In this new article series I Want That Job! I'll be interviewing people from various professions within the climbing world. If you think your job is a dream come true (it has to be climbing related) and if you're willing to be interviewed - then drop me a line. Likewise if you can think of a job that you'd like to have - suggest it in the forums and I'll try and track someone down.
It's the turn of Forum User Andi Turner (User Profile) to persuade us all why we want his job. Andi mixes normal class teaching with outdoor instructing; giving a blend of job security and professional salary with the chance to get out in to the hills and promote the sports that he loves. Can we blame him for all this group abseiling at the Roaches?! Probably...
Name: Andi Turner
Class Teacher and Outdoor Instructor
Post Grad Certificate in Teaching, SPA, ML
Perks and holidays/time off:
13 weeks of holiday a year and I'm normally home and back out to the crag before most people have heard the clock-off whistle.
Describe your job:
I'm employed as a teacher. My mornings are spent in the classroom, delivering the usual National Curriculum bumf. I qualified as a Geography Teacher but I spend most of my time delivering English and Maths. Each afternoon I take a different group of kids out on activity. The purpose of this is to develop self confidence and awareness and as a way of calming what are potentially disruptive pupils. Climbing is a therapeutic activity, the things we get out of it, so do the kids and you really notice a difference after cragging, well usually...
How did you get this job? How long did it take? Any hardships? Did you always want it or did it just happen?
Getting to my current position has taken some time. When I left school I worked as a volunteer outdoor instructor at Bewerley Park just down the road from Brimham Rocks in the Yorkshire Dales. At this halcyon time, the centre employed teachers gleaning teacher salaries working as instructors and everyone was happy, most of the time. However, times were a-changing and over the following years as budgets were squeezed to their last driblets teachers were systematically replaced in favour of non-teaching instructors and my dreams of being a full time instructor evaporated on the simmering heat of the proposed salary.
I then took what seemed like a very contrived journey to get to my current position, although I don't think I would have got here any other way. I took a degree in Geology (naturally) despite having no interest in whiling away my days red-necking it on a platform some miles off the Aberdeenshire Riviera. I followed this with my first taste of the 'behaviour modification' industry working seven day shifts in exchange for three weeks off as an Outdoor Educator. In this position myself and at least one other member of staff would take a young person and try to encourage them into being sweet little angels through the medium of the outdoors. This would range from teasing them off Millers Dale Viaduct, squishing them through Giant's Hole or frog marching them up Tryfan via Glyder Fach. As much as you are in the in the open air, it's not like your normal weekend outings and you can replace the chee-ow of the Chough and the peaceful whiskey mellowed bivvies with cries of “I ain't eating no dirty beans!” and three a.m. kid-hunts as they make a break for their perceived freedom. It was a job which kept you on your toes and with which a sense of humour was an absolute pre-requisite!
From here I worked in mainstream schools and attained my teaching qualification. Both in leafy suburb and down town inner city schooling in Stoke-on-Trent I cut my teeth in teaching methods and crowd control, but always managed at least one afternoon on the crag with the students. Their two hours on the Roaches equating to half a term in the development of team work, trust and social relationships.
Anyway, this all led me to where I am now in the half way house. It suites me to a tee, but there can be a clash of interests and I do sometimes wonder whether I'd be better off just being a teacher or just being an instructor? I suppose it is what I always wanted, it is, without a doubt a job description seemingly written in retrospect of my occupational CV.
What attracted you to the job in the first place?
Well, the advert I suppose! A job for a teacher, with a keen interest in the outdoors and just up the road from my house, I couldn't have let it pass by. During the preliminary interviews I soon began to pick up on the under riding ethic of the place and how it fitted well with my own beliefs, so I felt comfortable with the place. This combined with a good deal of autonomy also added to the attraction.
How long have you been in the job now? How long do you see yourself continuing?
It all sounds peachy at the moment, doesn't it? That may be because I've only been there since last Summer, however I would like to imagine I'd work there for the foreseeable future. I am well aware of the lifespan of this strain of work though, so we'll have to see how long it takes for the grey hairs to multiply.
Describe your average day at work? And the average week?
Arrive and talk to the staff that have been on over night. This'll give me an idea of the mood the students are in (I have three in my class at present) and therefore what I can expect to get out of them in the class. I try to keep things succinct, kinaesthetic and achievable. After lunch I head off to wherever I need to be that afternoon; sometimes I need to pick up the students I'm taking out, other times they'll meet me where we are going. I need to be inventive over how I run the sessions, any spare time or lapses in concentration and I'd have them soloing out along the lip of The Sloth. Behaviour issues need to be dealt with sensitively, bellowing “KEEP AWAY FROM THE EDGE” is a sure fire way of getting them to push it a little bit further. The trick seems to be in keeping them active and trying to get them to perceive the danger as being real whilst actually maintaining a safety net around them, of sorts. I like to have an objective on which to assess them and to give them direction, this could be 'team work', 'staying in a group', 'completing an abseil' or 'learning a knot', as long as it is achievable and in some way measurable. This helps them in their sense accomplishment too. I then return them to where they need to be, hand over any issues that have arisen to the necessary staff, then go off for a cry and a mild nervous breakdown.
Is it how you/other people imagine it to be?
I think it's a lot better than people imagine it to be. After all, it's the icing on the cake of an otherwise really satisfying job, to be able to be out, every day in my favourite environment. Watching the seasons change, experiencing the weather first hand every day, I love it.
The best day? The worst day?
Some days we don't even leave the car park due to behaviour issues, I suppose these can be seen as both good and bad. I suppose in one sense, we have avoided having a serious issue up on the crag or out on the hill, which is a good thing but in other ways it's a missed opportunity. The worst days tend to be when it all goes wrong when we are already up there, but, the way I see it providing we all get down in one piece, that's a success, everything else is a bonus. It's a simple way of looking at things, but things need to be kept like this, or we'd all go mad.
Do you 'love' your job? Why? Why not?
Hmm, no. At the end of it all, it's a job and a salary and a genuinely worthwhile thing to be doing, but I couldn't love a job. I could hate one though, and in this case that certainly isn't so. The fact that I'm not simply lining someone's pockets, and that I'm making a difference (hopefully) means a lot to me. Plus, like I said before, I'm out there, not behind a desk.
Today I walked out over Gradbach into driving hail stones before the sun came out and the wind blasted us dry. We watched the rain move in and surround us, these are wild and beautiful experiences for me, I like to think they are mind blowing for the kids that I work with.
If a teenager said to you 'I want to be a teacher or instructor, like you' – what would you say? Recommend it? Warn them off? Laugh?!
Of course, I would recommend it. I wouldn't expect them to like it or even necessarily succeed in it, but I feel that if that thought has crossed their mind, then they should find out for themselves, not what some round-backed old shriv like me should tell them. It's a very specific role that I fill, so it wouldn't suit everybody but it's definitely an avenue worth exploring. Along the way they would pick up numerous skills which would see them in employment anyway, so there'd be no harm. It is certainly not a dead end job, even in the run up.
Then, when they were gone, I'd laugh.
Any tips and advice on how to get to where you've got to?
That same old bugbear – experience. Work with the kind of people you think may end up being your clients. Working in the outdoors is so much more than the qualifications that you hold, it's about your ability to make decisions and foresee problems. Get out a lot, get lots of group experience and try to analyse if you really enjoy what you are doing. Working in the outdoor industry has very little to do with being an outdoor enthusiast in my opinion, just because you love climbing doesn't mean that you should enjoy taking groups out doing the same. I suppose my job is best described as being a teacher, but with really, really good scenery.
Any amazing stories?
Plenty, but none which I can tell publicly.
And finally - What's your dream job? Why?
Maybe something like Guy Keating's job as access guru at the BMC. It carries the same weight of importance, which would mean that I'd feel that I could give it my all; you know it's such a worthwhile job. Plus, I know a few people who work there already, and they all seem happy, teachers rarely seem happy and I don't know why, I hope I don't end up the same. I suppose that's all that really matters in the end: getting paid and having a contented smile on your face.
Andi can usually be found at the Roaches, reaching past all the hard moves. Notable ascents include a recent climb of Laguna Sunrise (E6 6c) without side runners. Also Andi is an excellent writer and has had articles published in various climbing magazines. Of particular note is his striking essay 'The Magic Flute' published in a recent BMC Summit magazine. Andi is sponsored by Boreal.