Arranging exchange visits for students was always a lot of work. Whilst you were there you were always slightly anxious. The only way to deal with this was to work out all of the things that could go wrong and work out how you would deal with them. Expect at least half of those things to happen, and you might be pleasantly surprised is some of them didn’t. Also plan for the best and expect the best of your students.
Here are a few scenarios I was glad to leave when I left secondary education:
· Debilitating homesickness (this was really pre email and mobile phone days – I wonder if those actually make them worse. We’d often find that it was a call from home that sparked the homesickness.)
· Hospitalisation – in one case ending up with the boy concerned being flown home. It turned out it was an injury that had happened months ago that a fall made a lot worse.
· Lost passport. (This was actually a member of staff!)
· Parents not turning up at the agreed time to meet their children. “We thought you’d be delayed because of the fog.” Er. No. We allowed for that and got back on time. Come on. It was now 9.30 p.m. and we’d set off at 7.30 a.m. I had to teach the next day.
With all of this, though, if you know what to do it’s manageable. These days it’s called Risk Assessment.
Anyway, it’s more than made up for by:
· The difference it makes to how the students learn when they get back home. It also influences the ones who didn’t go for the better.
· Being greeted in German every day by my students when I meet them in front of the school.
· Walking along the street in Cologne and seeing a student who left my school three years go with the partner I’d matched them with five years before.
· The friendships I made over the years with my colleagues in the exchange schools
· What I continued to learn.
Come on guys, we are European whether we like it or not.