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The Quick Q&A: how to survive the week-long residential

Week-long trips away can be enjoyable experiences for teachers if they are planned well and have some rest time worked in, says this English teacher

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Week-long trips away can be enjoyable experiences for teachers if they are planned well and have some rest time worked in, says this English teacher

You look tired. More so than, erm, usual. 

Yes, I had the pleasure of spending last week at a residential. 

Oh. How did it go? 

Getting to know students outside of the curriculum was definitely a positive. It certainly helps see the kids as humans rather than data points. 

I hear a "but..."

It was absolutely exhausting. I was arranging it all myself so the stress level was sky high, and being in “teacher mode” non-stop was just horrendous. 

It sounds like you may have made some rookie mistakes...

Yes, I should have said “no” when they first asked me. 

No! Residentials can be really amazing experiences for teachers as well as students, but you need to follow some basic rules:

  1. Never try and arrange everything yourself: team planning is the way forward.
  2. Ensure duties are clearly allocated between you: for example, one of you handles the booking, another composes and sends the letters home and collects permissions.
  3. Plan the time and staffing so everyone gets a break. 
  4. If you know a trip that used to run and was a success, copy it. There is no point reinventing the wheel. If you have an awesome itinerary that is full to the brim, but has well-planned 'rest points' and lots of eating/toilet stops, then everyone will have a good time. 
  5. It is not always possible, but going on these trips with friends makes everything much easier 

Ok, I get that, I see how those points can solve some of the issues, but what really hit me this week was managing behaviour. 

I suppose the temptation for kids is to think that because they are not on the school site, then the school rules don’t apply. Make it clear before you go – ideally at a parents’ information evening – that normal school rules apply and any extreme naughtiness will result in the end of the residential for that person at the parents’ cost: this usually does the trick.

Does that really work at bedtime when the worst behaviour occurs? 

If you set out expectations from the start, then I tend to find that kids are ok. They will, of course, require a few stern “lights out now/busy day tomorrow" reminders while you are doing room checks, but it is funny how much that in loco parentis thing kicks in when you are away with them. 

So I should put this one down as a learning curve and trust future residentials will be awesome?

Teenagers are – ultimately – 90 per cent awesome and you will enjoy seeing them outside of a classroom situation more than you realise. Throw yourself in, expect to be tired but expect to have a lovely time, too. 

Katie White is an English teacher in Devon. 

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