And although I have since discovered the joys of some of the awe-inspiring locations in the US, Europe and the Middle East, I will never underestimate the power of the great British staycation.
In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that holidaying in the UK has made me a better teacher.
Why a staycation matters
One of our primary aims as teachers – other than delivering the curriculum to help students pass their exams, of course – should be to develop students’ cultural literacy in order to help them understand and make sense of the world around them.
By providing them with a wealth of knowledge and experiences (cultural capital) that they may not otherwise have, we are arguably enriching their lives and giving them some of the tools that they will need to fully participate in society.
Talking about our own staycations and using our stories and experiences to bring British figures, texts and topics to life can bring a sense of authenticity and verisimilitude to our teaching and go a long way to building students’ cultural literacy too.
Our own extensive knowledge of the United Kingdom might also lead to some important discussions about British culture and heritage – something which can lead to overwhelming feelings as we consider where we come from, who we really are and what impact our choices have had on our lives and landscape, as well as those of others.
Drip feed cultural capital
Where possible in our day-to-day teaching, we should find opportunities to share facts and thought-provoking information about locations that we have visited that are of cultural significance to our students and which might pique their general curiosity about the country that they live in. We should not underestimate the value of doing this.
It was only upon visiting Cheddar Gorge aged 7 years old that I realised it wasn’t actually made of cheese, rather a huge valley with caves that boasted the perfect conditions for ageing it; and it was only through visits to Wales – often in cheap holiday parks bordering Snowdonia – that I was introduced to the legends of King Arthur.
Both these things I can now share with my students, if only to develop their understanding of the foods and climates or narratives that have pervaded British sites and texts for centuries.
More importantly, if our students holiday in the UK for financial or other reasons like my own, then sharing our love of staycations with them could serve to make the disadvantaged feel less alienated.
Imagine the pressure placed on these students by peers and teachers alike sharing their experiences abroad after the summer break. Instead of describing turquoise water and 35-degree temperatures, detailing a short camping trip to Devon or a day out to a museum in Birmingham, could instead make some students feel more comfortable in the classroom.
On a final note, while there isn’t much light to be found in the darkness of the Covid-19 pandemic, if there is light to be found it is in the return of the great British staycation.
Many teachers and students will have chosen to holiday in the UK this summer rather than to risk travel abroad and a subsequent period of quarantine. Whether hunting for mythical creatures in Inverness or scouting for dinosaur fossils on the Jurassic coast, there is an abundance to be seen and experienced and learnt in the UK and we should not underestimate the power this can have on our teaching.
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