in Education

Bad Trip

Is Everyone Here?So there I was, tucking into my once-a-week lunchtime pizza, bathed in glorious sunshine, and sitting on the steps of Grey’s Monument in the centre of Newcastle. The smooth sounds of a highly talented musician (whom I’ll refer to as a ‘busker’ for convenience) was putting everyone in a good mood – or at least all those who had managed to dodge the charity workers multiplying like the city centre pigeons.

And then.

A column of blue entered my vision from the right as, penguin-like, a class of primary school children filed in front of me, two-by-two. Straining to be heard over the busker a middle-aged male teacher proceeded to lecture those children who could hear. His subject? A Brief, Boring and Rather Inaccurate History of Central Newcastle.

The children, meanwhile, did their level best to scribble down some ‘notes’ on flimsy pieces of paper with a blunt pencil. One lucky soul had obviously been a very good boy the week before and was snapping away using a disposable 35mm film camera. I was frustrated on their behalf.

When the busker realised what was happening he stopped playing and waited for the school party to move on. Had he not, the whole experience would have been an even more spectacular fail that it already was . The children were impeccably behaved, but the members of staff were so concerned about them following instructions that they didn’t even realise the courtesy the busker had shown them.

Walking back to work I realised that I’d just witnessed something I hadn’t experienced for twenty years. Back then, however, I had been on the other side as a child myself. Whilst in 1991 it was, to some extent, forgivable to run that kind of trip (it at least got us out of the classroom) in 2011 such practices are anachronistic and give schools a bad name. It was evident there had been no pre-trip use of online mapping tools. And why couldn’t all of the children take photos with their mobile phones (or school-provided digital cameras)? Why did they have to line up in twos? Why did they have to struggle to write on scraps of paper? Who’s trip was this?

Doing something for its own sake can be damaging and, as someone who has run school trips, there is absolutely no excuse for what I witnessed today. Conformity is not an end of education, but inspiration certainly is.

Image CC BY-SA Wm Jas

  • Andy

    For a lot of the ‘digital’ questions – cameras, writing on paper etc I’d guess that cost is a bug factor. Money is non-existent in a lot of schools – not saying you’re wrong – far from it, but to have a camera for everyone provided by school, or a laptop to write notes on walking around central town is not something most schools can afford. Use of mobile phones – that depends usually on Headteacher and the policy for mobiles in school.

    In some schools not even all the staff have access to a school laptop.

    The walking in two’s is common practise and, personally, I think good practise.

    • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

      Yes, but my point is that, educationally-speaking, it was unsound 20 years ago and remains so today. I think it’s unforgivable not to at least use stuff that’s freely-available to enhance out-of-classroom learning.

      • RossA

        That I totally agree with – learning outside the classroom is twice as powerful as inside when done correctly.

      • RossA

        That I totally agree with – learning outside the classroom is twice as powerful as inside when done correctly.

  • theheadsoffice

    That is so sad because there would have been lots of organisation at school to enable the trip to happen.It will also discourage the youngsters to get involved in future events.Real shame!

  • http://johnjohnston.info/blog johnjohnston

    Hi Doug,
    With you all the way except for the twos. Having helped with lots of primary trips including quite a few abroad there is sometimes a need to walk in twos, keep organised etc. We did carry laptops, mobiles & paper & pencils. One mobile, mms & Flickr can be enough.

    • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

      Absolutely, but you wouldn’t *keep* them in that formation whilst trying to teach them about something, surely? Most couldn’t hear!