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Being a Polar Bear

| August 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Kean Broom

There is a lot you don’t know when arriving at a new school, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I was tricked into running the Polar Bear Club.

And, actually, being a polar bear is a lot like being a teacher, I soon discovered.

Treverton College in KwaZulu-Natal has long been known for its superb outdoor pursuits programme. And I love the outdoors. However, waking up at 05:00 every Thursday morning every day of the whole year to swim a lap of the school dam isn’t that cool in my opinion. In fact, it’s
ridiculously cold.

Anyone up for a sub-zero plunge at dawn?

Anyone who has been to Mooi River,1 or driven through it on their way to the sunny South Coast, knows that it doesn’t follow any recognised climatological routines. The only routine followed by Mooi River weather is that Thursday mornings are stupidly cold. This does not depend on the season. It’s just a fact. Sort of like the fact that all Mondays are very tiresome and long – no matter what lesson you have planned or how great the weekend may have been.

If, like me, you’ve been fortunate enough to live on a school campus for most of your career, you’ll relate to being able to roll out of bed 20 minutes before your first class and still arrive five minutes early. This makes getting up for Polar Bear very challenging. Not only is the expectation of a sub-zero plunge a nasty thought, but so is the thought that you will be wide awake for a full hour-and-a-half before your first lesson. That is just wasteful.

The weird and the wonderful

But it is what it is and so, at break of dawn, I walk to the end of the jetty with a number of other lunatics all trying to pretend that this is great fun and not that much of a bother, really. Everyone there has their own motive. Some like the challenge. Some are doing it to prove a point to a parent, a friend or themselves. Some want the recognition at the end of the year. And some really do enjoy getting up early and going for a swim. Weird.

But whatever their motive and despite the cold, they smile, laugh, scream, make jokes, and the whole exercise becomes meaningful. Enjoyable even.

The previous teacher who ran this club did so for 17 years, until he retired last year! (Actually, he showed up again to do it this year too. Just for fun.)

Taking one for the team

As a teacher, how many times have you asked, “Why am I doing this – again?” or thought, “There’s got to be an easier way,” or “I’ve done my time” – yet you’re still there, still doing your

What brings you back?

Well, it’s the people. The kids. The learners. The students. The ones that drive you mad much of the time, but make your day when they suddenly achieve what they were certain they could not. The ones that pull together to get something done at the last minute, when you were certain the project was doomed to failure. The ones that can’t understand why you became a teacher, but are really glad that you did. The ones that keep trying.

It’s for them that I take the plunge every Thursday morning (and will probably do so next year – again…)


1. See, for example:

Category: Spring 2016

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