Skiing with the Head

I have spoken many times about the virtues of school trips. They provide a wealth of experiences that you cannot get in the classroom. At BGS, our focus is on developing skills and learner attributes, school trips provide an environment where these can be effectively delivered.

This half term I was invited to be part of the school ski trip in the beautiful Italian Dolomites. I appreciate for the girls having their Headmistress as part of the group is not always met with universal joy! But how quickly they accepted the news and started to reframe their idea of a Headmistress as they saw me, trying to develop my skills and knowledge of this sport.

The trip allowed the girls to rethink the roles we play as teaching staff when they saw us contend with the challenges of skiing. For some of us skiing was about learning a new physical skill that took us out of our comfort zone as we collided, fell and lost control of those fibre glass features, attached to unmalleable shoes, in a most ungainly manner. For others, it was about recalling a skill learnt many years ago, as we tried to retrace a muscle memory that has long since faded. In moments like these, the staff demonstrated learning attributes of resilience, risk taking and persistence, and we strived to model them as we progressed through the basic techniques of skiing.

The girls, on the other hand, often picked up the skills more quickly and found themselves in a role reversal, where they were now playing the role of the coach, encouraging, supporting and being caring towards the staff. Often one of the most advanced girls in the group would patiently wait at the back, ready to pick up any member of the group, often a teacher, who had collapsed in the snow.

It is always good for pupils to see their teachers learning, striving to improve whilst recognising and appreciating the importance of these learner attributes when trying to acquire a new skill. As teachers it is important to be reminded of the challenges learners face when being taught something for the first time, or in my case remembering a skill I was taught over 20 years ago. Education is about a community, teaching each other, learning from each other and always striving to bring out the best in each other. Never more was I reminded of this than on the slopes of Passo del Tonale.

Jo MacKenzie, Headmistress, Bedford Girls’ School

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