Why Field Trips Can Be A Nightmare for Teachers

Every year I have the opportunity to have one of my classes work with a “teaching artist” from a well-known theater company. My students participate in an eight week long workshop that involves lessons in diction, body language, singing, dancing, introducing children to the theater and simply put, 40 minutes a week of FUN!

I chose to partake in this endeavor years ago when I had children who were  predominantly new to our country and really needed help building their confidence; learning the language; and not being afraid to voice their opinions. This opportunity culminates at the end of the eight week long cycle with a trip into the city, dinner at a “fancy” restaurant, a performance by all the children from different schools involved in the project AND the rest of the evening spent at the professional theatrical production. For most of the children, this is their first time seeing live theater and since they have become familiar with the songs, they take an extra interest in the production.

The school bus leaves the building at 2 p.m. Chaperones take their posts in the back, middle and front of the bus and the day begins! Ushering 30 children to a restaurant, making sure nobody has allergies, making certain the vegetarian girls receive the right meals and making sure the boys don’t get “lost” in the revolving door to the establishment isn’t really a problem. Even taking them two by two to the restrooms, or walking up 150 steps to our balcony seats is nothing compared to what happens when we leave. We load the bus to go home and instruct all children to call their parents and tell them that the bus will be back at the school at 9:10 p.m. (Yes, at this point it is a 14 hour day for me).

Two boys decide to tell me last minute that they are going to take mass transit home. I THINK NOT. So, that little fire has to be put out by finding the boys a ride home with another parent and calling THEIR parents and getting verbal permission over the phone that this is OK. Then – a second cutie pie tells me he will be walking home from school. WHAT???? I DON’T THINK SO FELLA! That one was easy: parents called, apologized for having them come out in their pajamas, but at least they promised to be there. We pull up to the school at 9:24pm – yes, I know, I was a little sneaky to tell the parents to show up a whole 14 minutes earlier, but we hit a little traffic and I was hoping by the time we got back everyone’s ride would be waiting. For the most part this was true. However, at tick-tock 10:00 pm I was still outside of the (locked) school building with two children. I urged them both to call their parents and get a status update. One did and his mom showed up a few minutes later. The second, one of my most stellar students called her dad to find out when he was coming and HE HUNG UP THE PHONE ON HER! This didn’t sit well with me. He told her he left work and he was on his way and to stop bothering him. OK, so we called the mom.

At this point we were both freezing and being that we couldn’t sit in my heated car (ethical issues), I was determined to get this girl a ride home. We called her mom to find out if she could come. My students were upset and complained to her mom that she was freezing. The mom hung up the phone and yelled at the child for wearing the wrong coat. WOW this was becoming one of the longest nights of my life. We called the dad again. He said he stopped for a sandwich. Yes, you heard right. It was after ten pm. We were standing there in the dark, cold night – just the two of us and HE STOPPED FOR A SANDWICH. 

I was becoming increasingly irritated and frankly didn’t know what to do. I was in touch with my principal and we both determined there was no need for her to come back to school to meet me there because the building was locked and this parent was bound to show up at SOME POINT. Five minutes later – he called. He instructed his daughter to walk down the block and meet him at the deli. I couldn’t let her do this alone and walked her there. Every minute of our walk I glanced back at my car and saw it getting further and further away. When he finally showed up and “apologized” I couldn’t help but tell him that hanging up on his daughter three times wasn’t very helpful, and reminded him that we were standing out in the cold for the past forty minutes. I explained that I was glad she was getting home safely and that I had to start my half a mile walk back to my own car. You know what? HE DIDN’T EVEN OFFER ME A RIDE BACK TO MY CAR! Holy Hotcakes! I thank you all for letting me vent here and if this rant causes even one or two parents to leave the house ten minutes earlier the next time they have to pick up their kid from a field trip, I know I done good. During my 30 minute ride home I thought about how aggravated the last moments of my day were and contemplated if I would ever partake in this workshop again. And then I smiled because I remembered why I did it in the first place – and I got all warm and fuzzy thinking about those kids up there performing today out of their comfort zones. And how well behaved they were the entire day. That made the “I stopped for a sandwich” moment bearable.

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Author: Thea Ferzola

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