Most students have no idea what goes into planning a fieldtrip. You have to calculate travel time, build in lunch and bathroom breaks, estimate how much time each activity will take, call and make reservations, order the bus, write and send the parent letters and permission slips. Then you have to collect the slips and money. Of course there is always the kid who can’t pay, so you dig in your purse and find the money because you don’t want anyone to miss out.
In the next few weeks, you send home reminder notes, plan lessons around your destination, talk about what you expect from them on the trip, confirm your reservation, count the money, get it to the office so one check can be written and sent in.
Then the morning dawns, and you’re up a little early and on your way to school because you’re convinced you’ve forgotten something. You pick up the emergency contact forms from the office, check to see if anyone has medication, and you sign that out from the secretary (or the school nurse if you’re lucky enough to have one). You grab a first aid kit just in case, then you find a box for lunches and grab a sharpie because half the kids won’t have names on lunches even though it was in the note and you reminded them at the end of the previous day. When you think about lunch, you check for the extra bag of food you brought from home because you know someone will show up without a lunch and someone else will have very little packed because there wasn’t much at home.
The bell rings and the kids come in; you can feel their excitement. Directions are given quickly because you need to be on the bus in exactly fifteen minutes. Lunches get collected and you tell them to go to the bathroom. Half of them say they don’t need to go, but you pull the mom thing. “You need to at least try. It’s a long trip, and the bus won’t stop until we get there.” When everyone is back in the room, you quickly go over directions one more time, reminding them to be on their best behavior. You head for the bus, counting them as they get on, and counting them again before you let the bus leave.
The bus ride is noisy and you have to tell a few to stay in their seats. When you finally arrive, you remind them again about what you expect, ask a parent chaperone to please grab the lunches, and you exit the bus first. You count them as they come off the bus and once more when you get inside. You get parents to take them to the bathroom while you check in and get any needed information.
And then the real work begins. Yes, there are a whole bunch of parents along, but honestly, they are there to be with their own children, and most of them aren’t comfortable really monitoring other kids. So, you micromanage just a little. Ask this parent to walk in front, ask that parent to hold the door, remind a few kids to keep up, and a million other little details. You’ve probably been here a few times before, so you know what will take a long time, what might make them giggle, and what you need to make sure they see. You slow them down, remind them to read, and revel in the questions they ask. And you count them at least a dozen times. 🙂 You make sure the group gets to all the right spots at all the right times, fit in another bathroom break, and conveniently avoid the gift shops. Before you know it, it’s time to go home. Another bathroom stop, another head count, then you head to the bus. You count them as they get on and once more before the bus pulls out.
The bus ride is noisy and you have to tell a few to stay in their seats, but you sit back and relax for the first time that day. The kid behind you leans over the seat and tells you his favorite part and then his seatmate does the same. You ask a few questions and nod a few times. They go back to their conversation and you listen and smile because they’re talking about the trip and connecting it to what you’ve taught. You arrive back at school just in time to get to the classroom, tell them what a great job they did, and then the bell rings for them to go home.
A lot of learning went on during that trip, and even though it didn’t look like it, you were constantly on; teaching, monitoring, encouraging, and interacting. You return the medication, first aid kit, and emergency care forms to the office. You call it a day and head home. Only then do you realize you’re exhausted, but it’s the good kind of exhausted.