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How to educate and change 12 students lives, in less than 6 hours…

Let me tell you how – I started to write this blog in the summer, but now I have got around to finishing it so here we go!

… as I’m typing this, I’m currently on a nine-hour flight from Tanzania, Africa.

I’m a regular traveller, so I’m usually asleep on long-haul flights, but right now, I’m feeling absolutely ecstatic, all because of what I’ve experienced over the past seven days.

I just had to jump on my laptop to share my experience with you…

I’ve been in the incredible country of Tanzania with twelve 15-18 year old students and their favourite teacher, Mrs Waters (or Sarah as I know her) on a twelve day expedition.

What’s interesting is that I’ve personally been on hundreds of expeditions around the world, but the past week has been, without doubt, the one that I’ll always remember.

I want to share the short story about the interesting developments and moments from our ten-day adventure…

… and then I’ll tell you how you can bring your students on an amazing global expedition for absolutely free, and I’ll answer all of your questions making it easy-peasy to carve the path to organising your adventure.

It all started on a sleepy Monday morning…

… the students were slowly emerging from their rooms to join us for breakfast in our little hotel on outskirts of Kilimanjaro.

Late last night, we all returned from a 6-day hike as we climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest mountain!).

Even though we were all filled with excitement from our trek – it was one of those mornings where we all wished that we could have stayed tucked up in bed… our legs ached, our feet were sore and most of us hadn’t even had a chance to shower!

But aside from that, it was a truly mesmerising experience, and we were very lucky to have witnessed views that only a handful of people will ever have the privilege to see.

As I looked at the tired students, hair was stuck up, yawning was contagious around the room and there was plenty of eye-rubbing.

It was 8am, the time of the day where we surprise the students with today’s task or challenge…

So, as the group gobbled down their breakfast, I stood up at the front of the room…

“Today guys. We’re going to be visiting a local school…”

Usually at this point of the day, we get a squeal of excitement and buzz from the students, but not this time…

“Why would we come all this way to go back to school?” moaned Dan – he was the popular kinda kid of the group – he’s actually asleep next to me on our flight!

There was a serious lack of enthusiasm within the gang.

BUT…

I knew that this was my wild-card and the students were about to embark on something special… these days have previously been hugely powerful as the guys get to experience a different culture and gain a new appreciation for education.

As we boarded the mini-bus for our 40 minute drive to the school… spirits were low.

It seemed that the group really thought they would be visiting some sort of standard high-school with a sports hall and IT department, sitting in a Maths lesson and focusing on Algebra puzzles.

They were due a big surprise…

Whilst on our drive, I kneeled up at the front of the bus to inform the students of what they were about to experience…

“Guys, this is going to be a very special and educational day for you all”…

Heckles filled the bus.

“… because you’re going to meet and spend the day with some brilliant local students who are all your age”

The instant look of panic set in, knowing that they would have to leave their comfort zone and actually build friendships with strangers.

Arghh!

After our 40 minute drive, we pulled up at the school.

“We’ve arrived” I yelled.

The surprised students all looked at the school and then looked back up to me, they pointed and questioned “is that it?”.

The small building (which was about the size of a small 2 up, 2 down house) had the African students stood waiting, looking back at the coach with big smiles on their faces, excited to meet their new British friends…

As we left the coach, we approached the school and said hello.

I approached their teacher and we assigned each one of our students with their new buddy for the day…

The local students approached our gang, introduced themselves, and then led them into their classroom.

As we followed them into the small dark room, it was tiny… 4 plain walls with nothing more than a chalk-board and a few rows of tables & benches…

No big wall displays, no interactive white boards and (shock horror) not a computer in sight!

The students sat with their new partner, whilst me, Sarah and the local teacher took to the front of the room…

We agreed that we would begin with a traditional English lesson…

But there wasn’t a grumble from the group this time, it was clear to see that they were really taken back by their surroundings…

They had lost their cheeky edge (even Dan was quiet this time!) their eyes were wide open, and you could see how deeply they started appreciating the incredible education that they have been taking for granted.

As time went on, and the teacher asked them to work on a group exercise, the two sets of students started talking…

It started a bit shaky… you remember what speaking to new people at school was like, right?

But the most beautiful thing started happening…

After ten minutes, as myself and the two teachers were talking privately…

The atmosphere in the room suddenly changed, you could hear laughter between the groups, you could see smiles on faces and you could zone into conversations, where really deep, interesting conversations were taking place…

I remember picking up one particular conversation between one of the local students and Dan…

“You are so lucky to have such a fantastic education system in the United Kingdom” she said.

The response from the usually boisterous Dan took my breath away.

He said: “Yeah, I don’t really do much in school, but I’ve realised how much time I’ve wasted”.

WOW.

How powerful is that!

This was much more than just an off-the-cuff conversation; it was a moment that the future Dan will reflect on for the rest of his life…

Will he continue to moan about school?
Will he continue to disrespect teachers?
Will he continue to think that education is not important?

This was a moment that took mine and Sarah’s breath away.

As the day continued, more relationships blossomed.

The members of the group who weren’t usually very talkative and kept themselves to themselves were really coming out of their shells, making friends and smiling ear-to-ear.

It was clear to see that our guys were really enjoying themselves.

And then, another small miracle happened (kind of!)…

Sophie, who has been boasting about her several bags of Haribo that she had brought on the trip, who had previously been refusing to share them with anyone…

Not even her best-friend was allowed one!

She gave her new African friend a full packet without any hesitation!

(we all rubbed our eyes in shock!)

She opened them and shared them with the group.

What had she done with the real Sophie? This was so out of character, but an absolutely amazing act of kindness.

As the day went on, there were more and more smiles around the rooms, big belly laughs and relationships blossoming.

It was incredible!

But, it was approaching 3pm, and we had to catch our mini-bus home…

… it was difficult.

For the five hours that they had spent together, serious growing-up had happened and appreciation for what we have, and the brilliant education system that we take for granted.

It was time to say our final farewell and each of the groups had five minutes to say their goodbyes…

Addresses were exchanged and promises of becoming pen-pals were agreed, there were tears, hugs and even some formal hand-shakes..

… as we all took our seats on the bus, emotions were high, the usually louder guys were peaceful and quiet, looking out the mini-bus windows, deep in thought.

Tears were streaming down faces, and as we drove off and we all waved at our new group of friends, it was obvious to see the huge impact that the day had on all of our students.

The students will keep these memories in their minds forever, it will be the first story they share with their parents when they get home– the fact that they climbed Africa’s biggest mountain was now at the back of their mind!

They had experienced a personal friendship that made them truly appreciate their life, their education and the opportunities that they have in front of them.

It seemed their trip to Tanzania really hit the spot.

The truth is, this was just one of the many expeditions that they could have experienced, the options are endless, they could have been trekking the Jungle in Madagascar, travelling the desert by camel in Kenya or even White Water Rafting in Morocco.

The expeditions are always planned around the needs/wants and experiences of students.

If you would like to find out how you could offer this experience to your students please head over to www.rockandrapidexpeditions.co.uk/105seconds and get a copy of our teachers inspirations guide to see how you can change the lives of some of your students forever.

 

This blog was written by Keith Crockford. Keith has been involved in School Overseas Expeditions for the past 12 years and has organised and led expeditions for over 1000 young people in his time. Keith runs Rock and Rapid Adventures and The Bucket List Company which are both based in North Devon.