Friday, February 13, 2015

How to Be an Awesome Chaperone

We have just passed my favorite week of the school year. My partner teacher and I took our 6th graders to Outdoor Science School for the WHOLE week.

Most field trips are not quite as epic as OSS. A week with sixty 6th graders is quite an undertaking. We plan a year in advance. We do at least three fundraisers throughout the school year. We hound parents. We persuade sponsors. We conduct meetings. It is exhausting...but totally worth it!

Parents Needed! 
How To Be An Awesome Chaperone

One of the most daunting tasks in planning a field trip is finding good chaperones. This is not an easy job. It is not for everyone. You don't have to feel guilty if you don't want to chaperone!

You will be given 5-12 students to keep track of during the day, depending on their age group. (Great practice to know what it's like to keep track of that many kids and all their stuff! If you were thinking about having more kids a field trip might change your mind.) You will be expected to help them with any assignments they have been given to work on as well. Here's some tips to help you survive.

1. Be on Time!
 This means from meeting the teacher at school in the morning to getting on the bus at the end of the day. You will need to be a certain places, at specific times, and with all your charges accounted for. Believe don't want to be the parent that shows up late to the bus.  It lessens your chance of being asked to chaperone again plus teachers talk...we let others teachers know which parents are reliable. It isn't that we don't like you but we have our responsibilities too. We are ultimately the ones responsible for each child on that trip and if a group is missing we go into panic mode!

2. Do Some Prep Work
Your child will know where they are going on their field trip. Take a minute or two to familiarize yourself with the place. Look up maps, ask the teacher what their learning objectives are for the trip. A good teacher will be happy to send home information ahead of time so you are prepared to lead your group of kids or at least direct you to a website that gives the field trip information. For example: I take my students to the Getty Villa every year to supplement our study of ancient Greece and Rome. The website for the Villa has thousands of resources available to anyone, anytime. Check it out here:

3. Ask Questions
If you are wondering, don't hesitate to ask. This gets you major points! There are certain rules and regulations a school trip has to abide by. It would be helpful to ask what is expected of you as a chaperone if the teacher does not provide this information. Also don't be afraid to ask for help, especially if it involves a student!

4. Follow the Rules
School rules apply on school field trips.  This is not the same as taking your family on a trip.
Teachers set rules for trips based on their current class. For example, some years I let my kids take a quick trip to the gift shop and some years I outlaw it.
I don't make these rules to be mean. I know my class and what they can and cannot handle, as a group. I also know rules that are set by the administrators and district personnel.
We took a class trip to the county fair a couple years ago and the chaperones were told students were not allowed to ride on the carnival rides for liability reasons. A parent decided it would be okay for her group to ride and when the administration found out we almost lost our ability to go to the fair ever again. That one parent almost ruined it for all future students.
If you want to know a reason for a certain rule, refer to #3.

5. Have Fun
Field trips are educational but they should also be fun! They are a chance to get students out of the classroom and into the real world. Tell jokes, be silly, use your sense of wonder. If the kids see you having fun, they will too. 
*But a caution...too much fun will leave teachers talking for years! A colleague of mine had a set of parents join them as chaperones for a field trip. Turns out they were the ones who needed chaperoning! They decided it was a perfect chance to show each other some affection. [Face Palm]

Teachers truly appreciate parents who volunteer for field trips. They couldn't pull it off without parents willing to help out. So even if you aren't sure about it, give a field trip a chance.

Have you ever chaperoned a field trip? What was your experience? What advice would you give other parents?