Report by Mr Law
Just as dawn broke on Monday 12th January, eleven intrepid S4 pupils set forth to challenge themselves and move beyond their individual comfort zones. For a few, the early start introduced them to something known as early morning. Several were still asleep as parents dropped off their somnambulant offspring. Would this week of character building and co-operative working tasks actively engage them and invigorate their academic appetite ?
Upon arrival at Loch Eil, Fort William Outward Bound Centre, pupils from eight North Lanarkshire schools were whisked away by the instructors and separated/organised into clans. Each clan was associated with the one or two instructors that had daytime responsibility for them during the week. Rules were set out, challenges communicated, and wet weather gear collected. School staff members were directed towards their possible schedule for the week, were encouraged to experience the activities for themselves, and all concerned were then allocated their rooms.
Benefitting from a new pair of sturdy boots, this teacher embraced the tasks with initial equanimity, until terror introduced itself like an unexpected ice cold kipper down the back of the neck while watching Daleks in an episode of Doctor Who. Fear played a major part in many of the activities. Fear of falling down unimaginable heights then colliding with the ground, and fear of making a fool of oneself. However, the consummate ease with which many pupils engaged upon each activity, coupled with the professionalism and good nature of the instructors, engendered a feel good atmosphere of not letting the clan down. The frequent and increasingly common moments of peer group encouragement and assistance clearly indicated that the ethos of Outward Bound was permeating all of us.
After a long and arduous climb up what was referred to as a steep hill, the exhilaration of abseiling down a sheer rock face was the goal. Walking/trekking/climbing along Glen Nevis enabled snowball fights. Kayaking along Loch Eil amidst the stunning scenery was itís own reward. Building a raft from barrels, rope, and wood from initial design to co-ordinated or furious paddling, displayed the communication and co-operative skills these young team members had developed. Add to the mix a 30/40 foot Para-drop, Zip wire through a gorge, especially in the dark, tree climbing, a “trust your guide night line”, escape from a spider web, helping each other over a wall at least 10 foot tall, an obstacle/balance course, puzzle solving with crates, basketball, a music/advert quiz, Jacobs Ladder, orienteering, the clan challenge, boot cleaning – well, I think you get the picture.
Regardless of the occasional comment about food (chicken pie, lasagne, chicken curry, potatoes, vegetable bake, etc). “Why can’t we have real food sir, you know, like MacDonalds?” the feedback so far has been universally positive. Awesome, fantastic, amazing – and one lad said that it was alright.
As a teacher, perhaps the most difficult task was not to suggest or help. Observing them push themselves, solve problems, make friends, and grow in confidence, was such a satisfying and rewarding experience. I watched them integrate and grow as individuals and as part of a team, as they attempted tasks they initially viewed as too difficult. More about, “How can I?” instead of, “I can’t”.
The instructors were excellent, participant safety paramount, benefit to pupils immeasurable. Regardless of the weather I express resounding approval of the whole enterprise. Thanks go to Outward Bound and also a personal thanks to the Our Lady’s High pupils.