The students all take a moment to reflect at Kanchanburi War Cemetery

The Benefits of School Residentials

Residential Trips in Thailand
School Residential Trips has featured high during this visit to Bangkok. As a ‘trailing spouse I’ve tagged along with Saint Mick of Thana whilst he has visited his school’s residential trips to RayongKhao Yai, Kanchanaburi, and Nakon Nayok.
Tagging along on the visits has been a real trip down memory lane for me as I’ve relived the emotions I felt when my kids were on residential. If you know me it won’t come as a surprise when I say it would be quicker to list what I didn’t worry about, rather than what I did! On each trip though the kids returned smiling and just about in one piece. I do remember a few colds, scrapes and tired eyes, but these memories have by and large been replaced by the excitement of their chatter, and the elation of their sense of accomplishment about what they’d done, seen and achieved.  I always remember Betsy’s joy, who struggles with balance, after she managed the bike ride under the lovely, kind, watchful eye of Madame Peppard who had tight eye on her well-being.

Wow! Beautiful Rayong.

What is involved in Running a Residential?
In the Secondary School it is the Heads of Year’s task to plan and run school trips that will help develop the children as great global citizens, (it is only those not going who would call them school holidays.) Back in the day I’ve organised residential trips myself and it is no mean feat. From running pre-visits to completing risk-assessments; to ensuring that there is a range of activities that develop students social, academic, physical and well-being needs; to organising the logistics of planning food, school buses and accommodation for 170 plus students there is a lot of work. In my opinion if you’ve organised a residential visit then you deserve a huge pay rise and a week off in recompense! My gratitude to teachers who take kids on residentials is enormous.
The Responsibility of Being in Charge of a School Trip
Anyone who has ever organised and run a residential will know that what is the hardest thing, is the sheer responsibility of being in a loco parentis position for the children. The responsibility is enormous and being responsible for their well-being can feel overwhelming. I remember a trip leader once saying to me that you have to think how well you care for your own children and then care for your students twice as well. Good advice in my opinion.
It’s true that residentials are hard work, they are worrying and stressful for the teachers and parents, but despite all the downsides the benefits of running a residential visit are enormous.  

Lovely views from the hotel near Nakon Nayak

The Values of a School Trip

The Challenge
During school trips children and their teachers are often outside of their comfort zones. Whatever the activity might be- whether it’s hiking, cooking, drawing, snorkelling, or museum visiting children are doing something new, fun and exciting and experiencing new activities with people outside their regular friendship groups. Students learn to be risk-takers within a safe environment as they interact and respect their new environment.
Learning in a Different Context
The best learning occurs when it seems like play – there is nothing like a residential trip for learning to seem so much fun that it becomes play. Whether it is visiting the Kanchanaburi Memorial Cemetery to reflect on the enormous loss of soldiers lives during the building of Hellfire Pass (linking to classroom learning), or whether it is activeily volunteering in communicty proejcts such mulching, to explore genuine local sustainability, residentials provide space, time and a real context for genuine classroom and cross-curricular learning to be developed.
The Midnight Fun
Many students absolutely love a sleepover and a school residential provides an excellent version of just that. What’s not to like about late night sleepy chats, secret sharing and snacking.  After the first two nights it also becomes a first hand method of children to learn for themselves the advantages of a good nights sleep!
Building Relationships and Friendships
When planning residentials teachers spend hours and weeks carefully organising groups to factor in personality, gender and cultural balance. This is great and goes a long way to prevent avoidable conflict. Positively it enables students to collaborate and spend leisure time with other students with whom they don’t usually spend time with and from whom they can learn.  This opportunity for relationship building and cross-cultural and gender friendship making is hugely valuable.
Time Away from Devices
None of us are far away from our mobiles these days and so often when you see groups of kids hanging out, whilst they are in the same physical space, they are quite often not interacting with each other at all. The great thing about ‘mobile phone’ free residentials is that all the oft-quoted advantages of time away from devices come into play. Play, chat, competitions, quizzes, discos  are all fully engaged in and these experiences are enhanced for not being recorded  by phone and for not being interrupted by constant texting distraction. 
The Relationship with Teachers
Long after students have forgotten the rules of Pythagoras or the detailed causes for the French Revolution they will remember the relationship they had with the teachers who taught them. Residentials are a wonderful opportunity for students to see their teachers having fun and being learners alongside them. Fantastic relationships can be developed, sometimes providing new trusting bonds which students can then go on to rely on, if and when they may face problems at school. Both students and teachers can benefit and grow from seeing each other in new contexts and environments.

It was such a treat to travel to all the residentials with my lovely Saint Mick.

Residentials Benefit Parents Too
Having fun, taking risks, and making new friendships are just a few advantages of residentials. Of course things can go wrong and students have to manage homesickness and their emotions when things don’t go quite to their liking. I’m not an advocate of the ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ approach to life, but overcoming challenge is a good thing and residentials do provide a ‘manageable’ level of challenge for most students. The above could probably also apply to parents too, whiling away the hours at home without their kids. There are perks to this too though –  no home-learning to help with, lovely diners out with a partner… the list goes on.
The best thing of all about residentials, of course, is having your lovely little chums returning back home at the end of the week to cuddle up and tell you all about it! That is almost enough all by itself to make residentials worthwhile.
What other benefits of residentials can you think of?

What a great place for a Year 7 residential. We should go to Rayong more often.
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