by Thomas Sherrington, Depute Head Teacher, Bucksburn Academy, Aberdeen
On Saturday, January the 13th, the Bucksburn and Braeview Academy Polar Academy teams dragged ourselves out of bed at a very early hour, packed our bags full of waterproofs, sandwiches and snacks, and set off on the road to Callander for the first of three planned Tyre Hauls. This 20km walk, with a heavy tyre attached to harnesses around our waists, was designed to build our endurance and replicate pulling a fully loaded sledge across the ice of Greenland.
As Depute Head Teacher at Bucksburn Academy in Aberdeen, I was looking forward to meeting up with Dundee team again, and seeing how both sets of pupils coped with the physical and mental challenges of the day. The first thing that struck me on arrival on the shore of Loch Lubnaig was that, despite the promise of wind and rain, it was a beautiful winters day with clear skies and low temperatures. This was to our advantage as we set off in single file dragging the tyres behind us.
The second thing was just how many people were in attendance. As always during Polar Academy events, there were past graduates of the scheme, parents from previous years, parents from this year and various other supporters of the charity that had shown up for the day. It is testament to the amazing work that the Polar Academy does, and the enduring sense of community and family that is engendered, that people continue to show up year on year, even after their school community has touched back down on Scottish soil. It felt as if there were more than 40 people – and about 5 dogs – in convoy, which was great for team morale, but not so good for passing mountain bikers.
Dragging the tyre was not initially as hard as perhaps expected, but the cumulative effort did start to take its toll as the day progressed and legs started to stiffen, and feet began to swell. Despite this, the mood amongst the team remained positive, and all twenty young people worked as a team, sticking together to support, encourage and share sweets with one another.
As we returned to the car park to uncouple ourselves from our tyres, roughly six hours after we started, there was a strong sense of pride and achievement amongst all in attendance. The youngsters from both schools demonstrated to themselves, their Parents and the Polar Academy team that the months of hard training is paying off. They have become strong, resilient and ready for the challenges ahead. After two more tyre hauls of increasing length and difficulty, we will be getting on the plane to Greenland to do it for real, but this time on skis. I have no doubt after tyre haul number one that the kids will smash it. Hopefully the same will be true for the teachers.