Getting Chaperones for Overnight Field Trips

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Getting Chaperones for Overnight Field Trips

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Field Trip Snacks Square

Getting Chaperones for Overnight Field Trips

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Susan Thompson
Texas Teacher

 

Finding fieldtrip chaperones can be as difficult as attempting to climb Mount Everest without the proper gear. At first, parents are overwhelmingly excited to volunteer, but when the time comes to sign up, you are met with radio silence. You are taking their children outside of the classroom for a fun learning experience that can only be successful with support from the
school and families. Although fieldtrips are a fantastic opportunity to get away from the traditional classroom setting, it is also a green light for misbehavior. Many parents realize this and suddenly decide they do not want to be responsible for disciplining their child or their child’s friends. That is why teachers need to make it clear that fieldtrips don’t happen without chaperones. In no uncertain terms, but as nicely as I can, I explain that if we are unable to get the number of chaperones needed, the trip won’t happen. This is usually all it takes to get the parents and guardians on board. They realize they cannot complain about the students, not having the opportunity to experience educational opportunities outside of the school if they are unwilling to do their part. But what about overnight fieldtrips?

Overnight fieldtrips are tricky when it comes to getting chaperones. Parent volunteers are a must for these types of fieldtrips and many are super excited and can’t wait to sign-up. And then the time comes for them to actually commit and then suddenly they no longer remember verbally telling you “to count them in.” Sound familiar? It is as if fieldtrip amnesia
has suddenly taken hold of them. They want their kids to go, but they just don’t think they can get away. As professionals, we all understand the demands of work and family, so that is why the parents at my school were asked in August. The trip took place in March every year, so we knew that would give them plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements to
attend. Boy, were we wrong! During the first year of this special fieldtrip, the kids were so excited. They could not wait to spend four days in the woods! That is until we almost had to cancel. We did not have enough chaperones. One by one, four of the eight backed out. This meant that there would not be enough chaperones to stay in the cabins or supervise the
activities. One adult in a cabin of 25 students is just not enough.

One angry parent even suggested the teachers stay with the students instead of in the teacher-assigned lodging. We had to bite our tongues on that one. After the principal explained that not only was it unethical to have teachers in a cabin where students were showering and changing clothes, but we were also all female and could not stay in the boys’ cabins. The parent still didn’t get it. They said it was our job and to figure it out. After two weeks of begging and pleading and calling an emergency parent meeting, we finally secured enough chaperones to go, but we learned our lesson. We needed a contract and we needed backup. From that point on, we had all potential chaperones sign an agreement. The agreement said that if for any reason (barring an emergency) he or she would let us know by January 1 st if they would not be able to attend. That gave us two months to find a replacement. Sounds easy, right? It should have been, but we soon realized our next mistake.

We had no one lined up to take their place if they canceled. Luckily, three dads changed their plans and made it work so we were able to go. But, we realized that in addition to securing chaperones at the beginning of the year, we also needed to have a list of alternates who agreed to sign the same contract. The peace of mind that came with having alternates was incredible. In fact, the last year I attended, there were so many parents that wanted to go, they got together and created a schedule so that they could alternate nights and days. Two ended up staying the whole time. Having the extra eyes was helpful and from what I have been told, the next year, the school decided to increase the number of chaperones by four. Two females and two males. There is no doubt this helped a busy fieldtrip run more
smoothly.

Finding fieldtrip chaperones can be as difficult as attempting to climb Mount Everest without the proper gear.

Parent chaperones also help with discipline and this was very true for the school I worked in. It was a private school and everyone knew everyone. There was nothing a student could do that their parents were not going to hear about. In fact, one young boy who was known for causing trouble became the epitome of good behavior during the trip. Why? Because one of
the chaperones was his father’s best friend. We had all been dreading four days with this student and were surprised and relieved at his behavior. The most rewarding part was the student realizing he could still have fun without getting in trouble. We will never know for sure if the parent asked the friend to chaperone or if it was purely a coincidence, but we are
forever grateful. The fear of parental versus teacher discipline is real, but there are also other positive results from having parent chaperones. Yes, parents were the grounding force that helped keep many kids in line, but the students also knew their parents would hear about all of the great things they did as well. Pictures of them ziplining, rock climbing, canoeing, or horseback riding would be taken and sent to their parents via text. Since cell phones were not allowed, this was extremely special. I remember seeing many students ask the chaperones if they would take a picture and send it to their parents. It was touching to see the excitement on their face.
At the end of the day, fieldtrips do not work without chaperones and definitely not overnight trips. Making sure that ALL parents understand that without their help and support, the students will lose out on the experience is vital to the fieldtrip’s success.

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