4 Things Teachers Should Remember During School Trips

Amy Lauren Smith 

Right now, I'm in the mountains with 50 of my seventh graders. It's our school's “Week Without Walls,” so I’m running a wellness-themed trip in which the kids will be hiking, farming, and learning to cook their own food.

It’s supposed to be an active trip, jam-packed with nature exploration, but right now we’re shrouded in fog, covered in mud, and pretty much stuck indoors.

At the end of the night, after we made sure the kids were ready for bed—or at least pretending to be—the other teachers and I took a moment to reflect on some of our favorite school trips. Here’s what we decided it takes to make a memorable one.

1. It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is whom you’re with.

Today was a long day for the chaperones, but the kids had a blast. They were happy to just be with each other, hanging out face-to-face. Their conversations weren’t about school projects or collaboration, but about deeper things…like third-tier Harry Potter characters and what super power they’d like to have.

They were just kids being kids.

With their over-packed schedules and hyper-connected lives, it’s not often we give students time to relax with each other, when they can really just be themselves.

2. Stay firm…

I’ve got some rules that I’m pretty strict about, like no headphones on the bus. We have plenty of time to isolate ourselves, and school trips shouldn’t be one of them.

Daft Punk met and bonded on an eighth-grade trip. If they had had their ear buds in, they might not have ever realized that they enjoyed the same kind of music and were destined to create their own. (This might be the actual sentence I give to students when trying to justify my rule. I think it gives me some street cred; they think it makes me seem old.)

3. …yet flexible.

When things didn’t go as planned and we ended up inside today, we were sure the students would get cabin fever. We conceptualized back-up plan upon back-up plan to keep them all entertained, but it turns out all we needed were some arts and crafts, a few board games, and a whole lot of time to let them chat.

4. It’s not about you.

I'll never forget my own eighth grade trip to Washington DC. The hallmark of many a middle school education, mine was full of Bart Simpson souvenirs and rolls of unusable film. I’m pretty sure we went to The Smithsonian, and I think we saw The Washington Monument, too…

The point is, years later, I can’t remember the sites; it’s the times hanging out with friends—in our room, on the bus, or even just standing in line —that truly made the trip.

Amid the chaos today, the other teachers and I sucked it up, shared a few laughs, and made sure the kids had fun. It might not have been ideal, but regardless of what we had in mind for the day, the kids were right where they wanted to be.