With all three groups back in Blighty, and before I reflect more on the wonders of Istanbul, a few thoughts on the rather difficult hand the gods of the Istanbul weather gave us.
Sometimes, I guess all of us who teach ask ourselves why we do the job. This Wednesday afternoon was certainly one of them. I also know some teachers who would never take students away for fear of things going wrong. For definite, I knew how they feel that afternoon, stranded in a snowbound Ataturk airport in Istanbul, the whole airport shutting down, stuck airside in chaos, being told we may not have a hotel room for the night, with 39 students in tow. Never again, I told myself.
Thanks to our fantastic guide in Istanbul, Serhat, the guys at TCBC, and some support at base camp, we got a hotel, had two extra nights in Istanbul with no bones broken, and some natty new socks, tees and undies. We got some quality shopping time in the Grand Bazaar, and made friends with our local kebab emporia: step forward Ben Ogden for the chilli challenge. And some late night tea too.
And even I remember some of the reasons I ever went into this strange old job in the first place.
Let’s start with two buzzwords: teaching and learning. Some of the best bits are when that whole process is happening to teachers and students. We have all done a lot of learning this week, together (much more of which anon). Istanbul didn’t let us down.
Then, one of the pleasures of the job has always been spending time working and playing with one’s colleagues. To say my four colleagues on this trip have been outstanding is an understatement. To be so calm, so professional, so interested and so much fun when things are going smoothly is one thing; at Ataturk airport on Wednesday, while I was going (not very) quietly haywire, is a whole different ball game. It’s a great reminder that one of the absolute keys to the job is teamwork, hard work, a cool head and a sense of humour. I suppose getting on with students helps.
Which brings me to the 39 students we took away with us. WOW! What a crew. When all was going well they were positive, engaged, interested and fun.
When it all went pear shaped they were patient, thoughtful, tolerant and, amazingly, still fun. When else can you have a conversation about the pound sterling and full convertibility in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties sat waiting in a packed airport for a coach to take you back into Istanbul seven hours after you were meant to depart? (It was more fun than it sounds). And when I had to ask for volunteers who might need to stay one more night than the rest, people stepped forward.
Any parents, and any staff reading this should feel proud of them. Can I use a reverse teacher cliché? They were a credit to the school, to their families and, most of all, to themselves (I’ll even forgive the selfies, girls!)
Still, I’m delighted to say the staff didn’t lower themselves to that sort of thing. Oh, hang on…
To parents reading this, I’m sorry if at times information was slow or sparse, and can only beg circumstance: for much of the time we knew little or less and were nervous of putting out false information; it was a bit like spinning plates at times (not helped by my phone stubbornly refusing to work in Turkey, but working as soon as we got to Greece).
All I can say is I hope, and believe, we have all had a great time despite all (and certainly memorable). We were, in some ways, lucky. There were a lot of people in the airport at 7.30 this morning who had been rebooked on odd seats on Thursday, and had their flights cancelled and had nowhere to stay, ending up on the airport floor. Our guide told us there were thousands looking for hotel rooms. The (full) Manchester afternoon flight took off on Thursday five hours late. All in all, we came out of what was an absolute whiteout pretty well.
The biggest irony. It all going wrong has kind of reminded why I do the job. To see our students at their best in adversity, as well as being great in the good times, reminds me of why I do it.
Which brings me to Schliemann and the Stadium of Light. Yes, teaching and learning. The two quotes of the week, both when walking around Troy. Step forward Mr Peter Wilson, for his observation that Troy was colder than the east stand at the Stade de Lux. And Ben Ogden: ‘Schliemann was such a….’