Teachers often have a love/hate affair with taking kids out of the classroom.
We love to see the learning and growth in our students that comes from children venturing beyond the limits of their everyday lives. Staying away from home for the first time, abseiling down that ledge, conquering that mountain.
However there is such an awesome responsibility that goes with school camps, ensuring the safety of the children in our care. From the moment you leave the school gates until the last kid is picked up, you are responsible for making sure each child comes back home with nothing but stories of adventure.
Part of the process of venturing off campus with children is filling in a risk assessment form. Teachers often complain about the tedious nature of filling in these forms. However the truth is that there is nothing more emotionally jarring than thinking of all the possible ways that your students could be injured or die while in your care.
After we plan, theorise and worry about each and every child teachers then put aside our fears about something awful happening. We reassure parents that everything will be ok as the familiar refrain of ‘have fun, be safe’ can be heard amongst goodbyes.
It is a sign of love that both parents and teachers set aside our experience of all the unfairness in the world and leave our fears unspoken. We do so to preserve innocence of the children excited by the prospect of venturing beyond their known world.
Every time I take children outside of school, I always feel a sense of relief in getting home without incident. It is a teacher’s greatest fear that we are not able to return all our children to their families at the end of a school trip. Yet we know nature can be cruel and unpredictable.
Waves and floods have claimed the lives of children enjoying camps in my own country and a few days ago earthquake cruelly took the lives of a Singaporean primary school camp enjoying Malaysia’s great outdoors.All teachers who have heard of the news will no doubt take a few minutes to reflect. Those students could have been my students. That teacher could have been my colleague or even me.
My heart aches for each of the families of the children, teacher and guide who didn’t return from a school trip to Mount Kinabalu.
Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa
Let us keep close together not far apart