Year Four Camp 2018

I am loving my new role as Head of Year because it challenges me every day. More so than any other year in my career, I feel well within my ‘stretch zone’ and I’m growing as a result. My year of challenge reached its peak this week with Year Four Camp: a three-day residential with two hundred students and twenty teachers. As HOY, this was the most daunting week of the entire academic year and the only time that I have felt dangerously close to my ‘panic zone’.

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I’m pleased to announce that it was a huge success. We had a lovely time! I’m overwhelmed with two emotions in particular: exhaustion (for obvious reasons) and pride. I’m proud to teach such wonderful children and proud to work alongside such awesome teachers. I’m also proud of myself (I don’t think educators pat themselves on the back often enough). There are things that I should have done differently and some tweaks that I’d like to make for next year, but it was a fantastic event overall and a real team effort. So many lessons learnt and memories made!

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Our camp takes place at HKFYG Jockey Club Sai Kung Outdoor Training Camp. This is a beautiful part of Hong Kong and the weather was kind to us as well. Over the three days, our students were able to experience a range of activities including rock climbing, abseiling, archery, orienteering and even a water balloon fight with catapults! It was action-packed and hugely enjoyable.

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Year Four Camp was genuinely worth all of the effort that went into it. Residential trips like these provide countless learning opportunities beyond academics and beyond what schools can offer. They are hugely beneficial for children. In particular, they help to practise and develop students’ independence, responsibility and cooperation. Being away from home for the first time was a massive challenge for many of them and overcoming this initial upset was hugely rewarding. In addition, the camp activities were challenging, such as abseiling and rock climbing. Our children were risk-takers and approached these daunting tasks with enthusiasm and determination (even when they were very scared). Camp is also an opportunity to develop life skills such as making beds and serving dinner. The teachers were all hugely impressed by how far the children progressed in just a few days. I’m more confident than ever that this trip was worth all the blood, sweat and tears that went into its planning.

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Our parents were updated nightly through our camp Google Site. Our students managed and maintained the site themselves, posting information, reflections and photographs on a daily basis. This was another example of their impressive independence and responsibility. It was also a great way to keep our parents informed. I know that they appreciated the sharing and communication.

As well as the children, the teachers were equally amazing. I now realise that the success of this event was never solely on my shoulders. It really was a team effort. My colleagues were supportive, flexible and regularly went “the extra mile” for the children and each other. The teachers spent three days laughing and joking together while also looking out for each other. Camp is a fantastic opportunity for building and strengthening relationships with both colleagues and students. I was reminded of the famous interview with Simon Sinek when he talked about how relationships are gradually formed through regular, seemingly insignificant conversations and gestures. Camp was full of these.

Speaking of Simon Sinek, I have just started reading Leaders Eat Last. I’m not very far in at this point, but he explains how leaders put the needs of their team first, before their own. I made a conscious effort to put these ideas into practice at Camp. For example, I literally ate last (as the title suggests) and stayed up late to monitor students. These simple actions seemed like obvious ways to apply these leadership principles. Especially with the night duty, staying up later than others allowed them the rest that they obviously needed.

At the beginning of this week, I stated several times that I was determined to enjoy Year Four Camp as much as I always have done in the past. Despite the additional pressure and responsibilities, I stayed true to my word and consciously allowed myself to enjoy the special time with my kids and colleagues. I was exhausted for most of it (and still am), but it truly was a delightful event and an immense learning experience for me as much as it was for the kids. We loved it! Sincerest thanks to everyone who helped to make it a success.

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