As a high school arts teacher, I have been on a variety of field trips, from half day excursions to week-long out of state expeditions. I have been both the supervising teacher and a field trip chaperone for other teachers. All of these experiences have given me a clear idea of what I want in a chaperone as a teacher and what I want from a teacher as a chaperone. These are from experiences with high school students, but I’d imagine that many of them apply to younger students as well. Although, I’m sure there are added needs when dealing with little ones.
As a teacher, I love when my colleagues serve as field trip chaperones for me and my students. It presents a chance for them to get to know the students we teach better and see them outside of school enjoying a new experience. I also appreciate not being the only adult who has to solve problems, take care of the student who is crying or help a student find the bathroom. I have worked with so many wonderful chaperones in my career: staff members, fellow teachers, parents and my own family. The ones I loved working with did the following to make the field trip a success.
As a Teacher, What I Look for From a Field Trip Chaperone:
- Someone who will take roll: When I was in high school, we traveled out of state and went to a variety of locations, including a mall food court for lunch. When we left the mall, one bus did not take attendance and two students were left behind. My teacher had to take the bus an hour back to pick those students up. Ever since I became a teacher, that has been my nightmare. Count heads and take roll so we know we have everyone we are supposed to.
- Someone who gets to know the students: Field trips are unique experiences for students. For many it is the first time they are traveling away from home or doing a certain activity so there are a lot of emotions associated with that. They often want to talk about what they are experiencing with the adults they are traveling with. Be someone they can talk to if they are excited, confused or homesick. Help share the emotional work of taking care of a group of students doing something new.
- Someone who is prepared: Once the bus leaves, I likely will not have time to explain the schedule or expectations to chaperones. Come in having read the schedule and any other material and ask questions before the trip starts. That way everyone knows what is going on before we leave.
- Someone who steps in to help solve problems: I appreciate it when, instead of waiting to be asked to do something, a field trip chaperone steps in when they see a problem. They pull a kid out who is being disruptive, wait to fall in at the back of the group as we walk from place to place, count heads as we go places and keep an eye out for drinking fountains and restrooms. They help solve problems as they arise instead of waiting to be told what to do.
I have also served as a field trip chaperone for other teachers as they have traveled with their students. It is generally a fun experience, though exhausting. I’ve slept on gym floors, spent thirteen hours on a bus one way and sat up with kids who were homesick. As a chaperone, I appreciated teachers who did the following:
- Made it clear what they wanted from me: Often I don’t know the students I travel with as a field trip chaperone as well as I know my own. Teachers have different expectations for behavior and field trip rules. When I’m told what the rules and expectations are for the trip, I can better help maintain order and keep everyone safe and happy.
- Established that I was an authority figure: Again, when I am working with students I don’t know, they can see me as someone they don’t have to listen to. Being established as an authority figure in the beginning makes it easier for me to do my job.
- Were organized: Traveling with students is intense and complicated. The more organized the trip is the easier it is for everyone. When teachers know where food is available, how long it will take to walk from Point A to Point B, what the weather will be like, etc. it means I can help the students and teacher keep things running smoothly. If we have to figure all that out as we go, it adds stress to everyone and makes even minor problems that come up seem huge and hard to solve.
- Prepared for contingencies: Things are going to go wrong on field trips. There will be extra time, delays, places will be closed. Teachers who are over-prepared, who bring card games for down time or DVDs for long bus rides, know about ice cream places or coffee shops where students can kill half an hour, really help keep students entertained and out of trouble.
Field trips are great learning experiences for students and can be incredibly fun. And they could not succeed without wonderful field trip chaperones! I have loved the chances I’ve had to travel with students and am forever grateful for prepared teachers and prepared chaperones who made those trips successful!