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Step out of the comfort zone

Continuing a recent theme, I thought I would write this week about another hidden gem (though this one is not necessarily Pilgrims’ specific), which is the teacher's perk of getting to go on residential trips.

In fact, I am writing this from Mount Kelly School in Devon (currently sat outside a dorm at lights out!), where I am spending a couple of days with our Year 8s, who are here as part of their Leavers' Programme (their final exams having finished last week).

A residential trip is a terrific experience for the boys (of course) and for us teachers too. Of course, one gets to go to lovely places (the Year 6 Normandy trip in September took in Mont St Michael – I had not been there since I was a child), and going somewhere completely different is also a marvellous and refreshing change of pace.

However, the main joy for a teacher is being with the boys in another context.  Firstly, there are a lot of laughs. Funny things happen on residential trips and any teacher who has been on one will have a tale or two to tell. Secondly, the boys are often more relaxed and open. By the end of a residential it certainly feels that you have been able to get to know the boys better.

The other joy is the privilege of seeing the boys bond together. Sometimes it is their first group trip away from home, and seeing how they look out for each other is amazing. Occasionally, as with this Year 8 residential, it takes place at an adventure centre – high ropes and all - and the boys are forced to confront fears or overcome challenges; there has been a lot of that for these boys this week. 

On Thursday morning, the lead instructor gave a short lecture on ‘comfort zones’, ‘stretch zones’ and ‘panic zones’. He talked about how it is easy to stay in our ‘comfort zone’, but that it is good to regularly go into our ‘stretch zone’ and do something which is perhaps not so comfortable. This can lead to exciting new opportunities and new skills. A skill or experience which starts in the stretch zone (like climbing a high ropes course or riding a bike) may well eventually be within your comfort zone. The point about ‘panic zones’ is that sometimes when we force ourselves to do something genuinely uncomfortable, we can become panicked. Here the value of teamwork comes into play, and it is the responsibility of the group to help them back into the ‘stretch zone’ where, hopefully, this will eventually lead them back into their ‘comfort zone’.

I’m not sure if I have seen anyone genuinely go into the panic zone here this week, but there have been a couple who have got close, and it has been heart-warming and wonderful to see their mates help them through; I think some of the boys have achieved things that they never thought they would be able to, and that is exactly what this sort of residential is all about.

It has been a privilege to join our Year 8s in Devon for a couple of days; there have been a lot of laughs, and it has been immensely enjoyable.

Alistair Duncan
Interim Head

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