Friday, August 15, 2008

School Field Trips: Where Learning Meets Fear, Loathing & Intense Bathroom Searches

Ah, the missing kids on the field trip story. In case you haven't heard, and are celebrating the upcoming weekend by being too lazy to click on links, a bunch of kids from Aldo Leopold Charter School in Silver City and an adult "chaperone" (yes, we still use that word) got lost out in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness on a school year-opening field trip. The kids/chaperone were found and all is well. The Silver City Sun-News, which I'm guessing doesn't have a Hell of a lot to do most days, has a couple of pictures from the situation along with the story.

For teachers a story like this can't help but bring back memories and fear from our own near job-loss experiences on field trips with disappearing children. Just about any teacher you talk to can tell a wild story about having to wait in the Cliff's Amusement Park parking lot for 45 minutes while a crazed search was undertaken to find Johnny who has somehow missed the all-call to return to the bus and is eventually found suspiciously smelling like cigarettes in line for the roller coaster.

I don't want to bore you with an "I remember the time" story myself, but there was a time a few years back up in the Jemez that a co-teacher and I deliberately left some lollygagging miscreants at the top of a large hill looking down upon our bus as it pulled out of the campground parking lot and headed back toward Albuquerque. A couple of miles later we turned the bus around, re-entered the campground parking lot and were greeted by frantic lollygaggers faces streaked with dirt and sweat and were told in strident terms that they were telling their parents and that they would sue us and get us fired.

Sometimes you just don't think field trips are worth it, and I can understand teachers who have pretty much resolved to never try an off-campus excursion again. It can be a real pain in the ass. Still, it's very rewarding to finish a trip to the Holocaust Museum or Legislature and think about the unusual, real world experiences you've played a small role in exposing students to. Even if it did mean having to peer into every bathroom, nook, cranny and hidey-hole in the Roundhouse for thirty minutes while unappealing legislators looked on, sometimes with a look on their face that seemed to say "Hey, are you a teacher who has lost one of your students on a field trip? Because I'm a legislator and can you fired with a mere wave of my hand."

So as we APS public schools teachers finish our first week of school today many of us will have slightly glazed expressions. Yes, most of that glazing will be the result of having to teach FOUR DAYS IN A ROW after having had a 2.5 month break, but a small part of our glazed reverie will be caused by us thinking back to our own field trips over the years, and the near death, destruction and discombobulation left in their off-campus experiential education wake.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

P.S.: Regarding the lost kids/adult outside Silver City, I was also thinking about Aldo Leopold himself. Having read Sand County Almanac as part of an Environmental Studies class some years back, I couldn't help but think Mr. Leopold would be somewhat proud that a bunch of people could get lost in a federally-created "wilderness" big enough to get lost in and named after him. Not to mention having a charter school with his name on it. Hard not to be kinda envious of a legacy like that.


James said...

"Class Trip"

Adelita said...

As someone who works at a museum, we depend on school groups coming through our doors. I feel so strongly about informal education being such an important part of the educational experience.

Our biggest issues with unruly kids, or lost kids are the chaperones, not the teachers! Parents don't realize that they have a responsibility and a job to do. We find too many kids running around the museum unchaperoned, while the chaperones are outside talking on their cell phones or in the cafe having coffee. Grrr. Thanks for letting me vent!!

Gerald said...

I'm glad that the mother quoted still feels that the field trip is worth it even after the incident. I would think that many parents reactions would be to start blaming the school, teachers, people not responsible for the incident, etc., for the incident.
I agree with adelita that the issues often seem to come from the parent chaperones. The last time I traveled with a school group as a student, we had a minimum of chaperones. Our group was probably more responsible than most, so we earned the right to a decent amount of autonomy on the trip. of the week that we spent in another city, we never lost a student, and the group was never held up for missing people.