By Nina, a supply teacher in Plymouth
192 hours during the Easter holidays (56 of which were spent on a bus) with 36 teenagers is enough to make any sane person twitch and their hair go grey. As that did not happen to me, presumably the logical conclusion must be that either I was one slice short of a toast rack or that I really was doing this purely for fun. There was no timesheet to complete and no day rate. The reason? Skiing in Austrian Alps.
I was pleased to accompany a rural secondary school from Somerset who were a mixture of seasoned skiing staff from the Humanities Department with mainly keen teenage beginners who had no clue of what enjoyment lay before them. Regretfully, for half of the pupils, they had delighted rather too much in the Burger King at the fuel stop in Luxembourg, before realising they had been parted from the majority of their week’s pocket money in ‘un moment’.
We arrived in blistering heat at the valley hotel, with the kind of jet lag you can only get when there is a time difference of one hour having journeyed through 99.9% of the EU. We immediately sat down for a delicious dinner, marred only with the bitter disappointment of learning that the waiter’s translation of the menu meant that ‘profiteroles’ turned out to be the plain croutons with the soup. Later that evening, fitting the youngsters with boots and skis was all a bit of a blur, as the pupils forgot their surnames, translated their shoe sizes into kilometres and proclaimed being advanced skiers after just half a day on the dry ski slope. We smiled at their enthusiasm as the adults’ eyelids fell heavy and some of theirs widened.
The next day the drivers cheerfully, and (fortunately) undeniably soberly, took us to the slopes. We were instantly reminded that we would need resilience, patience and ingenuity with us, as one pupil forgot their lift pass and his teacher aka his saviour Mr Marsh surrendered his own. “You owe me an A* for your coursework!” he joked, with what I detected as rather a sinister undertone – the exam board’s deadline was fast approaching after all.
Brusque and sturdy Gita, the ski school manager, divided the pupils into three and assigned them their instructors “No changes to ze groups. Zey vil learn zuper.” Well, Mickael with steamy eyes and a heavy Italian accent suited the beginners group of A level girls very well thank you, kind Helena charmed the boisterous middle group and dynamic Lee showed the top group a thing or two with his straight talking manner. Chelsea, a year 11, despite me trying hard to explain what a PMA stood for (positive mental attitude), tried out all three groups but as she sat in the snow with the mountain top view “It was too flipping difficult, Miss.”
The sun continued to beat down on the slopes, confusing the pupils who had remembered to equip themselves well with stylish jackets and gloves, but thought they were beyond water and sunscreen. Those PSHCE lessons in taking responsibility for ones own health sank in. We enjoyed the warm white stuff and learnt to propel ourselves downhill, proving that as humans we are all very capable of learning, even if the style we adopted was far removed from that we’d been instructed. All the pupils had an incredible time, including the overnight hospital visitor with mild concussion and five stitches, yet very pleasingly so did all the school staff and I. Next year? Yup. Ski on!