I’m off on a school trip to Amsterdam tomorrow. It’s part of a scheme called Comenius which uses EU money to promote multinational partnerships between schools; there’s a school from Rome involved as well, and all three nationalities will be there. In the past, we’ve also worked with schools in France, Greece and Romania.
Are you thinking “Isn’t she lucky, free holiday”? I bet you are if you aren’t a teacher yourself! But no, it’s not a holiday – if I wanted a holiday to Amsterdam, I wouldn’t be going with kids in tow – does cramp your style a bit! Nor would I be starting work before normal school time, involving myself in evening star-gazing parties or find myself waiting until the final kid is collected from the airport at 10:30pm when we get back. No, school trips are definitely hard work – round-the-clock responsibility is never restful, even when, as here, there are relatively few kids and they are well-behaved.
It’s rewarding though, as well as hard work. I particularly like Comenius because it’s all free to the kids, so even those who can’t normally go on school trips can get involved. It also focuses on getting kids from the different countries to work collaboratively on a common project (see, it’s not just a holiday for them either!). Ours is themed round Astronomy; as well as the aforementioned stargazing, a planetarium trip and astronomical sight-seeing, each country will be leading workshops where the kids teach their peers something new. We’re doing ours on making a portable ring sundial – this has involved the purchase of a huge quantity of embroidery hoops (Head of Physics – I think he will be getting junk mail about embroidery for the rest of his life!), the devising of a fiendishly complicated spreadsheet (that’s my role!), lots of practice runs, a presentation on how it works and devising allegedly fool-proof instructions (all the latter by the kids). In our workshop, they’ll be working in groups of three – one of each nationality. Wish us luck!
Usually (and in this case), the kids are staying with host families. Quite a few good friendships have arisen from this in the past – they stay in touch on Facebook etc, and arrange later visits independently. Of course not everyone becomes close friends with their host family, but rubbing along together, and getting used to different countries’ conventions and habits, have to be useful experiences, and anyone should be able to cope with them for a few days.
It does change your relationship with the kids you teach, going on a trip. Sometimes ones who are little ***** at school are surprisingly brilliant in a different context – and how you work with them when they’re away may (note, not “will”, “may”) change their behaviour when they return. It can also happen the other way – someone you thought was a model pupil at school turns into a “daddy’s little princess” who whines at having to walk half a mile and at the lack of Cadbury’s chocolate abroad!
Then, once we’re back – Half Term! Yay!