. The same is true on many school trips, they rely on the skill and enthusiasm of so many teachers who have often taken the trouble to visit the planned location before and in every case who have considered what the risks might be. I loved the rafting but was grateful to my guide on two occasions for grabbing hold of me as I was about to be swept into the water!
Our next adventure was rather more sedate and this involved doing some horse-riding. This is something which I had not done for many years. In this case there was no guide to hold me on to the horse and as with many school trips you have to be prepared to give something a go. As a participant on a school trip there will always be times when you are trying an activity for the first time, perhaps by trying rock climbing on our Bala trip or skiing down a mountain for the first time. Such experiences though are really character forming and the smiles at the end when the challenge has been overcome are both genuine and well-deserved. Those fortunate enough to have these things to look forward to may well be nervous beforehand but with some gentle encouragement from the staff anything is possible.
My third experience was zip-wiring. Here I reflected on the trust you need to have both in your equipment and in those organising the activity. We stepped on to a high platform above the trees and launched down the wire in one case for a kilometre. I am no fan of heights so I had to face a few fears here as well but our guides put us at ease and earnt our trust and this too is at the heart of all great teaching. Students have to trust their teachers whether this be in the classroom or outside of it. Such trust always has to be earned but once gained means that you can work together for the benefit of all. In my case the guides here helped to overcome any nervousness involved in heading off the platform at great speed, in the classroom it often involves building confidence around new skills or learning new skills such as how to tackle in rugby. The quicker the trust is built between teacher and pupil the more successful such confidence building is. When you are at the top of a high platform the trust has to be built very quickly indeed.
My final adventure came last week when I was fortunate enough to be invited by a High School old boy to take to the skies in his two seater aeroplane. We travelled in a loop from East Midlands Airport up across the hills of Derbyshire to Sheffield and then in a loop back across the Vale of Belvoir. Above all else this made me appreciate the beauty of the landscape, a feeling that I had also had so often whilst in Costa Rica. We live in a very special world and we must learn to appreciate it at every opportunity. Those who have travelled with the School this summer will have taken in many superb sights and I hope that they too took the time to appreciate what they have seen and realise just how lucky they are to have the opportunities they have to travel.
P.S. The photos of me looking much more scared on each activity will not be published!