A grand day to be in the glens

17th October 2003 at 01:00
You have to have a lot of ordinary days," says my friend, "in order to have an extraordinary one."

She's dead right. And it's like that in school these days, a lot of boring old ordinary curriculum before the occasional flash of extra comes in. The recent tragic case of a teacher jailed for making one bad mistake on a school trip, which I feel was harsh, makes it likely that even fewer teachers will be willing to take children out and about.

In fact, I can see what we have being replaced only by expensive foreign holidays or outward bound courses run by professionals, also costing a bomb.

But what will we miss? I have taken special needs kids away often, staying in youth hostels or purpose-built accommodation. It's great fun, a chance to see the children outwith the school walls.

It's amazing how couthy the most rotten apple becomes when not hemmed in by the written word. We see the kids at their best - trusting, helpful, excited and awed by the big world they see first hand.

And them? They learn a touch of independence from their old folks. They see teachers interacting with each other in a friendly and co-operative way - often very different to life at home.

They become responsible for planning, shopping, cooking and bed-making.

They demonstrate an incredible tolerance for each other's differences, in a way we don't always see in the classroom where lack of self-esteem can make them cruel.

I recently went camping with a group of mainstream kids, who carried their loads without complaint, who helped each other and were courteous and helpful to this aged old bag who couldn't light her meths stove or stand straight after a coldish night. There is more than just a tad of mutual respect earned and given.

A lot of extra curriculum work goes on unnoticed and unapplauded - in debating competitions, football leagues, orchestras and clubs. Teachers don't get paid for it - although other academic support does.

But I have noticed that those teachers willing to carry on widening pupils'

horizons outside school hours are the ones who have the least bother inside the classroom. And that is probably a bit to do with the mutual respect I have talked about already.

Up the glens last week, three of the four teachers had learnt a lifelong love of the hills because their teachers were willing to take them up when they were kids. What a tragedy if one prison sentence means all that might stop.

And yes, it does take a lot of ordinary days to make an extraordinary one.

But aren't they grand when they do happen?

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