Planning a school trip anytime soon? Field trips can be loads of fun, but there is major potential for disaster. Talk to other teachers and don’t make these rookie mistakes to ensure a successful outing!
1) Not Counting Heads
Headcounts, headcounts, headcounts!
Many teachers will tell you their most embarrassing—and frightening—moment on a school trips was when they realized they were missing a student.
One schoolteacher related the story of a school beach trip: halfway home on the coach, the teachers realized a child was missing. They went back and fortunately the girl was happily entertaining herself in the sand.
2) Leaving without a Plan
There’s always that one teacher who wants to give the kids a little extra learning by taking a detour or lingering at a site far too long.
This can cause confusion and upset the trip for other groups, so always have all teachers involved agree on a schedule before hand—and stick to it.
3) Being Ill-Equipped for Messy Moments
Kids are like their own species—they’re always sick, or getting dirty, or about to wipe their boogers on you.
Prepare for each trip by stocking up on wet wipes, towels and spare clothes, and make sure you have a contingency plan in case one of the little rugrats gets sick in the middle of the very important historical site you’re visiting.
4) Assuming all Teachers Act Like Adults
Sometimes the toughest people you’ll have to deal with on a school trip are not the children but the teachers!
One teacher friend said she found that a normally sane colleague turned into a child herself on a class camping trip—she couldn’t handle the weather and the bugs and had a difficult time being away from home.
When planning a trip, be clear about what you will encounter and ask teachers if they have any personal concerns.
If you’re choosing a colleague to help you lead a trip, pick one you think will make a good co-leader, so you aren’t stuck holding the teacher’s hand as well as the kids’.
5) Boring your Students to Death
Always have your students in mind when choosing a destination for a field trip—pick something that is appropriate to their academic level and that they’ll actually enjoy. Field trips should be fun!
You might think it’s super exciting to hear the perspective of a local representative talking about the politics of trash pick-up, but be ready to hear “I’m booooooooored!” the whole day.
6) Being Secretive with Parents
Unless you’re prepared to deal with a parent who is livid that you took their precious little daughter to an art museum where they saw—gasp!—nude sculptures (true story), make sure you always notify the parents about the details of all upcoming field trips.
Parents want to feel involved in their children’s school activities so they’ll love to know what the trip will entail and may even volunteer to help chaperone.
7) Ignoring Bathroom Pleas
Never doubt a child who insists they have to go, or you’re in for a fun surprise.
Make sure there are plenty of times during the day so that if a student needs to visit the facilities they can.
And the problem is not just with young kids—teachers tell me that teenage boys will go anywhere.
Provide plenty of breaks so no one gets arrested for indecent exposure!
8) Not Having a Plan B
Though we’ve talked about the importance of sticking to the itinerary, let’s face it—stuff goes wrong.
The planetarium is closed, or the super-cool dinosaur the kids were excited to see at the museum has been taken down for cleaning—or maybe the fair’s hot dogs have given everyone food poisoning.
Having a back-up plan can be helpful, but so can a good attitude and a commitment to having fun no matter what on the trip.
Many schoolchildren are banned from having cellphones in class, but make sure each teacher has one to communicate if separated and to facilitate making new plans—even if that means accepting defeat and taking everyone out to the movies.
Have you led a school trip that went off without a hitch? Or do you have any great field trip horror stories? We want to hear them!
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Main image: woodleywonderworks