On the first Sunday of the six weeks (in England that is, our colleagues north of the border were already well into the summer spirit), I was sat in a little car park in the Brecon Beacons at 6am watching my husband, and at least 30 other people head off in the wind and rain to complete a walk, or a run over the top of Pen Y Fan, either with a pack on their back or without.
I didn’t do this. I sat in the car, drinking lots of coffee, wrapped in a blanket (it was very cold) and discussing ideas with my daughter.
We were talking about why the people were doing it; she wanted to know whether they’d “get a prize” at the end, and when I explained they were doing it to prove that they could do it, she said she thought that they “really should get a prize”.
So, to find out what they did get, I did what every good teacher (and parent) does when they don’t know the answer; I Googled it.
The company who organised this, Avalanche Endurance Events (www.thefandancerace.com/Avalanche), are a relatively small company ran by people with some interesting backgrounds and stories.
The founder of AEE has an incredible background.
Ken Jones was caught in an avalanche. The injuries he sustained were horrendous, but I won’t say too much about it here, he describes it himself in agonising detail in his book “Darkness Descending”. He explains how he walked, crawled, and hobbled his way to safety, using the skills he had learned and been taught along the way. He did however, write something that struck a chord with me.
After his Avalanche accident, and the time he spent in hospital, Ken found himself at his parents house in late spring when, during a snowfall he was reminded of a memory of pair of boots from his childhood, and what that memory meant to him. He wrote that he was “inspired by (the) possibility” of this memory, and this set him on the path to recovery.
In no way am I comparing teaching to the arduous rehabilitation he went through, however the fact he was “inspired by possibility” rang true.
That tiny quote made the link between what I was seeing in the pouring (and still cold) rain, and us as teachers. In the pedagoo and teachmeet community, we are constantly inspired by possibilities; the starter someone shares, the group workshops, the marking, the resources, #pedagoofriday, and, dare I say it, DIRT were all inspired by the possibility that they might just work.
We know in the classroom we have within us the drive and determination to make sure every student “gets it”, and the dogged determination in not giving up shown by Ken made me realise that we’re not that different. How we execute it differs vastly, but the ethos to push past our own comfort zones, the desire to prove to people that they can do it is exactly the same. We celebrate the successes, we make sure every student knows that we will – without question – help, support and encourage them in any way possible, and we make sure that every student knows that they are what makes the success: it doesn’t matter if it takes months of hard work and preparation, we are there, ready to shake their hand at the end and tell them “well done”.
We all know people who crave the plaudits, the praise, the prizes, but us, the pedagoo and teachmeet community, we are here, constantly adapting, constantly changing, constantly pushing ourselves so we can ensure the students we have in our classrooms are inspired by their own possibilities.
So, to answer my daughters question “they”, the people who are climbing Pen Y Fan (in the sunshine now) are doing it because for the majority it’s the culmination of months of hard work and preparation. AEE stood at the bottom and shook everyone’s hand who finished, and told them ‘well done’.
So, why do we teach? We do this not because we want “a prize at the end”, we teach because we are inspired by the possibilities our job brings. We don’t wait for someone to come along and do things for us, we get out there and keep on walking, pushing ourselves to be better then we were yesterday.
To those who have done “The Fan Dance”; you are incredible people.
To those who are teachers; you are also incredible people.
You see, the skill set we need to do our job, is not that different from the people who work and run Avalanche Endurance Events.
Maybe we’re not as ‘unique ‘ as we think we are.