On Trips, Please Don’t Be Trippin’

We had a wonderful trip to the local zoo last week. Perfect weather with lots of time to explore and even play games in the grass. The only problem I had was with behavior: the behavior of other schools’ teachers!

It was obvious that too many other teachers saw the trip as simply a way to get out of the building for the day (“Less work for me!” they surely thought.) As a result, there were kids from as high as my knee up to as high as my head running willy-nilly through the zoo, putting my own students’ emotional and physical safety in harm’s way.

Why is it that so many other schools’ teachers see trips as a time when they can be trippin’? No doubt these poor trip managers are poor classroom managers, too, but there is so much more at stake and potentially in danger on a trip. It doesn’t take much to lose a kid. Spend too much time gawking at a big cat, let’s say, and you won’t even notice that little Johnny has already wandered over to the zebra, which is a solid 10 minute walk away. Likewise, failing to set expectations and go over protocol is a sure way to increase the chances of serious injury and a ruined day for everyone.

I didn’t see anything quite that extreme, but there were several groups that we encountered that set me ill at ease. Being around these doofuses made me proud to be among my colleagues, a group of professionals whose students were conducting themselves like young men and women.

Among the worst offenders (to be filed under “You Have to See it to Believe It”):

  • a large group of kindergarteners walking in a large mass on all sides of the path, against traffic. Normal except for the teacher’s inability and/or refusal to preemptively line them up and establish rules for walking safely.
  • a group of 6 middle schoolers given the run of the zoo by their teacher. When we finished touring the zoo, my class visited the playground and for a while we were the only ones there. Then the middle schoolers showed up. I and my paras were stationed around the playground to supervise. In contrast, the teacher with these kids sat down on a bench, put on her shades, and pulled out her magazine (I’m guessing it wasn’t Instructor) and dug in for a good long, relaxing read. In order to defuse the issues I knew were surely going to arise, I ascended to the top of the playground to referee. When three of the middle schoolers straddled the bridge I was standing on in an attempt to get across, I stood in the middle and told them there were 8-year olds here so they couldn’t do that. When they returned 30 seconds later, I much more firmly told them not to do it, and this time they got the message. When we left the playground area an hour later, those kids were running amok out of the view of the teacher while she continued to enjoy her magazine (and possibly a nap).

Trips are awesome sauce all around, but they can be a minefield if you’re not smart. There needs to be structure in order for there to be safety, learning, and fun. When you take your class on a trip, help the students represent themselves, you, and their school in the most positive ways possible. They are learning valuable life skills in the process, and you’re doing your job.

Related: Trips Are For Teaching

3 responses to “On Trips, Please Don’t Be Trippin’

  1. I typically love all your blogs and enjoy reading them as you have great insight in the teaching world. However, this article didn’t quite seem like your style and more of a stress release. I love field trips for the sole purpose to remove those typical classroom structures and to allow students to explore and discover on their own. The problem is different age groups need different structures. I think the real issue comes down to the point that your younger students who need more guidance and direction,for the most part, to ensure timelines and whereabouts, were then mix with older students. Older students need the opportunity to explore themselves and their behaviour in a variety of settings. This lends its self for the opportunity to then reflect on the behaviour, the outcomes, and then the discussion can be continued for what can be improved upon for the next excursions. Should teachings sit and read magaizine no…but they should allow students to explore their ability to managae their behaviour independently without feeling hovered over. Students need to be set up for success prior to the trip with what is acceptable or not, what will have them walking with a supervisior and what will have them going home. Again how much freedom is extended is completely dependent on the students age, maturity, reasoning ability and of course the teachers competency.

  2. Well, I have gone in this direction before – I have been quite a bit more sarcastic and bitter than this on this site. If anything a trip calls for more structure. There isn’t the safety net of knowing where things are, who is around, etc. I also can’t reconcile a child’s need for freedom with a teacher’s need for magazine reading, especially when the kids are involved in very physical play on a metal structure elevated 20 feet. Imagine the issues that can arise from a teacher willfully ignoring children on a trip because it’s easier to read a magazine.

  3. Lisa Williams

    Field trips are great ways to shake up the normal routine, opportunities for learning, a release for the kids, etc…. but as a teacher, it makes me realize the comfort of the classroom! Whew… and after a field trip I’m ready for a cocktail and massage. 🙂

    I don’t care where you are or how old you are… manners are manners and nowhere does it say that teenagers need to act like fools in order to explore and learn outside the confines of a classroom. Nor should you let kindergarteners walk in a mass with no order…. maybe that is how the teenagers having the run of the zoo came to learn that. 😉

    In any case… you’re right, you do need structure, strict rules and guidelines, and great parent volunteers!! Bottom line is if the kids have manners and respect (and are held to these expectations in class) then all should run smoothly on any given field trip.

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