A day at the beach with Year 4 by Angela Caldin
Yesterday I went as a helper for my granddaughter’s class on an outing for the whole of her year to a nearby beach.
There are 26 in her class and there are five classes in the year, making a total of about 130 children aged 8 to be transported, supervised and occupied for five hours or so until the return to school. There were five teachers and various helpers who each had a group of five children to look after. The organisation required before and during was mind boggling and I wholeheartedly subscribe to the view that teachers deserve a massive pay rise. The responsibility they take on and the trust we place in them merits a much greater financial reward.
We started the day by piling into two big coaches which were waiting outside school. The noise level was deafening with so many excited children bouncing up and down, shouting to one another, pointing out landmarks, dropping their sunhats and diving under the seats to retrieve them. It didn’t take long to get to Okahu Bay where we were to start the day doing litter picking on the sand. As we all rushed down to the sea, it became clear that we were on possibly the cleanest beach in the whole of Auckland. There was virtually no litter to be seen. The teachers were not in the least bit fazed, telling the children that it might be difficult, but if they looked closely, they would find some small pieces. We scoured the beach for more than half an hour and I was personally proud to find three cigarette ends, two small shards of plastic and one bright pink Barbie shoe.
Morning tea saw us seated on the grass under the trees for a welcome break before charging back to the beach for a sandcastle building competition. I let my group build and decorate according to their own ideas and designs, but more competitive adults took over the design and construction of their group’s sandcastles, resulting in some marvellous but not very childlike creations. Finally, everyone collected as much sea-grass as they could to take back to school to spread on the vegetable garden.
Lunch and games
The Orakei Domain is just over the road from the bay and that’s where we went next. This involved crossing a fairly busy road where there was a pedestrian crossing with traffic lights, meaning that the children could only cross in small groups between each change of the lights – an operation requiring careful and precise supervision. When everyone was safely over, we sat in the shade of some giant trees to have lunch. I was famished and more than grateful for my cheese sandwich, while the children devoured their packed lunches with gusto. Just as everyone was getting ready to go and play at the nearby playground, one of the teachers announced that she had lost her engagement ring in the grass. That set everybody scrabbling around to try to find it, crawling haphazardly here and there, until someone suggested that there should be an organised line of people progressing slowly forward just like the police when they are searching for evidence. After a while the ring was found to relief all round.
Playtime at the playground, where some determined children spent the whole time queueing for the flying fox, was followed by an hour or so of organised games including cricket, touch rugby, rounders and sack race. My favourites were the tug of war, where there was a complete disregard for how many children were on each side, and the three-legged race where some participants became so expert that they managed four-legged and even five-legged racing, wheeling expertly round the halfway marker before marching triumphantly for the finish.
After the games in the glorious sunshine, everyone was getting tired and feeling the heat, so the ice blocks which seemed to appear from nowhere were more than welcome. Then it was back on the coaches for the return to school without losing a single child. As they streamed off the coach, I sloped off to my car and drove home for a well-earned cup of tea and a snooze.
Let’s hear it for teachers
But I didn’t forget that the teachers were still at work, getting everyone back to the classroom, calming the children’s natural exuberance and sorting things out for homework and the next day. What will it take for the public and/or the government to realise what a fantastic job teachers do day in and day out? They are not only teaching, but encouraging good manners and behaviour, disciplining unruly children, as well as organising events, outings and assemblies. They are shaping the adults of tomorrow which must surely be one of the most important jobs around. They deserve a salary which corresponds to that huge and multi-faceted task.