WRITTEN by ANNE ENSOLL & TRICIA GILL
Tricia Gill is a secondary school teacher and recreational skier. She regularly takes groups of students out of the classroom on outdoor trips, in the UK and abroad.
What does it mean to you to take your students out of the classroom?
The best memories from my teaching career are of the times I’ve taken students out of the classroom. There have been many industrial visits and lectures, but the best trips have always been the outdoor ones. I ran C2C bike rides for many years and I still love that route. Some students amazed me by their determination to get them and their bike to the top of Hartside without assistance. For others, just the challenge of being away from home and not phoning Mum every half hour was enough. At times it was terrifying (when a student was cycling downhill at over 30mph with no hands on the handlebars) and at other times hard work (mending inner tubes at Keswick youth hostel at midnight). But always, it was worthwhile.
About a year ago, myself and a colleague took some students sport climbing in Spain. At the beginning the younger ones were yapping round our feet so much, the instructor called them the spaniels. They were distracted, their belaying dreadful and we couldn’t take ours eyes of them for a second. We all wondered how we would survive the week! However, a few days later, the kids had calmed down and remembered how to climb and it was wonderful to see them all leading and belaying safely. The instructor said that it was the hardest, but also the most rewarding of the trips he had run for us.
I always enjoy the trips; I get to know my students better and they always impress me. They always appreciate your efforts, especially when you appear on a rainy, windswept hillside in the Cheviots when they’re lost on DofE! I’ve learned a lot from the instructors I’ve worked with and at times my personal climbing or cycling has received a huge boost. Trips have also been a great way to get to know colleagues better.
What does it mean to the students?
Outdoor trips challenge students in very different ways to normal school life. Many find opportunities to be successful and discover a resilience they didn’t know they had. Other students struggle and for them that is a new, and useful, experience. They all learn valuable life skills and come back more confident and able to deal with difficulties.
If you could give any advice to a teacher thinking about outdoor trips, what would it be?
Find a good instructor and a good team of colleagues to work with. Working outside with youngsters is very different to doing it on your own. So, even if you are experienced, it’s good to work with a professional instructor.
Start small. Help out in trips someone else has organised if you can.
The paperwork is a pain, but it’s important for your own sake if nothing else. Do it carefully and do it well and it’s easier the next time round.
When did you first think about hiring a Mountain Guide for skiing?
My husband, Iain, and I have been ski touring for well over twenty years, but we had never skied with a guide until a couple of years ago - mainly because we couldn’t afford it, but partly because we felt competent and safe and liked doing our own thing. Two years ago we booked Chris because we wanted to do a traverse of Mont Blanc and decided that more expertise was required. Unfortunately, the weather was foul and we didn’t even see Mont Blanc, let alone ski up it. So what did we do for three days?
Iain had always struggled with kick turns and we’ve had some scary moments when he’s been stuck mid-turn on a steep, icy slope. Chris taught us a new and much easier way of doing them. That alone was worth the guiding fee! We recapped on avalanche awareness and learnt new methods for crevasse rescue. Chris spent a lot of time coaching me on off-piste skiing techniques. We learned so much from Chris; he is up to date with the latest techniques and being taught on the slopes is much more effective than trying to learn from the internet. We now feel even more competent for when we go off on our own.
Will you be hiring a Mountain Guide again?