This last week I have been away for a week with 36 Year 8s from school. We went to an outdoor pursuits centre in Northumberland and spent a few days doing all the usual stuff - climbing, abseiling, zipwires, teambuilding games, archery, high ropes etc.
There was also a lot of time for the kids to chill out, chat, and just build their friendships. It was nothing less than awesome to watch this happening, because at the start of the week there were clear friendship groups (that I already knew about as I teach all but three of these kids), but by the last couple of days you wouldn't know it - all of them were mixing together. And this was without our coaxing or encouraging, and without putting them in specific groups - it just happened as they spent time together, living, eating, and playing together.
I've noticed before humans' innate ability to just get on with each other when thrown together, and it was exhibited wonderfully here.
Personally, I loved having the chance to get to know these kids on a more real level than would be possible in one hour a week. It reminded me why I first thought that teaching would be a good idea - I just love getting to know teenagers. It's my instinct to gravitate towards them rather than the adults, so I spent very little free time in the staff lounge, but spent most of it playing pool or table football with the kids, or just sitting and chilling with them.
In fact, the exclusivity with which the staff were treated really bugged me - things like getting a tablecloth on our table, getting larger portions, and getting orange juice at breakfast rather than squash. It was as though the centre (which, by the way, was generally very good) expected us to be very separate from the kids. Now of course, in a way we are - we are responsible for them and sometimes have to make it clear who is boss. But to give us special treatment would just have given them the message that they were less important, which is ludicrous - after all, the week was about their personal and social development! This really, really got to me!
Other than that, it was a great, if tiring week, and another reminder of how much more interesting, fun and inspiring I find teenagers than adults (no offense to anyone over 18!). Before this week, all but maybe a couple of these kids were just pupils that I teach; now many of them are amazing young people who I want to invest in massively.