By Tom Franklin
This months blog is an inspiring story about discovery. John Hattie once said ‘classrooms don’t have to contain walls’. This is a story about how outlooks and opportunities can transform learning when we immerse young people in nature and take them out of their normal environments. We are delighted guest blogger Tom decided to share his inspiring story on the hipsters blog, enjoy!
As the clock struck three thirty, on this day, I grabbed my bag and rushed out of the door, to get as quickly as I could to the train station. Being the end of March and the final day of what had seemed a long Spring Term I was off again to find deserted beaches and paddle into waves in deepest Cornwall. A regular excursion which had been a saviour of my soul for as long as I could remember. I loved teaching in London for many reasons but my first thought before a long holiday was always; how to fastest reach the ocean and reconnect with my first love – The Sea.
Only half a day and one peaceful sleep later, I was sitting in a place that was as different as one could ever imagine from the skyline of a city. Looking out over miles of endless water and feeling myself return to how nature intended. Paddling into refreshingly cold walls of water, looking up at dark menacing cliff faces and breathing in the air as it whipped over the crests of waves took me away into a different dimension every time. A place without SMART phones or emails, without messages and news flashes, without worry and anxiety. The feeling of sand between my toes and the salt water in my mouth, the sounds of the ocean and all it brings, from chattering seagulls to booming white water. Caves, waves, wind, sand, silence and soul.
I was lucky growing up, I felt. I was one of those children from one of those families which had enough. Enough to twice a year, get out of the suburbs of the city and hedge all their bets on the weather systems surrounding the British Isles. Armed with a 1960’s caravan and a side awning, the kids, dogs and a frying pan were thrown into the back of the car and North Cornwall, Cliff field, pitch 24 was always the destination.
At 6 am every morning, I could hear the ocean from our pitch and I would be first up to rush to the field’s edge to see my playground for the day. It’s mystic allure never got old and I could be hypnotised by the sound and sight of the dancing waves as they lined up along the coast. I was full of awe, I was in the moment, I was in the sea. I watched men and women gracefully leap onto boards of all shapes and sizes to ride the pulsing water from left to right across the bay. They seemed like they were flying and each of them had a spiritual glow that I was drawn towards. Over the years I was honoured to become an incredibly average member of the classless albeit slightly chaotic community of ‘Surfers’ who grace every shore line around the world. – I was hooked.
I wanted to study the ocean, live near it, talk about it and write about it all at the same time. So, I went to University to study it with grand plans. Spin forward 10 years, and I am back at University learning to become a Primary School teacher in London (a long way from the ocean) and once through the trauma of NQT year, Ofsted and various other incredibly common trials and tribulations of an inner-city teacher, I found myself at a point where I asked myself; What I can bring to the children to really make a difference, not just in their lives but rather grandiosely, in the world?
I enjoyed teaching but often found myself watching other teachers with a passion for football, or music or science, relishing in their enthusiasm for theses things, glowing as they shared their crafts with the children. My passion was the ocean and surfing and no you tube clip or beach clean with the local council came close to the feelings I had experienced growing up. I would ask some children if they had enjoyed the summer break and where they had been, I was naively shocked to hear more than often; “nowhere sir”.
I decided, things must change. I had heard enough sad stories of lost lives over phones and postcodes which often boiled down to hopeless boredom and disconnection and I was fed up with school trips of abseiling in the rain and quad biking. I set about planning a short and incredibly simple unit of work, including Ocean swimming lessons, Ocean sustainability choices, Ocean safety and the Industry of the Oceans! All culminating with a train ride to Cornwall, to my favourite beach to learn to surf. My fuse was lit, I was off and running. Emailing frantically, every famous surfer I could think of, surf shops, celebrities, even Prince Harry! No luck, if you are not a registered charity, you have no chance, I was told.
I knew the children we wanted to take, each of them had their own reasons to go, to escape, to connect with something bigger, to have their fears and anxieties washed away for the first time. We knew how much money we needed to deliver the project – and I could see them there in my mind.
We hussled, begged, ran, swam, sweated and toiled and over six months we took a group of ten, children, who had never seen the ocean, through an Ocean Boot Camp of knowledge and skills meeting fantastic people along the way. With the kindness of many family members, teachers and like-minded strangers too, we at the last minute, hit the target. We were going to Cornwall.
The feeling I experienced when the group first turned the corner to find the vast, blue ocean in front of them was like nothing I had experienced before. The week we had is etched in my mind for eternity. The things they said, the questions they asked. The running, laughing and screams of excitement as they carelessly found out that they were in fact just children, that the ocean brings joy and freedom and perhaps most importantly that the sea belongs to us all.
Since that time, we have run two more trips, we are on our way to becoming a registered charity and we have had a film made about the project and its impact of global sustainability.
I often wonder if we just got lucky or if this was something waiting to start. ‘City Kids Surfing’ was born in 2016 from a small school in Lewisham because we wanted to pass on what we loved to those who could not reach it. Find what you love and share it, anyway you can. You will change the lives of children and you might just change your own too.
To find out more about Tom’s story visit his webpage City Kids Surfing or drop him an email firstname.lastname@example.org
https://youtu.be/aVgA_Y4Dt7M – The Unseen Ocean
“You can only love what you know” – Aldous Huxley