Our Geography Tours Development Manager, Cath Rule, is a self-confessed lover of all things geographical. Whether she’s out exploring breath-taking destinations and discovering the latest visits to get groups all fired-up, hiking up a mountain as a Field Study Tutor with students in tow or working with teachers to put together the ultimate tour itinerary, she’s got geography on the mind.
In this quick-fire question round, Cath tells us about her past experience as a geography teacher, her role as Geography Tours Development Manager at Rayburn Tours and the importance of taking students out of the classroom.
Tell us about your experience as a teacher.
I worked as a geography teacher in a variety of secondary schools across Merseyside for 17 years. Throughout this time I was always looking for opportunities to get students out into the field to stimulate their learning. Sometimes this was as simple as stepping on to the playground but where possible I was keen to take the students further afield to witness new and exciting environments. Visits ranged from North Wales to China and my all-time favourite was the annual trip to Iceland with the sixth form.
What motivated you to go into teaching?
The romantic notion that I could make a difference! I loved the energy and enthusiasm of young people, full of hope and aspiration and the belief that they were invincible. The challenge was trying to channel that into learning and guide students along the right path.
What was it you most enjoyed about teaching?
Sharing a love of geography and helping students to see its relevance in the modern world. Those jaw-dropping moments out in the field when students were momentarily speechless by what they were witnessing. The light bulb “oh I get it” moments when suddenly the geography becomes clear and the subject comes to life.
Why did you decide to take the role as Geography Tours Development Manager at Rayburn Tours?
Rayburn always had a strong reputation and I liked the fact that their geography trips had an educational focus and were more than just a trip abroad.
I strongly believe that no student’s geography education is complete without spending time out in the field. Here they can witness the practical reality and compare it with the theory they started with, enhancing the understanding gained in the classroom and making connections between different parts of the curriculum. The multisensory nature of fieldwork means it can accommodate many different learning styles where learners have the opportunity to get their hands dirty, smelling, listening to and touching the real world.
It is a privilege to share these experiences with young people in the field and the exciting opportunity to focus on this aspect of geographical education was just too good to pass up.
What does your role involve?
A key part of my role is working with party leaders to help them to choose which destination will suit their needs best, how this will fit in with their learning requirements and putting together an itinerary that will make the most of their time.
Another aspect of my job is training the education team so that they understand how each of our destinations is suitable for a geography trip, what schools will get out of a visit and keeping them up to date with any changes and developments in terms of educational reform or on site at a destination.
I’m also very lucky in that I get to lead trips as a Field Study Tutor (FST), helping to deliver the geography content out in the field and sharing specialist knowledge of each destination. As well as myself we have a team of FSTs able to provide expert knowledge out in the field.
I also have the enviable task of looking at (and exploring) new destinations that might be suitable for school geography visits and putting together itineraries and developing resources appropriate for school groups.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?
Taking students to unfamiliar environments; challenging their existing thinking as they start to make sense of the world and see it from a new and different perspective.
Seeing students, out in the field, develop a passion for a subject they’ve been mildly interested in before; opening their eyes, soaking up information and constantly asking questions to deepen their understanding.
How important is your experience as a teacher in your role?
Having experienced life in education I understand completely the difficulties teachers face and the hurdles that need to be overcome when organising an educational trip: time pressures of an excessive workload; stringent health and safety requirements; financial constraints and an occasional lack of support from senior leaders. Rayburn can help to reduce some of this burden and take away some of the stresses involved.
Being familiar with the geography curriculum at all levels of secondary education (including the new exam reforms) means I can advise party leaders on which destinations will best meet their learning requirements and how they can get the most out of an international trip.
Having been involved in many educational visits I appreciate how important outdoor education can be. Yes in terms of academic performance, but also in helping to motivate and inspire young people, instilling a sense of self-believe and developing students who can relate well to others and form good relationships.
The development of essential life skills and resultant personal growth shouldn’t be underestimated.